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Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy (Romans Sermon 70 of 120)

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy (Romans Sermon 70 of 120)

May 29, 2005 | Andy Davis
Romans 9:19-23
Glory of God, God's Purpose for the World, Justice of God, Providence and Sovereignty of God

Introduction: A Recipe for Excellence

We're looking this morning at Romans 9:19-23. We've already seen some things in verses 19:23. And as I was thinking about this message, I was just remembering my own upbringing. Both of my parents were chemists, and I think... I don't know if the reason that I can't stand chemistry today is that we just talked about it so much at the dinner table or something like that, I never really loved it. I liked other forms of science, but not so much chemistry.

I'll never forget, my dad was a chemist and he used to wear this white lab coat, and he would cook that way. He was a chef in the kitchen and he was just... And he told me that chemistry is just really like cooking, it's finding a recipe. And I know I've eaten at the homes of a number of you, and you have some secret recipes that your relatives have passed on, and you won't give them to us, but we do enjoy eating those things when we're at your house. So that's a special thing. But I began thinking about this theme of secret recipes, and something amazing hit me. And it had never occurred to me before, but that is that two of the greatest empires in world history were strengthened and established and made their advance because of secret recipes done by chemists.

The Byzantine Empire

The first one I have in mind is the Byzantine Empire, which was the Eastern form of the Roman Empire, lasted a 1,000 years after the fall of Rome, at least in part because of a secret concoction mixed by a Jewish refugee named Callisto, who came to Byzantine and invented this concoction in the year 670 AD. It became the most dreaded weapon of the Byzantine Empire for 800 years. It extended the life of the empire for eight centuries. It first made its appearance at a battle that the Byzantine Navy had with the Muslim Saracens who were trying to destroy Constantinople, and add the Byzantine empire to the ever growing size of Muslim conquests at that time in world history. And it looked for all the world that they were going to do it, they were very powerful, until the Byzantine Navy came and engaged the Saracen, the Muslim Navy.

And out of these wooden dragons there were these tubes coming out of the mouths of the Byzantine ships, and this fire just spewed out of these wooden dragon heads and ignited the Muslim ships. That's nothing new in naval warfare to use fire. The problem was that this great fire, you couldn't put it out. The more water they poured on it, all that did was spread the fire more. It couldn't be extinguished. And so all of these Muslim ships sank, there was no remedy. And so it was from generation to generation that the Byzantine Empire was upheld by this strange Greek fire, and nobody could understand what it was. Three centuries later, a little less than three centuries later, a Russian fleet of 10,000 ships came to conquer Constantinople, Byzantine. All 10,000, the record has, sank with the Greek fire. All 10,000. Now obviously, something that powerful and potent, the recipe, the concoction for how it's to be mixed would be guarded like no other state secret. So, it was so much so that no historian today knows what's in it. There's some chemists that can guess, but nobody can get exactly the same recipe. And so that's one empire.

The Coca-Cola Empire

The other Empire, a little bit different, but the secret recipe was concocted in the lab of an Atlanta pharmacist named John Pemberton. He developed a sticky black fluid that would in some sense conquer the world. I think if he had known just how powerful the sticky black fluid would be, he would never have sold it to another Atlanta pharmacist, named as Asa Candler, for $2,300, in 1890. But over the next 10 years, the production of it went from 9,000 gallons to 370,000 gallons. Now the empire based on that sticky fluid is worth countless billions, and there's nowhere you can go where you can't drink it, mixed with carbonated water, it's called Coca-Cola. And you can't find the secret, although, on the internet there's somebody who thinks they have it. Don't you believe it, it's locked up in a safe somewhere and we'll never get it. And so these two empires advanced with a secret recipe.

