Summary: Learning how to become strong for the off-road times of life from 1 Timothy

“Adding the Options”

I will never forget the first time that I ordered a car. Gayle and I had just gone to Moores Hill 1st Baptist Church a few months earlier. Everything went well there except for our Toyota Corolla hatchback. We had purchased that car from an Uncle and it had seen some extreme use in our first pastorate. It didn’t start when it rained. It ran rough when the humidity was high. It started and ran perfectly when the temperature was 20 degrees below zero. In fact it was the only car that seemed to start with no problem at 20 degree below zero in Moores Hill. But unfortunately, there are not many 20 degree below zero days in Moores Hill, Indiana. But we were ready for every one of them. That poor Corolla had caused us enough trouble, enough missed appointments and enough long walks that one of my hero’s, Nelson Meyers, got a raise pushed through the Deacons, trustees and a special called business meeting with this one proviso…We had to use the money to buy a new car…a brand new car.

He sent us to a car dealer in an adjacent town and when we had ordered the car, he got the appropriate raise passed. What was tough was sitting down with a salesperson and looking at all the possible option packages and add ons that one can placed on a car. It was a daunting task for two young persons who had been accustomed to learning to like what we could afford. We got to pick colors, pin stripes, interior design. There were 7 or 8 different wheel packages, twenty-five interior colors and dozens of body colors. There were option packages that combined radio choices and custom mouldings. We were over whelmed by the choices that were available to us. We had never experienced a meeting like we had. There were so many options that we were almost rendered incapable of making a choice. Finally the salesman helped to narrow the choices by laying out some packages of options that were recommended by the manufacturer that allowed us to come to a decision.

Sometimes I think that the Christian life is like that. There are so many options available to us that we are often nearly paralyzed. We can build a life in Christ that is pretty plain. You can learn little and still inherit the Kingdom of God or you can spend a life time “soupping up” the basic model. Add the Greek and Hebrew, study homiletics and hermeneutics, get all the theological bells and whistles. In the end what you choose to drive is a choice you make. Perhaps I can help you today like that salesman helped Gayle and I many years ago, identify some common option packages that the manufacturer has identified and let you choose. Today, we are “Adding the Options.” And, depending on what you choose will determine how you are “Built Lord Tough.”

Our scripture passage today begins with verses twenty and twenty-one of chapter two, we read:

20 In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Those are your options. You can either be a clay, wood, silver or gold vessel. Recently I saw a sign on someone’s desk that said, "It may be that my whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others." Everyone needs a bad example as well as a good one. That may be the purpose God will put us to. The Scriptures do not teach that only the righteous people are used of God. No, God can use anyone. God uses the basest of men; we all are instruments of his work. God used Judas, placed him in the midst of the disciples, even put him in charge of the funds. Jesus knew that he would betray him. Judas fulfilled the Scriptures and the predictions of the prophets on that night when he betrayed the Lord. So God can use anyone.

My friend Ray was wont to say, “The great question, however, is to what end, for what purpose is he using you?” Here the apostle is pointing out to Timothy that it is for one of two purposes. "In every house," he says, "there are vessels." That is true of all homes -- we have "vessels for honor," i.e., dishes we eat from, pots and pans we cook in, decorated vases, etc., are all vessels unto honor. They are not only useful but they are preserved, they are permanent, we want to keep them. But every house also has "vessels for dishonor" -- we have garbage cans, bedpans, trash barrels, wastebaskets, etc. We do not display them. They are useful, but they are not presentable. We may even intend to dispose of them, sometimes after only one use. Those are vessels of dishonor.

That is the way God sees humanity. If we want to understand life as it really is, we have to look at humanity in that way. God sees all of us as useful vessels, but some only for good purposes; others must be used to accomplish just the opposite. But the wonderful, marvelous fact is, is that we get to choose which vessel we will be, we have an option.

