What is a cup, really, but a vessel, a container?
We have looked at God’s cup of wrath and suffering, and we have seen God’s cup of redemption through Christ’s blood (see part 1). We have also looked at the cup of blessings that overflow from the goodness of God when we surrender our lives to Him (see part 2). Let’s look today at one more aspect of this idea of the cup – that we are that cup, that vessel belonging to God.
“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean'” (Matthew 23:25-26, NIV).
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were overly concerned about cleanliness, especially after coming into contact with Gentiles in the marketplace, who were considered unclean.
Look at this verse from Mark 7:4. “When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.”
These traditions were the “traditions of the elders” (verse 5) and not commands of God. These were man-made rules that Jewish rabbis invented after the Babylonian captivity based on “interpretations and applications” of the Mosaic law – but not the law itself (NIV Study Bible, 1464).
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical observance of these traditions.
“He [Jesus] replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men”” (Mark 7:6-7, NIV).
What about us? Do we strive to make the outside look good, clean,and righteous, through outward acts done to be seen by others, but neglect the things that really matter – a clean heart? I’ll admit, there are times that I want to appear much more righteous than I really am. As believers, we know that our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, but that does not give us a license to sin. We need to come to God daily in true repentance, asking God to show us any unconfessed sin in our hearts that we may turn away from it.
I don’t believe in praying, “Lord, forgive me of all my sins.” True repentance requires turning away from sin. You have to call it by name, agree with God that it is wrong, and decide in your heart that you will turn from it with His help. I agree that we may have sin in our hearts that we don’t recognize, but I also believe that if we ask God to show us that sin, He will.
David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23, NIV). We need clean hands and a pure heart to come into God’s presence (Psalm 24:4). The good news is that all we have to do is ask. We can’t clean our own cup, but Jesus can. And He’s not so much interested in the outside of our cup as He is the inside.
“‘The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NIV).
God is not looking for people who will just honor Him with their lips; He is looking for those who choose to honor Him with a clean heart. And that comes by allowing the Word, the Spirit, and the Son to do the washing. We just have to be willing to let Him find the dirt.
And when He does, He is able to take that clean cup and pour it on someone else. Jesus said, “‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward'” (Matthew 10:42, NIV). I don’t know about you, but I sure would love for my life to be like a cup of clean, cold water poured out on the lives of others, bringing life and refreshment.
We are that vessel. We are that cup. We have the choice every day to come to Jesus and let Him wash away every stain and filth from the inside, fill our cups to overflowing with His Spirit and His power, and then use these vessels as He sees fit to bring life to those around us.
May we pray every day, “Lord Jesus, wash me clean, fill me up, and pour me out!”