Apr 222016

common-graceso that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45)

We looked last week at Jesus’ command to love our enemies. The more we realise the implications of this, the more we realise that this is one of the hardest commands for a Christian to obey. We are not just being asked to forgive and move on, but to self-sacrificially show true love to our enemies, to bless them instead of cursing them and to do it over and over again.

The beginning of the verse today shows us why. It is important to understand what this verse is not saying. It is not saying that if we obey Jesus’ command we will become a Christian. Outside of Christ this command is impossible to obey. This verse is saying that by obeying this command we are showing whose Children we belong to. In the natural world, children very often resemble their parents in many ways. They may look like them and act like them. Jesus is saying here that when we love our enemies we are behaving exactly like our father in heaven, proving that we are His children. Every last one of us were enemies of God in our nature and choices, but God showed His amazing love for us by sending His son to die for us. He demonstrated His love. Words are meaningless without actions. God demonstrated His words with actions. Christians over the years have all too often been accused of not practising what we preach, of even being hypocritical, which is sadly so often true. Jesus is saying in this passage “prove them wrong, show them that I have changed you by my love.” Nothing will speak louder to non-Christians that God has the power to change people when we love our enemies. Because nothing is so contrary to human nature and so in sync with God’s nature.

It’s important to see in this verse today that God doesn’t have any favourites. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean He loves you more than others. We can very easily fall into this way of thinking and it can make us complacent. God loves all and the bible says that He; is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

We were all, at one time, enemies of God, but through His kindness, mercy and great love, He has demonstrated the effectiveness of loving our enemies over and over again.

The doctrine of God treating us all the same is called ‘common grace’ and it is alluded to in the second part of today’s verse.

Common grace is a demonstration of the goodness, mercy and love of God to all mankind regardless of salvation, acknowledgement or even thankfulness. He bestows this grace because it is in his very nature to do so.

The Lord is good to all and His mercy is over all that He has made. (Psalm 145:9)

This grace is what stops mankind from descending into chaos by following our natural fallen nature and an inclination to selfishness and sin. Without God we would descend rather rapidly. The bible clearly teaches that in our natural state we are completely corrupt with nothing good within us.

None is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10)

The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

Common grace restrains the full expression of this inherent wickedness in all of us.

Within common grace, God has given us a conscience, which enables us to know the difference between right and wrong, and to some degree He places moral constraints on evil behaviour. He has provided order in human society through government (see Romans 13:1-5). It is also demonstrated in His long-suffering and patience in allowing mankind to continue so long in rebellion towards Him. This grace also provides us with so much that we enjoy, enabling us to admire beauty and goodness and pursue all kinds of creativity. The good that is within people is not a natural seed of humanity, but evidence of God’s common grace. And as we can see in today’s verse it provides for sun and rain and all conditions that allow for crops to grow and the earth to flourish. In all but a very few cases it also averts natural disasters.

Because of all these many benefits common grace ought to be enough to move sinful people to repentance.

God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Yet because of the depravity of our human hearts, so many can miss this gift and spurn the goodness of God.

Some may look at the world and question all the sorrow within it but the only reason the sorrow and tragedy stand out is because there is also much joy and gladness. The only reason we recognize the ugliness is because God has given us so much beauty. The only reason we feel the disappointment is that there is so much that satisfies. When we understand that all of humanity is fallen, rebellious and unworthy of any blessing from God’s hand, it helps give a better perspective. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail” (Lamentations 3:22)(NIV).

The only reason God ever gives us anything to laugh at, smile at, or enjoy is because He is a good and loving God. If He were not, we would be immediately consumed by His wrath. What an amazing God He is!

 April 22, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Grace, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 112013

Future grace“‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home”. (Amazing Grace – John Newton).

Gods grace extends throughout our lives. It is grace that ushered us into His kingdom when we were first saved; it is grace that will keep us going whatever life throws at us.

This will be my last post for a while on the subject of grace. Although I have covered a lot of ground, I could have covered much more. However, to finish off I am going to talk about ‘future grace’. This is not specifically a biblical term but the concept is found throughout the bible.

The apostle Paul is credited with writing about 13 letters in the New Testament (some are debated). All of them start and end with the same theme of grace, beginning with something like ‘grace to you’ and ending ‘grace with you’.