I was thinking, God's empire, His kingdom has advanced because He knows the secret to your heart and mind to bring us to faith in Christ, to preserve us through this dangerous world, to prepare our hearts in advance for glory, until we are ready for Heaven, God knows how to do that. And the amazing thing is, it's different for each individual person. Not radically different, all of us have similar things, but God knows how to attract you into His kingdom. He knows how to work in your heart. He is, and another whole other way of looking at it, He is the potter, you're the clay. He knows how to shape you, and how to prepare you for glory. Isn't that marvelous? He knows the secret recipe to your heart. You don't even know it, but He does. And He knows how to prepare you for glory.

I. Review

Now, this is what we're talking about today. Vessels of wrath and also vessels of mercy. The context in Romans 9 is, Paul is seeking to address a very great problem. The problem is, why the Jews, the promised people, the chosen people, were at his time and are even to this point, almost universally rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And if God made all these incredible promises to them, and if He's not keeping those promises, what does that say for the promises that came earlier in Romans 8? One promise after another of incredible blessing that God is going to give us. Are they worth the paper they're printed on? If God hasn't kept His promise to the Jews, then how will He keep His promise to us?

But Paul answers emphatically in Romans 9:6, saying, "It is not as though God's Word has failed." Why not Paul? Well, because not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. There are the physical descendants of Abraham, what we call the Jews, physically, but then there are the elect, the chosen, the remnant. There are different Biblical words for that, within to whom God had made His promises. And God's Word to them has not failed, indeed it cannot fail. And so, Paul brings us into the deep waters of unconditional election. He gives us the example of Jacob and Esau, twins in their same mother's womb, who had radically different destinies. And "before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose and election might stand, not by works but by Him who calls, she was told the older will serve the younger."

And so He deals with this issue of Jacob and Esau. And so He says, concerning the justice of God, you know, "Is God unjust?" He deals with the question of justice, it seems that unconditional election is unjust for God to not deal with this on the basis of our achievements and our works and our choices, it seems unjust to us from the human perspective. He says God is not unjust. For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I'll have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. Then he brings up the case of Pharaoh, and he talks about the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, and the summation in verse 18 he gives, is that God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden. And the insight we had is that God does one or the other with every single person on the face of the earth, there's no third category. It's not like there's some other mass of people that God's not doing one or the other with. He's either showing mercy, or He's hardening. And that is the work.

So we come now to verse 19, "But one of you will say to me, 'Then why does God still find fault for who resists His will?'" If God is so sovereign, so powerful, He can do anything He wants, then why does God judge anybody? How can we actually be held responsible for this? That's what he's dealing with. And we started to see the answer.

Review: God’s Rebuke

First of all, God rebukes a kind of questioning, we saw God's rebuke last time. This is just review. "Who are you oh man, who answers back to God, who talks back to God?" That's what we're dealing with there. It's not just asking questions, "Oh Lord, I want to know, tell me the truth." That's not it. There's an arguing back, and God rebukes it. So we saw God's rebuke. God is not on trial. We're not a back room, back court lawyers firing questions like a district attorney, and God, He's got to answer. It doesn't work that way, He's God, He's the king. We're created beings. So we saw that, God's rebuke.

Review: God’s Role

Secondly, we saw God's role. God is the potter, we're the clay. He is the one who forms, we are that which is formed. That is God's role. And God crafts these vessels. And the insight there was that not all vessels are crafted for honor and glory. Some are crafted as vessels of honor, some are hardened as vessels of dishonor. Some are vessels of mercy whom He prepares in advance for glory, and some vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction. We talked also last time about God's rights. Does not the potter have the right to do this? Doesn't He have the right as the creator to deal with this this way? It speaks of the rights of ownership. He is the sovereign king. And out of the same lump of clay He can make one or the other. Oh, is that humbling?

You'd like to think you're somehow out of some different stuff originally than Hitler or some of these other great evil people, but same lump of clay is greatly humbling to the human race, isn't it? It's not like He finds some pocket of good clay and makes a good vessel out of it. No, it's the same lump.

Review: God’s Rights

And God has the right to do what He wants with that simple lump, He has the right to do what He wants. That's all review, we covered that last time.

