2021 – The Others
Paul’s Last Letter 5
This morning we are going to explore a metaphor Paul uses in 2 Timothy. It’s a cooking metaphor… or more, exactly, a bowl metaphor. Everyone likes a good bowl metaphor.
2 Timothy 2:20-21 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
A rich person has a baking center. In that baking center there are bowls that are used for common stuff… mixing and baking and preparing the food. There are vessels for dishonorable stuff… trash cans. Also, in a good baking center, there are beautiful bowls which are filled with delicious foods and placed in the center of the table in honor of the guests who have gathered for a celebration. I’m picturing a bowl filled with a gorgeous salad…
Let’s understand the metaphor. All bowls have a job to do. All are important, even the trash can. But Paul wants Timothy to be a beautifully crafted vessel; the ones which bring honor to the guest! It’s like a special occasion when Mom brings out the good china.
We, too, should want to be honorable bowls; the ones which are set apart for special, holy use. We want to be ready for every special occasion… to preach the Gospel and be the Gospel!
Let’s dig just a little deeper into the metaphor. God is accomplishing his purposes on earth in many different ways, with many different people. I believe God may use someone, who doesn’t even know Him… to serve his purpose. Sometimes God may use someone who is even opposed to Him… to advance His agenda. I’m thinking Pharaoh from the Exodus; used by God. I’m thinking Nero in Romans 13. They might be the dishonorable bowl used by God. Perhaps, they are accomplishing God’s dirty work as a garbage can.
But that is not how we want to be used. We want to be intentional. We want to bringthe glory to God. We want to bethe glory of God. We want to be the honorable vessels used by the master of the house for every good! Amen?
Good news, Paul tells us how to be holy bowls. In the verses surrounding the bowl metaphor there are instructions about how to be set apart as holy bowls. There are two parts to being a holy bowl… There’s a cleaning part… you can’t be a dirty, holy bowl. Then, there is the presentation… being a serving bowl. Clean the bowl. Be the bowl.
Let’s learn, first, how to clean the holy bowl. Then, let’s learn how to be a holy serving bowl. These two instructions are mixed together in the verses surrounding the metaphor… I will sort them out.
Part One: Clean the Bowl…
2 Timothy 2:14-26 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers… 16 Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some… 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
This is interesting. The holy bowls are our words. If we are to be the holy bowls presented on the table at a feast to honor our guests, we need to clean up our conversations. I am liking this metaphor. My words are the salad in the holy bowl. I offer my conversation to the Others with a clean bowl. This is a life-changing way to think about conversations. My conversation to you is the gift of a holy bowl. Your words to me are, in return, an offering as a holy bowl. Listening, engaging, connecting to the Others as holy bowls is a powerful way to think about our words. We are blessed to be able to connect to Others with our words. Words are precious. Our words are holy… bowls!
We need to clean the trash out of our bowls. You can’t be a nasty, holy bowl.
1) Quarrels about words…The Greek word for quarrel fits well. It is logo-macheo. “You’re kidding. Macho words?” I didn’t make this up. Literally… words of fighting. We must clean up our bowls by not fighting with words. “Are you kidding me? Paul knows our culture.”
--If we view our conversations as win/lose, we cannot be a holy bowl.
--If we have to win every argument, we cannot be a holy bowl.
--A quarreling attitude is trash in the bowl.
--That tone of voice which challenges; that is ready to go to the mat over every disagreement… can’t be a holy bowl.
Do it. Clean your bowl. Get out the dish rag and wipe out… the must win attitude. Change your conversation metaphor… from battle to the gift of connecting! The same bowl cannot speak macho-words and holy words
2) Irreverent babble…shun profane inanities, empty chatter, vain talkings, godless chatter, foolish discussions, profane chatter…various translations. There are some conversations that holy bowls don’t engage in.
--Discussions which are disrespectful. The ragging on another must be cleaned up.
--The profane; the crude; the godless… the nasty.
--The making fun of others. The cruel talking behind the back of others. Gossip kills others.
Clean your bowls. Commit to throw the trash from you talk. The same bowl cannot serve up the crude and the holy.
