Breaking the Flasks
Hmm? What does it mean to break the flasks? A flask is a container that holds something precious. In our text it is referred to as a box. How can such a subject have any meaning for us today? Let’s look. Referring to Jesus we read, “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head” (Mark 14:3). The woman, because she loved Jesus, brought something that was very precious to her and gave it to Jesus. Indeed, she broke the box. It was an act of total commitment. Once the box was broken, there was no way to retrieve it! It was given once and for all.
By means of application, this raises a legitimate question for believers today. What do we have that could, and indeed should, be broken and given to Jesus? Are there not many such things that we hold as very precious to us that we may need to give to Jesus once and for all? Some of the things we will mention are indeed very precious in and of themselves; others are precious only in our own minds. We’ll explain.
The question then, is what do we as believer possess, and maybe hold tightly to, that we need to give to Jesus? Of course, this idea will not be understood by any who do not know Jesus for themselves. Note the response of the disciples, “But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, ‘To what purpose is this waste’” (Matt. 26:8).
Now, let’s consider a few examples.
The flask of material wealth. Perhaps this comes readily to mind for most believers. Generally speaking, we need a certain amount of wealth to function in the world we live in. In most cases, we have to buy or rent a living facility. We need to buy food to eat, clothes to wear, maybe an automobile to get to work. We need to support our families and plan for the future. Of course, if we are believers, we give to support the Lord’s work. Then too, there are the luxuries most of us enjoy such as vacations, electronic mechanisms, and maybe even some toys that make our lives more exciting such as snowmobiles and the like. Please don’t misunderstand! It is not wrong to have such things. The problem comes when we hold our financial treasures with such a tight grip that we don’t allow God to maybe redirect some of our holdings. (I’m speaking to Christians now. Unbelievers have no concept of such matters. They may give to a church or some kind of a religious institution, but that is another matter.)
Why is holding our finances with an unyielding grip a problem for believers?
It may cause us to have misplaced affection regarding our wealth. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourself treasures in heaven...For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-20). Anything other than Christ that takes priority in our lives is really a false god and therefore sin.
It may cause us to fail to depend upon God for our physical needs. It is not that God sets our table so to speak, but He gives us the wherewithal to do so. Jesus’ exhortation is,
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself...” (Matt. 6:31-34).
The Christian life is to be a life of total dependency upon God for the needs of life. That doesn’t mean we don’t work or plan accordingly, but in so doing, we look to Him for His provision and direction. We do not knowingly step outside of His known will.
It may cause us to miss opportunities of ministry to others. There are many people with great needs who could profit with a helping hand from us. If we are tightfisted with our resources, we will miss opportunities to be a blessing to others.
It may cause us to shun the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If we hold our possessions too tightly, we will be controlled more by them than by God Himself.
It may cause us to miss the special blessing of God in regards to giving. Paul’s admonition is very helpful here,
“I have showed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35).
Yes, there is a very special blessing in giving! It is a blessing we should not miss!
The flask of our time. Time is so precious. I think, though, that we can be selfish with our time. Such selfishness limits how we can serve God and minister to others. Sometimes in the course of the day we may be interrupted in our personal pursuits, maybe by a visit or a phone call, or a pressing need of a family member or neighbor. Now, if our time really belongs to God, should we not be willing to be interrupted to serve Him by serving others? Someone has said, “If I am upset by the interruptions and needs of others, I know nothing of the love of God.”
The Apostle Paul reminds us,
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17). We also read of Paul, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without,, redeeming the time” (Col:4:5)
The idea is to buy up the opportunities of time. Should not our time be part of our sanctification to God, part of our submission to Him?
In a way, time wasted is like water poured out on the ground; it can never be repossessed. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t take time for things important to us personally. Cannot personal time also be God’s time? It’s just that all of our time is to be reckoned as a gift from God and should, in a sense, be given back to Him. The point is, we don’t use time independently of His reckoning. His presence should be the guide in the use of our time.
The flasks of our God given talents, gifting. When people become believers, God gives them a special gifting or talent with which to minister to others, especially in the context of the local church. This is discussed for us in I Corinthians 12:4-11. Sometimes, however, we use these special gifts for the promotion of self rather than God and His people. It is not that these gifts cannot be used in a context outside of the local church, but we use them primarily in the context of the local church. They should be used to support and promote the truths of the gospel accompanied by the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
If our gifts are used primarily to bring attention to ourselves, then God is not being exalted. It may become a matter of pride of what we can do! This can be true of about any gift we may have. It is imperative that our various gifts and talents be recognized for what they are, gifts to be used in worship of God and in ministry to others.
As believers, we should thank God for the various gifts He gives to His church. In a sense, they should be given back to God with thanksgiving and a dependence upon Him to use them as He directs. Maybe the flasks of our God given talents need to be broken so we can indeed pour them out to Him. Does this make sense? It does to me.
The flask of worship. Yes, we need to respect how people worship. We should give everyone the freedom to worship as they please. This is part of what makes our nation great. But, let’s think of our individual worship as believers. Can we “worship” in a wrong way or for the wrong purpose? Let’s see.
