Not in Vain

Making Sure God’s Grace on Your Life is Not Wasted

Mark 15

Sept 27, 2015 AM

Pastor Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland


I.       Humour


A.    An elderly gentleman walks into an posh/upscale restaurant.  He is in his mid eighties, very well dressed, hair well groomed, great looking suit, flower in his lapel, and smelling of a quality after shave.  He presents a very good image.  Seated at a corner table was an elderly really classy looking lady in her mid seventies.  The sharp old gentleman walks over and sits along side of her.  He orders a coffee.  He takes a sip.  Then he slowly turns to her and says, "So tell me, do I come here often?"

B.     A man bought a new fridge for his house.  To get rid of his old fridge (still working), he put it in his front garden and hung a Sign on it saying: 'Free to good home. Just take it away.'  For three days the fridge sat there without anyone looking twice.  So he changed the sign to read: 'Fridge for sale €50.'  That night someone stole it!


II.    Introduction (2Corinthians 6:1)


A.    Have you ever done something that you discovered was a complete waste of your time? That all your effort was for nothing?

B.     Meaning of "In Vain"


1.      Doing something "in vain" means Doing something but it not being important to you, and having no effect on you  - as if you had not done it.

2.      Wasting your time

3.      Examples include:


a.       Sitting down to watch a TV program, and an hour later realising it was a complete waste of your time!

b.      Mom spending and hour and a half fixing an amazing dinner, only to find out that everyone has already eaten cereal, and snacks and ice crème, and are not interested in eating now!

c.       An 18 year old starting college, expecting to take classes on mechanical engineering, and working through hundreds and hundreds of hours for an entire semester, and discovering they took all the classes necessary for “electrical” engineering!

d.      Boarding a plane for Paris. And hour hours later, discovering you have landed in Bucharest, Bulgaria!

e.       All that time and effort and money, wasted – in vain

f.       Going to a Bible preaching church, but not hearing and understanding and responding in obedience to God’s words! All in vain!


C.    God Constantly gives everyone something called GRACE (James 4:6)


1.      We think we need money, and friends, and health…

2.      But God knows we need HIM.

3.      What Grace means:


a.       Have you ever had someone show you GRACE? When you certainly didn’t deserve it?

b.      Grace is a “Kindness or preference shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it, and in spite of what the person deserves.”

c.       In other words, Grace is being kind and compassionate towards someone who doesn’t deserve it

d.      Does that describe anybody here?


D.    Grace is Never Free!


1.      It costs. It costs the giver. It Cost Jesus Everything (2Cor 8:9)

2.      It hurts to give it – because you are giving it, offering it at risk – that someone may abuse it, reject it, ignore it

3.      Yet God gives and gives and gives grace – at least he offers it


a.       2Cor 9:8

b.      James 4:6

c.       Romans 5:20

d.      Ephesians 1:6-8


E.     Grace can be wasted


1.      Abused like Lot abused it throughout his entire life

2.      Ignored, like sinners believe as they walk on through their drunken lives towards an eternity in a devil’s hell

3.      Twisted and changed like modern Christians do all the time when they say, It doesn’t matter how they live anymore


F.     So, wouldn’t it be the worst tragedy, if God has made available all of His grace, all of Himself, and people not accept it and allow it to do what it was designed to do? Receive it “in vain”?


III. Message


A.    When Grace Was Poured Out on Barabbas (Mark 15:1-15)


1.      The Final Condemnation of Jesus (Mark 15:1-5)


a.       A long night

b.      Already condemned by the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the entire Jewish government (the Sanhedrin)

c.       Now Jesus is brought before the Roman Governor of Israel, Pilate

d.      Serious accusations and allegations

e.       But not one bit of evidence


1)      Only the word of the Pharisees against Jesus

2)      And Jesus spoke nothing


f.       Only obvious envy (15:10)

g.      Pilate knew he was being trapped


2.      Pilate’s Possible Way Out (Mark 15:6-10)


a.       It was the feast of the celebration of the Passover

b.      Pilate was generally a wicked despot – hated the Jewish people. Hated being their governor

c.       But every Passover, he would do something that would please all the people…

d.      He released any prisoner they wanted – someone of their choice

e.       So, he figures to offer Jesus against the worst, most dangerous, most evil criminal in the prison at that time

f.       The criminal’s name was, BARABBAS

g.      Pilate would present two men before all the people gathered at his judgment hall. Pilate restricted the people’s options to just these two men.

