Most preachers are nerdy at heart. We live in the day of the cool preacher but I have never wanted to try and pull that one off. My son thinks I’m cool…but his brain is still developing so I cannot really count his opinion. He’s a fourth-grader anyway and that illusion of my coolness will disappear somewhere next Summer, I’m sure. I’m not cool but I really, really love to preach and do my best to help people in their relationships with Jesus Christ. Essentially, that is all I really want to do with my calling. When I was just beginning to preach it was a rare occasion for me to share God’s Word in the church where I was throwing down my roots (it happens to be the same church I now pastor – imagine that!). Meadow’s pulpit was rightfully occupied by our pastor in those days so I cut my teeth preaching in the prisons and homeless shelters and Sunday School classrooms. Occasionally a nearby church would hazard an invitation for me to come and preach on a Sunday night. There was also the rare privilege of preaching a series of meetings in small churches who just wanted a young zealot to come in and step on some toes. It was not until I was blessed to be made the pastor at Meadow that I found the satisfying discipline of expository preaching. Going verse by verse through various books of the bible and taking time with the content in each section became an ingrained way of my personal study and public teaching ministry. I never get tired of preaching and it has been the one consistent element of local church ministry which brings me constant pleasure. While preparing this week to outline my final two messages in the series I have been recently sharing on Encounters, I found myself meditating on a passage that I believe needs to be greatly emphasized in our day. When was the last time you spent some time thinking over the enormity of this oft-forgotten truth? :
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” – 2 Corinthians 5:10
I’m not one who delights in being your personal buzzkill but I think we would all do well to be reminded of this sobering and inevitable encounter which awaits all followers of Jesus. This appointment at the place of divine evaluation is not for the purpose of judging our sin. Jesus did that in a comprehensive fashion on the cross. Because of His atoning work there is now zero condemnation to all of those who are in Christ. That is glorious gospel news for us! Yet there is this issue of what we do as we move forward from the moment of our salvation. Yes, the life we live from conversion to consummation is going to be revealed as to what value it held. The filter placed over our lives will not be what we believe should be deemed valuable. We will not be graded on a curve which is tweaked depending on which generation we lived in or what culture we called home. This rarely-spoken-of event will be unique in that, for every one of us, it will be One on one: Jesus and you. Jesus and me. Jesus and the other guy. We will each stand before the Son of God in His full glory and experience an instantaneous analysis of the value of our entire lives. Sound a little overwhelming? The Apostle Paul thought so also. That is why he followed 2 Cor. 5:10 above with 5:11 which says, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” Paul assumes that we would indeed be intimidated at the prospect of giving an account before the King for how we lived. I also think we ought to be a little uncomfortable at this idea. I mean, who could think of standing before God the Son and smugly saying with a grin, “I’ve got this!”
Because each of us who has accepted Christ will be experiencing this encounter somewhere in the future, maybe it would be good for me to deposit a few considerations for us here. I am not thinking about you when I write these words below. I am thinking about Jeff Lyle and how I am currently living my life. I hope that you will only consider yourself and courageously commit to any necessary changes. Salvation is free to all who believe…but not rewards. Rewards ARE EARNED. You see, it is not how a person begins but how he or she finishes the race. It is not too late for whatever degree of turning we need to make in this life in order to give a better answer in the life to come.
The reality of the judgment seat of Christ causes us to consider some things about our lives as Christians:
1. God has an expectation that we will live our lives purposefully for His glory, otherwise there would be no need for an evaluation or any form of reward for us.
2. God provides the wisdom and power for us to live a life which pleases Him. He is just and would not take reward from us for things that He never empowered us to do.
3. God has told us ahead of time that our entire life will be evaluated by Jesus Christ. He is being more than fair in letting us know that life is not about us: experiencing pleasure, enjoying leisure, accumulating wealth, exploiting opportunity, etc. The very fact of a forthcoming divine evaluation and God’s repeated references to it let us know that it is important to Him.
4. A forfeited reward will not jeopardize one’s eternal salvation but it will reveal that the life they once lived had no value beyond earth…which will then be a permanent fixture of the past. Though our sins have been fully dealt with, our life’s endeavors and purposes are the criteria for our final evaluation. The general tone of the judgment seat of Christ will be, “What did you do for Me with the life I entrusted to you?”
5. Those who lived for the eternal glory and purposes of Jesus Christ will be lavishly rewarded by Him. God will take great pleasure in rewarding us. He has no shortage of love, generosity or means to reward those faithful servants who did well.
6. Those who lived for something other than the glory of Jesus Christ and His purpose will forfeit their reward. We are not sure how it will play out but we know that Scripture states that there will be those at the judgment seat of Christ who will “suffer loss”. The place of potential reward for them will become a place of permanent loss because they chose to pursue a lesser reward while they were alive on earth.
7. Some may not care much now about the potential loss of eternal reward but they will not feel that way in eternity.
This life is, in some ways, nothing more than a test. The test is seen in whether or not we trust God. Do we believe what He has said? Is Jesus Christ our Lord and thus the ruler of our life? Jesus Himself posed the possibility that one could amass an incredible life down here (by human standards) only to forfeit what is most important in eternity. We cannot lose our souls, Christian friends, but we can lose the possibility of bringing infinite pleasure to the heart of God. Could there be anything greater in eternity than to know that we brought Him pleasure?
No, of course not. So make it a priority before the forthcoming appointment.
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