Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do not Receive the Grace of God in Vain

6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,
“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. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:1-10)
Working together with him then, we appeal to you, not to receive the Grace of God in vain. Do not receive the grace of God in vain, emptily. Do not make it an empty reception, is the tone of it. More to the point he is saying don’t lose it, grab hold of it and keep it, hold onto it with everything. Don’t let temptation overtake you.
Lutheran’s are unique in this world, we believe in election and yet think you can lose salvation. Paul seems to agree with us though. Otherwise I’m at a total loss as to what any of this means. If it isn’t something you could lose, why the exhortation not to receive the grace of God in vain, make it empty?
It’s an exhortation that is needed. It was needed then, and it is needed today, because today, just as much as back then, is the favorable time the day of salvation. Every day we are given in this life is a day of grace, is a moment of salvation. The time is coming when it is no longer. When time is up. It comes sooner for some of us than for others, and yet the whole world proceeds to the end of time, the day of judgment. And whether by death or the second coming of Christ, between now and then the devil, the world, and our sinful nature conspire to rob us blind of the treasure we have in Christ Jesus who died for our salvation, who rose from the dead for our justification. Who with his act of mercy, justified us, made us right with God, won for us the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. But peace with God, by necessity means enmity with the world. And it is never an easy thing. Paul describes the result of faith in Christ, hardships, beatings, imprisonments, hunger and so on. We might think we have it kind of easy. But then there isn’t a one of us in this room that hasn’t experienced it in some way shape or form. Pressure to give in and forsake Christ. Pressure for our kids to fit in with the neighbor kids and their classmates. Pressure at work to get the promotion. Pressure from family. All pressure to receive the grace of God in vain, to give up on the hope that is within you.

Don’t receive it in vain. For in Christ we have everything to rejoice about. In him we have a salvation that far exceeds anything this world could possibly ask to trade for it. No, the world will punish us for our faith, but it cannot kill us because we have eternal life in Christ. The world will look at us as sorrowful, and yet we rejoice in the victory of Jesus. The world will see us as poor, and yet we make many rich. Yes, because our wealth is not of this world, but it is in the Christ whom we share with our neighbors in everything we do, in a holy and precious death, and blood worth more than any amount of gold or silver. Yes, to the world it may look as if we have nothing, but in Christ we are heirs as children of God to riches and treasures that do not fail, made secure in the resurrection of Christ. Yes, just as certain as he rose from the dead, so certain is our salvation. This world, it passes away, this world, we pass from it. This world is death, the gold and the silver wane, and the wealth of this world that we enjoy dies with us. But in Christ there is treasure that does not fade, for in him there is eternal life.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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