Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (1Ti 2:20-21 ESV)
It is by grace that we have been saved, and by grace that we can stand before God. It is the work of Christ, not our own good works that gives us a clean conscience and a right standing before God. Without that grace we would be nothing. But we know that although we were not saved by good works, we are saved for good works. That is God did not just save us to get us into heaven, but he saved us to become part of his great eternal plan and purpose for the world. We were saved for the same purpose for which Adam was created — to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with men and women in the image of God who exercise his rule on his behalf — and so fulfil the Lord's prayer, that his kingdom may come — his will done on earth as it is in heaven.
It is true, even in the spiritual realm, that you cannot export something you do not possess. Before we can be an effective part of the Kingdom advance in the world, the Kingdom must first take hold of our own lives. We must submit ourselves to God's rule before we have the authority to bring that rule to others. So we have a genuine part to play in our own sanctification as we co-operate with the Holy Spirit's work in our life. To make us more holy — to make us more like Jesus. As we advance in this process we become vessels of honour that are useful to the master. There are no short-cuts. The grace of God is no excuse for treading water. Our holiness determines our usefulness in God's household.
We often think of holiness as a negative thing — boring prudish self-righteous behaviour, or as something unobtainable — like the awesome unapproachable holiness of God himself. But the holiness that God seeks is neither negative nor unobtainable. This verse gives us a clue for the kind of holiness God is seeking. For there were holy vessels in the tabernacle - articles of silver and gold. These objects were holy, not because of any intrinsic moral virtue, but because they only had one use: they only served the purpose of God.
It is as we consciously change our priorities and remember that we are no longer our own, we live for Jesus, and make decisions in line with that, choosing to serve him first rather than pursuing our own interests that we become holy in this way. A devoted people, belonging exclusively for God. No-one misses out by living such a life, for though it involves sacrifice and a laying down of our own desires, not only to we become more fulfilled by being used more by God for the purpose we were created, but God fulfils his promise that those who seek first his kingdom will have all these other needs met.
In Daniel 2, before the rock representing the Kingdom could grow and fill the earth, it first had to smash and totally destroy all that stood opposed to it. God's Kingdom will never come as just an appendage to our own way of life. To be Lord, he must be Lord of all. In bringing the Kingdom to ourselves, we become those whom God will be pleased to choose to bring his Kingdom advance in the earth.