What is life going to be like for eternity? Will things always be the way they are now? Absolutely not. The end of the Bible tells us how it will be in the end, and from there to eternity. In the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, we are given a picture of the eternal state of existence. Read more
Live a Rewarding Life (Part 2)
Have you ever felt “under-dressed” for an occasion? I remember a time when my friend was getting married. It was one of those weddings where they had planned a long break between the ceremony and the reception. Well for some reason or another I thought the reception was going to be casual. If ever there would have been a casual wedding it would have been this friend of mine. So, thinking lots of people were going to show up having changed their clothes, I changed into a little less formal attire. I walked into the reception and immediately realized no one else changed their clothes. Now, I was so happy that I got to go to the wedding and witness my friend’s vows, and I was so happy I got to go to the reception party afterwards. But I wasn’t quite so happy when I realized how much more thought I should have put into my attire.
What we are talking about today again are Rewards in the Christian life. You see, this is a sermon for Christians, people who will be in heaven – people who will be at the party. The question here is “what do we want to look like when we go?” In other words, when this life is over what kinds of rewards will we have earned that we get to receive when we enter heaven? I always remember the guy in 1 Corinthians 3:15 when it says, “If [what he has built] is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” Paul says the guy is going to be saved, but he will have no personal reward because nothing he did will have earned him any.
But, that doesn’t mean the guy has nothing. He is saved. He is saved because of his faith in Jesus Christ. And when someone puts their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation, God pours out all kinds of blessings and gives all kinds of gifts to them. Not because they earned it, but, simply because they believe in His Son. So yes, And regardless of how faithful we live our Christian life, because of our faith God has been immeasurably generous towards us.
How? He has given us salvation (Eph. 2:5), forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7), justified us (Rom. 4:25), grace (Eph. 4:7), made us alive (Eph. 2:5), seated us in heavenly realms with Christ (Eph. 2:6), gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) making us temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:15), co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), child of God (Eph. 1:5) and on and on.
This is a short list. But He doesn’t stop there. These are all things that He does for us simply for trusting in His Son Jesus Christ. But then afterwards, He offers us rewards for living a faithful Christian life. And that is why our sermon title is “Live a Rewarding Life”. This title is meant to compel us to live in such a way that when we stand before Jesus Christ, and He judges our lives, it will result in rewards for us. In other words, let us each live now so that on that day we will be rewarded.
As we look at the rewards we as Christians can earn, it shows us more about who God is. For instance, rewards show us that there is more of His kind generosity. After all He has already given us freely, after we are saved He offers more as a reward for our faithfulness to Him. His riches are in exhaustible.
It also shows us He is fair, or just. Everyone who is a Christian will go to heaven, but, that doesn’t mean everyone will be “the same” in heaven. Some in heaven will have more reward and others will have less based on their faithful service to Christ. I like how A.J. Gordon says it, “I cannot think of a final divine reckoning which shall assign the same rank in glory, the same degree of joy to a lazy, indolent and unfruitful Christian as to an ardent, devoted, self-denying Christian.”
It matters how we live our Christian life. Our faithfulness now effects our eternity in heaven. Like Erwin Lutzer says, “we will differ in glory as lightbulbs differ in brightness.” I hardly can imagine it fair that a peon like myself would be given the same lot as Paul or Peter or any of the disciples or any of the vast majority of faithful servants of Christ throughout Church history. How many have sacrificed their lives by submitting to death for the Lord Jesus Christ? How many sacrificed their lives as living sacrifices and have utterly devoted themselves to faithful service to Christ? A cursory glance at what others have done and are doing today and I will be happy with a tent in heaven. The point here about rewards is that it shows God is just and that those who are more faithful will have more.
Last week we learned that our rewards will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only Christians will be at this Judgment. It will not be a judgment to find out if we’re saved or not. It will be to see what reward is coming to us, or not coming to us. We saw also that the Bible indicates several areas we will be judged on: works, words and motivation. This week, we want to learn more about the actual rewards. When the Bible says “rewards”, we want to know what it means. Does it give any indication for us what these rewards are like? I think so. Let’s look at 3 things.
#1: Praise from Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Cor. 10:18; Gal. 1:10; Matthew 10:32-33; 25:21, 23)
The first reward we will look at is praise. Praise to us from Jesus Christ. First Corinthians 4:5 says, “…….. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” When Jesus returns, we will each get our praise from Him for what we have done. He personally described the praise He would give to faithful servants of His in Matthew 25:21, and 23, “Well done good and faithful servant!” Don’t let those words become so familiar that their weight is lost on you. Remember that the reward we are working for is the commendation that comes from God. Second Corinthians 10:18 says, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
Perhaps you’re thinking “Why is ‘praise’ a reward?” Because praise is very rewarding. Getting praise is a powerful motivation. There isn’t one of us here who doesn’t love to be recognized. When we are good at something or we do something well we like others to see it. We want people to appreciate us, to speak well of us, to talk highly about us. That’s why we put our strengths on pedestals and we hide our weaknesses under bowls. From the guy behind the pulpit to the kid up in the nursery, everyone here wants to be praised. So do not underestimate the wealth that comes with getting praised by Jesus Christ. Getting praised is very rewarding.
We love praise, and that’s why we’re afraid of rejection. Rejection is the opposite of praise. It’s people talking down about you. That’s why it’s hard for most if not all of us to witness to people. Or, again, if you think you don’t care for people’s praise, then how do you feel when you don’t get thanked for the job well done. After a while it starts to get discouraging and you start to lose motivation. I mean, who wants to do a thankless job? Whether it’s your boss or your husband or your kids or your parents or your church family, you want people to recognize what you do. How many children are exasperated because they’ve never been recognized? How may spouses are bitter because they’re never appreciated. How many employees are disgruntled because they don’t get the recognition for doing a good job? Have you ever said, “Can I just get a thank you for once?”