As Paul writes he is blessing each one of his readers (including us) with future grace from start to finish. They start ‘to you’ because Paul realises that he is writing God’s blessings to the church, to all those who are going to read his letters. He writes ‘grace with you’ at the end, because when the reading has finished, God’s blessings of grace are going to be with us in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Grace is not just a past reality but a future one. When I pick up my bible to read it, God’s grace comes to me and when I put down my bible and act upon it God’s grace goes with me.

We know that life is not all plain sailing and when troubles come, future grace holds us up and sustains us.

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)

We can get distracted by trying to work out what Pauls ‘thorn in the flesh’ was in 2 Corinthians 12:7 and not take the promise to Paul that God’s grace is sufficient, sufficient to carry us through whatever happens to us.

Future grace helps us to endure and bear up under any trials we go through. We can see that God’s grace has been faithful in the past so we can trust that whatever trials may lie ahead, His grace is there to cover them too.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Future grace helps us not to lose heart.

 July 11, 2013  Posted by at 8:38 pm Grace 1 Response »
Jul 042013

God is very patientLast week we looked at God’s amazing grace towards Elijah as He gently restored him after Elijah wanted to take his own life. This week I want to explore more of God’s amazing grace and patience as we look at the life of Elijah’s enemy, King Ahab.

Ahab was a very evil man.

In the generations following King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel descended into total anarchy before God as each king was described as worse than his predecessor. The most wicked of all was King Ahab who arrives on the scene in 1 Kings 16:29 and sets about a destructive course of breaking every commandment he possibly can, aided and abetted by his wife Jezebel (whose name has become a byword for feminine evil, prostitution and all kinds of wickedness).

Together they established the worship of Baal in Israel, an evil Canaanite practice involving, among other things, child sacrifice. At the same time they undertook to massacre and silence all of God’s prophets in the land. In a spectacular display of God’s power and glory Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and even though Ahab refused to acknowledge the one true God by repenting of this evil, God still protected Ahab against the enemies of Israel. (1 Kings 20:13).

The last straw comes when Ahab and Jezebel arrange for an innocent man (Naboth) to be killed and his property stolen (1 kings 21:1-16). Elijah pronounces God’s judgement on Ahab in 1 Kings 21:17-22. After all this evil, God’s great mercy causes Ahab to repent, pray and fast (1 Kings 21:27). The most amazing thing then happens – God forgives him!

This absolutely amazes me. God says to Elijah; “have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself, I will not bring disaster in his day”. (1 Kings 21:29).

If you ever begin to question how patient God is towards wicked sinners, read these few chapters again and see how consistently Ahab rebelled, but how slowly God judged him, giving him chance after chance to repent.

If you think you have gone too far from God and the possibility of his forgiveness, consider Ahab. As long as you still have breath you can turn to God whatever your condition.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

 July 4, 2013  Posted by at 8:00 pm Fasting, Grace, Repentance No Responses »
Jun 272013

Just like usMy daily bible readings have brought me to the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 & 19. Elijah suddenly appears out of nowhere in chapter 17 as he boldly addresses the king and declares “there will be no dew or rain until I say so”. Wow, that is impressive! He goes on being impressive: performing the miracle of the continually replenishing jars of oil and flour with the widow at Zarephath; then the “one man against 400 – altar stand-off” where he confidently challenges the prophets of Baal to see whose god is the best. He mocks their efforts as they get ever more desperate to prove a god who only exists in their imagination, and to compound it all pours jar after jar of water onto his sacrifice and confidently stands back as God shows up in full pyrotechnic glory.

Does this type of story ever make you feel insignificant? Elijah seems to be a member of a different species, perhaps a secret agent angel parachuted down by God to get the job done. Has God given up using imperfect men and women now, who blow it time after time? Actually, no. As the story unfolds we see that Elijah was a man just like we are (James 5:17).

We shouldn’t rejoice in his weakness, which can be quite a temptation, but should rejoice in the fact that God treats us all with amazing grace. We can, like Elijah, experience amazing times with God, enjoying His presence or when ministering for Him. God blesses us and we feel great. But what happens when, shortly after, fear takes hold or disappointment occurs?

Ahab and his wife Jezebel issue murderous threats and Elijah is suddenly running scared. He runs to the middle of the wilderness and asks God to kill him. What happens next should be a comfort to all of us who struggle with fear, depression, doubt and anxiety, or simply feelings of inadequacy. God provides food and water for Elijah, leads him in the right direction and then gently speaks to Him through a whisper which suggests real gentleness and care.

