Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rewarding Experience: Part 2

The Reality of Rewards

1 Cor 3:11-15 The Building Metaphor

One picture the Bible gives of this judgment and rewards is one of individual believers presenting their life’s works to Christ in the form of buildings. The eternal foundation of each building is Christ, but the structures vary. Some are made totally of wood, hay, and straw; others are of gold, silver, and precious stones; still others are composite structures of all the elements in individual proportions. As the architecture of each life is presented, they are publicly subjected to the revealing torch of Christ’s judgment. With the flames comes the moment of truth: “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 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. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

Rewards are real. They are as unavoidable as the judgment seat of Christ.


Salvation Rewards

Is a free gift are earned

Is secure can be lost

Same for all different for everyone

Determines our determines our

Kingdom position Kingdom experience

In his book The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis notes how believers often underestimate the full riches God has for His children.

"...If we consider...the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Luke 14 and the Challenge of Discipleship

What does it mean to live like a Christian. It is the hardest life. Most difficult. Most challenging. It is called being a disciple. Jesus explained it in Luke 14:25-26.

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and other, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”

Notice how different this is from becoming a Christian. While the two are often confused, we should be careful to never confuse them. John 3:14-15 “…the son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Romans 3:21 “The righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Revelation’s closing words include, “whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wished, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev 22:17 Eternal life is on the basis of this free gift; God’s grace. It is a gift received by faith—believing in Jesus Christ as your savior. But being a disciple? That is hard. It means giving all you have to the Lord. It is His, but it is turning loose what you think is yours, what you think you need, what you think you have to hang on to for your safety and security, and realizing that it is all God’s. That is hard.

To say you are a Christian is one thing. To say you are living like a Christian is another. To say you are delivered is one thing, to say you are a disciple is another.

Paul recognized it was hard, that in life there are struggles and afflictions. But Paul could see past them, because he had a vision of Heaven. He wrote,

With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Imagine trying to describe a pineapple to an Eskimo. Well, you see it’s sweet, and juicy—like blubber. How can you describe ice to a desert tribe? “Well, it’s hard like a rock, but cold like water. But to them, water isn’t cold. So how can someone tell people of earth what heaven is like? Doesn’t make sense to us. We just don’t get it.

If we knew what to expect in heaven, hell would be an empty place. If we knew the rewards in heaven, then statements like “a hellish life,” or “hell on earth” would be abandoned figures.

Salvation is one thing—free by Gods grace through faith. Being a disciple is another—from our perspective, hard, and costly. It cost us all we have and all we are. The benefit of eternal life is salvation; being saved and rescued from the penalty of sin. The benefit of being an obedient disciple is reward.

Rewards of Kind—The Crowns

There are two words for “crown” in the New Testament. One refers to what a king or ruler would wear. The word is diadehma, which is largely left untranslated as “diadem.” Jesus therefore is seen wearing not one but many diadems upon his victorious return to earth where he will establish his reign as King forever.

But there is another word for crown. The word is stephenos. It signifies victor—a winner. This was the crown placed upon the head of a Greek athlete who after competing emerged as the winner over all. The crown itself was of no value—usually made of grape vines and celery stalks. It may be compared to a red or blue or gold ribbon given to the winner of an athletic event. The ribbon itself is of little value, but what it signifies is its value. It is a symbol of something far more significant.

This is the word used for our rewards. The stephenos—the crown. But we are told that these symbolic crowns will not wilt and dry up like some celery stalk. They will remain forever. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Cor 9:25

There are other crowns to fit your crown:

Crown of righteousness 2 Tim 4:8

Paul writes of his own performance in 2 Tim 4:8

“For I am already being poured out life a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to em, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Do we have the eternal perspective in view? Do we live with the ever present reality that the Lord Jesus Christ could return at any moment? Do we live with that fact in fear—Oh no, I hope he doesn’t return now, or with eager anticipation—any time would be a good time Lord. I’m ready! Those whose life reflects this eagerness.

Crown of life - James 1:12, Rev 2:10, 3:11

In the context of persevering under difficult circumstances another crown reward is mentioned. This is the crown of life. James 1 describes it:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because wen he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who live him.” How is love of God fully demonstrated? Perseverance under adverse circumstances.

Many of you are earning this crown in your life today. Hang in there; keep the perspective of eternity in view. Great is your reward. Remember, adversity can include death—being martyred on account of your testimony of Christ. Rev 2:10 describes this eventuality, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Addressing the Elders of the Church, Peter mentions another reward.

Crown of glory 1 Peter 5:

Be shepherds of the church

Rewording Rewards

Straightforward Promises - 2 Corinthians 5:7; Luke 13:22-29

Jesus makes the distinction between those outside the gate (unbelievers) and those inside the gate (believers). Then there is a further distinction. Not inside or outside the gate, but there is a place further inside—the banquet table.

This relates to Matthew 25 and the parable of the servants. The servant, has to be a believer, and yet is described as missing the feast.

