Sermon delivered November 13, 1999

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted

We are Clay

I would like to speak to you about the potter and the clay: how many of us are the potter and how many of us are the clay. Well, we're all the clay, and He is the Potter. Basically, that's the synopsis of the sermon. But I'd like to get into a little more detail than that, so let me tell you an experience.

I used to live in Hickory, North Carolina, and there was a gentleman who lived in Newton, named, Boyd Hilton, and he was a potter. He used to go down to the Catawba River and dig his clay out of the river bank. He'd take it home. He'd wash it. He would get all the lumps and rocks and things out of it and make sure it was just right. Then he'd begin to work with it. He's put it on his home-made potter's wheel. He ran the potter's wheel with a little steam engine which I was very excited about. That little steam engine would just puff along and steadily turned that wheel at a pace slow enough to do his work and yet not fast enough, because of the centrifugal force, to throw it apart. So it was just right.

I paid attention to his hands. He could never have been a minister because his hands were dirty. They were immersed in the clay. His hands were very gentle and very steady.

Now, while I am speaking of this, Who are you thinking of? You should be thinking about our Potter who is none other than Jesus Christ. Because that's what Jesus does to us. We are the clay, and His hands are steady. His hands are gentle. And His hands get messy trying to fix our lives.

We have some problems in our lives. Some bad problems. But the Potter is there to make sure that out of our mess, that out of the problems that have broken us, that we are going to be healed and be brought back again.

So, I want you to read in Jeremiah 18 about the potter. Because I was a Christian, I thought about Jeremiah 18 and I recalled this story in the Bible. Notice verse 1: This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot that he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

We are in the hands of God.

I like to stand and see somebody work. It's just a lot of fun. You don't have to do it yourself, and especially if they are skilled. I've been to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Ketner's Mill and Prater's Mill and watched potters. Have you ever done that? They spin their wheel and what wonderful things come off. And, what beautiful lessons there are. You know, as you stand there watching a potter, you're not just limited to lessons from the Scriptures. We can get lessons from whatever you're doing. WE have to keep our minds open and receptive, because God is going to give us a lesson from whatever we're looking at if we're tuned in.

So, who is the potter? I believe it is none other than our Maker, our Creator, which includes the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, doesn't it. They were all involved in our creation.

Isaiah 45:9 says, Woe unto him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, "What are you making?" Does your work say, "He has no hands?" We don't complain at the Maker. He makes different things out of the clay. He is shaping us today. God is not only our Creator, He is the One who is currently continuing to shape us and mold us through the events of life.

The clay represents us. Job 33:6 says: "I am just like you before God; I too have been taken from clay." Adam was formed from clay, from the dust of the ground. Genesis 2:7: 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 being.

Now the clay, which we are, is weak. What can you make from clay unless you bake it? Psalm 22:15: My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. We are weak. We were not pulled out of a diamond mine, in case you think, "Well, I'm pretty important." We all came from a hole, from a river bank. That's our origin. You can read that in Psalm 40:2: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. That's where we came from. Out of the pit of destruction and sin. We were in a hopeless condition and God came to us and He exhumed us out of that terrible place. I imagine we looked pretty ugly, pretty wicked, and pretty worthless.

What is the wheel that we're place upon? Well, come back here to Ecclesiastes in your Bible. I think as the wheel turns the clay grow more and more into Jesus' will for the clay, or else it becomes ,more and more blemished. I believe the wheel represents the happenings of our life. Ecclesiastes 9:11: .... but time and chance happen to them all. That's what takes place.

Now, we must be washed as clay. I sincerely believe that as the potter washes the impurities out of the clay that baptism is represented by that. Also we are washed by the Word. That's how you can remain pure: by running the words through your mind you will become purified by it.

Here's something interesting about the clay in Isaiah 41. I don't like this. If you want to look it up in your bible may think, this isn't really in here, but the clay needs to be stepped on. Does the Lord ever step on you? He steps on me, and I don't like it. Maybe you feel like you've been stepped on lately. Isaiah 41:25: I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes-- one from the rising sun who calls on my name. He treads on rulers as if they were mortar, as if he were a potter treading the clay.

There was a visitor to a famous potter and as he stood there he watched something he really didn't understand. This famous potter was beating a lump of clay with his wooden mallet. Just pounding the daylights out of it. The visitor thought, "What is going on here? You don't beat clay! You mold it and make it." And here he was beating the clay so he asked the potter, "Why are you doing this?" And the potter said, "Wait and see. It won't be long and you'll find out."

