Vessels of Honor
2 Timothy 2:20-26
August 27-28, 2016
This is the last letter that Paul wrote. He's writing to his young son in the faith, Timothy, and he writes with a sense of urgency because he has been arrested again. This would be the final time because he knows full well that the time of his departure has come. This is going to be it.
Things in the empire of Rome had changed dramatically whereas once he used to be able to preach freely about the gospel and great revivals came about even in the city of Rome. This is no longer the case. He's been arrested and in fact, the infamous emperor Nero is now the Caesar and he has decided that he's going to blame the Christians for the burning of Rome. About three-fourths of the city was burned and so what then followed was a systematic, just a persecution like they had never seen before. Christians were arrested, many tortured, many killed. Paul was arrested. He is going to be killed and so he's writing to Timothy while he is in his prison knowing that it's the last that he's going to write.
And so, he's writing to Timothy to be bold in his faith. Everything has changed. A lot of reason to be afraid but he writes to Timothy to be bold in his faith. “God has not given us a spirit of fear but a love and power and a sound mind.” And I think this is such a good word for us because we are seeing the tide turning right now in the day which we are living. You know, I think for many, many years we have enjoyed tremendous freedoms in regards to our faith but that is now turning. Do you sense the tide is turning really against Christianity and against Christians? In fact, we are seeing around the world a persecution like we have not seen in many, many years and it is getting closer and closer and closer to us. So, there should be a sense of urgency, I think, in our faith as well.
So what do you write? What do you say? You know when you don't have much time left. I think that knowing you don't have much time really changes your whole priority. It just gives you a completely different change and perspective. And that's what you see with Paul as he writes to Timothy. They really make him bold and strong in his faith and he gets really personal. And in fact, in these verses that we're going to look today in this chapter he really calls Timothy to consider his own life and the value of what has been entrusted to him, who he is called to be in the Lord and he uses an analogy or a picture of a house, house different vessels. And some are vessels of honor and some are vessels of dishonor.
For example, everybody can relate to that sense. We all have houses with cups or saucers, bowls, serving dishes but we also have vessels of dishonor like bins of trash or in the old days people would have buckets for their food waste. I remember growing up, we have such a thing, we called it a slop bucket and we would take it out to the pigs and the chickens and, you know, vessels of dishonor. Let's not forget the porcelain vessel which we call a toilet. Vessels of dishonor. We understand that there are distinctions and differences.
I. It’s an Honor for God to Use You
So, he's calling Timothy to recognize that there are different vessels. And so we must understand the value of what God has given to us and the honor of being used of the Lord. And being a vessel of honor is a tremendous calling. You consider the value of what you have. What God has given to you and to use what God has given to you. Unto Him is a great honor.
All right, let's look at it. We're in chapter 2 verse 20. “Now, in a large house, there are not only gold and silver vessels, vessels of honor, but there are also vessels of wood and earthenware,” like cheap pottery, you might say. “And then some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if the man cleanses himself,” and now he applies it… “the man cleanses himself from these things,” that he was just speaking about in the verses before, “he will be a vessel of honor sanctified,” which means, set apart unto the Lord, “useful to the Master.”
Great phrase. It gives us that perspective. “Useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts.” Doesn't matter if you're old or young, everyone should grab a hold of that admonition, “flee from youthful lust and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from that pure heart but refuse foolish and ignorant speculations knowing that they produce quarrels.” Remember these? These people, these teachers that are coming in wanting to be contentious and argumentative and quarrel about words and bring the church in the wrong direction. And so, he then adds this very famous verse, which I have highlighted in my Bible, “the Lord's bond servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wrong, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. And they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil having been held captive by him to do his will.”
All right. So, these are really important words that we must really apply to our lives and the message he is trying to get across to Timothy and to us is that it's an honor for God to use you. What a great honor it is. There are very few things as rewarding as being used by the Lord for some godly purpose.