II. God’s Reason

Now today, what I'd like to do is try to understand God's reason in all this. Why? Why does He do this? What is He doing? What are His reasons for all this? And we see in verse 22-23, God giving an answer, a reason. It says, "What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction. What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of mercy whom He prepared in advance for glory?" Verses 22-23. Now, first of all, I just want you to notice God's grace in giving us this explanation. He could have just said, "Who are you, o man?" End of story. "You do not have security clearance to go through that door. You're not going in." He doesn't need to tell you any more, but He does. Isn't that remarkable? And you know what that says to me? Let's read verses 22 and 23. Let's try to understand what He says there. If He has deemed to tell us, we should try to understand what He said. It bothers me when people cut off this discussion, and say, "I don't want to talk about that. It's too deep."

Well, God didn't think so. He told you. And so we need to try to understand verse 22 and 23 of Romans 9. Amen? So let's try and understand. I don't know that we're going to perfectly get there, I actually know that you can't. Paul, who wrote it said, "Oh the depths of the riches." You're never going to get it all. Let's try to understand. He has given us grace.

God’s Reason for Everything: A Display of His Glory

Now, what are His reasons for doing this? What is His reason? Well, I think His reason for everything is to display His own glory. He does it for a display of His glory. And we're going to see display language here in this account. I'll talk to you in a minute about that. But by display, I think about my days as a mechanical engineer. I used to go to trade shows. And these trade shows would be at huge convention centers, huge rooms, and you would just wander and see all of the displays that the companies had. And the companies would spend tens of thousands of dollars for those few seconds when you'd be strolling by their part of the exhibit hall. And they knew they only had a few seconds to grab your attention, and so they would do the most incredible displays. Some of them look just like a vertical carpet, but others were state-of-the-art, flat plasma screen TVs before anyone else had them, or marbleized covers, or it looked like fine mahogany, or polished brass, or something to grab your attention. They would spare no expense.

Now, if a company is that zealous to display their products or their information to get it out, if they're that zealous for that, how much more is God zealous to put His glory on display? That's what this is about. What is God's reason for all of this? That He may be glorified, that His glory may be on display, both in the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy. Friends, if you don't get anything else out, get that out. God does all things for the display and for the praise of His glory. That's the reason. Well, let's try to understand it a little bit more. God's glory has been on display since the moment He created the Heavens and the Earth. From the moment that He said, "Let there be light," He has been in the process of displaying or putting out His glory. Light makes all things visible, it displays His glory.

God’s Glory is Put on Display in Christ’s Redemptive Work

But the greatest display of glory, the greatest display of the glory of God in history, has been through the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the radiance of God's glory, and the exact representation of his being, Hebrews 1:3. He is the image of the invisible God, and He came down to Earth so that He could say to His disciples who asked Him and said, "Show us the Father." He said, "Don't you know me, Philip? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father." You want to know the Father? Look at Jesus, He's a display of the Father's glory. But even there, there's gradients of glory, and the pinnacle of Christ's display of the glory of God was at the cross and the empty tomb. The display of His glory.

So it says in Romans 3:21-26, which we did study in this church a while ago, years ago. Yes, this is an expositional sermon on Romans and it's been years. But go back and look it up, and you'll see in Romans 3:21-26, what I called at the time, the glowing heart of the Gospel. You could just sense of like the energy center of the Gospel, Romans 3:21-26. And there the Apostle Paul says this, "We are justified," that's forgiven of our sins and made righteous before God, "we are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God... Now listen, displayed publicly as a propitiation, as an atoning sacrifice. God displayed Christ publicly as a propitiation, in His blood through faith." Listen again, "This was to demonstrate His righteousness or justice, because in the forbearance of God, He had passed over the sins previously committed. For the demonstration, I say, of His justice at the present time, so that He would be just, and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ Jesus."

