Today I would like to speak with you about In the Hands of the Potter. That's the title of the sermon. Jeremiah was told to go to the potter’s shop and today we are in the potter’s shop. We have a live potter who has come and this church, now, is a pottery factory, and Dr. Eric Vetne is going to demonstrate, with his skillful hands, the art of making pottery. He's a medical doctor from Battle Creek, Michigan, and now a member of the McDonald Road Church, and he has a lump of clay on his wheel.
I would like for you to watch what's happening here with that lump. Now look carefully. What's happening? Nothing is happening. Will that ever become a beautiful vase there all by itself? Now if you miss all the other points of the sermon today, just remember that unless the clay comes in contact with the hands of the potter, it will be nothing but clay. You're the clay. Jesus is the Potter. Okay?
So, the lump can’t do anything to become useful. It can’t do anything to become beautiful. It has to go through a process. The process sometimes is very harmful for the clay. At least the clay would think so. And sometimes the processes of life are difficult for you to go through. But you know, this is all part of the Master’s process of making us into something beautiful. By itself, the clay is helpless. It can do zero. It might get dizzy there on the wheel, spinning around. It might get bruised in his hands. But you know, it is imperative that the clay would keep in contact with the hands of the potter. The potter knows what he is doing, and only then can the clay become something of stability and beauty.
Now when he starts it spinning, it's not centered at all. Only the hands of the Potter can center an individual in Christ. If you're off-center, if your life is all wobbly, you must stay in contact with those hands. You must be submissive to those hands. You have to be. We are like soft putty in the hands of God. Now Isaiah, chapter 64, and verse 8 says, "But now, oh Lord, Thou art our Father. We are the clay. Thou art our Potter, and we are all the work of Thy hand." And I will tell you, if that clay is ever going to become something good, it has to be the work of the potter's hands.
We are nothing but terra-cotta. Do you know that most of the elements in clay are also found in the human body? In fact, your body and that lump of clay have all the same elements, practically. And the main difference is the shape of us and we have the gift of life. We have life. What you must do to be in God's hands and to be usable is to keep soft, to keep pliable, malleable, pure, and accept whatever God makes of you. Do you know what this is going to become? I don't. But the potter does, and you never know, as a lump of clay, what you will become, but the Potter does. God knows what He wants to make of you. Isaiah 29, verse 16. "He is the Potter, and He is certainly greater than you,” the Bible says. You are only the jars that He makes. Should the thing that was created say unto the One who made it, He didn't make us? Do you think that these beautiful pots could say, "I am the result of evolution. I evolved, all by myself. I was a lump of clay, and now look at me. Look at what I did." No. That could never be said. In fact, the Bible says, "Does the jar ever say, ‘The Potter who made me knows nothing.’?"
The first instance of a Master Potter working with clay is found where in the Bible? Genesis, chapter 2. Come over here to the seventh verse of Genesis 2, and I want you to see a Potter working with clay. Genesis chapter 2, verse 7. It says, "And the Lord God formed man." Now that word ‘formed’ is the very same Hebrew word that Jeremiah uses when the potter formed the clay. "The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living" what? "A living soul." A living being. A living person. A living creature. We are nothing but the dust and the gift of life and the shape, shaped by God.
Now, God formed dust. Can you take absolutely dry dust and form it into something, do you think? It has to be wetted down. God used hydrated dust. I think He used mud. He used clay. That's what He had. And the eternal power that formed Adam is the power that I need in my life. It's the power you need in your life. And my daily prayer is, "Lord, breathe Your life into my clay." And that's what He transformed my heart of stone into a living heart.
Now where does God get His clay? Well, Psalm 40 tells us that. Psalm 40 and verse 2. It says, "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire, and He set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand." We came out of a pit.
Palestine has some of the finest clay pits. They're usually near the house of the potter. The potter builds his house near the clay field, the clay pit, and he digs holes, big pits into the ground to get down there where the clay is. Some of the best clay is at the bottom of the pit. That's why he keeps digging and the pit gets so deep. He digs it up and he brings it up, it's ugly, but the potter wants it, not for what it is, but for what it might be. God sees your potential, and He sees in you something special. You don't want to fall into one of these clay pits over in Palestine. It's impossible for a person to climb out because the walls are slippery and slimy with that clay. You need help to get out of the clay pit. If you're in a pit you need help from the Potter. Pray that God will lift you out of the pit of sin that you are in, because only He can deliver you.