Have you ever had the privilege and the honor of leading someone to faith in Christ? If you have never had that privilege, that honor, I really pray that you will have it. Ask the Lord. Ask the Lord, "Open the door for me. Bring someone into my life that I can share my faith and have the privilege of leading them to faith in Jesus Christ." What an absolute honor that is. Or to comfort someone who is in need or to comfort someone who is going through a tragedy. What an honor to be used of the Lord this way. Or to change someone's life in the direction of godliness, turn their life in a different direction. What an honor!
I was mentioning Wednesday, my wife and I have been with many people as they have been on their deathbed, breathing their last. And what an honor, absolute privilege it is to be with them. My wife has like a special gift when it comes to just ministering and nurturing the people as they are on their deathbed. She has such a heart for it and she just prays over them, to sing over them. Sometimes, the most beautiful thing is just to sing. Jesus' loves faith. And just to encourage their faith as they have turned their heart toward home, what an honor, what a privilege.
And there's the idea. God wants you to see the value and the honor of being used of the Lord in some way. And there He wants us to see it so we will value it. And the love, the picture we get out of the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah, who's one of the great prophets of the Old Testament, he is given this vision of the throne room of God. And then, I mean, it's a magnificent vision. It's very consistent with Revelation and Ezekiel and other places but at the end of this vision he has this word of the Lord spoken to him. This is right out of Isaiah 6:8 and he writes "I heard the voice of the Lord saying this, "Whom shall I sense and who will go for us?" And then Isaiah said, "Here am I Lord. Send me." See, there's that picture. We love the heart that he has. Here am I, Lord. Here am I, send me. That's the heart of willingness that says, "I want to be a vessel of honor. I want to be used of you, Lord. Here am I. Use me. Here am I, Lord. Send me."
A. Don’t be a vessel of dishonor
And so, he gives us this picture of a vessel of honor. He wants us to want and desire that but we also need to understand he does use even vessels of dishonor but how much better it is to be a vessel of honor. The point is, well, don't be a vessel of dishonor. God will use whomever He wishes and He will use for His purposes those who resist God, even those who do not believe in God. But how much better it is to be a vessel of honor.
For example, you look at the Old Testament and example is Israel. We know that Moses was certainly used of God and Moses was a vessel of honor. But in that contest between Moses and Pharaoh we know that God also used Pharaoh. But Pharaoh would be called a vessel of dishonor because, of course, his heart was against God. But God used him for His purposes. Notice, for example, in Romans 9:17 where it says very plainly, “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raise you up to demonstrate My power in you that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’” He can certainly use vessels of dishonor. The evil Assyrian king Sennacherib, he was used by the Lord to discipline the nation of Israel. But he was tremendously evil and ignorant and it cost him dearly. But he was vessel of dishonor for sure, still used of the Lord.
See, the question is not whether God can use you. He can use whomever He wishes. But will He use you as a vessel of honor or dishonor? We are both in the house. We understand the distinction, vessels of dishonor or the garbage cans that we put under the sink. You don't put garbage can on display. Almost in every sink in every kitchen you'll find a garbage can under the sink, always hidden away. No one puts a toilet out. Would you all come and look at this wonderful porcelain. It's imported from... No, we put it in the bathroom and tuck it away because it's a vessel of dishonor.
B. Choose to be a vessel of honor
But we, of course, special vessels. I have a coffee mug that someone gave me that serves a wonderful, glorious purpose of serving coffee, sits on my desk in a very prominent place. We have a glass cup at home that has Christmas decorations and the grand kids like, "Oh, we always want to drink from that special cup." It's a vessel of honor and we have that same picture. God wants us to choose to be a vessel of honor, to desire to be a vessel of honor. There's a big difference between you and the coffee mug sitting on a desk. The difference being you have a choice. You have a desire. You can choose to be a vessel of honor. You can have the same heart of Isaiah. Here am I, Lord. Here am I. Send me. Use me Lord. And in His faithfulness He will use you. He will use you.
Now, here's something important to understand. If we resist Him, if we refuse, He will still accomplish His purpose. He will find someone else. But wouldn't it be better to be used of the Lord? What a privilege. Why let Him use someone else when He could use you? What an honor for you.
