Jars of Clay
2 Corinthians 4:7 We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
I am always a little hesitant when someone teaches that I am delivered from a defect in coming to Christ. I do absolutely believe that the only adequate solution to the problem of our flesh nature is found in God. It is only in coming to Christ that I may know freedom from slavery to my own destructive nature. That however, is only half of the truth and to teach it as the whole truth is as destructive as telling a lie.
Paul, in today’s passage, insisted that though we have this tremendous treasure of God’s light in us, we carry it in imperfect jars of clay. When we come to Christ, we are born again into a new perfect spirit life but to stop there is to teach a half-truth. The other side of reality, which we must also understand, is that we carry this flawless spirit life in a defective flesh life. We live in two realities and to preach and understand only one is to know madness.
We struggle with this concept. In our western minds, we are prone to dualistic thinking. Our minds prefer to believe that we are either one thing or the other. We are either A or B. We cannot be both at the same time. Paul dispelled this by insisting that we have both a faultless spirit life and a defective flesh life.
Paul said that God allows this conflict to continue while we remain in the body so that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. If we were made perfect today, we would claim all the glory tomorrow. We would no longer need God and we would become monsters in our pride. If we knew perfection, we would be consumed by it. So, for now, God allows us to continue in our need of him.
To understand my condition, I must understand both truths. If I cling to just the first truth, that God saves me from myself, but I refuse to accept my ongoing need, then I will falsely believe myself to be delivered and made perfect. In that condition, I will either refuse to accept my failure when it inevitably occurs, or my faith will be destroyed when I return to that failure.
There are few things more maddening than a prideful Christian who thinks himself delivered and perfect while behaving horribly. There are few things sadder than one who loses his faith, returning to addiction, because he thinks he is incapable of failing.
If I accept only the second truth, I am no better off. If I focus only on my continued defectiveness and do not know that I can find freedom in Christ, then I will continue to live enslaved to myself. If my only identity is that of an addict, then I will never know the joy, freedom and hope of a life in Christ.
To live as Christ insisted, to continually deny self and to follow him, is to accept both truths. I have a perfect spirit life but I carry it in a cracked pot. I do not need to live enslaved to my defects but neither are they gone. I am daily delivered from my addiction as long as I keep my eyes on Christ.