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This Treasure in Earthen Vessels

2Co 4:6-18 ”For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

What a treasure God has given us! He has given us a treasure of His very presence living in us – a treasure of eternal life – the treasure of every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3) – the treasure of all completeness in Him (Col. 2:9-10). Yet this wonderful treasure dwells, for a time, in this earthen vessel, full of weakness, sin, temptation, and suffering.

We have His promise that one day He will free us from this earthen vessel, and we’ll have our heavenly dwelling – no longer held back by its limitations.

1Co 15:52-58 ”In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

But for now we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are “perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…”

All of this is working together for us something so special! We can count on that. (Rom. 8:28) For now we must live in this earthen vessel with all its infirmities and sufferings, and learn to completely trust in that treasure living within us through the Spirit of Christ. We must learn from day to day to not put our trust in this vessel we can see and feel, but in that which we cannot see but we know by faith is the real life and power of eternal life. Every time this vessel is subject to suffering in this world it is only so that this flesh may be put to death – rendered powerless – that more of His life may be lived in and through us. We must submit to it and let it be. Paul called these “light and momentary afflictions.” Yes Paul – who was beaten, persecuted, shipwrecked, left for dead, etc. – he knew what it was to see the power of God work mightily in this earthen vessel as he surrendered it to the Lord.

Many times we see how weak we are and how insufficient we are for the task we feel we are called to, and that’s good! We must see this vessel for what it is! Yet we must learn to look away from it and not depend on it anymore, but on Jesus Himself, living in us. Just as Jesus Himself, Who gave up all His glory in heaven and took on this body of weakness, lived in total dependence on the Holy Spirit as a man, how can we think otherwise, that we can do anything of ourselves.

” "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Romans 8:37) The world, the flesh, and the devil say, Be powerful. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit say, Be powerless "for My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9) "There would be little harm in trying to imitate Christ if such an endeavor did not hide from us what our Lord really desires; and so keep us back from 'life more abundant.' Christ has come Himself into our hearts to dwell there, and what He wants is to live His life in us, as the Apostle Paul says, 'For to me to live is Christ.' Christ was the very source and mainspring of all he was and did. What a wonderful thing this is! We would be driven to despair if Christ had simply left us an example to follow or imitate, for we have no power within ourselves to do it. We must have a new source; a new spring of action, and Christ Himself wants to be just that for us." – E. C. Hadley
Phi 4:13 ”I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Whatever the task He has assigned to you, whatever the race ahead you have been given to run, it is Jesus Himself Who intends to fulfill it in you and through you, weak as you may be. It is never you yourself that was expected to complete the task or run the race in your own power. We will always find this body of death insufficient for it. We will always find it too weak. We will always find Him faithful if we trust in Him. If we look at these “light and momentary afflictions” as He would have us to, only a means of putting to death this flesh (rendering it powerless) so that His glory may shine all the more through us, and so that we may have victory in this life over our flesh, then our lives take on new meaning and our trials and sufferings take on new meaning. We are no longer afraid of them or of failure. He has given us a promise that is sure that if we suffer with Him we will also share in His glory. And how then, can the suffering in this earth compare with the glory we will share with Him? It only makes us long to be with Him, realizing this world is not our home. We are pilgrims passing through. But we have a better hope – a better home to look forward to.

2Co 5:1-8 ”For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

His promises are sure and steadfast, and we will indeed see them fulfilled. How will you live in this earthen vessel then? What will you do with this treasure He has given you if you are in Christ. You have Christ in You! How then should you live your life? Will you stumble on, trying to use all your own power or will you see and put your faith in this life He has given for you, resting in all He has done and will do in this body of weakness? Many simply give up when they see that they are weak. “I can’t” becomes their theme. But make your new theme “He can”. In this you will find that abundant life that He has promised.

