Tony Colson shares this story about his own life…perhaps you can relate – “God has begun to teach me new things about grace…its power and its purpose. To be honest, grace had primarily existed in my mind as a basic abstract Christian theology. I was trained in my early Christian walk to be disciplined, to work hard, and to maintain obedience to standard Christian duties. I developed a lifestyle that increasingly became more rigid. My prayer time had become longer. Witnessing had to be done more often – any place I went I ‘must not’ miss an opportunity for God. As time passed this disciplined life transitioned into a Christian experience that was no longer joyful or fulfilling. The standards that I had set for myself were no longer obtainable. The Tony Colson who once believed he could conquer the world now walked around conquered by the world. I was miserable. Where had “life and life to the full” escaped to? As I continued on this course of fear and temptation I found myself falling into sin more often and ever-more grave. This confident, zealous Christian was quickly becoming overwhelmed with defeat. Nonetheless, at the moment when I had nowhere to look but upward, the grace that had visited me on January 20th, 1988, came shining through the clouds of darkness that held me in such bondage. Presently, grace is becoming much more than an abstract theology or a past experience with God. Therefore, my intention…is to share with you this revelation that is changing my personal relationship with Christ. This message is especially for those of you who have already encountered Christ and yet now your relationship…for whatever reason…seems strained, dull, or out of place. Some of you have been sidetracked in your pursuit after God – you have adopted some wrong theologies and a wrong understanding of proper Biblical standards. I believe that God is present to introduce a fresh, new relationship with Him that will be “life and life to the full”.
An important point of context concerning 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 needs to be addressed. On several occasions throughout this work the Apostle Paul addresses his readers (from the Corinthian church) as Christian believers. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he calls them “brethren” and later acknowledges that “it is by faith that they stand.” Then, in chapter three he states that clearly they are ‘an epistle of Christ’. The question, though, is this -- “To whom is verses 1 and 2 in chapter 6 written?” Was it to believers in the church of Corinth? Or was it to sinners in the city of Corinth? I say that this is written to believers. Both before and after this text, Paul addresses readers as his beloved. If this text is not written to believers what does Paul mean when he says, “do not receive the grace of God in vain”?
Here is a good, working definition -- “Grace is much more than merely an event that takes place when an individual is ‘born again’ into the Kingdom of God. Grace is much more than an abstract idea that must be understood. Grace is more than a spiritual principle that can be learned and unlearned. Grace, as facilitated by the Spirit of God, is a dynamic intervening work of God that is real and graspable. It is a true encounter between a supernatural God and frail humanity…humanity in the presence of divinity. Grace is power from above dispersed to meet the needs of our lives.” (Tony Colson) Is it possible that Paul is dealing with his readers who find themselves no longer fulfilling the purpose of their calling? I believe so. Paul desires for his ‘children’ to walk worthy of the calling of God. (Ephesians 4:1) Paul wants his ‘children’ to be complete in the One who had created them. Paul wants much more than simply making a convert. He wants his hearers to ‘become the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.” Therefore, he appeals to his readers in chapter five saying, “Be reconciled to God!” You who are not in a good or right relationship with Christ. You who have experienced salvation and the grace of God in the past, “Come back into right relationship with your Lord”. And so, he calls out again in chapter 6, “Don’t receive the grace of God in vain.” Paul admonished those in the church of Galatia to wake up because they had ‘fallen from grace’. He warns those who have returned to a legalistic lifestyle and those attempting to achieve righteousness by their ability to fulfill the law. Paul adamantly declares that this type of lifestyle is vain and that Christ will profit those individuals nothing. The work of grace in our lives seeks to do much more than simply grant us access into heaven. God pours out His grace that we might become healthy and complete. This is what living a Spirit-filled life is all about.
Max Lucado shares this story -- Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother's heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janiero. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture--taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn't too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina's eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become…it doesn't matter. Please come home." She did. (Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Multnomah Press, 1986, pp. 158-9.)
The philosophies and empty deceits of men take many people captive. The basic principles of this world are deadly, and we do not have to look very far to see how they work…we know. The reason why one of the most purchased pharmaceutical drugs in our society is anti-depressants is because some have been cheated by philosophies and empty deceit. The reason why individuals live their lives in fear and rage is because they have been cheated by traditions and basic principles of this world. The reason why there are so many dysfunctional homes and broken lives is because people are not living lives according to the fullness they have received in Christ. There is a grace that is sufficient for all your needs and it is present now…now is the acceptable time for you to begin fulfilling your potential in Christ.