- Sermon Notes
Vessels of Honor
2 Timothy 2:20-26
This is the final letter from Paul’s pen. He is writing to his young son in the faith, Timothy. Paul has been arrested again and knows that the time of his departure has come. Everything has changed in the Roman Empire. Where once he could speak freely of the gospel, he has now been arrested as a criminal. The infamous Emperor Nero has systematically begun to arrest Christians; many were killed, many were tortured.
Paul writes to Timothy to be bold in his faith. “Don’t be ashamed of the gospel and don’t be ashamed of me,” Paul wrote, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and power and a sound mind.”
The tide is also turning today. For many years the church has enjoyed tremendous freedom. I’m not sure that we’ve taken full advantage of the opportunity, but this much is certain, the tide is turning against us. The days are getting more dangerous as we speak. There should be a sense of urgency in our faith as well.
What do you say when you know you don’t have much time left? Everything takes on a greater sense of priority everything changes in perspective.
In these verses Paul gets very personal with Timothy. He wants him to think about his own life and the value and treasure of what has been entrusted to him. As an illustration, he uses the various vessels in a house. There are cups, vases, bowls, serving dishes, decorative pieces, bins for trash, and not too long ago, people had spittoons and buckets for food waste. We had one and affectionately called it our slop bucket. And don’t forget the porcelain vessel also known as a toilet.
Some are vessels of honor and others are vessels of dishonor. In a similar way, we should also consider the value and treasure that God is given us and decide that we want our lives to be vessels of honor. What is the value of what God has given you? We are called to live as vessels of honor unto God.
- There are few things as rewarding as being used of God for godly purpose in someone’s life; to lead someone to faith, to comfort someone who’s in need, to change the direction of someone’s life.
- Maybe we can say that it’s ‘an honor' for God to use you in some way, for His purpose.
Illus - I mentioned on Wednesday that my wife and I have been with many people as they were on their deathbed, breathing their last. What an honor it is to pray with them, to sing over them, to encourage their faith as they turn their heart toward home.
- God wants us to see the value and the honor of being useful to the Lord.
Isaiah 6:8, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!"
- God uses whomever he wishes for His purposes and that includes those who resist God’s purpose in their lives and those who may not even believe in God.
- Though He uses vessels of dishonor, is it not better to be a vessel of honor?
Illus - We know Moses was used of God, but Pharaoh was also used of God - that His name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.
Romans 9:17, For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”
Illus - The evil Assyrian king, Sennacharib, was used of the Lord to discipline the nation of Israel, but his arrogance cost him dearly.
- The question is not whether God can use you, He can use whomever He wishes, the question is whether He will use you as a vessel of honor or of dishonor.
Illus - Every house has both vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor. Vessels of dishonor are like the garbage cans we hide under the sink or like the slop bucket we used to put in the corner. But vessels of honor we cherish.
I have a favorite coffee mug that someone gave me and it brings pleasure to my day as it fulfills its purpose. One of our glasses at home has Christmas decorations on it and our grandkids want to drink from that special glass.
B. Choose to be a vessel of honor
- There’s a big difference between you and a special coffee mug – you have a choice. You can choose to be a vessel of honor, and God in His faithfulness will use you for His glory; it’s an honor to be used by God.
Illus - When Israel was held captive in Babylon, it came about that the Babylonians themselves were defeated and the king of Persia came into power. It was at that time also that a conspiracy arose against the Jews, crafted by a certain official named Haman who had long held a grudge against the people of Israel. He had deceived the King into issuing an edict that the people of Israel were to be killed and all their possessions confiscated.
But it just so happened that a young Jewish woman named Esther was Queen. Her uncle Mordechai asked her to intervene, to appeal to the king in behalf of the Jews. But she was afraid, for anyone appearing before the king without being summoned could be put to death unless the king held out his golden scepter. Mordechai responded…
Esther 4:14, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from the Jews from another place… but who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
- If you choose not to do what God is calling you to do, He will find another way, but what an honor to be useful to the king.