"My Peace I Give Unto You"

Joh 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Joh 14:27 "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Where have we gotten the idea that this life we live in these bodies of death in this fallen world should always be one of ease, and tranquility? Sometimes as Christians we act surprised at the trials and hardships that come our way, fighting against them with all we have, and determined to find our place of peace and happiness - our heaven - here on this earth. We wonder if God has forsaken us, and why He has allowed hardship to cme our way. We forget that we are merely pilgrims passing through, and being prepared for something far greater. This place was never meant to be our place of happiness.

For those who do not have the hope and faith of His salvation, this world is the only happiness they will ever have. For those who know their Savior, we have a better hope, a better joy, a more eternal purpose! Let us then "seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Col. 3:1-2

It's easy for us to get wrapped up, twisted up, and tangled up in the cares of this world and forget who we are, and what is our purpose. Jesus promised us "in this world you will have tribulation." Did He ever promise peace in this world? No! He promised us His peace in this world through our tribulation. Big difference. Yet so many still wearily try to find their peace from this world. Yet He said, "Not as the world gives, give I unto you."

The world gives peace only when everything goes our way, when everyone is in agreement with us, when we have enough money, etc.

Until you surrender all your striving for peace in your circumstances, trying to find your happiness and security from them, you will never be free to receive His "peace that passes all understanding". How can we find that? How - when our lives are full of turmoil, pain, trials, sorrows, griefs - how?

Remember Paul? He was persecuted, abandoned, betrayed by fellow believers, shipwrecked, beaten, had the constant care of all the churches and contending with false teachers - as he describes it at one point - "Yes we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God Who reaises the dead" 2 Cor. 1:9 - Yet Paul gives us instructions for living, not in the peace of this world, but inspite of our tribulations, to live in God's peace - His perfect peace that passes all understanding.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" Phil. 4:4

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Phil. 4:6-7

And again...

"Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

If we continue on seeking our security, and peace in this world, we are in danger of being choked by the cares of this life and becoming ineffective for God, as in the parable of the sower - "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful." Matt. 13:22

We cannot be fruitful for God unless we cast all our cares on Him, trusting Him alone to be our peace. In doing that, our focus turns to Him rather than this world. Our trust is in Him rather than ourselves. Our peace is in His perfect plan for our lives and that He will work all things together for our good. From beginning to end - as we are in Christ - our lives, our cares, our circumstances, all belong to Him, and we must trust Him all the way to finish that which He has begun in us. We must trust that He has already gone before us and seen before the foundation of time, all that would befall us, and has already gone there and made provision for us. What other peace can beat that? "Not as the world gives, give I unto you." No His peace is based on His perfect love for us, and plan for us from the beginning of time, and all He Himself is to us. There is no greater!

Whatever turmoil and unrest you are going through in your life today - begin to look heavenward, instead of thinking temporily, and let your mind rest in His peace for you. Dwell on His promises that are sure and will never fail. Cast your cares of this life in His Hands and give up the peace in this world for His perfect peace, that is beyond all our comprehension.

Keeping Your Focus

Col 3:1-4 ”If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.”

In this life full of turmoil, stress, pursuits, and simply everyday living, it is sometimes evident in our walk with Christ, that we have lost our focus. Sometimes we need simply to go back to the basics – back to what and why we believe – who we are in Christ – and who He is in us. It’s good from time to time to go back to the simplicity of the gospel – faith in Him and His life in us, and what that means for our everyday walk with Him.

The cares of this life can cloud our view so easily. Other pursuits, though good – even pursuits for the Lord – can actually take us away from our devotion and intimacy with the Lord, and soon we find that they, rather than the Lord, have become our focus.

We need to go back. We need to sit at His feet again. We need to drink again from His Spirit and remind ourselves of our purpose – His purpose for us. We need to examine all in His light, so that we can walk again through those cares, through those pursuits, through all these things in oneness and fellowship with our Lord.

