>The Christian’s Reward

I have a pondering that I will continue to ruminate for weeks to come. One of the dangers that Christians always face in our lives is the temptation of legalism. One of the lasting statements that impacted me in my seminary courses was this: “there are two manifestations of the flesh. First, and more obvious, is the natural inclination to sin and follow after worldly desires and impulses. The second one, however, is less obvious, yet all the more prevalent. The second manifestation of the flesh is the natural tendency towards self-righteousness and the belief that we can gain righteousness and God’s blessing on our own merits.” This, of course, is legalism, pure and simple.

One of the aspects of the Christian life that has been bugging me lately is the question concerning how our works and personal righteousness will be rewarded in heaven. How are we rewarded in heaven? Is there a correlation between binding and loosing in heaven? In other words, is there an eternal significance tied to our works on earth? Will our eternal authority, pleasures, privileges, and STAKE (so to speak) be contingent upon our holiness in this life? If this is the case, does this jive with the gospel? What is the Scriptures teaching concerning our reward in heaven?
One of the old-time Southern Gospel hymns that I sang growing up was entitled, “Mansions Over the Hilltop”. Here is an example of the power of translation. For, the King James Version states in John 14:2 that Jesus says, “In my father’s house, there are many mansions.” Hence this consideration, “How big is my mansion going to be?” Is that contingent upon my walk with Christ? Is that contingent upon my personal holiness and devotion? The HCSB translates the verse this way, “In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” The NIV translates it, “In my father’s house, there are many rooms”. It seems in the context of this passage, that Jesus is referring to the house of God. Using this imagery, we can see that God’s house is BIG. It does not follow then, that Jesus would be saying that there are mansions within a house, for usually a mansion is not a part of the house, it is the house. In our sense of the term, the mansion would be the whole (whereas a room would be the part), just as a house would be considered the whole. Therefore, it makes sense to see that the mansion in view here is the MANSION of God; and it has a BUNCH of rooms! This passage indicates that Jesus is going to prepare a place for YOU, believer, in the house of God. It seems in evangelical Christianity, there is a lot of emphasis on Christian reward – streets of gold, mansions in glory, jewels in the crown, bliss, and happiness.

However, I would contend that this fascination on PERSONAL reward and glory in heaven misses the point of the gospel. For, what is the true reward of the Christian? Should it not be considered that the GREATEST reward that can be given to us by God is ETERNAL LIFE? The gospel of Jesus Christ is this: we were created to have a relationship with God that was pure and holy, where we completely do his will for his glory in perfect harmony and relationship and live forever. However, we rebelled against God and suffered the consequences of sin and death. Christ Jesus, the God man, came to this earth to be our substitutionary death and punishment for sin so that we can have a restored relationship with God and to have eternal life. We have received our adoption as sons of God through our faith in Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, we await the consummation of Christ’s return to be fully glorified in our relationship with God and in our inheritance of eternal life. The gospel points to us that the KEY reward that we have in heaven is perfect relationship with our Creator and ETERNAL LIFE! Think about this: does it not make sense that the GREATEST fulfillment in life is to have life eternal and a relationship that fully and perfectly glorifies and honors God in all that we do, in which we are fully and perfectly satisfied in our selves, our work, and our relationships?
The Christian’s reward of Eternal Life and Perfect Relationship with Yahweh God is what will make heaven, heaven. Everything else will pale in comparison. Jesus was telling his disciples that he was about to leave, and Thomas wanted to know where he was going. Jesus responded that he was going to prepare a place for us. This place is a place where we will never see death again and we will live forever in perfect peace and harmony with the God who created us and loves us.

>God Hates the Sin, but Loves the Sinner?

>In the continued effort to bring the posts from my old blog (moore4christ) over to this blog, below is a post I published in April of this year and was a submission that I made in a collaboration for Old Testament II. The question as posed by the professor is in red and then my response is in black:

The obvious theme of Psalm 2 is Yahweh’s use of “his anointed” (v. 2) to control rebellious nations. However, not all mentioned in this Psalm are pictured as rebellious and thus as objects of divine wrath. The Psalm closes on a positive note: “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Clearly, the Psalmist believes that the wicked will experience God’s wrath, not his grace. On the other hand, those who bow before him will experience blessing. In light of the Psalmist’s presentation, evaluate the statement: “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.”