And so, the man stood there. Eventually the pounding stopped, the lump of clay was placed there on the table. He stood there and looked at it, and finally he saw the top of it start to just quiver a little bit and he looked and lo and behold, he could see little lumps forming on the top of the clay. "What are those?" And the potter said, "Those are air bubbles coming out. I have to get all the air out of that clay, otherwise those air bubble will cause that pot to crack, and you don't want to be a crack-pot. It will mar the pot. It will destroy the pot."

And a potter has to work out the air, the lumps and the bumps out of us, the sin. He wants pure clay, otherwise He can't make a pure vessel. And so, if you've been pumped around and pounded on a lot, there's probably a reason for that trouble you go through. There's a reason.

I notice that when a I was watching a potter up at Ketner's Mill. We were up there and saw some of you there. This lady had a wheel that would spin around and around. As I noticed her, she was making a vessel. She put the clay on the wheel, and her hands were wet and she formed it on the wheel. When she was finished, she would use a wire to cut it off, rework it and put it back on again. This happened three or four times and I asked, "Why are you taking it off? Why don't you just go ahead and do it?" And she said, "I'm a new potter and I didn't get it centered well. Unless it's perfectly centered, I can't make a perfect vessel."

Well, there's a lesson in that for a preacher. A preacher standing there watching will get a lesson out of that. And so I'm thinking, "I need to centered in Jesus Christ." Right? We need to be centered. The potter plops that soggy lump of clay on that turn-table and centers it up exactly and as it is spinning then it can form a symmetrical vessel.

We need to be centered. And how do we do that? I believe we become centered in Jesus Christ by making sure that we're in the middle of His Word, that we're in the middle of the Truth, that by learning, by being quiet, by being empty, by meditating the Lord's will for us, by renewing our prayer life. We become centered on Jesus Christ. Just like every sermons should be centered on Jesus Christ. We need to meditate on Him. Jesus must be the pivot, the hub of our life.

You can go over here to UTC, Chattanooga State, Southern Adventist University and they will give you a lot of spokes, but unless those spokes are centered on the hub, you aren't going to go anywhere your new wheels. You need a hub. Education will provide you with a lot of spokes, a lot of hubbub you might think in some of your classes, but you need a hub. That hub needs to be Jesus Christ.

The clay is turned on the wheel, isn't it. You might fell like you're turning around and around, going in circles, just going crazy, nothing is happening, I'm not going anywhere. I'm not arrive at some destination. It hasn't happened yet. Her I am, still single. There's some problem here. I'm not getting anywhere in my life. I'm not making enough money, not being successful, whatever it is. To stay on the wheel is to be successful. You can't be successful off the wheel. So stay on there. Don't quit. Stay with the wheel. If the clay flies off the wheel it lands in the dirt and gets contaminated and is unusable again. It's too bad.

All of God's Bible heroes were on the wheel. They stayed on the wheel. They were all lumps of clay, all lumps of clay.

Now, if we become marred, as Jeremiah says, in the Potter's hands, does He throw us away? No, He doesn't. He re-works us. Jeremiah 18:4 says, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. The first one didn't work out. Some of you in college may have started out to be an accountant or something, and eventually you ended up somewhere else. One route doesn't work in your life, and so you try another route and that one does work. God can re-use you. He can redirect your life. The Potter keeps trying until He makes a perfect vessel.

Martin Luther didn't have much patience and he had a hard time fathoming God's patience, I guess, because he wrote, "If I were God, and the world treated me as it has treated God, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces." That was Martin Luther.

Well, maybe God had plans for you. But you slipped, you fell, you ended up in the ditch, your life became marred and even though His mercy surrounded you, and despite the fact that you were in His hands you became marred. You faltered, you floundered. There is still hope for you because God will bring you back. Maybe you've ruined your life, you've blown your brains with drugs, you've messed your life up with illicit love making, you've ruined your life with alcohol. Just keep in mind that God is not through with you yet. You are still on the Potter's wheel. Stay on the wheel and God will make something beautiful. We serve a God of second chances. He'll give you a second chance. What a Savior we have. A Savior of new beginnings. So don't give up.

What if you're cracked? What if God made you, then He fired you, and there He set you on the shelf and you developed a crack? You may say, "I'm older. I know better. My parents were Adventists and I've been all worked up here and now I'm cracked. What do I do now? Can't go back on the potter's wheel. I've got something wrong with me. Something I don't like and I can't change." Let me tell you, God can still use a cracked pot.