One of the great pictures of that comes out of the history of Israel. When they were taken captive they had turned their back on the Lord. They were taken captive into Babylon. Eventually, Babylon itself was destroyed by the Persians, modern-day Iran. When the Persian king was overseeing all of this a plot, a conspiracy arose against the Jews. It was crafted by a certain Persian official by the name of Haman who had long held a grudge against the Jews and he had manipulated and deceived and contrived into getting the king to issue this edict against the people of Israel saying that they should all be killed and possessions confiscated.
But as it just so happened, the queen of Persia at that time, was actually a young Jewish woman named Esther. And so, her uncle came to her just asking her, appealing to her to make an appeal based on her position, making an appeal on behalf of Israel but she was afraid. She was afraid of this because of the rule of the kingdom was that anyone who approached the king without a summons could be summarily executed. And so she was afraid. And so he gave her this famous charge in Esther 4:14... very famous because of the principle behind it. “If you remain silent,” if you do not arise and you do not speak, “if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place.” God will find another way. “But, who knows whether you have obtained royalty for such a time as this.” Who knows? That you were born for such a time as this.
What purpose does God have for you? Now, I refuse. I resist. God will find another way. But what an honor to be used. And then He tells us in the practical verse 21, back to 2 Timothy 2 he says, "If a man cleanses himself from these things he will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work."
Now, that's an interesting phrase. What does it mean for a person to cleanse himself from these things? The idea in the Greek behind that word, to cleanse oneself, is really the idea to throw something out, to get rid of something, to take it out. But in this case, the application is the reverse of what we might think. Instead of the idea of taking out the garbage the idea is taking you out. You get out of polluting situations. You come out of polluting influences and he is referring to the fact that just before this, the verses before, he was telling him to avoid these people who were polluting influences and dangerous influences and he starts naming names. I mean, Paul is very bold. He like, names names. And he says these are people who are trouble and their words spread like gangrene. Avoid people like this. In other words, cleanse yourself from these polluting influences. Take yourself out of these and then you'll be a vessel of honor.
And then he adds to it, in verse 22, “flee from useful lusts.” This is the idea. Take yourself away from the other things in your life that you need to get yourself away from polluting influences that are preventing you in the way of being a vessel of honor. Remove those things, he says, you get yourself away from those things. Flee from these things. It's a really important picture if you want to be a vessel of honor you would say, "Lord, here am I. Send me." That we need to understand to be useful to the Master, prepared for every good work take yourself out of these circumstances.
II. Make Yourself Useful
And in fact, maybe we can make a great application by saying "Make yourself useful". See, you remove yourself from these polluting influences but then he tells us what to pursue. Getting away from polluting influences, fleeing from youthful lusts is a right picture. You have a choice on that. But you also have a choice in what you pursue. Make yourself useful to the Master.
A. Pursue righteousness, faith and love
Prepared for every good work by what you pursue. And then he tells them in this verse 22, “Pursue righteousness.” Pursue faith and love. Active word: pursue. We all need something worth pursuing in life. We all need to be having a goal, ambition, a desire. This is an important thing. Everyone needs to have this. Things that you pursue, however, should be things of eternal value. Live for yourselves or treasure in heaven? Pursue this. Things of great treasure of heaven.
We have a tendency, by the way, we do have a tendency to obtain the things we desire because when you aim your life toward them, oftentimes we find them. You seek and you will find. Well, what are you seeking? What are you asking for? What are you knocking the door to obtain? There's a picture for us. What is that you are pursuing? Pursue these things.
Notice this phrase though. He says, "Pursue these things along with those who call on the Lord from the pure heart." He's giving us this picture. There's a sincerity. There's authenticity, a genuineness to the desire. I really, truly ask God. I'm genuinely asking. I want these things. But notice He says, "Pursue these things along with those who..." Notice that phrase because he's talking about who you choose to be with. You choose to be with those along with those who call on the Lord from their pure heart.