We can be proud of our worship. Being identified with a certain church or group can be more of a satisfaction of self than true worship of God. Really, in our worship, we have nothing to be personally proud of. Jesus has done it all! Remember Paul’s words, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). The need for true humility is needed in every aspect of our Christian walk, but especially should this be true in our worship. To worship in humility is to remove self from every aspect of worship and to give all glory to God.
We can be misled in our worship. One of Satan’s tools is to mislead us in our worship as he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It may not seem like a major thing, but if we are led away from who God truly is or His work on our behalf on the cross, our worship becomes corrupted.
Those who would lead believers into false worship are sometimes nearby. Peter reminds us, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall privily bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you...” (II Pet. 2:1-3).
False worship can be “beautiful”! That is, false worship can be beautiful to the human eye. Not all that is called worship is a worship of God, but it can make itself so attractive, so appealing. During the time of the tribulation, there will be a false system of worship that will be admired by all except born again believers. It is a system that has long been in play, but will be in full bloom during the tribulation. It is the one world worship system that will dominate the world. Those who resist will pay with their lives. At any rate, notice the Apostle John’s description of this religious system, “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (Rev. 17:3-4). If one is deceived by the externals of worship, he is deceived indeed!
We can worship because of an established tradition rather than from a relationship with Him. Where this is true, the worship is without life, that is the life of God, and so there is no connection with God. There is no manner of praising God from the heart in appreciation for what He has done for us personally. To really worship God, we must have come to Him personally seeking His forgiveness for our sins and looking to Him for every need of life. Apart from His presence in our lives, there really is no cause for worship except as we may have been taught by others. This is not meant as a criticism but as hopefully shedding light upon what the Bible says about worship. It is relatively easy for anyone to fall into a kind of habitual worship rather than a living worship because He lives and ministers to us personally.
The flask of ambition. Ambition is a necessary part of life. Without it, one is like a limp towel. It does not have a life of its own. It is used and manipulated by others for selfish purposes. So, it is not ambition itself that we warn against, but ambition that is of oneself rather than of God. Selfish ambitions can lead to disappointment and a great loss of time, effort, and expense if one is a believer. For those who are not believers, this point is without meaning. Selfish ambitions may include many things, but let’s just consider a few:
The ambition to be well known for our efforts. To be well known is not a sin, but when it is an end in itself it may be sin. The effort of the believer is not to make himself known, but to make the Lord Jesus known through his life. The Apostle Paul makes a remarkable statement regarding this truth when he says of the believer, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of His knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish; to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life...” (II Cor. 2:14-15). Thus, the ambition of the believer is not to reveal to others his own worth and goodness, but the worth and goodness of God. Note that this can only take place when one has a living, intimate relationship with Jesus. Apart from that relationship, self always gets in the way.
The ambition to be well liked and favorably accepted by others. Of course, Christians should seek to live in peace with others and not to be unnecessarily offensive to anyone. Paul said, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). Still, there are times when a believer, if he is to be true to God and His word, must take issue with others. Remember Paul’s rebuke of Peter, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:1l). One just cannot agree with everybody and maintain his standing with God. The Christian life is a very distinct life, that is, distinct from the world, and should be lived as such.
Believers are in possession of many very valuable commodities. Some are material and some are not. Would we not do well to reckon that everything we are and everything we have belongs to the Lord? Whatever we have is given to us by the grace of God because of His love for us. Can we do less than give back to Him that which He has so richly given to us? Can we make better use of those things by ourselves than what God can do with them? Now, to give something back to God doesn’t mean he will literally take from us what we claim as our own, but that we hold it loosely and determine in our hearts to allow Him to direct our use of those things we hold precious.
March has been a busy and very changeable month. We have seen severe cold, very heavy snowfalls, and finally some melting of the snow and ice much to the relief of many. Emergency rooms have been busy with the falls of many!
In the month of March we have seen the home going of several loved ones. Just recently, Arlene Nelson, Diane Coleman’s mother, was taken to her heavenly home. She passed away on Friday, March 8th. Her funeral was in our church, First Baptist of Woodville, on Friday, March15th. Her son, Gary Nelson, of Florida, preached the message. Her pastor for over 30 years, Garry Thompson of Baldwin, led in prayer and shared his special memories. Pastor Tapp led the singing and with his wife, Debra, sang two special numbers. Pastor Olsen shared in the memory time and read the Scripture. I have many special memories of Arlene, but rejoice that she is in heaven with the Lord.
Also, a former member of our church in New Glarus was called home to heaven. Rebecca (Jensen) Flegal suddenly passed away in her home in Watertown, WI. She graduated from Maranatha Bible College, was working at the college, and had been married for about four years. We extend our sincere sympathy to her husband, Ben, and her parents, Jim and Joyce Jensen, of New Glarus.
Further, a member of my high school graduating class, Alan Engelmann, passed away recently. Also, David Albrightson passed away a few days ago. We extend our sympathy to their families.
Special ministry in March has included preaching at the Bible Baptist Church in Hudson on March 10th.
“Prayer is not only asking, but an attitude of mind which produces the atmosphere in which asking is perfectly natural.” Oswald Chambers
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