3) False teaching…The holy bowl understands the core of the Gospel. I believe we should be evaluating our beliefs constantly. We are called to grow closer to God in our theology. I take my theology very seriously. But there are some basic truths that we don’t dishonor in our discussions.
Paul gives an example; the resurrection. Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching falsely about the resurrection. Who Jesus is. His covering death on the cross. His resurrection. Our joining Him on his return… are the core of the Gospel! We need to engage in learning the truth of God’s word. Preaching the truth of God’s word.
Holy bowls speak confidently about the core truths of the Gospel! Keep the bowl clean!
4) Ignorant controversies… My number 2 life principle is… Nobody wants your advice… unless you are an expert. It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert. Don’t be offering in your holy bowl advice, opinions, certainly not truths, that you have spent 10 minutes mulling over. I might listen if you spent a 1,000, 100, maybe 10 hours. Let’s clean out of our holy bowls… ignorant controversial opinions.
The same bowl cannot speak ignorant and holy words.
Holy bowls are humble. Let’s not perpetuate ignorance.
Let’s clean our holy bowls… quarrels… crudeness… false teachings… ignorant opinions.
James 3:8-12 No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
That was the negative, cleaning part of the sermon. Now let’s…
Part Two: Serve the Bowl…
2 Timothy 2:14-26 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth… 19 But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." 24 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Good stuff we need to add to our bowls…
1) Kindness to everyone.
--I think Paul didn’t really mean “everyone”. He meant kindness to those who agree with us.
--I think Paul couldn’t mean “everyone”. Paul meant kindness to those who are kind to us.
--For sure… Paul didn’t really mean kind to “everyone”. Those who think like we do we are kind to… everyone else… not so much.
--Paul actually meant be kind to… everyone… to the obviously wrong… to the insufferably arrogant… to the mean-spirited… to the confused… to the stubborn… to those opposed to us… to all the Others.
--It seems ok in our society to be cruel to anyone who disagrees. Paul says… be kind to everyone.
Let’s think about what this looks like. One of the kind things you can do in any conversation is listening. Active listening… attempting to understand before replying is a powerful way to be kind. Many conversations are shorted by talking over the other. Interrupting the other is a holy bowl killer.
On the other side of this is dominating conversations. It is kind to allow others equal time.
We present in our holy bowls with kindness! We speak to the Other as we would want to be spoken to… listening and allowing! Listening and allowing is the kindness holy bowl!
2) Be able to teach the word of truth.
Our holy bowls offer substance. It is not just kindness. There is more than fluff in our bowls. It is not cotton candy we serve… It is the word of truth. The Gospel is the most precious meal… we can serve.
--The word of truth is hope. We need hope!
--The word of truth serves a God of love. We need to believe in a loving God!
--The word of truth provides faith. We offer in our bowls a foundation of truth.
Preach the Gospel… be the Gospel. But this requires preparation on our part. Wonderful meals require work. Invest yourself in the preparation of your meal. Spend some time in the truth to be able to serve the truth! To be a holy bowl we need something to serve!
We present holy bowls full of life-sustaining truth!
Not everyone is going to be excited about the food in holy bowl. Nero was not. Timothy was in real danger with his preaching. To be serious about serving the Gospel to Others… some are going to not like. The Gospel will be broccoli to some. “What you are serving is disgusting.” We must be willing to keep offering the word of truth even if we are rejected, ridiculed, mocked, humiliated.
Holy bowls endure…
4) Correct with gentleness…
I have said for many years, there is no such thing as constructive criticism. Criticism hurts… but often is helpful… When it is offered with gentleness. With…consideration, humility, meekness. Arrogance is a showstopper. But humility is a show-starter. I need to offer my bowl in humility.
How we serve the holy bowl of the Gospel is important.
Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Holy bowls serving the truth in love… is powerful!
Principle #10 interrelating to the Others… Be a holy bowl! Clean your bowls of argumentative, crude, false, ignorant talk. Serve with kindness, full of the truth, in enduring gentleness.
We should be proud that God uses us to present His Good News to the Others. We have the power to offer our words as a gift to Others. We gift our conversations to others!
Clean the bowl. Serve the bowl!
March 14, 2021
Los Alamos Church of Christ
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