We hear this word changed used often at church, at work, in the media, and in our friendships. “I’ve changed, I don’t think like l used to think.” “I’ve changed, I don’t love you anymore.” “You’ve changed, we don’t even recognize who you have become.” Change can be a positive or a negative; it all depends on the direction of the change. We see change constantly in society and I certainly watch for it in bible teaching by popular teachers. It is a sign of the last days when culture changes the church. We are supposed to be salt which is a preservative against the decay of the world. Seeking relevance, churches and denominations change positions doctrinally. Once strong in the bible, now they opt for a kinder, gentler form of teaching, accepting all sorts of sins and errors into the church family. Progressive Christianity has watered down the message of the bible and the person of Jesus Christ. Today, every mainline evangelical denomination: Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and now even the Baptist, has cast aside its original foundations and changed into an entity that its founders would barely recognize. These denominations are like the movie title from years ago, “Dead Man Walking.” Thinking they are being relevant; they’ve begun preaching a gospel that is another gospel other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are other denominations that I don’t believe have ever been biblical, so I didn’t include them in the list. But the article today isn’t to enumerate the negative problems of denominations. I’m sure I’ll write or preach about those at some point. Today, I want to focus on the positive change that can and should take place in the lives of people, individual people, and especially God’s people. Jeremiah 18 gives us a wonderful picture of the change that can be made in the life of a country and individuals. The weeping prophet, that’s how Jeremiah is remembered, used the picture of a potter’s house and the work the potter did with the clay. Let me share with you three thoughts about the change God was making in the life of Israel.
- God has a Plan. The first two verses of Jeremiah 18, the Lord is telling Jeremiah to head down to the potter’s house. I need to show you something. The times Jeremiah lived were dark and troublesome. The words from the Lord that Jeremiah preached were words of judgment. No one wanted to listen to the old bible thumper. Yet, Jeremiah was a true prophet. He lived with the notion “I will obey God.” The man of God walks out of the eastern gate of Jerusalem heading to the valley of Hinnom. That’s the location of the potter’s house. Located in this Hinnom valley was the trash dump for the city. Garbage of all types from the city was burned here. It was the same place Jesus preached about when he said, “Where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” It was not a beautiful place, but it was a needed place. To change, God may take us, most likely will take us, to places we’d rather not go. He has a plan.
- God has a Process. Jeremiah observed several things. He saw the clay. That represented Judah. It also represents us. The clay he saw wasn’t much to look at; it was just a lump of clay being kept moist by water which would be sprinkled on it every so often. The lumps of clay had different traits. Some were harder than others. Some had sticks and rocks that were in their mix. Each of us is just like the clay. God begins to fashion us, but before he really gets going he has to remove the hard spots, the sticks and the rocks. The preacher also saw the potter’s wheel. That simple round table-top tool he could spin with his feet was the instrument most often employed by the potter. The wheel of our lives, our circumstances, our teachers, our heroes all play a part in the change. If we are to see positive change let’s understand that God places us on his wheel. The last thing Jeremiah saw was the potter. That is the Lord. The old prophet knew that God was directing this drama. He watched the potter put pressure on the clay. Why? The potter has a vessel in his mind. God has a plan for you. Day by day he is working in you. You may not realize it, but he’s directing you. He knows which buttons to push to make you conform to the image of His Son. One day it is a bible passage from your devotions and the next a suffering you must endure. We don’t know all the how’s, but the potter does. The best thing the clay can do is simply conform to the master’s hands. Those hands are always stronger than the clay. The hands take the clay and place it on the wheel. Those hands pound and squeeze the clay making it pliable. Those same hands place the clay in the kiln and fire it. If the clay doesn’t react the way it should, the potter simply starts again.
- God has a final Product. Philippians 1:6 says, “… he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Jeremiah is asked, “Cannot I do with you as this potter?” It is a rhetorical question, and the answer is obvious. It should be obvious to each of us that God can do what he wants in our lives. We belong to him. We may not understand or like the process, but the product will be beautiful, to be like Christ. You have a free will. You can choose to rebel against the Lord. Your life can be wasted and in the end be on the trash heap of Hinnom with little influence or testimony. But even then, God can take a marred vessel and make it again (18:4). If you are a Christian, one day you’ll be like Christ whether you like it or not. The problem I have with my last statement is this, wouldn’t a genuine Christian want to be like Jesus? There are people that name themselves as Christian, yet God doesn’t seem to work in them. Are they true believers or has Satan sold them a bill of goods? Are you changing to be more like Christ? Can you see little incremental steps directed by God that are leading you in a good and positive direction (18:5-6)? I hope so in my life and in yours also.