The Potter holds a great lesson for us…
Jeremiah 18:1-10 (ESV)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it.
I talked last week about the incredible destiny we have in this place, and the destiny God has for every one of you. We often say this. But I also mentioned that destiny is not determined by circumstances, but by choices. Choosing to be here with us is not enough to fulfil the destiny God has for you, it requires the right response. Today I want to give you the chance to make the greatest decision you could ever make… To place your life fully into the hands of Jesus Christ, and let Him shape you.
With people focussing on all the rhetoric around about COVID, etc., I think we need to step back and look not at what’s happening in the world, but at our lives, our destinies and at our moment in history.
At this moment in history it is clear that the world, more than ever, and more blatantly than ever, is trying to force us to comply with its wishes, to mould its citizens into the image it wants. But in the midst of governments, media and social media bringing pressure to bear to conform us to their pattern, beyond all the arguments, conspiracy theories and accusations. God too is shaping His people to stand for what is right and true in this nation at this critical hour.
If you want to just sail through life achieving nothing and just existing, then this may not be for you. But if you have a desire to be used by God in this life, if you want to the master potter to mould and shape your life to conform to the image of His Son, then you need to listen to this message.
COME WITH ME TO THE HOUSE OF THE POTTER
Like it or not, our lives are constantly being moulded and shaped by external forces, with or without our will. In the end, you will become the product of what you allow to influence you. As Dr Joseph Goebbels said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” If you let the government or media shape you, you will conform to their mould. If you listen to your friends, they can mould you. If you listen to God, then you become shaped according to His design and will. The question is not whether someone will shape you, the question is, who will you let shape you today? Who are you listening to?
Romans 12:2 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Conformed in Greek is SYSCHE-MA-TIZO, which means to fashion into a pattern. The world designs a pattern, and it wants you to fit into its mould, the pattern it has designed for you. Some Christians are questioning what the Bible has clearly taught for centuries on subjects like morality and sexuality because they allow the government and the press to influence and hence mould their minds and opinions.
But behind the scenes someone is ultimately shaping minds and opinions? It’s not Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or the Premier. Ultimately if we don’t let God shape us, someone else will. If we refuse to let God mould us, we will moulded by Satan into the image he has for us…
2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
God used a lot of illustrations with the prophet Jeremiah. One was a trip to the potter’s house, so come with me now and let’s see what the potter can teach us about the image or mould we should be shaped into. In this illustration from Jeremiah, God is the master potter, we are the clay.
This potter’s house has originally a national message but also a personal message. The message was primarily addressed to Israel, but it also applies to each of us.
Isaiah 64:8 (ESV)
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
So what is God saying to us in this biblical illustration.
1. HOW WE ARE MADE
Jeremiah 18:3 (ESV)
So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel.
The eyes looking down on that clay remind us of God’s omniscience. He sees everything, He knows everything and He has a design in mind for our destiny. He sees something in the clay that others cannot see.
When God looks at you, He can see something within you that no one else sees… Omniscience. Others might see you as weak, or as flawed, or as someone who will never amount to anything, but God sees through all that to the destiny He has for you.
Then He places His hand on the clay, the hands of omnipotence, God’s unlimited power. God has the power to shape you into His perfect vessel. He can do what He will with this clay.
And then His foot is moving, pumping, keeping the wheel turning. This reminds us of His omnipresence, that God is present everywhere, all the time. Whatever the revolving circumstances of life may be, God is there and at work.
And so the master potter will create a vessel. The clay is just clay, but it can have tremendous potential. A lump of clay is dirty, sticky, sometimes even smelly, but it can be fashioned into a plate, a cup, all kinds of things, depending on the potter’s desire.
Oh, what God can do when He gets hold of some human clay like you and I! You have tremendous potential. Think of what God could make of you if you allow Him to mould you into what He wants you to be.
In this image we also see definite intention. The Potter will design something out of the clay that will fulfil His purpose and design and ultimately will bring honour, glory, and praise to Himself. That’s how we are made. That’s what we have been created for!
2. HOW WE ARE MARRED
But the next thing we notice is that we are marred. The parable takes a tragic turn. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter” (Jeremiah 18:4).
That is the story of the human race, the story of us because we are spoiled. In Hebrew the word is SAHAT, which means corrupted, spoiled, ruined or perverted.
Something has caused that clay to be marred; it was not lack of skill on the part of the potter. He sees a flaw, something wrong or corrupted in the clay. Perhaps a bubble is causing the complication, or a hard clod of some kind is unyielding to the potter’s hand.
That’s our problem. We are all born with a flaw, the fatal bubble of original sin.
I remember trying to teach my first child Tara to talk. I repeated over and over every day, daddy, daddy. And then came her first word, and what was it? NO!
I realised I had a little sinner on my hands, just like everyone else.
We don’t have to tell children how to behave badly; we have to tell them to do good. We don’t have to tell children how to lie; we have to tell them how to tell the truth. Every person has this defect, this fatal flaw called sin. That’s why we have broken lives, broken homes, broken institutions, and broken organisations.