Yes, I believe it is possible to do that! I believe it is possible in the business of our lives not to lose the intimate fellowship with our Savior. He intended it to be so. He didn’t intend for us to always sit in a closet with our Bible, but to be functional and productive as well as we leave our prayer closet, still walking in His presence, still in fellowship with Him, never leaving that focus.

As we go throughout our busy days we must remember Who’s we are and what we represent. We must remember His indwelling presence is unbroken. We need to guard it jealously so that nothing in our lives becomes a distraction to that, because satan will do his utmost to bring those distractions. Will you do your utmost to keep it, to trust Him to keep that in you?

If you’ve lost your focus, what do you do? Perhaps you have been bogged down by the cares of this life. Go back to His Word and remind yourself…

Eph 1:3-6 ”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

Eph 2:5-6 ”Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”

Gal 2:20 ”I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Your life is hidden in Christ, not in this world. Yet we dwell for a time in this world as pilgrims, here for His purpose, to do His will, to live for His pleasure and glory. All our pursuits should be done by Him - by His life in us, by faith. If it can’t be done by that – ask yourself if your pursuit and business is of Him. If it is of Him then it can by done by faith in Him all the way, with our eyes on Him. It need not take our eyes off from Him - even the simple mundane tasks of every day that we must do. Many times our focus has been lost because our pursuits are not led by Him but of our own purposes. There is no harmony with God or peace in them. Or we have perhaps started out doing what God has led us to do, yet ended up putting it before Him and neglected our devotion to our relationship with Him in the midst of it. It has become our pursuit instead of Him. The best works and intentions can end up taking the wrong place in our lives if we are not careful.

In Jesus letter to Ephesus in Revelation, He commends their works yet He has one thing against them – they have lost their first love.

Rev 2:1-5 ”Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

What were their first works? They were works of love and faith. Yet those same works can continue and become works of our own pursuit without that love and faith and intimacy with Him. It can happen so easily as the works consume more of our time, and our fellowship with the Lord, less. Soon the works themselves become our focus rather than Jesus.

Go back and sit at His feet. Remind yourself of Mary and Martha. Have you been like Martha and forgotten in your business to serve Jesus, to be like Mary and sit at His feet for a time and fellowship with Him?

It is so easy and natural for our focus to become ourself, even for the most mature Christian. It is something we must continually guard against in receiving blessings from the Lord as well as in serving Him. Here is an excerpt from Miles Stanford’s Hungry Heart Devotional that says it so well…

"It seems so natural, when one is surrounded with blessings, and thus sensible of being an object of divine favor, that the eye is turned from God to oneself; for when God is before one, self gets no place, though there be the deepest awareness of His favor.

"Hence it is the saint who is the object of the greatest favor who needs to be on his guard, that he allow not his eye to rest on himself where the favors are sent, but on God from whom they come. If his eye turns to himself because of the favor, then the favor has been the means of turning his heart from God to a mere gift of His." "If there be a growing up into the measure of the stature of Christ, there must be a conscious refusal of that which would tend to revive or invigorate the old nature. The saint is not only a new creature to grow into the likeness of the Lord Jesus, but he has to watch and beware lest the things he has to do with should in any way minister to another will in him, which would divert him from God to himself. Self is the circle and center of man's mind in his fallen state; but when Christ is formed in the soul, God is the center and source of everything." -J.B.S. (emphasis mine)

"For we . . . worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3).

May the Lord once again turn our focus on faith in Him alone and fellowship in His Son Jesus Christ in all things. Amen

Knowing God intimately

Joh 14:17 ”Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

Joh 17:3 ”And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Phi 3:8-11 ”Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”

God wants you to know Him, not know about Him.

What is your pursuit in life? What is your deepest desire? When it is, like Paul, to know Him and count all things a loss for His sake, then He will begin to reveal to you what it means to know Him. This is our highest calling. Not to be an evangelist or do some great work for the Lord. But to first of all know Him.

