The Vessels

And as he reasoned of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix trembled.”  Acts 24:25

We approach a topic this morning that has weighed very heavy on my heart as of late.  My only prayer is that it is received with all readiness of mind and openness of heart. For God is truly speaking these matters of the heart to all the body of Christ right now.  If you only knew what it took for Him to reveal the truth of it to me, you would tremble with Felix, and with me.

Let us began by drawing our attention to the three things mentioned in this verse: 1) “righteousness” which is Christ-ward, 2) “self-control” which is man-ward, and 3) “the judgment to come” which is God-ward. Taking note that the Holy Spirit is in both places (1st John 5:7-8) revealing that the Spirit is in Heaven working and on earth working, through eternity, but in time.

Our briefing today will not be on the first or the last, but that which rests in the middle; “self-control.” This deals solely with us.  David said, “My soul is continually in my own hand” Psalm 119:109. Some would say, “my soul is in God’s hand” and to that I would say “you do err, not knowing the scriptures” Matthew 22:29.

Jesus told us that we are to possess two things; “In your patience, possess ye your souls” Luke 21:19 (and Jesus is most definitely referencing the soul in Luke 11:33-36 and even uses the term “vessel” in verse 33 because He says, “No one, when he has lit a lamp…”) & “That each one of you ought to know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” 1st Thess. 4:4.  And we know the Holy Spirit is referencing the body because of the preceding verse and the following verse.

This word “possess” means to: “have control over, and to make follow along, take along.”  You see brethren; you really are in total control of your own body and your own soul.  These are in your hand, and you may do with them such as you please.

You may use them both for dishonor (Ephesians 2:3) or unto honor.  In 2nd Timothy 2:20-21 it says, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself  from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”

(We do not have the time or the space here to go into all the differences of “gold”, “silver”, “wood”, and “earth.” But to bring some clarity, we will but briefly touch upon them: “gold” = divine nature of God, and that which is pure, “silver” = divine nature of Christ in His humanity, and the attributes of redemption and salvation, “wood” = that which deals with the self-life and works of the flesh, and “earth” = that which deals with the flesh and all of its carnal desires and many sins.  All of these can be found throughout the Word, with a lot of them in Exodus.)

Please notice in the above-mentioned verse that it is anyone that “cleanses himself.” The responsibility of this rests upon us. The Lord said to deny our “self” life and Paul (Jesus said it actually if you want to be technical – which I do) said “I put my body under…that I may not be a castaway.” He has given us the Word and His Spirit to do this if we will only submit and allow Him to do this. But do not be deceived or misled, this is a very serious issue indeed.  There are so many verses in the New Testament alone that deal with the two issues of the soul and the body being your responsibility that they are just too numerous to mention here.

The Lord really ministered something to me last week that I think is appropriate to share here. Please notice in Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore.”

Notice just a few points of interest here. 1) These had all died (v.5) Once you die, it is sealed up and your books are closed. There’s no going back to add to it.  This life is your only chance to “store up.” 2) They were all “virgins” (v.1) these were saved people; “that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” 2nd Cor. 11:2. 3) They all had lamps (and these lamps were their souls. Please see the original Hebrew of Prov. 20:27 “The soul of man is the lamp of the Lord.” [For those of you into Hebrew etymology, remembering that there are no vowels in the Hebrew language, I would refer to #1433a in the TWOT and also to Isaiah 57:16, and Job 34:14]. So then, we can in all good conscience translate this {as many do} “The soul of man is the lamp of the Lord.” And this is in keeping with the rest of scripture including some parables from the Lord.) 4) The bridegroom called. It’s now time for the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10 & 2nd Cor. 5:10) followed by the marriage supper of the lamb. 5) All of the wicks were trimmed (this word “trimmed” in the Greek does not mean to trim a wick as some suppose; but it means to “make oneself beautiful, to get oneself ready for presentation, to adorn oneself, to put in order). 6) But notice one small difference in the two: the wise took the oil in their VESSELS!! Vessels are not even mentioned with the foolish virgins.  Brethren, it’s not enough to cut the flesh off so-to-speak (and that is only done by the Spirit as you submit and line up with the Word in Romans 6 – I refer you to The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee for a deeper study of this aspect of your walk) but we must renew the soul also.  Vessels are in the plural. The word “their” in verse 4 is a pronoun-reflexive. So then both vessels are being referred to here as belonging to each of the 5 foolish virgins.

It is not our intent here to furnish a full commentary on this portion of scripture; for we are not after knowledge and learning, we are after the truth and the life. And the truth in this portion of the Word is this: you will give an account of what you did to and with both vessels.  This is what is meant by the term “self-control” in the opening verse of this teaching. And it is my prayer that you are trembling at this very moment in godly fear.

D.L.Moody once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with, and for, and through, and in, and by, the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.”

A brother said something to me just yesterday (actually it was the Lord in him saying it to me without his even realizing it, and I wept much just this morning in prayer over it) that there was a man (I forget his name) who was the heir of the Borden Dairy Empire. When he graduated high school, his millionaire parents sent him on a world tour as a high school graduation gift. He arrived in India, and his heart was moved towards humanities condition and he gave his heart to the Lord and became a Christian.

He wrote his parents and told them of his conversion and that he was going to leave all and follow this Christ. He wrote in his bible the words “No Reserves.” He went to bible school, and graduated. Others offered him great jobs because of his Borden name. He turned them all down and again wrote two words in his bible; “No Retreat.” He went to another country and learned their language, but contracted a disease and died at age 23; but not before he wrote two final words in his bible before he died: “No Regrets.”

I wrote these 3 sayings in my bible yesterday, knowing that my hand has been set to the plow and there is no looking back. Come join me in this commitment.  Let us see what our God can really do through one whose vessels have been given over to Him completely and purely.

Acts 20:31 “Therefore watch, and remember that for the space of three years I did not cease to warn every one of you night and day with tears.”

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Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Joel 2:1