What do all those words say? Well, God had passed over David's sin with Bathsheba. Nathan the prophet said, "You shall not die." What? How does a guy like that get into Heaven? God had to display His justice at the cross, He had to display His righteousness. So He put His commitment to justice and righteousness on display when Jesus died. A display. It says it three times, displayed publicly, demonstrated, and demonstration. Also, it says that God displays His love in Christ at the cross. Romans 5:8, it says, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we're still sinners, Christ died for us." Do you see all this display or demonstration language? It's a display.

So also we had the same thing in that Christ's resurrection displayed His power. Listen to this in Romans 1:4, it says "and Christ, through the Spirit of holiness, was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." So there's all this display, demonstration of God's justice, His righteousness, His love, and His power. We also see His patience put on display when sinners get saved. The Apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Timothy 1:16. He said, "For that very reason, I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life." So God put his patience on display by saving Paul. Do you see all this display language? Justice, righteousness, holiness, love, wrath, power, kindness, and patience, all put on display through Jesus Christ, the cross, and the resurrection.

God’s Glory is Put on Display in Both Types of Vessels

Now, God's glory is put on display also in both types of vessels. The vessel of wrath puts God's glory on display, the vessel of mercy puts God's glory on display. Both of them are for the display or the showing of God's glory. That's what it's for, that's the reason why God does this. Now, they're different, but both of them are for the same purpose ultimately, the display of God's glory. Now, when we use this language; a vessel, a vessel of mercy or a vessel of wrath, what do we mean by that? Well, the Greek word has two senses, one is, it could be a tool or an implement, sometimes the word is translated that way. A tool of God's glory. Another more common is something that... Like a container. You can imagine like a pot or a bowl or something, a vessel of oil, or a vessel of wine, or some other thing in the New Testament that would hold. It was a container of something, a vessel.

Now, a vessel of honor, it speaks of in verse 21, and also a vessel of dishonor. Now, the vessel of honor, the word honor usually refers to that which is accorded to God. Praise and honor and glory. Well, this is something that holds honor, it's a container of honor. If you're going to have something really honorable, you need a great container for it. I remember when I bought Christie's engagement ring, I went to the finest jeweler in Boston, and they knew how to put a ring like that in a wonderful box. I'll never forget that box, it was made in Thailand. I don't know what it was made out of, some kind of gray leather with a snap on it, but I was almost more interested in the box than I was in the ring. I don't know, I thought it was the most incredible box I'd ever seen. But if you're going to have something that honorable you're not going to put it in a plastic bag. Alright? Amen, right.

Maybe some of you men did, and your wives accepted the ring anyway, that's wonderful. It just shows their grace, doesn't it? I mean they're just so kind to us. But you want to display it well. It needs to be presented well. So this is the vessel of honor. Also in this verse, verse 21, there's the vessel of dishonor, and that's the literal translation although the NIV gives us this sense of common use, and that's possible, something that's commonly used, but either way, may I say to you, the focus is not so much on the vessels, but on the potter who can make either one? He can do either one. He knows how to do either one, he knows the recipe for a vessel of honor, he knows the recipe for a vessel of dishonor, he can do either one. He has that kind of power. He has that kind of ability.

And also verse 22-23, we have vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. So we have vessel of honor, vessel of dishonor. Verse 21, vessel of wrath, vessel of mercy, verses 22 and 23. Well, God does all of this to display His glory.

III. God is Glorified in the Vessels of Wrath

Now, God is glorified in the vessels of wrath. That's what he's saying here in verse 22. Paul begins with a kind of a fragmented question. None of the translations really bring it across, the translators frequently try to help the Greek and I understand that, but it makes it kind of a question. What if God chooses me? But it's not what it says, although the meaning is fine, but it just says, "If God, desiring to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience." NASB gives us a kind of a concessive thing, almost like indicating "If God, even though he really would like to show His wrath and make His power known, yet held himself back, bore with great patients the objects of wrath." That's the sense, but I want you to notice the "then" is never finished. "If God," then what? He never finishes it and Paul actually frequently does this, begins thoughts and doesn't finish, but you get the idea.