First of all, of course, you need to be born again. There is no way to know Him without His indwelling Spirit. Just as you come to Him by faith alone to first receive His Spirit, so we continually partake of that Spirit and learn to know Him by faith. As we are in faith walking in obedience to His Word He brings us to an intimacy with Him.

Our relationship with Him must be one of continually abiding in Him day by day. Without abiding in Him we cannot know Him, nor can we bear any good fruit. We start with the finished work of Jesus Christ – resting in what He has done – never in what we have done, or attained.

From ”The True Vine” by Andrew Murray – Many believers pray and long very earnestly for the filling of the Spirit and the indwelling of Christ, and wonder that they do not make more progress. The reason is often this, the "I in you" cannot come because the "abide in me" is not maintained. "There is one body and one spirit"; before the Spirit can fill, there must be a body prepared. The graft must have grown into the stem, and be abiding in it before the sap can flow through to bring forth fruit. It is as in lowly obedience we follow Christ, even in external things, denying ourselves, forsaking the world, and even in the body seeking to be conformable to Him, as we thus seek to abide in Him, that we shall be able to receive and enjoy the "I in you." The work enjoined on us: "Abide in me," will prepare us for the work undertaken by Him: "I in you." In--The two parts of the injunction have their unity in that central deep-meaning word "in." There is no deeper word in Scripture. God is in all. God dwells in Christ. Christ lives in God. We are in Christ. Christ is in us: our life taken up into His; His life received into ours; in a divine reality that words cannot express, we are in Him and He in us. And the words, "Abide in me and I in you," just tell us to believe it, this divine mystery, and to count upon our God the Husbandman, and Christ the Vine, to make it divinely true. No thinking or teaching or praying can grasp it; it is a divine mystery of love. As little as we can effect the union can we understand it. Let us just look upon this infinite, divine, omnipotent Vine loving us, holding us, working in us. Let us in the faith of His working abide and rest in Him, ever turning heart and hope to Him alone. And let us count upon Him to fulfill in us the mystery: "Ye in me, and I in you."

It’s from this abiding relationship that we are able to walk with the Lord, and share in the fellowship of His life and His death, and His resurrection. Too often, we, as Christians, are eager to get the cart before the horse, and go out in our zeal to “work for the Lord”… yet we have not taken the time to truly know Him first. It is by learning to abide in Him and know Him that we are able to walk in His will and do the things He would have us to do, and in this we’re able to bear more fruit. Any other work for Him we do becomes wood, hay, and stubble anyway if it is not done by faith, by His Spirit in us.

1Co 3:11-13 ”For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.”

You cannot know God if you are holding on to sin or disobedience. It will break your fellowship and intimacy with Him. There is no sin or disobedience or pleasure of our flesh worth holding onto! Let it go and pursue Him. He is that fulfillment you are looking for. He is the wholeness you desire. He is the love your heart longs for. He is the life and meaning you so much need. You will find all of that if you let go of your self-life (living to please yourself and desires) and seek to truly know Jesus intimately as He is revealed in His Word.

Many seek it through spiritual experience and go looking for one experience after another. Yet you will only know Him as you yield to His Word in faith and obedience – as you put your complete faith resting and reckoning on His finished work and walk in it, learning to abide in that. Spiritual experience may come out of that from time to time, of course – yet many times you will know Him in suffering, you will know Him in the dryness of your dessert experience, and you will know Him when you are left alone and abandoned by other Christians, or betrayed by someone close to you, and you will know Him when being tested to the core. Each time you will know He is your life and you can count on Him to be all He said He is.

Don’t look for Him in the multitudes, but look for Him alone on your knees before His Word. Don’t read His Word as a text book but as a personal letter of love written to you. Believe it, feed on it, eat it up, be nourished by it, and obey it.

Joh 6:51-58 ”I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”

Let us hunger and thirst for that real food that will sustain us in whatever we go through in this life daily. Let us seek above all to truly know Him and partake of His life.