h.      And surely they would choose to let Jesus go

i.        And Pilate would be freed from this trap



4.      Who Was Barabbas? (Mark 15:7)


a.       A very dangerous man – hardened criminal

b.      Had led an attempted take over of the government – a coupe

c.       Thought HE could be governor

d.      A murderer – actually murdered men to take power

e.       A terrorist

f.       Worthy of capital punishment

g.      And today was the day he should die on a middle cross for his crimes!

h.      Surely, the people will see that ONLY Jesus should be freed today


5.      A Surprise Choice (Mark 15:8-14)


a.       People are fickle

b.      People are easily influenced – what is popular today is so easily unpopular tomorrow

c.       And before Pilate knew it, the Pharisees were moving throughout the massive crowds and whispering “choose Barabbas” and “crucify Jesus” – again and again they repeated, “choose Barabbas” and “crucify Jesus”.

d.      And when Pilate innocently asked the people for their choice…


1)      They asked for Barabbas to be freed

2)      And Pilate was shocked!


e.       And when Pilate asked “What should I do to Jesus then?”

f.       The people demanded Jesus to be crucified – to be made to PAY for sins he had never committed!

g.      Pilate tried reasoning with the people – “why? What evil has Jesus done to deserve this?”

h.      And they just screamed louder, “Crucify HIM!”


6.      Barabbas is Set Free (Mark 15:15)


a.       Absolutely illogical

b.      Completely unfair

c.       An innocent Man was now going to be executed

d.      A VERY guilty man was going to be set free, and all records of his crimes removed from HIS name, and placed on the record of Jesus of Nazareth!

e.       Barabbas was unworthy of such a great gift

f.       Barabbas has been the recipient of GREAT GRACE


7.      Now, What Did Barabbas DO with this GIFT?


a.       We never hear of him again

b.      With such a sight as another Man hanging in YOUR PLACE, on the cross YOU should have died on, wouldn’t you think it should have affected Barabbas?

c.       If Jesus died in Barabbas’ place… if Barabbas was GIVEN such kindness…

d.      Wouldn’t you expect Barabbas to be a different man now?

e.       We never hear. We never know.

f.       It would have been awesome to hear of Barabbas falling on his face and crying out to God, and admitting HE should have died on that cross, and that Jesus did not deserve such dishonour and abuse, but that HE HIMSELF deserved to perish and spend an eternity in hell for all the wicked things he had done!

g.      It would be such a great thing to read of Barabbas gathering his family around him and showing the greatest miracle of God is a NEW LIFE – a truly second chance to live right and godly and clean! And then meeting every chance he could with the other believers and worshipping the name of Jesus, and learning the Bible and preaching the Gospel of the grace of God, and winning all his old criminal buddies to faith in Jesus that SAVED him!

h.      Would THAT have been great to read about in the Book of Acts?

i.        But we don’t

j.        I have to wonder, did Barabbas receive the grace of God on that day… in vain?


B.     Let’s Review Again


1.      Is God gracious, and kind to this whole world?

2.      Is ANY of the world’s population WORTHY of God’s constant, compassionate grace and help? No

3.      What do people NORMALLY do with God’s Grace?


a.       Neglect It – put it off until they are “ready” to quit sinning (Hebrews 2:3)

b.      Frustrate It – fight it, and tie God’s hands as he tries to change us and repair our hearts and lives and minds – simply because we are afraid of it and what it will do to us (Gal 2:21)

c.       Change It – make it a free lunch card – convincing ourselves there is nothing sinful anymore, and nothing wrong with anything we do now (see Jude 1:4)

d.      When what they need to do is accept it and hold to it and let it work in them!


C.    Let me Show You Another Man Who DIDN’T receive it in Vain


1.      Saul of Tarsus (1Timothy 1:11-16; Act 22:4)


a.       He was the worst of sinners even though so religious

b.      Promoted the murder of Christians (Stephen)

c.       Tortured Christian men and women

d.      And went as far as torturing them until they died!


2.      But when God’s GRACE was poured out on him on the road to Damascus… how did Saul of Tarsus respond?


a.       He simply accepted it – received it like a gift – unearned, and free to the recipient – by believing that God meant it when he says He is offering it to sinners (1Tim 1:15)

b.      And that grace, Paul gladly proclaims, was not going to be wasted – was not going to be in vain! (1Cor 15:10) But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.


1)      It made him a different man – all that he became was not by his own wisdom or learning, but by the WHAT? The Grace of God

2)      And it was NOT wasted

3)      It was turned into hard work – labour – efforts

4)      NOT to be accepted by God, but BECAUSE he is now perfectly loved and accepted in the beloved! In the family of God!

5)      No one can EARN grace – you cannot do anything to receive it

6)      But once you have received it – you CAN and SHOULD work because of it


c.       AN EXAMPLE:


1)      I have a credit card here

2)      I am going to give it to ______________________

3)      He did NOTHING to earn my good name and credit – I just offered it to him

4)      Now! What should he do with it?

