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Affluent Christian Investor | October 22, 2017

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Vain Grace


There is one, maybe two passages, that always stimulate me to action when I come across them. One is found in Luke 7:29-30 where Luke wrote, “All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.” The leaders of Israel rejected God’s purpose for their lives, which tells me that we all have a role to play in finding, accepting, and then doing God’s will.

The second one is found in 2 Corinthians 6:1, where Paul wrote, “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” Paul would not warn us against receiving God’s grace in vain unless it was possible to receive God’s grace in vain. Eugene Peterson translated this verse in The Message to read, “Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.” Are you squandering or wasting the life God has given you?


How can we be guilty of receiving God’s grace in vain? There are several ways I can think of:

  1. By waiting on God to do what only we can do. For example, God cannot go to school for you. He cannot read a book for you. He cannot get on a plane and go to Haiti for you. Only you can do that.
  2. By manufacturing excuses to mask our fear. When we think, “I’m too old, I’m too young, I don’t have enough money, I will do or go when the kids are older, My grandkids need me, I’m not smart enough,” we are trying to find reasons why we cannot receive God’s grace that will empower us to act.
  3. By “over-spiritualizing” the process. This is closely related to number 2, but this time we involve God in our excuses: “The Lord hasn’t released me, I’m waiting on Him, I am praying about that, It’s not God’s timing.” That all sounds spiritual, but often it is fear masking itself as spiritual talk.
  4. By assuming we have a lot of time. I hope you do, but the truth is that today or tomorrow could be your last days on earth. This is the day that that the Lord has made and we must act like the end is near, which it is, whether it is tomorrow or in 20 years.
  5. By being unclear about the concept of fruit. God’s requires you to live a fruitful life, which Jesus made clear in the analogy of the vine in John 15. Jesus said without Him we can bear no fruit, so that means in Him we can and should bear much fruit. That fruit is not just holiness (not watching bad movies or robbing a bank), but it is also tangible actions and deeds that touch other people’s lives for the good.


Paul wrote his warning against receiving God’s grace in vain as a “co-worker.” That indicates he was not writing about salvation, but about purpose. Paul was actively engaged in taking the gospel to the Gentiles, which was his purpose, and he was urging his readers to remember God’s grace that He had bestowed on their through salvation, and to get busy with their own purpose. Is that your story? Are you busy with your purpose, or are you squandering God’s grace?

Jesus wrote in John 8:32 that we would know the truth and the truth would set us free. If you face the truth that are wasting God’s grace, then you are free to do something about it! God isn’t showing you that because He is angry, He is showing you to set you free to do something different. As we approach the end of another year, I encourage you to take steps today, right now, to ensure that 2017 is not another wasted year for you.

Take steps now to write, teach, travel, educate, go back to school, give, build, or whatever verb best describes your purpose. Don’t put it off till January 1, or February 28, or the summer, because that’s what you have been doing, and it’s wasting God’s grace. Do it now, today, and every day henceforth. Face your fears, but I hope the biggest fear you will have is that you are capable of receiving God’s grace in vain, which is such a terrible waste, perhaps the most terrible of all. 


Originally published on The Monday Memo.

John Stanko was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and attended Duquesne University where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics in 1972 and 1974 respectively.

Since then, John has served as an administrator, teacher, consultant, author, and pastor in his professional career. He holds a second master’s degree in pastoral ministries, and earned his Doctor of Ministry from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh in 2011.

John founded a personal and leadership development company, called PurposeQuest, in 2001 and today travels the world to speak, consult and inspire leaders and people everywhere. From 2001-2008, he spent six months a year in Africa and still enjoys visiting and working on that continent, while teaching for Geneva College’s Masters of Organizational Leadership and the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most recently, John founded Urban Press, a publishing service designed to tell stories of the city, from the city and to the city.


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