Mercenary or Missionary?

All this talk about rewards admittedly makes some of us feel uneasy. After all, isn’t it rather self-serving—serve God in this life so that you will be rewarded in the next? That sounds so vain, and so base and selfish. Do not let that talk or that feeling deter you. Several reasons:

1. Jesus Himself spoke of reward as a motive for service. We have seen this.

2. It is not a matter of being selfish it is a matter of being a servant.

3. If you happen to gain reward for it, then wonderful

In heaven there is only happiness. And there is no sense of wanting to stop being happy. The book of Revelation tells us that there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, the old order is gone. Only the new order is present.

So, there will be rewards (Corinthians 9). But how can that be? Will some feel a greater sense of joy and accomplishment than others in heaven? If heaven is eternal joy, etc, how can there be greater joy infinite eternal joy? Or we might ask the question this way: Since all of God’s people will be transformed into heaven and see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face to face, and enjoy the bounty of eternal bliss, how can there be degrees of reward in heaven?

We cannot know for sure. We do know this is true, but how is it possible? Scripture is only suggestive on this point. Perhaps one’s developed capacity for enjoyment of heaven is part of the answer. We all know that the enjoyment of art or music is proportionate to one’s cultivated ability. For example, two people can walk through the Louvre go down the same hall and have quite opposite experiences; one experiences absolute boredom, the other ecstasy. The reason? One has previously developed an aesthetic sense, and the other has not. Of course, in heaven, both would be in ecstasy, but possibly the one whose life’s work was gold, silver, and precious stone would experience greater ecstasy.

Getting Rewards

Here’s a list of reasons rewards are given:

Faithfulness – 1 Cor 4:2

Use of talents – Matt 20:1-6

Use of Material blessings – Matt 6:20; Gal 6:7)

Soul winning – Dan 12:3; 1 Thes 2:19,

Doing good – Gal 6:10

Hospitality – Matt 10:40-42

Care of others – Matt 25:35-40

Endurance in persecution – 2 Tim 2:12, James 1:12

Or, the word “CROWN” could be used as an acrostic in this fashion:

C onversion – Dan 12:3; 1 Thes 2:19

R iches – Matt 6:19-21; Gal 6:6-7

O bjective good – Gal 6:10

W elcoming – Matt 10:40-42

N ot quitting – 2 Tim 2:12, James 1:12

A frequent objection about rewards is that they are self-serving, almost mercenary like. But if you look at this list, its not self-serving but serving others. This is not normal. It is not natural. It is supernatural.

Point: This is the work of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 4

Rewards are not for our actions, but for our attitude.

Giving Rewards

Revelation 4:10-11

The twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Rewards will be given to the one who earn them so they can be given to the One who earned them.

Run the Right Race: The CONCLUSION

A world-class woman runner was invited to compete in a road race in Connecticut. On the morning of the race, she drove from New York City, following the directions -- or so she thought -- given her over the telephone. She got lost, stopped at a gas station, and asked for help. She knew that the race started in the parking lot of a shopping mall. The station attendant also knew of such a race scheduled just up the road and directed her there.

When she arrived she was relieved to see in the parking lot a modest number of runners preparing to compete. Not as many as she'd anticipated; an easier race than she'd been led to expect. She hurried to the registration desk, announced herself, and was surprised by the race officials' excitement at having so renowned an athlete show up for their race. No, they had no record of her entry, but if she'd hurry and put on this number, she could just make it before the gun goes off. She ran and, naturally, she won easily, some four minutes ahead of the first male runner in second place.

Only after the race--when there was no envelope containing her sizable prize and performance money-- did she confirm that the event she'd run was not the race to which she'd been invited. That race was being held several miles farther up the road in another town. She'd gone to the wrong starting line, run the wrong course, and missed her chance to win a valuable prize.

The Scriptures teach that the happiness or blessedness of believers in a future life will be greater or less in proportion to the service of Christ in this life. Those who love little, do little; and those who do little, enjoy less. Charles Hodge, quoted in Liberating Ministry From The Success Syndrome, K. Hughes, Tyndale, 1988, p. 158-ff. These are races in life to run. Run the right race.

Rewarding Experience: Part 1

Nagging Questions

· If salvation is free, then why should I be good?

· If anyone, no matter who you are, can be saved, it doesn’t seem fair.

· You mean, it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done to go to heaven, as long as God loves you?

· If you can’t lose your salvation after you’re saved then what motivation and incentive is there to be good?

The Certainty of Salvation

We need certainty. We need to feel secure. We need to know we are safe in a relationship with someone. An infant needs to feel secure. Studies have shown that at infant gets that sense of safety and security by the touch. The feel a sense of love and security from touch. In fact, a baby is much more susceptible to sickness, infection, disease and even death if deprived of touch—physical contact. Children, as they grow need to fees a sense of love and security. They get it from instruction and discipline. Instruction gives them boundaries; discipline enforces the boundaries and makes them feel safe. Adults need to feel a sense of love and security. They get it from communication and trust developed through being true to our word

We need to feel secure. Security requires trust—if we can’t trust our husbands or our wives, then our marriages are not secure. If we can’t trust our friends ten our friendships are not secure. If we don’t feel safe and secure then we develop phobias and become unbalanced. We can become paranoid, and never trust anyone or be certain about anything. We loose our sense of personal security. Security comes from trust.