5)      Not sure?

6)      Well, what if I gave him my CAR?

7)      He should work doubly heard to make sure that he uses it for good, and drives right, and is careful on the road, and makes sure he doesn’t bring dishonour to MY NAME since the car is IN MY NAME!

8)      What if I GAVE him MY place on a job, in a company? Given to him simply because I wanted to give it to him????

9)      What should he DO NOW?

10)  He should work his rear end off!

11)  He should live UP to the great gift he has been given!

12)  If he has been given amazing grace, amazing resources of God

13)  Just like this credit card, and unlimited money, ___________ should learn how to spend it wisely, and carefully, and do GOOD with it, and show KINDNESS with it – NOT lording it over others, but making himself poor that OTHERS could now become rich too!


d.      Does ANYONE get this truth yet? WHAT has God given YOU?
Life, breath, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, your family, wife, husband, children, your job, this church???


D.    How Grace works (Titus 2:11-15)


1.      All the grace of God is FOR something

2.      It SAVES Sinners (Titus 2:11)  For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

3.      It SHOWS Us a Different Way to Live (Tit 2:12,13)  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;


a.       Personally walking away from ungodliness and worldly lusts

b.      Living now soberly

c.       Living Righteously

d.      And living Godly HERE and NOW in this present world – not waiting until heaven to live right!

e.       And best of all, LOOKING for the glorious appearing of our Saviour in the clouds very soon!


4.      It REMINDS Us of the Cost of Grace (Tit 2:14)  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.


a.       First the cost to Jesus

b.      And the cost each of us should pay


1)      NOT to get grace

2)      But BECAUSE of Grace

3)      BECAUSE Jesus gave us grace, we have a great responsibility to DO something with it now!


5.      It ACTIVATES Us - zealous of good works!!!! To start doing something for God

6.      Has it done ANYTHING in YOUR life??? DOES IT SHOW?

7.      Hey! I preach this with no reservations! THIS is what GRACE can and SHOULD do to absolutely everyone in this room, and in this city, and in this country!!!
Tit 2:15  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.


IV. Application


A.    What Grace SHOULD Do To Us?


1.      It should Save someone in this room today from their sins (Ephesians 2:1-9)

2.      It should Motivate us – Drive us to LABOUR more


a.       Not to just barely come to church when you feel like it

b.      Not just to show a bit of token love for God

c.       But instead…


1)      Should motivate us to read through our Bible every day, throughout every year – to learn its truths and instructions on how to live

2)      Motivate us to persuade men and women, young and old to repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

3)      Motivate us to quit thinking we CAN’T do anything in our church, but rather start TRYING to do SOMETHING


a)      There should be people FIGHTING each other to serve each other a cup of tea or coffee

b)      There should be people fighting to help teach in Sunday School

c)      There should be 100 people here tonight, hungry for learning the truths of this Bible

d)     There should be 100 people, actively carrying Gospel tracts to work, and handing them out every day, compelling people to repent and turn to Christ before it is too late!


3.      And finally, it should Change us


a.       Make us holy

b.      Make us happy and content – even though lacking so much, we have been made rich in Christ!

c.       Make us better men and women – no more lying, no more cheating, no more sneaking around to do our pet sins and wicked things!

d.      Better husbands

e.       Better wives

f.       Better men of character and integrity



B.     What Should We DO With Such Grace?


1.      Don’t WASTE the Grace of God


a.       Don’t Neglect It – don’t put it off for another day like Felix did – don’t trash it!


1)      Too interested in all the worthless things of our day and culture


b.      Don’t Frustrate It

c.       Don’t Change It – we don’t need “new” understandings of the Bible – we just need to believe it and obey it!


2.      Live under its freedom, under its power in your life (Rom 6:1; Gal 5:13)


a.       Not to do as you and I please

b.      But to do as our Saviour has shown us


3.      Labour and do something BECAUSE of Grace (1Cor 15:10) – labouring more than everyone


a.       Turn OFF that TV and be in church when we all meet together, AM, PM and Wed)

b.      Get out on Sat afternoons for just an hour and a half soul-winning, telling others of the grace of God offered to every one of them

c.       Take control of your homes and make sure God’s grace has not been in vain in your relationships and in your children

4.      Become a bone fide member of this church, and not just a spectator!


V.    Invitation


A.    There is still more grace available


1.      Even if you HAVE wasted years and years

2.      Example of the Prodigal Son


B.     Commit to living 1Corinthians 15:10 from THIS DAY FORWARD

C.     So that God’s grace will not be in vain in your life any more!