One pastor I heard preaching on Romans 9 reached back for Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address, one of the greatest speeches ever given by a President. It's almost at the very, very end of the bloody Civil War, and he's trying to make sense of it, and he reaches for depths theologically, that we don't really see in presidents these days. And it's an amazing thing, as he's ruminating on the Civil War and he says that, he uses this if again. He says, "If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come." Oh, is that deep?

 "But which having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove." This is Abraham Lincoln giving an inaugural address. I think nowadays the ACLU would arrest the president if he talked like this. But listen what he says, "If he now wills to remove slavery and that he gives both to North and South, this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came." Here's the key answer, the second half. "Shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him?" Let me put it in simple language. If God has willed this war, should we then say He's any less worthy of being worshiped? If God wills to make out of a sinful lump a vessel of dishonor, does that mean he's any less loving, any less powerful, any less compassionate, any less gracious, any less worthy of worship? The answer is no.

Our God is worthy of worship, no matter what He wills and chooses to do. That's what Paul does in Verse 22, "If God... Is he any less worthy of worship?" Now, what does God display in vessels of wrath? Well, first he displays his wrath. Puts his wrath on display. If there were no vessels of wrath there would have been no flood of Noah. There would have been no fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. There would have been no handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar's feasts the very night that Babylon fell under the judgment of God. There would be no Book of Revelation as it was written, no bowls of wrath and there'd be no Hell. All of these things were displays of God's character and His nature, and you know what it teaches us? That God's eyes are too pure to look on evil, He cannot tolerate wrong, He has an aggressive and passionate response to evil. That's what it teaches me about God.

What else is put on display? Well, His power. God uses the wickedness of men to bring Him ultimate praise. He used the wickedness of Pontius Pilate and Annas and Caiaphas to put Jesus to death so that we could have a Savior. Isn't that incredible what God can do with wickedness? That's amazing. And so we see His power also. We saw it in the 10 plagues with Pharaoh, God has an amazing power. Nothing stops God and so in His will up come immense obstacles to the gospel, and he overcomes them one after another, generation after generation, His church is faced with obstacles that seem insurmountable and we keep getting over it. How? By the power of God. And so God shows His power.

Christ hating Roman Empire did not stop the advance of the Gospel. Neither did the Barbarian hordes who swept across, or the Viking invasions, that didn't stop the gospel either. Even in our present time, Christ hating Nazi regime did not stop the gospel of Jesus Christ, and nor will aggressive militant Islam, either. God shows His power in this way. He also shows his longsuffering patience. He puts up with a lot. He puts up with more sin than you can imagine. He sees every heart, He knows the inclination of every heart. He sees it all. And He puts up with so much. Look what it says in verse 22, "what if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience…" There's an extra Greek word in here to help it, already it's patient but it's great patience. If you don't think God needs great patience to put up with sin, you don't understand the holiness of God and none of us do, but that's the amazing patience of God. God put up with the sin of the Amorites for about... In my estimation, about 500 years after he made the promise in Genesis 15. That's a long time and He said, "The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." so the Amorites were given time to fill up the measure of the sin of their forefathers. God is so patient. How patient was He with the Jews as they just disobeyed the law of Moses generation after generation? Finally, He brings the Babylonians. He's so patient.

I've told this story before, but it fits here, of a 19th century debate between a godly Scottish pastor and a renown atheist. The atheist was filled with all kinds of sassy and provocative speech, and everybody just loved listening to this guy speak, he was very entertaining as these types of folks frequently are, but he ended by taking a watch out of his vest pocket, back in the 19th century, they had those, they didn't have wristwatches, and he would dangle the thing over the pulpit, just dangle and said, "I will give God, if He exists, three minutes to strike me dead for all the blasphemies I've spoken today." So he'll time three minutes. Oh, that's pretty suspenseful, three minutes.

