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A Treasure in a Jar of Clay

On November 14 and 15, three friends and I went to Chadron, Nebraska, to minister to college students at Chadron State College. The trip itself was unforgettable. Random stops in the middle of nowhere, at the Nebraska National Forest, small towns with no post office, and bathroom breaks at places where animals might not stop to relieve themselves. It was so refreshing and glorious to spend so many hours in a vehicle with people that I love so much, people I work with, and people who share the same vision of reaching students for Jesus. Needless to say, we had fun–probably too much fun. We almost hit a deer (or two) we almost had our car destroyed by an ancient tractor, and we sat on a roof of an old stable, relishing the stillness of the Nebraska Sandhills and praising the Lord for his awesome creation.

Despite all the fun, we still had a job to do–a job that is, by definition, fun and exciting. My job as a Campus Crusade worker is the most amazing, yet weird job in the world. I got to drive to Chadron to reach students for Christ. During the weekly meeting on Wednesday night–after 8 hours in a vehicle–I spoke to 80 students about receiving Jesus as a Treasure, not just a Savior.

It is very difficult to speak passionately and with conviction to people whom I do not know. God was merciful and gracious, however, to ignite in me a desire to see students love Jesus, not just because he saves them from sin and death and hell, but because he will satisfy their deepest longings for love, peace, and hope.

The core of the message was from Matthew 13:44 and how a man found a glorious treasure in a field and sold all he had, simply to buy the field that contained the treasure. I challenged the students–with a dozen or so present who were non-Christian–to treasure Jesus enough to be willing to sell it all to follow him. Later in the message, I talked about Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 3, when he wrote that he counts everything as loss because of Christ and it is by faith alone that he is saved–not by works of righteousness. I said something that I didn’t plan on saying while in preparation. Regarding works and good deeds, I said, “Trying to be good enough, trying to get out of hell is a good way to get yourself into hell.” By that, I mean that if people try to be legalistic and Pharisaic, we will never see the real Jesus and treasure him like he deserves to be. I saw the faces of a few people when I said that. I don’t regret it. I don’t care if people were offended. We need to know that we cannot be righteous. We are incapable of doing anything good on our own. We need to know that so we count everything as loss. We need to count all things as rubbish for the sake of treasuring Jesus.

In the days leading up to speaking at Chadron, I was over the railing with the Lord, getting walloped for the times I do not treasure him. I love that about teaching and preaching. I am convicted of my own sins and because of that, I can be vulnerable and not be a “Holy Joe” as I share my heart with people. I hope the students saw my sorrow and grief over the cheap substitutes that steal my attention away from Jesus and that it brought them to their knees to confess and repent before him.

I found this morning, two days after the meeting that three students received Christ–not just as their Savior–but as their Treasure on Wednesday night. Praise the Lord for the fruit that he alone bore! God alone prepared their hearts and used his effectual call and beautiful love to draw them to himself. I never ceased to be amazed at how God uses me for his glory. I am such a sinner, such a broken, jar of frail clay that cannot hold any kind of weight without crumbling. Yet, 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not us.” How glorious is it that I am weak and needy and worthless, and Christ uses me to communicate his word to other jars of clay! How splendid is it that the love of God lets me keep the treasure of Jesus in a vessel that so often cheats on him and runs away from his grace! That is what I love about speaking and preaching the word of God. Toward the end of his life, John Newton said: “I remember two things, that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” In Philippians 3, after Paul talked about losing everything to know Jesus, he said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Phil. 3:12). He was vulnerable with the people he was writing to. “I don’t have it all figured out yet! I still sin; I’m still crooked!” How incredible are those words from the world’s greatest preacher and evangelist.

Knowing that when I speak is comforting. I’m a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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