This is important because one of the most important principles of life you will become like the people you choose to hang with. This is one of the most important parenting principles. We have a parenting class that we teach every summer and one of the most important principles is "Parents, you must watch over who is influencing your kids because those influences can tremendously bless and strengthen your kids or they can ruin your kids." Those influences can absolutely mess up the lives of your kids. Any parents here want to say "Amen!" to this? It's one of the most important aspects because we will become like the people we hang out with.
You know what we're saying. So, you hang out with people who want to party all the time? You will find yourself drawing yourself to those things. You hang out with people who love to go to the gym all the time? You will find yourself wanting to go to the gym. You hang out with people who love to go golfing? Then you'll going to find yourself wanting to go golfing which you're welcome to do it today. You hang out with people who love the Lord, want to serve the Lord, love to worship the Lord, you're going to find yourself wanting the same things in your life. You choose along with those who call on the Lord with their pure heart. One of the great words for if you pursue this along with them you will find your life becoming a vessel of honor, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
B. Pursue Peace
Notice this phrase next. He says pursue, also, peace. Verse 22. Pursue peace. Notice, though, in verse 24, how he brings the application of what it actually means in practical daily life. Verse 24, “The Lord's bond servant,” notice the phrase because earlier He said you will be a vessel for the Master. Then he says, “the Lord bond servant must not be quarrelsome.” This is a really good word to us. “But is kind to all, with gentleness correcting those in opposition. He is patient when wrong.” Giving us a great word, great practical word. Pursue peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Stay away from contentious and argumentative people. You probably know this but there are some people in this world that are just plain old contentious. They're just plain old argumentative. They're just pugnacious. And he says stay away from people like that.
There's an old saying, I don't know where I heard it. I heard it when I was young. I just really... it just resonated with me. “Never wrestle a pig,” as the old saying goes, “because they have way too much fun and you get way too dirty.” You know what? That is a really good point. Just never wrestle a pig.
In fact, in Romans 14:19, Paul writes it this way. “Let us pursue,” again, that's what you are chasing, after “pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another.” See, make yourself useful as a vessel of honor by pursuing peace. Building up on another. There is no honor in being contentious. There is no honor in being argumentative. It's not useful to the Lord. It's destructive to relationships. We all know that controversies and conflict are part of living in this broken down worlds but you can have controversy and conflict and still maintain the character of God and be a vessel of honor useful to the Master, prepared for every good work because there's a better way. He gives us completely different principles. See, you're in the kingdom now. You're in the kingdom of God now and the kingdom of God has a completely different set of principles than the kingdom of the world. The world has its principles but the kingdom has better principles.
Notice this word out of Colossians 3:8, “But now, you also, put them all aside. Anger, put it aside.” Now, we were born with this flesh of ours, we inherited it, it came with the package. We get that. We understand that. But He is telling us a great word. Look, those things that you were born with, that you're brought up with, these are the principles of the world's kingdom. You're in the kingdom of God now. It's a whole different set of principles. You set these things aside. “Set anger aside.” There's a better way. It's a kingdom of God principle. It's better. Set wrath aside. Malice. Set it aside. Slander. Abusive speech. Now, you set this aside. You set this aside. There's a better way.
We all know this flesh of ours that we inherited, this flesh of ours that we were born with, it has a tendency to get hot when challenged. Have you ever noticed this? There's a tendency to get hot when challenged. Do you want to be a vessel of honor useful to the Master, prepared for every good work? He said to set these aside. Those are the principles of the world. There's a whole new set of principles now. See, some people think that the only way to be effective or to be effective leader is to be bossy and authoritarian. Many people think that because that's the way the world works. There's a better way and very effective. Very, very effective.
I remember when my wife and I were first married. We had different rent situations and there were landlords and, I don't know what it was but, it just seemed to me but the typical landlord was bossy and authoritarian. Have you ever experienced this? Like that was just, if you are a landlord, I apologize. I do not mean to offend you but that was our experience. We just felt that every landlord we ever had was bossy and authoritarian. So, when we got to Bible college we had an opportunity to manage an apartment complex. A 40-unit apartment complex that we were given.
Amazing! God opened the door that we will have this privilege because it was awesome. Free rent, free utilities, a little stipend, you know. Going to Bible school, this was a big thing for us.
