Thursday: Empty Vessels

Thursday: Empty Vessels

Written on 04/29/2021
James Boice

By James Boice

Sermon: How to Inherit God's Kingdom

Scripture: Matthew 5:3

In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means to be poor in spirit.

Theme: Empty Vessels

The second great principle suggested by Matthew 5:3 is that there must be an emptying in our lives before there can be a filling. We must become poor in spirit before we can become rich in God's spiritual blessings. The old wine must be poured out of the wineskins before the new wine can be poured in. 

At the beginning of the Lord's earthly life, Simeon acknowledged this in a prophecy made to Mary and Joseph when they appeared in Jerusalem for the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple. Simeon said, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" (Luke 2:34). Notice the order: first the fall, then the rising again. In other words, the emptying comes before the filling, repentance before conversion, a recognition of worthlessness in God's sight before acceptance of his salvation. This is what all of God's children have found.

It was known to St. Augustine. Before his conversion the future Bishop of Hippo was proud of his intellect and knowledge, and these things actually held him back from believing. It was only after he had emptied himself of his pride and his sense of being able to manage his own life perfectly that he found God's perfect wisdom through Scripture. He had found the solution to all his personal problems through Christ. Luther's experience was similar. When the future German reformer entered the monastery at a young age, it was to earn his own salvation through piety and good works. Nevertheless, he had an acute sense of failure. It was only after he had recognized his own inability to please God and had emptied himself of all attempts to earn his salvation that God touched his heart and showed him the true meaning of salvation by grace through faith. Then Luther became the great reformer of the Church. In the same way a modern hymn-writer has written: 

But tho’ I cannot sing, or tell, or know

The fullness of Thy love, while here below,

My empty vessel I may freely bring:

O Thou, who art of love the living spring,

My vessel fill. 

I am an empty vessel—not one thought

Or look of love, I ever to Thee brought;

Yet I may come, and come again to Thee,

With this, the empty sinner's only plea—

Thou lovest me. 

An empty vessel! “I am an empty vessel.” If you will say that, then God will fill you with the life of Jesus Christ—supernaturally—and you will begin to live the standards of the Sermon on the Mount by the power of the one who gave it, and who himself lived it perfectly in this world. 

Study Questions:

  1. What ideas characterize what it means to be empty before God?
  2. As this emptying happens, what does it look like to be filled?

Application: What emptying needs to take place in your life?


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