Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grace in Vain

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10

Paul is an interesting guy.  He’d spent years being a champion Roman soldier, hunting and killing Christians.  Then God gave him a U-turn in his life.  Three days of being blind after hearing directly from the God of his victims.  Three long days of not looking outwards – but looking only inwards.  That was God’s way of making Paul reflect upon himself.  Once he was given his sight back, his entire life changed direction.  He became a great apostle, and wrote 13 of the books of the New Testament.

I love when Paul says “and His grace towards me was not in vain”.  When Paul received the grace of God it lit a fire in his soul.  He couldn’t do enough for Christ.  His heart was changed.  He was turned from hating Christians to loving all people.  His devotion to God was foremost in his life.  He travelled from place to place as a missionary.  He travelled from country to country for years, started one church after another, and mentored other apostles.  He wrote long letters to the churches he’d helped form, to keep them sound and powerful.  Finally he was imprisoned for his beliefs, but continued to minister from prison until he was beheaded by Nero.  This was a life well lived.  Truly, the grace of God was not spent in vain on Paul.  The Holy Spirit in him burned the candle at both ends!
This is Sunday.  Churches will be full today of regular church goers.  They will plant themselves on the pews, listen for an hour, and go home.  Saved or not is not a judgment I or anyone is equipped to make.   But their lives prove they cannot say “His grace toward me was not in vain”. 

Having led this life for more than twenty-five years, I can relate to it.  I was raised in church from the day I was born.  I attended every service that was open.  Thanks to Sunday school teachers requiring verse memorization from week-to-week, I knew God’s word enough to throw out a verse once in a while.  What I knew of what was “right” according to the church folks I used it to put fences around my actions to allow me to live in the way that seemed right.  Yet there was nothing evident in my life of His grace. 
I kept quiet in Biblical conversations because I knew it was better to be silent and appear to be a fool that open my mouth and remove all doubt!  I hadn’t studied what I believe enough to know why I believed it.  I didn’t know the Word well enough to teach it or witness to others.  I lived defeated most of the time because I didn’t pray or read God’s word regularly.  I didn’t do anything that would have caused me to grow in a way that would have glorified God.  Twenty-five years wasted.  Having seen what God can do for you when you take that U-turn and decide to truly follow Him, I often wonder where I’d be now and how many blessings I missed by not following Him those twenty-five years.  I was saved, but His grace on me was His sacrifice on an empty life.  For those many years, His grace toward me was in vain. 

Perhaps you can identify with who I use to be.  Just check your motivation. 
If you do good things because you want others to see that you are doing good, and you turn from evil because you don’t want those around you to think you’re caught up in that sin, that’s religion.  You are being justified in the eyes of man.  Salvation may be yours, but His grace is wasted on you if you don’t fully live in it.

If you do good things because your heart desires to please God from a grateful place, that’s a relationship.  You are acting from the justification that’s been done in your heart through salvation.
Christianity – true Christianity – comes from a desire to show your love and affection for God.  It doesn’t come from a place where you are trying to please people.  People become second place, and God moves onto the throne of your heart.

When you can give up pleasing people and turn to a full on fire in your heart for pleasing God, then you’ve come to a place where His grace isn’t wasted on you.  You’ve given up religion and stared pursuing the relationship. 
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have your tombstone read “by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain”?

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