1 Corinthians 6:9-20
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food"- and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two will become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)
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Daniel the Prophet and the Three Young Men
17 December 2013
"Poor as dirt," is what we call those who have been reduced to absolute poverty. Dirt is everywhere. We call it common clay. A friend of mine went to school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock on the high planes, where the wind howls like a fiend and carries with it the common clay. He found that no matter how hard he tried to keep the dirt from filtering into his dormitory room the wind still drove dirt in through every crack, seam, and around the windows. Dusting was always a rearguard action against a tenacious enemy. There was dirt everywhere. There is dirt everywhere. Because there is so much of it, we think it worthless.
Yet our heavenly Father forms us humans of it. Our flesh was formed of that same valueless dust and clay. There are things to be learned by our humble origins, formed of the common clay. It reminds us of our weakness and commonness. There can be no pride on our part. We are but dust and to dust we shall return. Of myself, I have the value of dirt. I have always found it ironic that we use the word dirt and its derivatives to refer not just to what is in your flower garden, but also to human sin and moral filth. Someone who recognizes their sinfulness will say they "feel dirty." For this reason, a great deal of the Bible's imagery of mercy is drawn in the shape of cleansing and washing away. We are but dirt and are susceptible to dirt. Then why should God even consider saving our flesh and raising it again to live together with Him in His heavenly home?
The answer is simple. This is the relationship between the pot and potter. The common clay is taken by the potter and formed into something valuable after the creative hands of the artist shape it. Taken as clay a ceramic pot has almost no intrinsic value. I have heard it said that the chemical composition of the human flesh is worth less than ten dollars. We are the common clay. However, the worth of the flesh is not measured by the value of the stuff of which we are made, any more than a ceramic pot made by a great artist has the value of clay.
Our heavenly Father was the potter who formed us with His own hands of the Edenic dust. The divine Artist gives value to the product of His labor, rather than the elements out of which the product is formed. What is worthless gains great value in the hands of God. What we mock and revile as weak and worthless is now counted of great value because our heavenly Father honors it with the touch of His hands, molding and shaping us according to the design of likeness to Christ. While He shapes us with His hands in Eden, He considers the incarnation of His only Son, the Word made flesh, with whose likeness He molds us. Our value is not the shape with which we are endowed, but our value is that we have experienced the touch of the divine hand and were shaped by it. Our dust is valuable because we are His creation.
"If I can but succeed in vindicating for the flesh as much as was conferred on it by Him who made it, glorying as it even then was, because that poor paltry material, clay, found its way into the hands of God, whatever these were, happy enough at merely being touched by them. But why this glorying? Was it that, without any further labor, the clay had instantly assumed its form at the touch of God? The truth is, a great matter was in progress, out of which the creature under consideration was being fashioned. It receives honor, as it experiences the hands of God, when it is touched by them, and pulled, and drawn out, and molded into shape. Imagine God wholly employed and absorbed in it; in His hand, His eye, His labor, His purpose, His wisdom, His providence, and above all, in His love, which was dictating the shape of this creature. For, whatever form and expression was then given to the clay by the Creator Christ was in His thoughts as one day to become man, because the Word, too, was to be both clay and flesh, even as the earth was then. For so did the Father previously say to the Son: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gn 1:26). And God made man, the creature which He molded and fashioned, in the image of God, in other words, of Christ, He made him. And the Word was God also, who being in the image of God, 'did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped' (Phil 2:6).
"Thus, that clay which was even then putting on the image of Christ, who was to come in the flesh, was not only the work, but also the pledge and surety, of God. To what purpose is it to bandy about the name "earth," as that of a sordid and groveling element, with the view of tarnishing the origin of the flesh, when, even if any other material had been available for forming man, it would be required to take the dignity of the Maker into consideration, who by His choice of material deemed it, and by His management made it, worthy? The hand of Phidias, the sculptor, formed the Olympian Jupiter of ivory; worship was given to the statue, and it is no longer regarded as a god formed out of a most silly animal, the elephant, but as the world's supreme deity, not because of the bulk of the elephant, but on account of the fame of Phidias. Could not therefore the living God, the true God, purge away by His own operation whatever vileness might have accrued to His material, and heal it of all infirmity? Or must this remain to show how much more nobly man could fabricate a god, than God could form a man?
"Although the clay is offensive (because of its poorness), it is now something else. What I possess is flesh, not earth, even although of the flesh it is said: 'You are dust, and to dust you shall return' (Gn 3:19). In these words, there is the mention of the origin, not a recalling of the substance. The privilege has been granted to the flesh to be nobler than its origin, and to have happiness increased by the change worked in it. Now, even gold is of the earth; but it remains earth no longer after it is refined, but is a far different substance, more splendid and more noble, though coming from a source which is comparatively faded and obscure. In like manner, it was quite allowable for God that He should dear the gold of our flesh from all the taints, as you deem them, of its native clay, by purging the original substance of its dross."
Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 6
Lord Jesus Christ, You have redeemed me flesh and soul, body and mind. All that I am is Yours. Help me to honor my body by using it for the purposes for which You created it. You have cleansed the filth of my flesh by bearing my flesh of Mary. Give me delight in the gift that You have molded with Your own hands. Amen.
For Wayne Galler, in thanksgiving for growing strength
For the ministry of Memorial Lutheran Church, that the Lord would bless the labors of her people with the fruit of faith and growing numbers
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord's mercy would be sufficient for him
Art: WEYDEN, Rogier van der Annunciation Triptych (c. 1440)
© Scott R. Murray, 2012