The same is true in our relationship with God. Can we trust God? Do we feel safe and secure? Some religions teach that you can never know for sure that you are good enough to be secure with God. You can never know—you hope, feel pretty good about it, but can you be safe and secure with God, and know, beyond any doubt that you will be in heaven after you die. No purgatory, no hell. No nothing accept heaven and the joy of eternal life. It comes down to trust.

Salvation means to be saved. The word means to be rescued. To be made safe. To be spared. A mother’s womb can become a place of danger for an unborn child. A woman, Lois Weber formed a blood clot in the uterine wall, her water brook, and what was once a place to grow and develop became a potential place of danger for her little boy, Luke. He was head down, ready to leave. The Doctors slowed him down as much as they could to make sure all was safe, but his mother’s system brought about the contractions, and praise God, out he came four days later. He moved from what became a place of danger to a place of safety. And he lived and is doing well. He was saved.

The Bible also speaks of being safe. Of being moved from a place of danger to a place of safety.

Romans 1:16 gets to this: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentiles.” Paul is not ashamed of the good news, which is what the work “gospel” means, for it is the power of God for us to be saved.

Now we might think we have the power to rescue ourselves, rather than rely on the power of God, as it says here. Do we? We may think, “I can do enough good things to make things right between me and God, and be saved.” Sadly, that’s impossible, yet more sadly, many of us think this.

Revelation 20:11-15

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Every deed is recorded in these books of works. All of our works, every deed there recorded—and not one was saved as a result of looking at those books. We are in a place of grave danger.

Salvation: To be transferred from a place of terrible danger to a place of total safety.

In the Bible, the danger is being under the penalty of sin. The place of safety is being in Christ. That transfer takes place by putting our personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin. Notice: It is total safety! We are safe with God. The person who believes in Christ is safe. The person who does not is lost.

So, if safe, why not just say, “hey, thanks a lot God,” and just live and do what you want? Some argue, that’s exactly what we do. But others point out that there are right ways, God’s ways of living, and evil wrong destructive ways of living which perpetuate our sin. Why live by God’s standards?

Notice: We do not do so because of salvation.

We could do so out of a response of thankfulness. God saved us. So from a response of thankfulness we live according to His directives.

We could do so out of a loving response. As God reveals himself to us we realize he saved us because He loved us—we should and do fall in love with him, and so live for Him because we love Him. After all, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

But there is another reason. It is the reality of rewards. We tend to minimized the importance of rewards, and have not understood and minimized their place in the Christian life.

The believer being safe in salvation, is nevertheless at risk in his glorification. How grandly we shine depends on how greatly we serve.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Word of Worship for the Lord's Table


Comments on the vocabulary of 1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-27

1 Cor 11:23-24 The Bread

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, in the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

“received” – to inherit a rite, or custom from another

“from the Lord” – special revelation from Jesus Christ

“delivered” – taught

“betrayed” “being betrayed” it was a process, not a single moment

“Being Betrayed” -- compare Matthew 26:21, 23

verse 21 As they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you that one of you will betray me.”

Verse 23 And he answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray me.”

“which is for you” -- on your behalf, instead of you, for the sake of another; the concept of one as a substitute for another.

“do this in remembrance of me” is a command (present tense), to remember; to do as a memorial where the proposition eis is used, which indicates purpose. “Do this continually for the purpose of remembering me.”

1 Cor 11:25 The Cup of the New Covenant

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “this cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me.”

“the new covenant” See Jeremiah 31:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:26-27

“in my” The preposition en is used which can indicate the means by which something is done. It is done by means of His “blood.”

“blood” – just as the “bread” was symbolic of His person (“my body”) so too “blood” must be symbolic, and not so much His literal blood.

OT indications that “blood” is symbolic for death. For example, Genesis 9:6 “Whosoever sheds a man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Leviticus 20:9 “for everyone that curses his father or mother shall surely be put to death and his blood shall be upon him.”

“From these figures, it is clear that the commonest use of dam (Hebrew word for “blood”) is to denote death by violence, and in particular, that this use is found about twice as often as that to denote the blood of sacrifice.” Leon Morris, Cross, p. 113.

NT indications and use of “blood” for death:

Revelation 6:10 “How long, of Lord, holy and true, wilt thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Romans 5:9-10 “Having been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

Ephesians 2:13, 16

“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ…and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”

Point: When you partake of the Lord’s table, remember first who Jesus is - the totality of the Person of Jesus Christ when you hold the bread - and the New Covenant -- accomplished by the death of the Savior on the cross for you.