I believe that we talked about this somewhat in an earlier collaboration for Old Testament II, but I am glad to see singular treatment using the 2nd Psalm as the context. I think the previous collaboration discussion was on the equality of God’s love – the thought that God loves the entirety of humanity in the same way, equally. There is a sense that in an individualistic and largely democratic society that we live in today, that the thought of equality is certainly a major factor in our idea of freedom. The Declaration of Independence declares that all men are created equal. This has been the clarion call for all disenfranchised persons in the American tradition and it has also had somewhat of an impact on our view of God’s approach to the sinner and sin. We run to John 3:16 and read, “For God so loved the world…” or I John 2:2, “He is the propitiation of our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world”, and then say that God LOVES the world and LOVES the sinner. God LOVES you and me. When HE was on the cross YOU were on his mind (and in our minds, there is no qualification to that thought – no limitation). Therefore, God even LOVES the unregenerate sinner. But I cannot go that far. Ephesians 2:3 states that we are by nature children of wrath – all humanity. By nature, all humanity is subject to the wrath of God. This is a holy stance against the sinner! Yes, there is an effacacious condescendence by God through Christ to the world because of God’s love for the world so that he might save the elect, but God still must stand in holiness against sin and thus the sinner. God hates sin – with wrath and judgment – and the nature of the sinner is SIN. Therefore, God hates the very nature of the sinner. But this is not an EMOTIONAL hatred that we usually attach to the word in human terms. WRATH is not an emotional response from God – it is a response of holiness and according to the sake and glory of HIS NAME. This HATRED is wrought out of the perfection of God’s holiness. The only people that the phrase, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner” would apply to is the regenerate believer – not the unbeliever.

>John 3:36

>This week’s Scripture Memory Verse is John 3:36, which reads as follows:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

This verse is similar in tone to John 3:16 with the emphasis on “whoever believes in the Son –> has eternal life”. This phrase gives Christians three very important implications:

1. The word “whoever” as in John 3:16 gives the Christian the call, command, and conviction to spread the gospel. We all are to share the gospel with those we come in contact with. God has ordained Christians to be the means through which the most glorious good news is to be preached, taught, and spread. Sunday School teachers, never forget that you are to call people to repentance and faith everytime you teach from the word of God (this is not just for preachers). Christians, we are to be a confessing Christian to the world. We are not to keep our “Christianness” hidden from worldly view, but we are to confess Christ, and him crucified, before men. Matthew 5:16 states that we are to “let your shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” This “light” includes a confessing spirit that can’t help but talk about Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This verse that we are memorizing this week is placed within the context of the Sending of the Son of God. This verse provides the purpose. Christ came to save sinners. Bottom line. That is our purpose as well – to bring the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world – for he is our only hope.

2. The word “has” in this verse gives us the bold assurance that the eternal life that we hope for is not just a future expectation but is already a present experience. This is the “already, not yet” language of Scripture. We are frail in our bodies and are so vulnerable to sin, death, and decay. Our life is but a vapor in the wind. Yet, through Christ, we have eternal life. This is a glorious hope that will not disappoint (see I Corinthians 15). Not only that, but this eternal life is a present reality, for we are no longer perishing, but are justified freely by the grace of God and are now set apart for sanctification – a life long pursuit of the holiness of God that only comes through the cross of salvation. Eternal life for the believer is a future hope that is assured along with a present reality that sustains and preserves the Christian through trial and tribulation. Rest in God’s sustaining grace!

3. “Wrath of God remains on him” – this part of the verse echos the seriousness of John 3:3, which states, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only way to eternal life. Believe in the Son – receive His free offer of salvation – and you have eternal life. Refuse to accept the Lordship, Kingship, absolute rule, and awesome and inconceivable grace of Christ, and you are perishing and the wrath of God remains upon you. The choice is stark and it is clear. Come to Jesus and live. Turn the other way and die.