- Verse 21 – “If a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
- That’s an interesting phrase, how does a person cleanse himself from these things?
The idea in the Greek is to cleanse by throwing out something, but the application here is to cleanse by getting yourself out, or away from, polluting influences.
- Paul had just warned Timothy to stay away from worldly and empty people whose polluting influence spread like gangrene.
- Verse 22 – now flee from youthful lusts, Paul also wrote. It’s the same idea, get yourself out of those things and away from those things which are polluting influences, then you will be a vessel of honor.
- Are there things in your life you need to get away from that are polluting influences? Are there things keeping you from being a vessel of honor?
II. Make Yourself Useful
- Paul calls Timothy to cleanse himself from these polluting influences and to flee from youthful lusts, but he also tells him what to pursue.
- Get away from polluting influences, flee from youthful lusts, you have a choice. And you also have a choice in what you pursue.
- In other words, you make yourself useful as a vessel of honor by the things you pursue. Fleeing polluting influences is not enough, you must also pursue.
A. Pursue righteousness, faith and love
- Everyone should have goals that they are longing for and working toward, and there is great treasure in pursuing those things which have eternal value.
- We have a tendency to obtain the things we truly desire, long for, and pursue.
- Pursue these things, Paul wrote, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. In other words, it’s the sincere, genuine heart that desires these things.
- Notice that you should pursue these things – along with – those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart. In other words, you will become like the people you choose to hang around with, the people you choose to be part of.
Illus - If you choose to be with those who party, you will become a person that also parties. If you choose to be with those who faithfully go to the gym, you will find yourself doing the same things. If you choose to be with those who honor God and who love to worship, you will find yourself wanting to honor God and worshiping Him all the more.
B. Pursue peace
- Verse 24 – the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, Paul wrote.
- Pursue peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. In other words, stay away from quarrelsome and contentious people.
Illus - “Never wrestle a pig,” as the saying goes, “he has way too much fun and you get way too dirty.”
Romans 14:19, Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
- Make yourself useful as a vessel of honor by pursuing peace and the building up of one another.
- There is no honor in being contentious and argumentative and it’s certainly not useful to the Lord.
- Controversies and conflict are part of life; but we can have controversy and conflict and still maintain the character of God and be a vessel of honor.
Colossians 3:8, But now you also, put them all aside; anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
- Some people think that the only way to be an effective leader is to be bossy and authoritarian over those under them. But Jesus had something to say about that.
Matthew 20:25, Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
C. Be zealous in the word
- Several times in these chapters Paul calls Timothy to be diligent in the word, like a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
- If you want to be a vessel of honor, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work, then you will want to be zealous in the word.
- In fact, in the very next chapter he gives one of the most famously quoted verses that every good student of the word takes to heart.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
- God gives His word for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…
Illus - When I was a student at Multnomah University, a professor ‘reproved’ me in front of the class, but the Lord used it in his life as well as in mine and bonded us together.
- God gives His word for teaching us about His heart for us, His character, what He has done for us in Christ and to give the principles and wisdom to guide our lives.
- But the only way to truly learn from the instruction of His word is to live what we learn. In other words, to make them part of our living.
Illus - The only way to truly learn a language is to actually use it in daily life. I wanted to learn French and was making great progress while I was in the area of Africa where French is spoken daily, but coming back home I have forgotten almost all of it.
When we adopted our two boys from Russia, it became a necessity. When you live what you learn, you learn it in a completely different way.
- When you put God’s word into your life and live what you’re learning, it blesses His heart.
Illus - One day I had lunch with our Iranian pastor, Kaveh, and when I sat down I spoke all the words to him that he had taught me in Farsi. When I looked at him I saw that he was beginning to cry. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “You don’t know how much it means to me to hear someone I love speak to me in my own mother tongue.”
- What a blessing it is when God’s word resides in our heart and we live according to it; it’s like speaking to God in the language of His heart.
2 Timothy 2:20-26 NASB
20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.