You can imagine the effect. And after those electric three minutes were done and he walks off the podium, says, "Your turn," to the godly pastor to come and give his presentation. And he began by saying, "And did my esteemed friend really think he could exhaust the patience of the Almighty God in a mere three minutes? But do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked." You can't mock God any more than you can take a wet stick and marble or steel. You can't mock God, you're just mocking your own soul. But God is patient, isn't He? He doesn't bring our judgment down immediately, He is patient. Another display that's not mentioned here is His love for His enemies because He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is so good to people who hate Him, so good to them.

Now, how does He deal with vessels of wrath? What does He do with them? Well, first He creates them. Let's keep that in mind. There's nobody here on earth that wasn't created by God. There's nobody here that wasn't actively knit together in their mother's womb by God. That includes the vessels of wrath. That includes, friends, Judas Iscariot. You remember Judas? Jesus said, "The Son of Man will go just as it has been written about Him, but woe to the man by whom He goes, who betrays him." Listen. Jesus said, "It would have been better for him if he had never been born." Now, think about that for a while. Then why was he born? Because God knit him together in his mother's womb. You mean that God chose something for Judas that was not better for Judas? Yes, He did. And why? Because that was the will of God, that Judas be knit together. The depths of the wisdom of God are beyond us. But this is true, God knit Judas together in his mother's womb knowing full well what he would do.

What else does God do? Well, He lavishes goodness on them, as I've already mentioned. Paul says the pagan idol worshipers in Derby in Acts 14:17 it says, "He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." God does that for people who hate Him? Who worship His rivals? Who worship idols? Yes, that's the kind of God we love and serve. He withholds just punishment for a season, but he records every careless word that they have spoken, every single deed. Romans 9:18 says that He hardens their hearts, as we've already learned. He does limit the damage that they do while they're here on earth, controls it in some way. And in the end He justly takes their lives from them, it is the death penalty for sin. He judges them with a perfect judgment on Judgment Day, and then destroys them eternally in hell. This is the teaching of the word of God.

But one thing He does not do, He does not regenerate them by His sovereign grace. He does not take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. In all of this, God is glorified. That's the teaching of Romans 9.

IV. God is Glorified in the Vessels of Mercy

Can I say to you at this moment? Thanks be to God that that's not the end of the story. It could have been, you know? It could have been only vessels of wrath, but instead there is verse 23. "What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory. Even us…" it says in verse 24. Thanks be to God that there is the second category. That didn't have to be, there's not for the devil and his angels, they don't get a second chance, there's no gospel for them, but there is one for us. There is a savior for us, thanks be to God. And God does all of these things, this display, for us.

He is patient with the vessels of wrath so that he gives the vessels of mercy time to repent. God is not slow in keeping His promise. Second Peter Three, "He is patient with us not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." And so he is waiting and waiting. Aren't you glad that God didn't end it 500 years ago? Aren't you glad you were born? Aren't you glad that you came to faith in Christ? Aren't you glad you're going to get to see God and His glory? Aren't you glad God is so patient? I'm glad that He is navigating history, navigating redemption, so that I could get born and so could you and we could love Christ and see Him for ever. Now what a beautiful thing that is. And so we are, in effect, the audience of His glory. Remember I was talking about all the display? God puts his display on, He does it for us, so that the vessels of his mercy might see all of His glory.

God has much to show us, He has much to show us. I look forward to it. Do you realize that God has infinite glory to show us, and you can, even in heaven, you'll only be able to take in so much at a time? Did you ever wonder what you're going to do in Heaven forever and ever? Maybe you're saying, "I'm not really into strumming a harp. Alright? I mean, I could do it for a few hours, but eternity? Forever strumming a harp, sitting on a cloud with other harp strummers? I'm not into that. And frankly, I don't think there's anything here on earth that I'd want to do forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever." Well, you're thinking like the present world. There's going to be a new heaven and a new earth, and constant displays of God's glory.

