Friday, September 04, 2009

Receiving God's Grace in Vain

2 Cor 6 1As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”a
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

There are people in the world who teach you that its impossible to "receive God's grace in vain." The bible tells you that in spite of God's grace offered to you and you receiving it, you CAN receive it in vain. What does that mean to receive it in vain? I'll let other people answer that for us:
It is very different from being vain. It has to do with not getting the intended response. For example, if you love in vain, the other person may not love you in return. If you die in vain, you took a risk which ended in your death without accomplishing what you hoped to accomplish, as in a firefighter who died in vain trying to rescue someone who died anyway.

It has to do with no getting the intended response....God offers his grace to save, but those who receive it in vain do not get the intended response. The "intended response" in relation to our God's grace is salvation.

We have no idea how late the hour is, we do not now how short time is for any of us. We do know this though: I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

This idea of now being the time of favor and salvation fits hand in glove with what has been written here now for some time. NOW is the time for us to be ready to meet our master, now is the time for us to live in faith, and obedience.

This idea of receiving God's grace in vain is not said to the unbeliever, this is a message to you and me. The unbliever does not "receive" God's grace, he rejects it. We, the believers are the ones who "receive God's grace." This place in the scripture is like many others that people blow through without seeing and digesting what our Lord is saying to us. We are being warned of the possibility of receiving our God's grace, BUT doing it in a way that the "intended response" is not achieved.

Does this idea of receiving the Lord's grace "in vain" have any resonance with other places in the bible? Sure it does:

John 15:1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesa so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Someone who does not remain "in Christ" has received God's grace "in vain." Why? Well, the intent of God's grace, the reason it was sent was to SAVE. And clearly reading the text in John 15 here we see that being thrown away, withered, picked up and thrown into the fire to be burned is NOT SAVED. That's receiving God's grace in vain.

Are there any other places in the bible we see people who receive God's grace in vain? Yep, here's another:

Luke 8:11“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

There it is again. They receive the word with joy....they receive the grace of our God when they receive the word because the word of God is Jesus (John 1). But what happens? The grace of God they received is in vain because "in the time of testing they fall away."

A person who "falls away" is not saved either. How do we know this?

Hebrews 6:4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, becauseb to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Why bring this up today? The warnings were written for us, that's why. It will be tragic when the many who never received God's grace are condemned. It will be more tragic for those who received God's grace but did it in vain. These are not my words friends. I never said you could receive God's grace in vain, that comes quoted word for word from the bible. Same thing with people who were "in Christ" "in the vine" "in him" "in Jesus" then are cutoff withered and thrown into the fire. I didn't make that stuff up, its written clearly in John 15 for you and me as a warning.

Let us do everything we can do with all our heart soul and spirit to be found pleasing in our master's eyes. grace and peace