This past week I was riding in a little 4 passenger plane and as you know I hate heights. As I was looking down 3500 feet I began to think about dying. And you’d be amazed at how fervent your prayer life becomes in a Cessna. I wasn’t bargaining with God – you know when people say “God if you let me live I’ll serve you better”. I didn’t want to be that guy. But, I was thinking of things I’d like to do before I die and I was begging the Lord to let me survive the flight so I could do them.
Do you have a bucket list? Have you ever sat down and asked yourself, “What are the things I would want to do before I die?” I remember in my early twenties before I was saved I went to go see one of my favorite rock bands at Van Andel Arena. I loved this band and was so glad they weren’t too old to tour anymore. When I heard they were coming to town I made sure that I saw them. But, I remember walking out of that concert and saying one of the stupidest things I’ve ever said to my buddies. I remember walking out onto the sidewalk outside Van Andel and saying “I can now die a happy man.”
The fact that I wasn’t struck dead right there is a demonstration of God’s grace and patience with fools. It’s proof of 2 Peter 3:9, “[The Lord] is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
What is on your bucket list? You know what a bucket list is? It’s how you define a full life. It’s the list of things that lets you say, “I’ve really lived”. In a way a bucket list is our way of saying “I’ve lived a rewarding life.”
Now, I bet that if we asked people, “What would it mean for you to live a rewarding life?” I think we’d get lots of answers. “To wake up every day and love what I’m do for a living”. “To live every day to it’s fullest”. “To follow my dreams”, “To accomplish all my goals in life”, “Make an impact on the world” or “leaving it a better place”. “Helping others.” To many others a rewarding life has to do with family. What would it mean for you to live a rewarding life?
Now what if Christians were asked that question? The title of our sermon today is: Live a Rewarding Life. That title is meant to be compelling. It is meant to compel us to live our lives in such a way that we earn the rewards God is offering. Did you know that if you are a Christian you have the opportunity to earn rewards? Let’s turn to our passage today in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. [Read]
This passage reveals 3 things about rewards I want to discuss today.
#1: Rewards will be given out when we stand before Jesus Christ
First of all, Rewards will be given out when we stand before Jesus Christ. Paul says in verse 13, “his work will be shown for what it is because the Day will bring it to light.” The Day is referring to the Day our Lord returns and executes judgment. In 1 Corinthians 1:8 Paul said, “Jesus Christ will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s concern is that the Corinthians would live faithfully to Christ so that when they stood before Christ He would find nothing to blame them for. Let none of us doubt that Jesus will judge us. He will. In 1 Peter 4:17 it says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
The teaching that Christ will be our Judge is explicitly taught elsewhere. In 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
We must see too the language that Paul uses to describe how our works will be tested. He says in verse 13, “his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
It’s interesting that when Jesus was assessing the 7 churches of Asia in the book of Revelation His eyes are described as “blazing fire”. Fire is often associated with God’s holiness, particularly when God is judging sin. Deuteronomy 4:24 God says, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” When Moses first saw God He appeared as a bush on fire and God told Moses to take his sandals off because he was on holy ground. Fire and holiness. So when 1 Corinthians 3 says our works during our Christian life will be judged with fire we see that our works are going to be tested against the holiness of God. Jesus is the Holy One of God and He will be the agent of Judgment.
God is holy, and, therefore as His people we should be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). Holiness should be the pursuit of our lives. It is to be the substance of our lives.
Are our lives driven by the belief that there is an appointed Day where we will be face to face with our Savior and He will examine it all? Do we manage our time, our money, our priorities, our goals, our public behavior and our private behavior with an aim to please Him? Are our lives governed by our belief that it will all be examined by Christ one day? He sees it now. He will officially evaluate it then. We are one more week closer to that day than we were last week.
#2: Rewards are Earned
Second of all, Rewards are earned. Salvation is by God’s grace, but rewards are by your works. Salvation is a gift from God, but rewards are earned. Salvation is not based on our merit, but, rewards are.