Ephesians 2:6-7 says this, "And God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages, He might show," there's that display language, "He might show the incomparable riches of His grace expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Oh, is that incredible. So what's going to happen is, they're just going to be kind of new waves of God's glory, and He'll be like, "Hey, did you see that?" Course I saw it, I'm watching, I can see it. And there's going to be a new heaven and a new earth to explore. You'll all be like the Lewis and Clark Expedition. You're going to go find what there is to see. And you're going to go over the next hill and look down at some incredible valley that God has recreated by His power and glory and your jaw is just going to drop open, and you're going to say, "Praise God, praise God, to God be the glory."

And because "eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man" listen, "what God has prepared in advance for us who love Him." So we don't know when it's coming, but it's coming and it's going to be incredible. And what's going to be put on display? Well, the riches of His glory. Wealthy people like to put their riches on display in many cases, okay? They like to have extravagant displays, like you look at Louis the 16th and the Sun King, and he's got Versailles and all the artwork, and it's just a lavish display, and his wealth was in land and gold and artwork and all that kind of thing. If you go to Bill Gates' house, you can see the world's number one collection of electronic reproductions of great works of art, isn't that interesting? You're going to stand and look at a flat screen, and see the MonaLisa. And he has exclusive rights to that, okay, I guess at least at that transmission level. So at any rate, that's what you'll see at Bill Gates' house, that's the display of his wealth.

What is God's riches? What are our riches and not in stocks, not in bonds, not in real estate holdings, not in gold or silver or rare objects of art. Our riches are in God's kindness and glory in Christ Jesus, that's our riches, that's what we're rich with. Is that enough for you? It's enough for me. And frankly, all the other stuff, it's just dust in the wind. You are richer than all of them combined if they don't know Christ. We are rich people. He's going to be putting the display of His riches and His glory on forever. Our commodity is glory, that's what we get. And we are called here vessels of glory. Actually, the phrase is literally vessels of mercy. But what kind of mercy are we talking about? The mercy that He showed to Moses on the mountain. Remember Moses said, "Now show me your glory," and He said, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." The mercy that He's showing us is His glory.

We don't deserve it, we can't demand it, but he's going to give it to you anyway, if you're in Christ. Isn't that beautiful? Vessels of mercy. And the vessel is going to be like, you're going to be like a... A vessel, a pitcher just filled up with the glory of God and then refilled again and again. You'll be like a sponge saturated, so much will you be filled with glory. You know, Moses, his face shone just being in a little presence of the glory of God. No, we're not going to just have a temporarily fading shining face. We're going to be so saturated with the glory of God that it says in, Jesus said in Matthew 13, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Oh, you can't even imagine how God's glory will fill you and saturate you if you're a vessel of glory. Well, what does He do with these vessels of glory? Well, He prepares them, it says, in advance for glory. That's incredible.

Do you realize that God is working on you every moment of your life, if you're a Christian, preparing you in advance for glory? "What if He did this," verse 23, "to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory?" Paul puts a little prefix in there on something that didn't need it. Isn't prepare always done in advance? I mean, woe to the student that prepares for a test after the test is over. Okay? That's generally unwise. Or to the homemaker, or host or hostess that prepares for the party the next day. Okay, when the guests come, they look around and say, "Was it tonight?" Alright. We don't prepare except in advance, but Paul strengthens it by saying, "Prepares in advance for glory." He is working on you right now to get you ready for glory, if you are a Christian. He's getting you ready and there is nothing wasted, nothing is wasted. The pieces of bread and fish at the feeding of the 5000, Jesus said, "Let nothing be wasted." Collected it all. Well, then how much less events in your life that come to you filtered through the hands of a sovereign and loving God who knows what He's doing in your life, He's preparing you in advance for glory. Now He is not preparing your bodies in advance for glory. No offense. I'm not saying that you don't look wonderful, you do, but I can tell you right now, you need to be rescued from your bodies. Again, no offense, don't misunderstand me. Pastors have to be so careful.

