Impact session 12: Ken Ramey – Set apart for the Master’s use

Disclaimer: If you’ll forgive the incomplete sentences, these are my hastily scribbled notes from Impact conference 2010. As always with notes, an exactly accurate representation of the sermon isn’t always possible, so this may not summarise his entire message perfectly. I think the full sermons will be available eventually from Riverbend Bible Church, where the conference was held — would have to check back on that.

(UPDATE: Download the messages from the conference here: Impact 2010 messages)

– Cheryl

Subject: 2 Timothy 2:20-22, starting at 2 Timothy 2:14

[14] Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. [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. [16] But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, [17] and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, [18] who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. [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.”
[20] 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. [21] 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.
[22] So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. [23] Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. [24] And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, [25] correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, [26] and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

1. Wanted to thank for this opportunity. Great encouragement at Impact by fellowshipping together.

2. Sanctification results in service. Being made holy needs to bring glory to God.
2.1. In order to be useful to God, we need to be pure. God uses clean instruments, ie, those who are completely set aside for his work, devoted to him.
2.2. God can choose to use dirty vessels if he wishes, but that is not the norm. See the law of cleanliness for priests. They were required to keep themselves clean, otherwise they would be killed (bells on the robe, and rope around the ankle when the high priest went into the inner sanctuary) – such was the holiness of God.
2.3. God sovereignly wished Israel to be set apart: “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy.”
2.4. But Israel did not set themselves apart – and as a result, forfeited their usefulness.

3. Paul exhorting Timothy to be a holy minister, commentator: “to be an awful weapon in the hands of God”
3.1. 1 Tim 1:3 – to make sure the gospel is kept pure, to make sure that strange doctrines not taught.
3.2. Needed to trust his eternal security and affirm it by his holiness.
3.3. Church is ultimately impregnable (Jesus WILL build his church), but it’s still imperfect. Not everyone associated with the household of God is known to him. In Matthew, Jesus relates the parable of the wheat and the tares. The owner of the field did not pull out the tares immediately, lest he risk pulling out true wheat along with the false. He instructed that the servants should allow both to grow together, then at the harvest time they should gather up the tares and bind them to be burnt, but bring the wheat into the barn.
3.4. In the meantime, the wheat should set itself apart to maximise its usefulness to Jesus.

4. How do we do this? A 3-part explanation. #1: Part with unholy associations.
4.1. In a large house there are many vessels – gold and silver (reserved for special occasions, displayed in a prominent place), as well as of wood and earthenware (used for menial tasks or unpleasant jobs such as collecting garbage). Some serve higher, more noble services than others.
4.2. This does not represent different levels of giftedness but Romans 9 tells us there are different types of teachers. Gold and silver represent true teachers who are useful to the LORD, wood and earthenware those teachers who are less useful to Him. The former are honourable in God’s eyes, while the latter are dishonourable in God’s eyes.
4.3.1. We must purify ourselves from vessels of dishonour – their attitudes/beliefs will potentially corrupt you. We need to separate ourselves from what would contaminate us.
4.3.2. Bad company corrupts good morals. You will become like the people you hang around. Sin is contagious.
4.3.3. An immoral teacher in the church may be more dangerous than atheists or pagans.
4.4. 2 Cor 6:14 – Separate from unbelievers, do not be bound with unbelievers. Not that we should cut off all relationships with them, but we should keep a safe distance from them. In our effort to influence them, we must make sure they are not influencing us.
4.5. Also separate from so-called believers. 1 Cor 5 describes not those of the world but those who call themselves Christian but are living in sin. We are not commanded to have no relationship with them, but rather that we should not fellowship with them. If you get together with them, the sole purpose of the interaction should be to restore them to God.
4.6. Result of cleansing yourself from these things, you’ll be set apart from sin for God’s use. God is absolutely sovereign and is our master. You will be ready for God’s use – equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16
4.7. Eph 2:8-10 – We are not saved by works but FOR works.
4.8. Summary: Are the people we associate with influencing us to unholiness? Do we have to part ways with those people?

5. How? #2: Flee from unholy passions. 2 Tim 2:22
5.1. A continuous command: keep on fleeing, a habitual pattern.
5.2. Advice to Timothy, a “young man” – despite your youth, set the example of what a Christian should look like, and you will earn their respect regardless of their age.
5.3. Sexual lusts – these characterise young men. The image of Joseph fleeing youthful lust.
5.4. Other passions include impatience (not willing to work for change over time), impetuousness, intolerance, impugnance.
5.4.1. Put distance between us and anything that could fan our lusts into flame.
5.4.2. “I wanted the power of the Holy Spirit that night – if that’s what you want, you have to stay holy.”

6. How? #3: Pursue holiness with likeminded companions
6.1. Flee unholiness and pursue righteousness. Don’t be shortsighted on what to stop in your sanctification, you need to get to the “put on.”
6.2. Focus on the holiness to be pursued, and the unholiness will take care of itself.
6.3. * Pursue love.
6.3.1. Chase after God in your love to your saviour.
6.3.2. Also love for others.
6.4. * Pursue peace. As far as it is up to you, be at peace with others.
6.4.1. People get so easily offended.
6.4.2. Prov 11 – it’s to your glory to overlook offence. More sanctified people are less easily offended.
6.4.3. Be diligent to get along with people and maintain unity in the spirit. Pursue patience, gentleness, tolerance.
6.5. * The likeminded believer – those who call on the name of the LORD with a pure heart (ie, continued dependence on Jesus’ strength). You will never become holy as God is holy on your own. You need the help of the body of Christ.
6.5.1. Encourage one another day after day. During the week we are emotionally/mentally hardened against the world; on Sunday there’s a softening.
6.5.2. Ecclesiastes 4:8. Woe to him who falls and there is not another to pick him up.
6.5.3. Must pursue with someone who cares what they look at, think about, listen to.
6.6. * The ungodly friend – a sharp tool in Satan’s hand. You become like the people you hang around.

7. Our usefulness is proportional to our holiness. Thus, if we want to be used by the Master, we must pursue righteousness.
7.1. John Stott: the secret of holiness is merely the ruthless rejection of the one, AND relentless pursuit of the other.