Notice what Paul says in verse 13, “his work will be shown for what it is…” This passage is talking about the quality of the Christian life we live. Notice what the rest of verse 13 says, “his work will be shown for what it is because the day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.”
Paul talks in this passage about 2 kinds of works in a believer’s life. He describes these works by listing different types of materials. Notice in verse 12 he lists 6 different materials: gold, silver, costly stones, then he lists wood, hay, and straw. Now these 6 can be put into 2 categories: Those that are purified by fire and those that are consumed by it. Gold, silver and costly stones are purified by fire. In other words, when they come out of the fire they’re impurities are melted away and they are shown to be the precious materials that they are.
However, the other category includes the wood, hay and straw. When these are put into the fire they are burned up and nothing of value is left. The simple point Paul is making is that all of our works in our Christian life fall either into one category or the other. Each work we do will either survive the fiery judgment of Jesus Christ or it will be burned up.
How can we earn rewards? By doing the works God has given us to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” There are several areas that Scriptures speak to and I want to name a couple.
First, our deeds will be evaluated. That is clear in this passage. Again verse 13 says that it is our works that will be judged – our works since becoming a Christian. Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body – whether good or bad.” Paul is using a metaphor in this passage. He is talking about building a building. The foundation is already laid. Jesus Christ is the foundation. And Paul is saying that what is built on top of the foundation must match the foundation. The quality must match. If we are Christians then what we do today is adding to the many levels already built by those who came before us. When Jesus finally inspects this building and the works of our lives we want it to result in praise and rewards. So the question is “Are the things we do worthy of Him?” Living worthy of your calling is living worthy of Christ.
Second, our words will be evaluated. Turn with me to Matthew 12:35-37. Our words matter. Our words are of great consequence. Let us make sure that what we say leads to our reward.
Third, our motives will be evaluated. In the next chapter over Paul says, 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness, and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each man will receive his praise from God.”
What compels us to do good and say good things? Is it a self-less concern for others? A desire that Christ gets the glory? Or is it so that everyone can see how great we are? I heard a guy recently say, “Very few men are like Samson and can slay a lion – and then not tell anyone about it.”
In other words, people love to boast about themselves. We love to tell people how great we are. But Proverbs says, “Let another praise you and not your own lips”. There is a billboard for a company that says, “We don’t say we’re the best, our customers do.” Of course, it’s hard for someone else to step up and toot our horn if we’ve always got our mouth glued to it. Sure it’s not always so obvious, but how often do we find ourselves turning the conversation around to us, always talking about our accomplishments and what we’ve done. We do it with our religion and our career and the things of our lives. We do it with our kids too don’t we? Bragging up our kids is a way of bragging up ourselves. Yes, I’ll tell you that if I slay a lion I would have a hard time not telling anyone.
What is our motive for doing good? When Jesus was teaching the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 he rebuked the Pharisees. He pointed out all their showy and pretentious religious deeds. He said they pray and fast and give publicly so as to impress others and get praise from men. Their religion was for themselves, not for God. And Jesus says, “They have received their reward.” In other words, all their religion will get them no reward from God because what they do they do with the wrong motives. Instead Jesus says His disciples will do things secretly, just between themselves and their Father in heaven. We must examine our motives when we talk and when we do good.
I want to close with 2 applications. We will look next week at the different types of rewards we can earn. But let’s close with 2 quick applications for today.
Application #1: Be careful. Be careful about how you live. If our motives and heart attitudes are going to be examined along with our actions and words, it means we have to give careful attention to our hearts. God doesn’t just care about what is on the outside. God told Samuel that while man only looks on the outward appearance of things, God looks on the heart of man. Jesus said to the crowds, you people worship me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me. He wants the inside to match the outside. He wants the quality of the motive to match the quality of the deed. Proverbs 4:24 says, “Above all else guard your heart..” Be careful.
Application #2: Be intentional. Be intentional about building your rewards. Settle the matter of your salvation and then get busy with earning rewards. A question we should ask ourselves every day is, “Will this increase or decrease my reward?” Start today to live a rewarding life. Live a life that is going to be rewarding when you finally stand before Jesus Christ.