And so, now it's our turn. Now, we're the managers now. Now, we get to have a say and we are the boss now. So, we just said "How are we going to do it?" You know what? Let's not do it the way everybody else seems to do it. How about this? Why can't we be effective and have a heart to serve. And so, that's what we decided to do. And if someone calls up, older lady call us up, "Oh dear, my lightbulb's out." Well, that's not my job. But so what? I'll be right over. I'd love to do that for you. You got some repairs? Get them done right away and be nice about it. Let's be nice. You know what happened? It's absolutely wonderful. They started telling their friends about how wonderful it was to live there. We had like a waiting list. The owner just loved us and was like, "You know what? These principles actually work." God knows what He's talking about when He says there are different principles now and they are more effective.
Let me give you a word. Jesus spoke about it. In Matthew 20:25-27. Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles", He's saying the principles of the world. "You know that they lord it over them." That means you're bossy. You know how it is. And the great men they exercised authority over them. It is not this way among you. “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be last and the servant of all. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus is the example Himself.
C. Be zealous in the Word
Now, going back to 2 Timothy, he also gives this important word. In several places in this chapter, he tells him to be a vessel of honor, prepared for every good work, useful to the Master. He emphasizes the importance of being zealous in the word. Earlier in this Chapter, in verse 15 he said, "Be diligent to present yourself a proof to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." And then He builds up to being a vessel of honor. Be zealous in the word. This is an important word. If you want to be a vessel of honor. useful to the Master, prepared for every good word then you're going to want to be zealous in the Word because God uses His Word to prepare you, to make you a vessel of honor, to give you those principles of the kingdom. He gives you His heart. He gives you His character. He gives you the principles of the kingdom of God that are so different than the principles that are of the world.
And so, in fact, in Chapter 3, the very next Chapter, in verses 16 and 17, he gives us some verses that every true good student of the Bible really takes hold of and memorizes. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God might be adequate, equipped for every good work.” You can see then the use that God has of the Word in our lives for anyone who wants to be a vessel, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work that God will use His word to do it. He will use His Word to correct, to reprove.
You know, for example, if we're living according to the principle of the world and we're bringing principles of the world into our life, into our marriage, or into our business, or into our family, He's going to bring a reproof. He's saying, "Listen, you're living by that principle. I'm going to give you this one." Because this is a much better principle. Let me reprove, it's like a word of correction but that's how we, therefore, become useful to the Master, adequate He says, prepared for every good work. You're going to need these principles of the kingdom if you want to be useful as a vessel of honor in the kingdom. So He brings His words of reproof, he says. Some translations have it as word of rebuke but that's kind of not the right idea. Reprove is like correction, discipline.
Whenever I think of that I'm reminded of a situation when I was going to Multnomah University and I was taking a class by a professor I really liked and I got reproved in front of the class. But God used it in his life and mine and actually, knitted us together. It was amazing, an amazing thing. What had happened was this. I got to class like one of the first or second classes of the day. We started the class by bantering about football because he was a fan of the Denver Broncos and they had just won the game the day before and so we were bantering a bit about that and I said some nice things about how they played and what not.
And then he passed the papers. You know, you have to write sermons, you hand them in. So, he handed my paper to me and I look at my paper and I'm thinking "Wait a minute. I had a plastic cover." You know in those days, I had this philosophy that you put a nice plastic cover over your paper and you put a nice little binder on it. It just looks good. It makes a good impression. It kind of says, "I cared. I put a lot of effort into this. See, I packaged it nicely." Coming from the restaurant where you make things look great, right? So I'm sitting there thinking where in the world did my plastic thing go? You know, I'm a poor college student. I don't have a lot of these things. I know. Where did it go? And I was like I'm sure I turned that in. Where did it go? And then I saw it in his hand.