God has such poor quality clay to work with. Doctor Vetne gets his clay from a clay supplier and it's all pure and wonderful and neat. I suppose, occasionally he finds something in it, but God has such poor clay to work with. Some of us are, I think, more like silly putty. We don't do very well in His hands. God wants to shape us just right, and we’re lumpy. We’re full of impurities. We’re hopeless, except that our Potter is a Man of great patience. And potter's have to have patience. He forms us and He reforms us over and over. Jeremiah, chapter 18 and verse 4. "The vessel that He made of clay was marred in the hands of the Potter." And it says, "so He made it again." He made another vessel. Now this one doesn't have to be remade. It's beautiful. From lumpy sinners God can make loving saints. From lumpy to loving.
And you know, we look quite good, I think, to the casual observer, but down deep in our clay there could be hidden recesses of sin that will be discovered by the fingers of the Potter. And Eric told me, he said, "You know, sometimes I find little imperfections in the clay and I take them out, and then I redo it." And that's what God does for us. He will remove those pockets of sin that only He discovers. He never gives up on us. And most of us are still a work in process. I know that I am, and I pray every day, "Lord make me after Your mold., before I die and return again to dusty clay. Make me into Your mold." Isn't that beautiful? God wants to make us into something beautiful.
But we are bad, contaminated clay. And you know what contaminates us. We are defiled by the thoughts that we allow to come into our minds. We’re defiled by the magazines we read. By the television programs, that evil stuff that we watch in the computer. The books. And the person that you will be in 10 years, if time should last that long, depends on what input you are getting into your life right now. What sinful thing you are fantasizing about right now just might happen to you. So don't think those bad thoughts. Don't do that.
And another thing that's bad is dry clay. Dry clay means an unyielding heart. Did you ever leave the lid off of your Play-Doh, some of you kids? Do you play with Play-Doh and you forget and you leave the lid off of the Play-Doh. What's the Play-Doh? Is it easy to work with? No, it's not. And as we get older we get set in our ways. We get stiff necked. We get un-moldable. We have to be pounded and we have to be hydrated, and our problem is, we’re bone dry. What is needed? Water is needed. And so the potter adds water to the lump so that he might form it and that he might do it. He gets his sponge on there, and what do we need? What is the water that we need? Jesus is the water of life. Revelation, chapter 21, verse 6, and Jesus will soften the hardest hard. So saturate your life with the Bible. What this does, when you saturate your life with the Water of Life, this allows time for Jesus to make Himself known to you. So stay yielded. Stay submitted to Jesus.
Now the clay sometimes is very stubborn. It resists the hand of the potter, and so the wheel produces a centrifugal force and the clay pushes against the hands of the potter as he is trying to make something out of this. And we withstand God. And what we really need to do, when the Master touches us, we need to surrender to Him. We do. Let Him do His work. Just be yielded and still.
[To the potter] That one’s no good. What are you doing, sir? [Potter]. It needs to be remade. [Pastor] You mean if I spoil my life, the Potter can remake me? [Potter] Absolutely. [Pastor] Isn't that amazing? If something doesn't work out too well, we just get back into the hands of the Potter and He can remake us. That's awesome. That is so good.
Why does God want clay in the first place? Just be yielded and still. He wants it to make into something useful, as a vessel. He doesn't want His clay to make a piece to look pretty on the shelf of a museum somewhere. God wants a vessel. That's what you see in the Bible. Every piece of clay that is made into something in the Bible is made into something useful. A tool in the hands of God. That's what He wants to make you into. Each of us has a great purpose in life. And so a potter is somebody representing God.
Now at this point, the clay's future is entirely in the hands of the potter. It might be a pot or a water jar or a flower vase and eventually after drying, this clay will be placed into a furnace. Into a furnace. And then it might be glazed so that it can increase its usefulness. And remember the Potter is a perfect creator. Any mistakes in the molding is of our doing. It's when we didn't yield to Him, and those flaws occur when we refuse to allow Jesus to mold us into His image, that He wants us to be. Amazingly, our God is a patient God. He works with us over and over and over again.