Romans 3:23 (ESV)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
All of us are sinners. So be careful, because this parable illustrates that, if the clay refuses to yield to the potter, the potter has no choice but to junk it, to discard it onto the junk pile.
Isaiah 45:9 (ESV)
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’
or ‘Your work has no handles’?
It should not be that puny, sinful, corrupted man criticises a perfect, creator God, yet the world is full of it! This Facebook generation believes it has the right to criticise anybody it wants, any time, including God. But since when has the pot had the right to argue with and criticise the potter?
Just listen to the conversations. People are presuming to tell God how to run His universe. Rebellious humans are like pieces of broken pottery.
I talk to Christian’s all the time, they want to run their own life, be their own master, decide what they will do, then they ask God to bless it all. They even get mad if God doesn’t do what they ordered Him to do.
How dare we! What right do we, that which has been made, have to talk back to and attack our creator?
2 Timothy 2:21 (ESV)
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
We need to yield and place ourselves in the hands of the master Potter, allow Him to shape us, remove the flaws and mend us properly.
3. HOW WE ARE MENDED
Here’s the thing… If you are soft towards the Lord, He can fashion and remould you.
Jeremiah 18:4 (ESV)
And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
Here’s the Good News of the gospel: That’s how we are mended. He makes us all over again. He takes the broken, marred pieces of your life and creates something new.
Aren’t you glad God is the God of the second chance? He did it with Jonah, Mark, and Peter. He did it with Saul/Paul, Jacob and David. And He does it with you and I. We are marred, spiritual wrecks. But God says, “If you will let Me, I’ll take that broken vessel of your life and remake you.”
Something beautiful, something good…
That’s what happens. We’ve been born, but we need to be born again. We need to be born the second time because we were born wrong the first time. We were born flawed vessels, carrying sin. But because of the miracle of the new birth, God remakes us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
That means whatever you’ve done in the past can be forgiven. Whatever flaw or addiction you once gave into can be overcome, because
God makes new creations out of us.
That’s called salvation. Then He shapes and moulds us into the image of His Son… That’s called sanctification. God has a design in mind, and if you allow Him, He will be shaping that vessel, He is carving away all the excess clay and getting rid of everything that is not pertinent to the design, purpose, and intention of that vessel.
But here’s the warning… If you harden your heart, if the clay is fired and hardened, He cannot reshape you like clay, the only option is to break you.
Every person is a chosen vessel unto the Lord, and He has a purpose for all of us. Whether God places us on the mantle piece or in the kitchen of life, all that matters is that we become the vessels He desires, to bring honour and glory to our Potter, the Lord Jesus.
Jeremiah 18:6 (ESV)
“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
Jeremiah 18:11-12 (ESV)
Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’
“But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’
God goes on to say that, if they are disobedient, they will be shaped for destruction, but if they repent, if they become obedient, they will be shaped for blessing. Yielding to the will of the Potter makes all the difference, and yielding, your future, your destiny, starts with a decision.
That’s the bottom line. If you are stubborn and rebellious, you will miss out on blessing. If you are yielded to the Holy Spirit, the master Potter will shape you into everything He has destined you to be.
CAN YOU SAY, “SHAPE ME, POTTER”
People invest time and money into shaping their hair, or their body at the gym, but to have the master Potter shape your life all it takes is trust in Him.
Romans 9:20-21 (ESV)
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use?
When I was a boy we used to sing this hymn: “Have Thine own way Lord. Have Thine own way. Thou art the potter. I am the clay. Mould me and make me after thy will. While I am waiting, yielded and still.” All God wants out of us is to be yielded, so that He, the Great Potter, can take our life and mould us and make us into the design and purpose that He wants for us.
God created you, He has great plans and an awesome destiny for you. I’m begging you now, don’t harden your heart.
Hebrews 3:15 (ESV)
As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
If you harden your heart, the only way ahead is for God to break you, the Potter cannot mould and shape you.
But if you yield, if you say “Have thine own way, Lord.” If you are yielded and still, then God promises He will mould and shape you.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is speaking to some of you right now. You may have resisted God’s moulding, you’ve thought you knew better than the Potter. But I want to challenge you today to yield, to open your arms and your heart and yield to Him. To let Him refine you, shape you, mould you, knock off those rough bits, smooth those edges, make you into the greatness He always intended for you.
The Lord is speaking to people right here. What’s it going to be this morning? Moulded by the world, or by the Master Potter. Yesterday the streets were full of thousands varying out for the freedom to choose, but make your choice a wise one. Choose to yield to the Holy Spirit, choose life!
You may resisted Him, but now you’re willing to bow the knee and say, “Lord, have thine own way… Mould me, shape me, I yield to the masters hand.
I want to open the front here to those who genuinely want to yield it all to Jesus.
HOW HAS GOD SHAPED YOU IN THE PAST?
HOW IS GOD SHAPING YOU NOW?
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE GOD HAS FOR YOU IN YOUR FUTURE?