Praise is a very big reward. That’s why Jesus said about the Pharisees “they’ve already gotten their reward.” They did all their religious deeds to be seen by men, to be praised by men, and so Jesus says they’ve gotten the reward of praise from men and therefore won’t get the reward of praise from God.
Warning: If we’re not careful, though, we can become addicted to the praise of men. It can become an obsession. We become afraid of losing people’s praise. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare.” King Saul of Israel loved the praise of men and became jealous when the people began to praise David instead. Remember last week we talked about motivation. We cannot let our motivation be the praise of men. We can’t live for and love for everyone to speak well of us. When our decisions and actions become shaped by whether or not people will speak highly of us our loyalty is shifting away from the Lord and to men. But Paul said something that we should listen to. In Galatians 1:10 he said, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men – or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The point here is that whoever we try to please is who we are serving. So, am I trying to please men, or am I trying to please God?
Let us serve Jesus Christ so that we may win the reward of His praise.
#2: Crowns (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Pet. 5:4; James 1:12/Rev. 2:10; 1 Thess. 2:19; 1 Cor. 9:24-27)
The second type of reward we can get is a crown. The Bible talks about crowns being awarded to us as Christians for our faithfulness. Turn to 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 with me. [Read]. Paul is referring to the Isthmian games that took place every 2 years in Corinth. He says that those athletes competed not for a gold medal like in our Olympic games, but, for a wreath. Paul says however that that crown will fade, whereas we as Christians “run the race marked out for us” to get a crown that lasts forever (Heb. 12:1).
It appears that there are different types of crowns too. For instance, in 2 Timothy 4:8 Paul mentions a crown of righteousness. Turn there with me. [Read]. Then in James 1:12 he promises a crown of life to Christians who are suffering for their faith. This crown of life is mentioned again in Revelation 2:10 when Jesus personally promises it to the suffering Christians in Smyrna. In 1 Peter 5:4 the crown of glory is mentioned and is the crown promised to faithful pastors.
Then I like how Paul talks about the Thessalonians themselves being his crown. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:19 with me. There is this idea here that Paul was planning on rejoicing in front of Jesus Christ because of how well the Thessalonians did. And the implication here seems to be that the work we do to help others come to faith in Jesus Christ and then grow in their faithfulness to Him will result in great rejoicing for us when we stand before Christ.
The idea of a crown shows us the recognition given to us by Christ for our loyalty to Him in this life. We are told that these crowns do not fade, which implies the honor our Lord bestows on us will never fade either for all eternity.
#3: Authority in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ on Earth (1 Cor. 6:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4,6; 22:5; Matth. 12:41-42; 19:28-29; Luke 11:31-32; 22:29-30; Col. 3:23-25; Talents Parable)
The Bible says that Jesus is coming back and when He does He is going to setup a worldwide kingdom on this earth. Revelation 20:1-6 says Jesus will have a kingdom on this earth for 1000 years. In those years He will reign over the entire earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the kingdom that according to Daniel 2 is cut out from rock, is not made by human hands, and crushes all the kingdoms that come before it. This is the kingdom Isaiah 2 tells us where all the nations will come to Jerusalem to be taught directly by the Messiah. It is the kingdom where Zechariah 14 says, “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD and His name the only name.” Then Zechariah tells us that in that kingdom all the nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a day when the words of God Almighty from Psalm 2 will come true: “I have installed My King on Zion, my Holy Hill and He will rule the nations with an iron scepter.”
Yes, there is a glorious day that will last for 1000 years when Jesus Christ, the One crucified, buried and raised back to life will return and reign over the entire earth.
***In that day He will also have us ruling with Him in that kingdom. First Corinthians 6:2 says “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure we will also reign with Him.” Revelation 2:26-27 says, “To Him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations…just as I have received authority from my Father.” Revelation 3:21 says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.” Then in we see the hosts surrounding the throne of God singing these words about those who belong to Christ, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.”
Now 2 applications:
First, we must see beyond right now to what is coming. We must see that what we see right now is fading and passing. That means that we must look forward with faith in what God says is coming.
Second, we must see what God has planned for us is glorious beyond our imagination. First Corinthians 2:9 says “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” We are saved and God’s plans for us reach far, far beyond what we see right now. Our “worldview” must expand out and forward and up.
Third, if what we do now determines what we do then, how ought we to live now? The point is this: it seems almost certain that the extent of authority in this kingdom given to us by Jesus will be a reward for how we live for Him now. Remember His words in Matthew 25:21, “Well done good and faithful servant.” What did He say in the very next words? “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your Master’s happiness!”
Don’t ever underestimate the small act, or role or position you may perform. It is all carefully watched by Jesus Christ and He is ready to reward you beyond your imagination for your faithfulness. The key is this: It doesn’t matter how glorious the task, it matters how faithful the servant. God is watching for faithfulness. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord not for men, since you knw that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” And if faithfulness leads to sacrifice, Jesus will reward that too. He said in Matthew 19:29, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
- Make a list of what you do for Christ. Think about your service, about your character at home and at work and when you’re alone. Think about how you talk. Think about why you do all these things. Ask yourself why you do them. Why do this exercise? Because to live the Christian life thoughtlessly could result in a lot of disappointment when we stand before Christ. H
- Serve faithfully now, expecting greater reward later. More than you earned.
- Go for your reward.
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.