Cleanse Yourself for Service

2 Timothy 2
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Our minds – what we think and what we believe – drive what we do. If in my mind, in my heart, I dislike a certain food, then I will avoid that food. If in my heart, my mind, I am afraid of a certain place, I will avoid that place. What we think drives what we do.

Luke 6
45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

What we believe will drive how we act, what we do. This is why we have a warning in Colossians 2:8.

Colossians 2
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

This verse indicates that we can be held captive, imprisoned by what we believe, that philosophies of the world – meaning they are against the teachings of God – will greatly effect how we live. So much so that they, philosophies, can have an effect of controlling us. So we could say, we are controlled by what we really believe.

It is good, I believe, from time to time to ask ourselves why we do what we do. Think of all the habits in your life – why do you adhere to them? It is a good analysis. What drives our habits of life?

Now, if we can be controlled by what we believe, by philosophies all around us, then we must be careful that we are taking in what is pleasing to God rather than taking into our minds what displeases Him. We may, if we hear things enough, begin to believe them and even to build our lives around them, if we are not careful. There may be times when, in order to not be taken captive by unbiblical ideas, we need to separate ourselves from certain people. That is what Paul is getting at in our passage this morning.

He begins by giving an illustration of a great house, a wealthy person’s house, and vessels in that house, then he explains what he means. Here is the illustration:

2 Timothy 2
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.

This illustration is one that describes a wealthy first-century home, but one that we can easily understand. In a home, vessels would be used for many purposes. Gold and silver vessels would be used to serve food or drink to special guests of honor. You know how it is, you get the good stuff out for special occasions. Growing up we had the good dishes, and the good dishes were only used maybe once or twice a year. Even now, when we have groups of people over, we get the special dishes out and even special serving bowls, plates, and utensils. These are items that are not just useful, but that send a message, a message like, “This is my best, and I am getting the best out to serve you.” So the deeper message is that you are special and I want to treat you accordingly. Special dishes and utensils are used for honorable purposes.

But in the first-century and to some degree in our day, there were vessels that were not so presentable. They were useful and practical, but not something you would get out and present to your guests. Trash would be carried out in a vessel of wood or clay. Even human waste would be carried out in a vessel. No one wants to see that. We have vessels for trash too. I have a pan that is only used for draining used oil into. I don’t show that to my guests. These vessels are called dishonorable vessels.

So you get the picture here. Honorable vessels of gold and silver put on display for special guests, special occasions, and dishonorable vessels used in ways that no one cares to see, these are wood and clay.

Now what does this mean? What is Paul getting at here? Here is what he says in verse 21:

2 Timothy 2
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Now, we have to be careful here on how we understand this. The context is very important as well as the words used. What does Paul mean when he says “if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable”? In this case what is dishonorable? What is dishonorable refers back to false teachers and their teaching in the church. That is the subject here. False teachers spreading their lies in the church. He says to separate from that. Paul is not talking about separating from non-believers, but from professing Christians who are promoting sin through false teaching.

We are to move away from immoral and doctrinally corrupt professing believers because they are dangerous. Because we can be influenced, because they are misrepresenting God. This is consistent with 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.

1 Corinthians 5
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

It is sad, in a way, that we have to talk about this, but there are some that we are to not associate with, and they are non-repentant professing Christians. When we are with unbelievers, we don’t expect them to act like Christians. But hanging out with professing Christians who are living in open sin, they have much greater influence over us.

The honorable vessels then are those who are like good soldiers, competitive athletes, and hard working farmers as we saw in verses 3-6, and the dishonorable then are like cowardly soldiers, lazy athletes, and slothful farmers.

On a practical level this can be very difficult, that is taking a stand against those who say they are brothers and sisters in Christ yet are living obviously contrary to Christ’s Word. I don’t know if you have done that. But we are called to do just that. When we walk faithfully in this way, there is usually a cost. The cost may be losing a friend, angering a family member, being called judgmental, ridiculed and made fun of. But we are called to suffer, and suffering is what Christ did. Are we above Him? Of course not – we are to suffer as He did.

We are to cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable. Cleansing is to clean out thoroughly, to purge. And what is dishonorable in this case are those who are in the church being disobedient, not submissive, and speaking against the teachings of the Word.

Paul goes on to say that if we do this, we will be vessels of honor, set apart as holy. Set apart as holy is to be sanctified. Set apart from sin and set apart to God. It is like we are picked up from what is defiling and set over here for God. What this describes is those who now have a relationship with God through Christ. And not only that, but are growing to be more like Christ, that is holy.

It is an amazing thing. It is incredible that God would, by His grace, set us away from the world, separate us out by His sovereign choice and make us a people for Himself. We are new in this way. We are different than the rest. His Spirit is in us. We are a different, an odd people in this world. We shouldn’t fear or be anxious about being different in this world! Because being different is being identified with God, with Christ.

We are as different as those who were blind and Jesus gave them sight. We are as different as the lepers whom Jesus healed. We are like the crippled man, who had been so from birth, that Jesus made whole. In each of those cases we see miraculous works of our Savior, healing those who desperately needed it. Those are all pictures of us. We are different than what we were and different from those who have not been touched by the Savior. We are set apart by God for God, set apart as holy unto Him.

Set apart then, we are “useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” I don’t know about you, but these words stun me. I find it stunning that I can be used in any way by God. But what we see is just that. We are set apart by Him and become useful to Him for every good work. A vessel of honor is useful to the Master. Later in this book Paul says:

2 Timothy 4
11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.

Ephesians 2
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We should see it as our highest privilege to serve the Lord, to be useful for him. Paul too marveled at this thought and wanted desperately to be used by our Lord.

1 Corinthians 9
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

We do not just have a relationship with God, but we are owned by Him, He is our master.

1 Corinthians 6
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

What does God, your Master have for you to do?

If you are a useful vessel of His, what does He have for you to do? What are you doing to serve Him right now, at this time in your life? Do you think about that? I know life can be crazy and busy. I think I am busier now in my life than I have ever been before. I sometimes think I am too old to be this busy! But really, you are busy too, right? Some of you are in school and you work and you have relationships. Some of you are raising young children, one or more, and that is a busy time in life. Others of you are older, you don’t have the energy you used to have, you are busy taking care of your health, and a great deal of personal business. Some of you are moving, that is a busy time, some about to get married and starting a career. Life is busy, isn’t it? But in the middle of it all we must ask, “In what ways does God want me to serve Him?” Of course we serve Him in all the busyness, just honoring Him in the everyday of life, but what else? Are we serving His church? Are we ministering to other believers in the church? Are we reaching out to those in need? Are we taking time to find specific ways to serve Him?

The Bible teaches us that we are all to be serving as a part of the church. If you are not, I would call on you to begin the process of discovering how you can begin serving now.

A vessel of honor is useful to the Master. That is good news. In what ways are you useful, being used by Him?

A little bit later today, we will hold our annual church meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to update all of you on things going on in our church, and things we are looking forward to in the days ahead. The deacons and elders have been meeting together for the last few months and we have been seeking the Lord on ways we as a church should move forward in ministry. As a part of that you will hear of ways you can serve in the church body. You may hear of other things that will be mentioned and think, “Yes, I’d like to get involved in that.” And so I’d like to encourage each of you to stay and hear what all will be said, and listen with an attitude of, “How can I get more involved in what the church is doing for God’s glory?” God has called us to service in the short time we have on this earth. Who will we serve?

2 Timothy 2
20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.