In our homes pots and pans have no choice as to what they are going to be used for -- that is entirely up to the householder -- but in Scripture it is very clear that, when this is applied to human beings, a choice is involved. We see that in Verse 21: "If any one purifies himself from what is ignoble, then he will be a vessel for noble use." We have no choice of whether we are going to be used of God or not; the choice we have is what God is going to use us for. That is up to us; it is put in our hands. I grant you we are not dealing with the whole question of the sovereignty of God here. Paul is not dealing with the way God brings about his purposes in man, but he is facing us with a clear responsibility to make a choice in the question of how God is going to use us, whether it will be for a good purpose or not.

Choice determines the way God uses us. "If a man purifies himself" -- that means man has something to do with it; he has to purify himself. God will never set man’s will aside and use him for a good purpose without his being willing to be used. One of the most remarkable things about the Scriptures is how they preserve for us what we regard as our highest dignity, which is the right to exercise our own will. God does not force us to be used of him; it must always be a willing choice on our part. But we have to do something about it. He does not use us, willy-nilly, against our wills, for good things. He will do that for evil, for ignoble purposes, but not for good; there the choice is up to us.

When it says, "he must purify himself," that does not mean that we have the power to deal with our own sins, to cleanse our own lives. We do not have that power. But it does mean that we are responsible to use the cleansing that has been provided. If you have been working on your car or in the yard and your hands are dirty, you go into the bathroom to clean yourself up with soap and water -- you deliberately choose to use the soap and water provided -- when you have done so you say, "I’ve cleansed myself." It was not you that did the cleansing (it was the soap and water), but you used that which was provided. Now notice the result: "If any one purifies himself ... he will be," Paul says, "an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master. The old word for useful was consecrated. That is a word that has a permanence about it: One is permanently set aside in God’s mind for useful purposes, for thrilling, exciting, adventurous discoveries of being used by God. Furthermore, he is useful, profitable, and effective. God uses him in ways that accomplish something.

Finally, he is "ready for any good work." He becomes adaptable; God can use him in many different ways. Life becomes a tremendous adventure as you discover the innovative ways in which God can use you. All this hangs on your willingness to turn away from the wrongful attitudes, philosophies and actions of life.

The clay option would be one who is unwilling to turn away from what was, wrong attitudes and wrong actions. Paul explicitly tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that we are simply “clay pots.” A choice to stay as you have always been is a choice to remain clay and remain a vessel for less than noble purposes.

The second option available is a vessel of wood. I would characterize these individuals who are saved all right, they are going to heaven when they die, but they do nothing to advance the Lord’s work. They might advance themselves but the Kingdom of God sits still. These are those who learn a lot and have a knowledge but remember we are cautioned about having a form of the Spirit, always seeking knowledge but denying the true power of the Gospel. And, the true power of the gospel is about people being changed. The wood option is what the word itself implies…wooden.

I often have couples come to my office to talk about problems, one statement that I have heard countless times about persons and their demeanor is “He/she is just so stiff, so wooden.” That really means this person does not devote them self to relationship. This is the type of person who say, “I can’t tell people about Jesus, I don’t know how.” What if Noah had said, “Sorry, I don’t do arks or animals.” What if David had said, “No, I don’t do giants.” How about Paul, “Well Lord, I just don’t do Gentiles.” Mary…”I don’t do virgin births” or Jesus…”Nope, no way, I don’t do crosses.” The wood option is more about what isn’t done or what we don’t do than it is about what is done or how we make ourselves available.

The silver option involves the first of the two actions that Paul outlines in verse 22. “Flee the evil desires of youth.” We touched on this one a bit last week. Flee means to run away from, to get away from something that is most probably advancing. I don’t believe we ever really get away from the desires of our youth. What did you like to do when you were very young? Or, perhaps the other way to think about this is, “What things didn’t you like to do when you were young?” Think about it now!

