In Lesson #2 we saw the importance of centering clay on the potter’s wheel, and how, in the same way, our lives need to be centered on Jesus, the true center of all things. By centering our lives on Jesus we find perfect inner peace, but this is just the beginning. If the clay is to contain anything, other than itself, then the next step is “opening”.
Opening Clay on the Wheel
So there you are, a perfectly centered piece of clay in front of you. With the wheel turning fast, and plenty of water on the clay, you begin the opening process by positioning your finger over the center of the clay. Then you start to press your fingertip down into the clay, moving slowly towards the surface of the wheel. Once you have judged that the thickness of clay between your fingertip and the wheel is the distance that you want (this takes some practice), then you carefully remove your finger. You are left with a funnel shaped opening in the clay.
After applying more water, you now start the process of widening the opening to create the inside surface of the base. You do this by moving your finger tip horizontally, from the center, towards the outer edge, moving clay in the process until you have created a flat inner base of the diameter that you want. In so doing you also create a short, thick outer wall of clay.
Opening Up to God
This opening process reminds me of a fundamental part of the Christian life — honesty. This honesty is not honesty with other human beings, as important as that is, but honesty with God and with ourselves. Any healthy relationship has to be built on a foundation of honesty, and none more so than our relationship with God.
Truth starts on the inside, and God loves it.
In a song of worship to God, King David said:
“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” (Psalm 51:6 ESV)
And because we are all like sheep who have gone astray, our inner truth needs to start with confession. In another song to God, King David also said:
“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5 NIV)
Confession is just being honest with God about the things we have thought, said and done that have been unloving towards God and others. In confession we acknowledge how far short we fall of God’s perfect standard. If you want to know what God’s standards are then look at the life of Jesus.
When I was an engineering student, I didn’t know any of this, I didn’t even believe in God. I had decided that God did not exist, that science had made God redundant. But then a friend of mine became a Christian, and I could see a massive change in him that I could not explain. We had many conversations about what had happened to him and what it meant to be a Christian.
Two things stood out to me from these conversations. The first was that my “self-justification” was demolished. I said, “I don’t believe in God, but even if there is a God, I’ll be alright; I’m a good person.”
He replied, “Yes, but the Bible says that God is so perfect that all our righteous deeds are like filthy rags to him.”
The second thing was when he told me that God wanted a relationship with me. Now this struck me as a big deal. Could this possibly be true? Could it be true that the creator of all things wanted a relationship with me?
After a few more conversations, I got to the point where I wanted to know if this was true or not. My thinking went something like this, “I don’t know if God exists, but if he does, I would like a relationship with him, that’s got to be amazing! I’ll give this Christianity a go, and I’ll soon find out if it is true or not.”
So one day I sat in my car and read a booklet called “Journey Into Life”. It explained about how we are all like sheep who have gone astray, about how my sin separated me from God, about how much God loves me, and about how Jesus had died for me so that I might be forgiven and have a relationship with him. At the end of the booklet was a prayer to pray if you wanted to give your life to God. When I got to the prayer, even then, I did not know if God was real, but I did know that I wanted to know him if he was. So I prayed the prayer, and meant it.
I did not expect what happened next: there were no angels singing; or lights in the sky; but, in a way that I cannot explain, I knew that God had entered my life; I knew that I could talk to him, and I did. I started asking for his help in what I was doing.
That was over forty years ago, and I can say that the Lord has been with me through the highs and lows of life ever since. Do I have a relationship with God? Absolutely! I am constantly amazed at his love, his goodness, his compassion, his mercy; at his answers to prayers and care for every detail of my life; at his leading and the way that his plan for my life continues to unfold. And yet it feels like the journey is just beginning.
Making it Strong
When you’ve formed the bottom of your vessel, there’s an important step you must do before moving on — you must compress the base. You do this by pressing down onto the base with your finger or a tool to consolidate it. If you don’t, you will probably develop what’s known as an “S-crack” in your base. I know from bitter experience that S-cracks can form as your vessel dries. The cracks form due to uneven shrinkage as the clay dries, coupled with weakness and high water content in the base. I can’t tell you how heart breaking it is to leave your work of art to dry, only later to come and find large cracks in it! Below are some cracks in my early pots, from before I learnt the importance of compressing the base.
As with clay, so with our Christian lives — it’s important to consolidate the foundations of our faith. There is much that could be written, and has been written, on this subject, but here are three of the most important foundations in our Christian life: the word of God; the love of God; and assurance of salvation. If we do not understand these, if we do not grab these firmly in both hands, then cracks may develop in our lives later, when life throws us difficulties and trials.
The Word of God
The Bible is referred to as the word of God. It is God’s written communication to us. It is through the Bible that we learn about who God is and what he wants for us. The Bible tells us about Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, and how we can learn from him.
We need to trust that the Bible is what it claims to be — truth. In praying to his Heavenly Father, Jesus said, “…your word is truth.” (John 17:17). But what evidence is there that we can trust what the Bible says about Jesus or anything else? We don’t have space to go into the mountain of evidence here, but an interesting perspective is provided by J. Warner Wallace, a cold-case homicide detective, who became a Christ-follower at the age of thirty-five after investigating the claims of the New Testament gospels using his detective skills. He has a series of podcasts about the Bible that are interesting and entertaining.
A vital part of the “opening” process for any Christian is to open the Bible, read it, seek to understand what it says and apply it to their lives.
The Love of God
God’s power is never in doubt, after all he made the universe, but his enemies have tried to cast doubt on his love from the beginning. From the garden of Eden, it has been whispered in humanity’s ear that God doesn’t really have our best interests at heart, that he doesn’t really care for us or love us. This slander was shown to be the greatest lie ever told at Calvary. Through Jesus, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). Just think about that for a moment. It wasn’t for his friends that he died, but his enemies. How much love does that take? It takes more love than we can comprehend, which is why the apostle Paul says to the Christians in Ephesus:
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17–19 NIV)
The most important thing that you need to know is that God loves you.
If you want to see an eternal testimony to the love of God, read Psalm 23.
Assurance of Salvation
It is because of his great love for us that God wants us to know that we are saved. One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 John 5:13:
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (NIV)
God’s gift to us of eternal life is not something to wish for, or work for. No, salvation, eternal life, redemption, what ever you want to call it, is a free gift bought and paid for by Jesus on the cross, and God our Heavenly Father wants us to feel secure in the knowledge that we are now safe in his arms — forever.
So how do we respond to all this? Do you want to open your heart to God? Do you want to allow God to build a strong foundation in your life? If so, then let me point you to a wonderful prayer of openness, again by King David. Why don’t you make his prayer your prayer?
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23–24 NIV)
Guest Author | David Knott
Originally published on: Medium