Sunday, January 20, 2013

What will you do with God's grace?

"Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain." (2Cor 6:1)
Not the place you wanna see God's grace...

     It's a frightening thought, isn't it?  The thought that God's grace would be wasted and not be enough to rescue its recipients.  Many folks sing (especially pagan country singers, much to my chagrin) about how amazing grace is, how it can save even wretches like us.  Perhaps it's telling that some have the audacity to change the word "wretch" to something less convicting and demeaning, a term that retains the facade of praising God, yet allows us to hold our heads high as we do God the honor of accepting His grace(!).  So it's timely for us to define what grace Paul is talking about and explore how this grace can circle the toilet, to our doom and condemnation.
     The world we live in is filled with God's grace:  especially in 21st century America, with our astounding opulence, wealth, security and ease, there are virtually countless things we can point to to display God's rich goodness to us.  And He is not discriminatory in His gifts of money, prominence, political power and the like:  Christians and pagans alike enjoy the sort of blessings Jesus referred to in Matt 5:45ff.  So what exactly does Paul mean in our verse... what gift(s) or graces specifically?  In the verses prior, in the last half of ch. 5, you'll notice that Paul is not talking about the blessings of a shiny new car or a reliable 4G network;  he's talking about the grace of being saved from the wrath of God through Jesus Christ.  How does God transmit this grace to us?  The preaching of the gospel;  I believe this is uniquely the most incredible gift God can bestow upon people in all times and places... the news of what He has done for us in Jesus.  It's especially humbling to realize that while God has commanded His servants to go to all nations, He has not providentially sent this news to all people.  Millions (if not billions) of people in medieval China and pre-industrial Africa and South America and innumerable other times and places simply were denied any knowledge of Scripture and/or Jesus Christ.  They did not receive this grace of God at all!
     So Paul's words are specifically directed to those who have enjoyed hearing the gospel:  those in first century Corinth, or 16th century Germany, or 21st America.  We are told in Luke "everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (12:48)  There is likely no place in all history that has been granted more grace in this area than ours:  Christian churches, colleges, TV, movies, programs, radio, webcasts, and last but not least, blogs.  So it stands to reason the people that will be under the strictest judgment will be the American who stubbornly, willfully chose to ignore all these, who refused the greatest light (other than the incarnation of Christ) shown to any people in history.  The explanation of this vanity is in the very next verse: 
" 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
     The only acceptable time for repentance, for receipt of the message of the gospel, for turning from sin to God is...

Here is the best way I can explain how one can grab hold of God's grace in Jesus.

Photo courtesy of Gerard Stolk

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