The potter sees the clay, not for what it is, but for what it may become. And Jesus has a high potential for us. We may have been spoiled, but we’re on the wheel again. And you have to allow yourself, sometime, to be on the wheel many times before He can finally make you into what He wants, and make you into something beautiful again. Sometimes we wobble badly, but His hands bring stability and beauty to our life. As long as you stay centered on Jesus.
And what is the wheel? The wheel represents life. Represents time. Represents circumstances of life. Psalm 1 hundred and 19, verse 73 says, "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me." We are not made, friends, by Harry Potter. We are made by the heavenly Potter. You need to instill something good into your life.
The potter shapes the clay and the clay is made to hold treasure. Second Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 7 says, "This earthen vessel, it is a container designed to contain something special." Something good. And it is designed to hold treasure. And what is the treasure? The treasure could be anything. In our heart. Every vessel has an opening, and that opening is to hold something.
And Dr. Vetne, I've been in his pottery shop, in his basement of his house and he loves to work with clay, and I think that God loves to work with us human beings. He gets dirty in the process, maybe in making contact with us, but unstained. He tries to transform us into something of special beauty. Of special value. And I believe that God is well demonstrated here in First Samuel, chapter 16, verse 7. It says, "The Lord looketh upon us." He looks at us to make sure of what we are going to be. Life is not as idle clay. You don't want to stay clay. You want to pray for transformation. You want to pray that you will be formed into a vessel and not just a lump. Don't stay a lump of clay in your life. Make sure that you are becoming something good. Something useful for Him.
And imagine the patience that God must have. Imagine the free time that God must have. Has a lot of free time, doesn't He? He's got all of eternity, so He’s going to work with you until you are what He wants you to become. And you will go through many circumstances in your life that will be hard.
Looks like that one got messed up. Have to take that back to the drawing; [to the potter]can you do anything with this? [Potter]. It'll be a beautiful vessel again. [Pastor] It’ll be beautiful, someday. I didn't do this. I think if I were the potter, you would see some mighty poor products.
But folks, we don't have a poor Potter. We’ve got an expert. He's good at making something beautiful out of whatever. You can be totally ruined. You can say, you know, I've committed the unpardonable sin here. But you haven't. The unpardonable sin is where you don't want God anymore. He always wants you. A good potter would never throw this away.
I want you to think about something. I want you to look at what he is doing. He's bringing the clay up, and then at one point he is going to insert his fingers, his thumbs, I don’t know exactly what, into the clay. And you will watch him do this. And the indentation in the top of the lump, when his fingers go into it, is known as the heart of the clay. And his fingers will actually be inside of the clay. And you know, God enters the heart of the lump. It is transformed into a vessel at that point, and when His fingers go inside of that center, actually what you will have then is His treasure inside of the heart of the clay. His finger in your life. In the center of your life. In the heart of your life. That's what He wants to do. And following this, the Potter enlarges the small, shallow heart, which won't hold much. He enlarges it, and the heart of the lump of clay gets bigger and bigger. Its capacity for holding good things, for eternal things, is growing. And I think the Potter's most difficult part of this job is shaping the inside, because, unless the inside is right, the outside will never be right. The inside shape determines the outside shape.
And Jeremiah went to the potter’s shop and he saw, as you are seeing, the outside of the vessel. But what can the potter see? What can Eric Vetne see? He is looking down into the heart. He sees what you can never see. And the Potter, from His vantage point, can see into the heart. First Samuel 16, verse 7. "The Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh into the heart.” That's what the Potter can see, that you can never see. And so, allow the Potter to insert His hands into your life. Be patient with Him. Trust the process. Second Corinthians 4, verse 7 says, "We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure." What is the treasure? May I submit to you the treasure is Jesus Christ. That's what you were designed to contain. Jeremiah 18, verse 6. "You are in My hand like clay."
Now not far from the home of many potters, is a potter's field, because they like to build their house there. Zechariah 11, verse 13, refers to a potter and 30 pieces of silver. And Matthew, chapter 27 and verse 3, and verse 10, refers to the potter's field which was purchased with 30 pieces of silver. A potter's field is a field of rich clay where the potter has dug out this clay, and also he throws away things that are brittle and broken and unusable anymore. All the contamination that was in the clay. It looks like an isolated domain. The ground is not very fertile. It's clay.
Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, and Bryant Park in New York City, originated as potter’s fields. And the city's current potter's field is the largest cemetery in the United States, where between 7 hundred thousand and one million people are buried there. It's on Heart Island and this is where all the disenfranchised, the dead, the vagrants, the tramps, the people that nobody even knows who they are. That's where they're buried. A large area. Potter's field. A potter's field.
The potter's ground is a metaphor for a person who dies without salvation. You never want to be buried in the potter's field. Judas died. Judas was buried in the potter's field. He died without salvation. Without it. The Potter's field is a graveyard for the clay that was un-moldable. The clay that would not allow the Potter to scrape out the impurities. The clay that refused to be pliable.
Is it comfortable in the potter's hands? I would like to hold something. I have here a finished teacup. It's beautiful. Imagine that I discover this beautiful teacup, and I say to this teacup, "You know, you're the most beautiful teacup I've ever seen." And the teacup talks back to me, and the teacup says, "Well, I wasn't always this beautiful. One day I was just a lump of clay and one day some man with dirty, wet hands threw me onto a wheel, and then he started turning me around and round and I was getting dizzy and I said, ‘Stop! Stop!’ But the man with the wet hands said, ‘Not yet.’ Then he started to poke me and punch me and pound on me until I was hurting all over and I said, ‘Stop! Stop!’ And he said, ‘Not yet.’ Finally he did stop, but then he did something much worse. He put me into a furnace, and it got hotter and hotter until I couldn't stand it. ‘Stop! Stop!’ I cried. But the man said, ‘Not yet.’ Finally, when I thought I was going to burn up the man took me out of the furnace and then gave me to a lady, and she started painting some paint on me, and the fumes were getting terrible and I was coughing and choking and I said, ‘Stop! Stop!’ And the lady said, ‘Not yet.’ And finally she finished painting me and gave me back to the man and the man again put me back into the awful furnace. And this time it was hotter than before, and I said, ‘Stop! Stop!’ But the man said, ‘Not yet.’ Finally he took me out of the furnace and let me cool down. And when I was completely cool a pretty lady put me on this shelf here by this mirror. And now I can look at myself, and I realize how beautiful I am compared to what I was. The Potter made me beautiful. I was amazed. I was no longer ugly, and dirty. I was beautiful and firm and clean and I cried for joy and then it's when I realized all the pain was for my benefit. All the problems of my life made me beautiful. They all took on special meaning for me. And now I'm beautiful, because of the Potter."
You know, the fiery trials of life actually transform the clay into a thing of beauty. The fire. I have one of these that Dr. Vetne made. It's very green, and if you were to hold this like that, it tears apart, because it hasn't been in the fire. It's un-fired. I have his permission to do this. I'm going to send this back with him to make another beautiful pot out of. This had a hole in it anyway. It wasn't… The firing transforms the clay into rock, and makes it hard. Makes it strong. Without that firing it could never be what it was designed to be.
You know, the glaze on there, the Bible says that the Potter painted the clay. The glaze that is on the pot is the same word for ‘anoint’ in Hebrew. When He painted, He anointed, and when you're anointed with the Holy Spirit you receive power. You're stronger. That's exactly right.
And two millenniums ago, our Master Potter, Himself, got on the wheel. Jesus got on the wheel, and He became clay to save clay. The Potter became pottery. That's what Jesus did. And He knows how to save the clay because He's been there and done that. So get on the wheel, and get in His hands, and allow Him to remake you.
I want to read a closing verse. Psalm 139, verse 14. "I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." And verse 10. "We are His workmanship." You know, the clay is totally the work of the Potter. Any value that the clay has comes because he has spent time with the Potter. The Master Potter has a divine blueprint for your life. I don't know what you might be. I don't know. But if the clay were left in the pit, I know that it would be worthless. But in His hand you become something valuable. We must tolerate His procedure to become His product. You are made to be used of God. God has a purpose for your life. Whatever that purpose might be, find it, and someday we pots will be in God's shelf throughout eternity as blue ribbon trophies from what He had to go through in this world.
Let's sing our closing hymn. I hope you've learned a lot from the sermon today, and I want to thank Dr. Vetne for being here. He did real well, and I praise the Lord for this example, in the Bible, of what we are. We are clay in His hands. Have Thine Own Way Lord.
Hymn of Praise: #21, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise Scripture: Jeremiah 18:1-4 Hymn of Response: #567, Have Thine Own Way, Lord
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 2/22/09