There's an eastern children's story about a slave that was serving a rich master. The slave's duty was every day to go down to the stream and get the water. The king had to have water. So he had a board across his shoulder with a water pot hanging from each end. He would walk quite a ways down to that stream to get the water. The problem was one pot was perfect and the other was cracked. So, by the time he would go down there and get the water, and come back, one pot was half empty while the other was still full. One day, the cracked pot, which perceived that it was a bitter failure, spoke to this slave by the stream. He said, "I'm ashamed of myself. I'm a cracked pot. I have not been able for these past two years that you have been carrying me to deliver a full load for you, because of this crack in my side you weren't getting the full value from your efforts and I'm so sorry." And the water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot and in his compassion, he said, "Well, as we return to the master's house I just want you to notice, just don't think about yourself, notice the flowers along the way." And so the pot did this. Back home, the bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there are beautiful flowers only on your side of the path? Only on your side of the trail? That water that you leak out. I knew about your defect. I knew about this problem in your life. And I planted seeds along that path and for two years you have been watering those seeds. Those flowers have grown and I have used those flowers to decorate my master's table and to make his life more beautiful." So God can use a cracked pot. He can use you. He can use you in His work, in His will.

Well, I want you to notice something else. What is the future of clay that yields itself to God? I'll tell you what it is. A pot is a container. It is not a fountain. Vessels are not fountains. They're not springs. They are containers, reservoirs, receptacles, repositories. And to be an effective canister it has to be first emptied. You can't be filled with God's likeness while you are filled with the likeness of something else. A jar does not produce its own filling. We are destined to hold valuable merchandise. We are the Fort Knox of Jesus. Because, do you know what that valuable merchandise is? 2 Corinthians 4:7, But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show you that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. That treasure is Jesus Christ. You are destined to hold Jesus Christ in your life, in your heart. Imagine God's treasure in a jar of clay. And that's exactly what Jesus in you is. You are the clay. Our spiritual DNA includes this close partnership with Jesus Christ.

What is the job description of clay? Do you remember the Walt Disney film the The Lion King? It shows young Simba singing, "I just can't wait to be king." He thinks when he gets to be king he'll be in charge of everything. "I can't wait to get out of my parents house and be on my own. Then I can be in charge. I can be free!" Is that true? "All these old rules and regulations around here. I hate 'em. I'm going to be free some day." Don't you believe it. "I've got a mortgage payment to make every month." "I have to drive the speed limit." "You will always be under rules and regulations." Well, you don't HAVE to pay the mortgage. If you don't, you'll be out on the street. How long will the city police allow you to live on the street? Not very long! They'll take you to jail, and there you'll be free. Right? No way! The only way to be free is to yield to the Master. That's the only way to do it.

The job description of the clay is to surrender to the will of God. I feel like if you don't resist the hands of the Potter, you're going to be saved. That's my opinion. You're going to make it.

I want you to read from Ellen white. This is beautiful. She makes the statement about the Potter and the clay. Now get this:

"The Potter takes the clay in His hands and molds it and fashions it according to His own will. He kneads it and works it. He tears it apart, and then presses it together. He wets it, and then dries it. He lets it lie for a while without touching it. When it is perfectly pliable, he continues the work of making it a vessel. He forms it into shape, and on the wheel trims and polishes it. He dries it in the sun, and bakes it in the oven. Thus it becomes a vessel fit for use. So the great Master-worker desires to mould and fashion us. And as the clay is in the hands of the potter, so are we to be in His hands. We are not to try to do the work of the potter. Our part is to yield ourselves to the molding of the Master-worker." - Vol. 8 Testimonies for the Church, p. 186.187. EG White.

What is does the clay do? It doesn't say, does it. Jesus does all the work. He works it and molds it and dries it in the sun and then bakes it in the oven. Our part is to yield ourselves to the molding of the Master-worker. He does everything else. If you can wrap your mind around that, you understand Righteousness by Faith. Our part is to yield. Are you yielding to the master Potter? If you are, you are doing your job. If you don't resist, if you remain pliable, you're going to be saved. You're going to be a pot, you are going to be a vessel in His house, in the house of God.

Oh, what a wonderful experience that is! You can do that. Imagine a lump of clay becoming a vessel in the kingdom of God, in His house, sitting on His shelf up in heaven glorifying Him. Made by Jesus. That's how we are going to be there.

Opening Hymn: #154, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Scripture: Isaiah 64:6-8
Closing Hymn: #316, Live Out Thy Life Within Me 

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