I'm not saying you look terrible, I'm just saying you need to be rescued from your bodies. Paul says in Romans 7:25, "What a wretched man I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?" We need to be rescued, you know why? Because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor can the perishable be clothed with the imperishable. We got to be changed, we got to be transformed, and we will be, and therefore, even as we're dying, God is preparing us for glory. Isn't that marvelous? Because these bodies can't come with us. Outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly, we're being renewed day by day. So the preparation in advance for glory is something inside you, it's in your heart, it's in your soul. He's getting you ready for glory, He's giving you a taste for glory. He's preparing you. And isn't it beautiful that Jesus said, "I go and prepare a place for you." "Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust also in me, in my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not, so I would have told you for I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."

Jesus said there He is preparing a place for us, but this text says He is preparing us for the place. He's working both ends, He's preparing the place for us, He's preparing us for the place. He's going to get everything ready, and when everything is ready, then comes the wedding day. Then comes the wedding day. And so it says in Revelation 21:1-2, it says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there's no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband." Christ is getting His bride ready. He's getting her beautiful, He's dressing her in fine linen, which stands for the righteous deeds of the saints. She's going to be spectacular, she's going to be glorious, she's going to be attractive to Him and He will marry her and He will live with her forever and ever. And if you're a Christian, you're part of that. He's preparing you for the wedding day.

And in the meantime, everything's according to the recipe. He knows what He's doing, He knows how to get you ready for that day, He knows how to mix in certain ingredients of suffering and sadness along with joy and satisfaction, moments of comfort, moments of sorrow, all of it wisely mixed together for this purpose, that you would be prepared in advance for glory.

V. Application

Now what application can we take from this sermon that was originally 18 pages, and then got reduced. So much in here, so much in here. I just want to focus on you, speaking first to Christians, feel the potter's hands all over your life. Feel Him working in you and preparing you in advance for glory. This is the meaning of Romans 8:28 when it says, "God causes all things to work together for good. For those who love God and are called according to His purpose." What is His purpose? To conform us to the image of Christ.

And so everything that's happening to you is preparing you for glory, it's getting you ready. And so when you hear a sermon, God is preparing you in advance for glory. When you read a missionary biography, God is preparing you in advance for glory. When you have a great conversation with a Christian friend, when you have a quiet time, when you get down on your knees and pray, God is preparing you in advance for glory. When you go on vacation and you go to the Grand Canyon or the mountains or the ocean, and you say, "Wow, look at that," God is preparing in advance for glory. And when you sin and God disciplines you, and you are convicted by the Holy Spirit and you confess it and you renounce it, and with sadness you yearn in your heart, never to do that sin again, God is preparing you for glory.

Furthermore, God is using you to prepare other people in advance for glory, "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to walk in them." So what does that mean? Means when you speak a word of encouragement, when you use your spiritual gift of administration or financial generosity or prayer or teaching, you are helping others to be prepared in advance for glory. When you go on a mission trip, you're helping other people, you're preparing them in advance for glory. When you invite a friend to church, you were an instrument in the hand of God to prepare them in advance for glory. It's incredible how God uses us to shape and mold His church, so that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called to coordinate His purpose. You are called to a life of significance. What is your ministry? Are you walking in the good works that God is going to use in your life to prepare somebody else in advance for glory? Oh, do them all the more, store up treasure in Heaven for glory.

Now, to the non-Christian friend, don't you want this? Aren't you hungry for it? Don't you yearn to have the potter's hand all over your life? Don't you yearn to have the blood of Jesus Christ atone for all of your sin, so that the record book is thrown away and God embraces you as a son or daughter of God? Don't you yearn for Christ? Then come to Him today, trust in Him as your personal savior, love Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, and then watch what He does to prepare you in advance for glory. We who are already Christians, now we've been at it for a while and sometimes it's wonderful and sometimes it's not. But in all things God is working to get us ready for that glorious, glorious wedding day. Close with me in prayer.

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