You know I have always wondered why it is that when my kids were young that I had to almost hog tie them to get them in the bathtub at night or to brush their teeth, or wash their hands when they came in from outside to eat dinner. Today we have these huge water bills from long showers, washing a basement full of clothes. We buy what seems like an inordinate amount of soap, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. It was the same way with me and you when we were younger. Youthful desires don’t involve cleanliness, internal or external. The silver option is a full metal jacket commitment to cleanness through and through. And that means we flee the things that we naturally think, the things we naturally do.

The gold option however is the second action word that Paul uses in verse 22. We have a habit of stopping too soon in too many things. Paul not only says, “Flee” he also says, “Pursue!” The word is pursue it, go after it, go for it. What is wonderful about those four things is that every one of them is presented in the Scriptures as a gift from God. Only God can give us those things. But what is interesting is that, though God wants to give them, you will not get them unless you pursue them. You have to claim them; you have to go after them. You have to assert yourself along these lines. Receiving those things must be the result of your deliberate choice that you do the things that make for righteousness, faith, love and peace.

Righteousness means right behavior. There are times when every Christian is called upon to choose between what he knows to be wrong and what he knows to be right. You have to say "No" to what is wrong, and "Yes" to what is right. If you have not learned to say "No," if you drift along with whatever the crowd is doing, you will never be an instrument used by God for noble purposes. You have to say "No" to unbelief and "Yes" to faith.

(RS 84’)I know a lot of people who struggle with little faith, the reason oftentimes being because they have never sought those things that awaken faith. The Scriptures tell us that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God," {cf, Rom 10:17 KJV}. The more you are aware of what God says the more your faith is aroused, awakened and stirred up to lay hold of what God says. Those who never have time for the Scriptures, who never read the Word of God, who never listen to it unfolded for them and are never stirred up to lay hold of what God wants to give them will never have it forced upon them. God is not going to drop it on them until they are ready to lay hold of it, to ask for it, to seek it.

We must deliberately choose love. We often are exposed to the choice of how we are going to react toward someone who, perhaps, has irritated us, who has done something that makes us upset or angry. Our flesh tells us, "Tell him off. Hit back. Get even. Let him know how you feel. Make him squirm." But, if you want to be used of God, you cannot give way to that. You have to say "No" to that. Instead, you deliberately give a soft answer that will turn away wrath, or apologize for having given offense, for, even though your stance was right, you said it in a way that was wrong. Or you must reach out and see him not as your rival, someone who is trying to take something away from you, but as one who is feeling upset and troubled himself, and in need of help and encouragement. So love reaches out.

You have to deliberately seek for peace. Sometimes you must initiate reconciliation. If somebody is angry at you, although you are not to blame, you just cannot keep that within you and let it fester away, upsetting you and creating frustration in your heart. According to the Scriptures, you have to go to that person and let him know what the trouble is. Initiate a reconciliation. Sit down with him and say, "I don’t know what has happened, but something has come between us. It’s not right and I don’t like it, so let’s sit down and talk it out. Tell me how you feel and what it is that is troubling you." Seek peace. Aim at it. Pursue it. That is what the apostle says. And surround yourselves with those who encourage you along this line.

[pursue] peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. {2 Tim 2:22c NIV}

Those with pure hearts are not sinless saints; they are not holy oneswho have never done anything wrong; they are not the kind of people who look down their noses at everyone else who gets into trouble. No, the word is not "pure," but "cleansed," past tense; those with a cleansed heart; those who have already known what it is to be where you are. They do not put you down, they encourage you. They say, "I know how you feel. I’ve been there too, but God picked me up. I know what it means to lay hold of his great, forgiving love." So one of the necessities of being used of God is that you keep company with those who are aiming in the same direction.

What have you fled? What do you pursue? Do you want the clay, wood, silver or gold option package? I have already said that it is necessary to keep company with those who are aiming in the same direction…I’m aiming for the Gold and so is this community of believers, won’t you join us? LET US PRAY.

LL-Be Strong and Take Courage

8:45- 495- “Heaven Came Down”

11:00- God will Make a Way