And he was like, "Class, see this? This was nothing but an attempt to impress. It's just a facade. It's just of the flesh. Don't do it, okay? Don't do it." And he walked over and he put it on my desk. I just so happened that I was sitting on the front row. To which I then said, "That's the last time I am saying something nice about the Denver Broncos" and everyone in the class busted up laughing. I mean, everyone just laughed. I saved him because I was wronged and I sat there in class burning. I can hardly hear a thing he said. I just couldn't wait for the class to get over. I was just burning in my heart. I knew it was of the flesh but it was burning. I didn't say anything more. I just sat there burning. When the class is over I closed my books and I just walked out the door. The next class, just sat there just burning.
Then, for whatever reason, I just happened to go to the administration building. I rounded the corner and who should be rounding the corner from the other direction at the exact same moment, my professor. So, I rounded the corner and literally, we bumped into each other. I said, "Excuse me" and I went around him. And then he reached out for me. "Wait!" And I turned and I had the eyes of someone who was burned. You know what I'm saying? Burned eyes. And he says, "Listen. This morning in class, I'm so sorry. I was wrong. I should have never done that. I needed you to forgive me. I'm asking you, please, to forgive me. What I did was so wrong." And he starts crying. And I started crying. It so touched me that he would say what he said so authentically. He really meant this. And I said, "Yes, I forgive you. Absolutely." It was the most interesting what God had done because then we became friends. He would see me sitting in the cafeteria and he would come sit with me and say, "Tell me about your life. What do you want to do in your ministry? I want to help you." It's just a blessing. It was so interesting. God used him to, I guess, reprove but he taught me a good lesson. God used it to reprove him and needed us together as friends.
Of course, these are the principles of His Scripture. These are the principles of the kingdom that was coming to the story. See, God gives us His words to reprove, to correct, to increase, to edify, to build, to make us useful to the kingdom, to make us vessels of honor. We need to take hold of these things and then He goes on to say all Scriptures are inspired by God, profitable for teaching. See, there's that teaching, that edifying, that blessing. You're going to be blessed. He's going to teach you and instruct you. These are good things.
But here's a great lesson. The only way to truly learn is to live what you learn. This is not a class. It's not a class. This is life. This is the reality of life. No class, no paper to turn in. It's life. And the only way to learn is to live. Take those principles and live them. It's a necessity. If we keep living by the principles of the world, we'll just continue in the broken state in which we were born. He wants us to take hold of these things because these are better principles that instruct us, that edifies, that build us and you have to live them. This is not a class. This is life. And when you live by those principles it blesses His heart. It blesses His heart in a beautiful way.
See, when I think of this, it kind of reminds me of learning a language. If you go take that class and learn a language, you can do it. But if you want to learn it, you must live it. You want to really learn it; you must live it. When I was at Africa last fall, they all speak French and so I got a French program and I'm just using my extra time learning French, learning French, learning French. And I needed it because they didn't speak much English. So, I'm really increasing in my French in the time that I'm there. They were all taking note of the fact that I was grasping French because what's happened since I left. I met someone last Sunday who just so happened to be from the Congo, same city and they came out to me and greeted me and I wanted so much to speak of the French and I didn't know any of that except a few phrases.
When you need it, see when I learned Russian, for example, we have adopted our boys I had to have that Russian. I needed that for life. I had to live it because they didn't know any English. I had to use it to instruct them. I used it to correct them. My wife would call on the phone sometime. She didn't know Russian. She put the boys on the phone. Please speak to these boys and tell them to make their beds and “ladadada” so I'm going to... you listen to me and I'm speaking to them but I needed it.
One day I was having lunch with our Pastor Kaveh. At some restaurant and he had been teaching me Farsi, which is the language of Iran. And so I had sat down. The first thing I did was to give him the phrases I knew in Farsi. “Hi.” “How was your day?” “I love you.” “You're my friend.” And I looked at him and he's touched. You can see he's like starting to cry so what's wrong? And he said, "No, you don't understand. You are a friend very dear to me and when a friend so dear speaks in my mother language it blesses me. It means so much to me." And I started thinking, God is so blessed when we speak to Him with the principles, when we live before Him with the principles that He gave to us. It just blesses His heart. Be a vessel of honor, useful to the Master. It blesses His heart.
- 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.