The Big Done
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished.
The Christian faith begins not with a big DO but with a big DONE. Of course our reason protests at this. If we do not get moving, how can we ever reach the goal? What can we attain without effort? How can we ever achieve anything if we do not work for it? But Christianity is a strange business! It begins from rest. If at the outset we try to do anything, we get nothing; if we seek to attain, we miss it all. “It is finished,” said Jesus and Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians with the statement that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. We are invited at the very outset therefore to rest and enjoy what God has done; not to try to attain it for ourselves.
In a few weeks we will observe one of the most important days of entire calendar, Easter. Paul tells us that if Christ is not risen from the dead, then our faith and hope is in vain. Our futures hinge not on what we can make them but what Christ has planned and prepared. The paradox of Christianity is that we are called to live a life of righteousness not in our own effort of being so, but as the outcome of Christ living in us. We are the product of the work of the Holy Spirit and not what we can produce. In the book of Jeremiah we read that he went down to the potter’s house to observe the lesson God wished him to share with us- the potter and the clay. As Jeremiah watched, he saw the potter pick up a lump of clay and place it on the wheel. Pumping the pedal with his foot and spinning the wheel, he carefully began to shape the clay into a vessel as he decided it to be. We ought to note that the clay had no part in its shaping other than remaining in the hands of the potter. Jeremiah noticed something about the clay that was being made into a vessel. The hands of the potter brought to the surface something that was causing the clay to be marred. Maybe it was some debris that had attached itself to the clay, hidden beneath the surface. We don’t know exactly what caused the marring and that’s okay for each of us no doubt have things that make us less than perfect. This is where the story gets interesting. At this point we would be tempted to think that the potter would discard the clay and pick up a fresh lump and begin again. But instead, the potter folds the clay into a ball again, removes whatever was causing it to be disfigured and begins to shape it again. Jeremiah uses an interesting phrase: “He made it again another.”
That’s how God works with us. He doesn’t ask us to mold ourselves into some vessel pleasing to Him. All He asks is that we let Him mold us as He chooses. We might have some idea what we want to be. Often we ask children what they want to be when they grow up, indicating that the choice is fully theirs. We bring that idea into adulthood and more so into the Christian life. We reason that we get to make the choice and then when we ask God to bless the choice, we expect Him to comply. This position seems to put us in charge with the responsibility for the outcome ours.
I submit that although this thinking seems reasonable and for the most part has become the accepted norm, it is flawed thinking. Jeremiah is being taught an incredibly valuable lesson. His book opens with God’s call. We read that God had formed him and called him and established his destiny before he was born and while yet in his mother’s womb. So much for Jeremiah choosing what he wanted to be when he grew up. Jeremiah’s assessment of himself is far different from God’s. Jeremiah sees himself as incapable of becoming what God was designing him to be. So God tells him that the reality is that Jeremiah is just clay in the hands of a capable Potter who has the power to form the clay into whatever the Potter desires. You and I have no ability to redeem ourselves. The Bible says that our righteousness is filthy rags. The best we can be and the best we can do isn’t sufficient to qualify us for heaven.
Our salvation has been purchased, paid in full. Our provision has been prepared, no charge to us. Our righteousness has been given by the only righteous One. There is nothing more that you or I can do for Jesus has completed fully the plan of redemption. Our only thing we can “do” is to accept what Christ has offered to us with grateful hearts.
The outcome between the choice of the Big DO and the Big DONE is obvious. Those who make the Big DO choice are constantly trying to earn grace. Their work for God is that of a begrudging servant who feels they must work to gain. Those who choose the Big DONE rest in the grace and blessings of God as dear children. Their service is one of joy and privilege, happy that they are given the honor to express their love through their skills. Like children who live their father and when they see him working join in not because they must but because they enjoy sharing his work, those who accept by faith that Christ’s work is finished and complete also find it thrilling to work alongside Jesus carrying out His plans and purposes so that those who do not know Him yet, will.
We may not get to choose what we will be when we grow up but we can choose to allow God to determine our future. Perhaps the better thing to ask our children is: “What do you think God will have you to become when you grow up?” Maybe some adults ought to ask that question too. Our most important identity isn’t our place in the world whether large or small. Our most important identity is that we are a vessel shaped by God. It’s not so much about the vessel as it is what’s in the vessel. History records that sometimes people would store their valuables in a plain vessel so it would be secure. They figured that thieves would not give it a second glance. Paul says that God’s treasure has been placed in earthen vessels.
“But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7
“Now in a large house there are not only vessels and objects of gold and silver, but also vessels and objects of wood and of earthenware, and some are for honorable (noble, good) use and some for dishonorable (ignoble, common). Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things [which are dishonorable—disobedient, sinful], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified [set apart for a special purpose and], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:20-21
Dr. John Thompson