God wants to do the same with you. You may have reached rock bottom and the end of your abilities, but in that place of vulnerability God will prove to you His wonderful grace as you submit again to His will and allow yourself to be lifted up by Him.

 June 27, 2013  Posted by at 10:56 pm Grace, Sanctification 1 Response »
Jun 202013

Giving with graceIf you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I have been exploring the many aspects of ‘grace’. Grace is a doctrine which will totally transform us if we truly embrace it.

This week I am going to talk about “giving”. This is not a subject that is particularly embraced but it is one that can teach us plenty about grace.

No other chapters in the Bible use the word “grace” more often than Second Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. They are a great template for the grace of giving in the New Covenant. Have a read and then I will take the following 10 key points out of it (and part of chapter 9):

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

13 Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14 At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, 15as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-15)

(1) They gave themselves first to the Lord(v5)

The Macedonian churches knew their priorities. Giving yourself to God first includes what you do with your money. Does God come before your money?

(2) They gave joyfully(v2)

God loves a cheerful giver – “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

(3) Giving is in response to Christ’s giving(v9)

He gave first.

(4) Grace giving is voluntary

Paul said he was not commanding them. (v8)

(5) Give out of a sincere desire, motivated by love(v8)

Let God’s love and generosity to you be the motivating factor.

(6) Give willingly(v10)

(7) Give as much as you are able to(v3)

Not just as much as you are able, but God’s grace will even allow you to go beyond your ability.

(8) The goal is equality(v13)

If we have extra, share with those who lack.

(9) Grace giving increases more growth in all areas(2 Corinthians 9:8, 10, 11)

(10) Give so the gospel may spread

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” (2 Corinthians 9:13)

 June 20, 2013  Posted by at 10:18 pm Giving, Grace No Responses »
Jun 132013

MephiboshethI am currently following a bible reading plan which takes me through the whole bible in a year, reading a few chapters each day. Just recently I came to one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament and it is a wonderful picture of the grace that we have received.

The main part of the story is in 2 Samuel 9. I will briefly outline the situation:

King Saul has failed as Israel’s king and David has been chosen to take his place. Saul is jealous of David and is determined to kill him. He pursues him for a long time and even though David has two clear opportunities to kill Saul, he refuses to do it as he doesn’t want to touch God’s anointed king. David waits for God’s timing to receive his promised position as king. Saul’s son Jonathan is best friends with David and is fully committed to him, refusing to help his father in his pursuit.

Eventually David becomes king after Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle. Even though Saul was his enemy, David wants to show kindness to a member of Saul’s family, namely Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson). Mephibosheth is summoned to the king’s palace.

Now Mephibosheth is crippled, being lame in both legs. He has to be carried everywhere and is totally dependant on others helping him. In an extraordinary act of grace, David gives him all of Saul’s property and states that he shall always eat at the king’s table.

Later on in the story we see that Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant) spreads a false rumour about Mephibosheth to David, resulting in Ziba receiving a substantial part of his master’s estate. In 2 Samuel 19 we see Mephibosheth vindicated, but he never seeks revenge. He doesn’t care that half his estate has been handed over to Ziba. He is just happy that his king, David is back and he can share his meals with him again.

This is an amazing picture of what King Jesus has done for us. We were not able to help ourselves (spiritually crippled), we were in essence enemies of the king. But Jesus sought us out, determined to show kindness to us. King Jesus has now given us full access into His palace where we can enjoy food, shelter and protection for the rest of our lives (and into eternity).

Let us never lose the wonder of how far away from God we were (even further than Mephibosheth) and how now, through no effort of our own, we have been brought right into the king’s presence. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, who even though he lost material possessions, it really didn’t compare to the joy of spending time with his king.

 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm God's family, Grace, Salvation, The gospel 1 Response »
May 302013

Grace and conscienceHave you ever wondered why Christians can be so different from each other? We all use the same manual but the way we live and the way we do things can often be worlds apart. We differ in many ways but none more so than by the way we ‘do’ church. Some people insist on going to church in a 3 piece suit, while others are happy in a pair of shorts and a vest top. Some think that you should only sing along to an organ while others are happy to worship to heavy rock, rap, hip-hop etc.

So which is right? Should we all be “formal and respectful” or should we be ‘free’ and do whatever we like (as long it’s not spoken against specifically in the bible).

This is not a new dilemma; in fact Paul addresses a very similar issue in the bible. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul talks about people who were happy to eat meat used in idol sacrifice, condemning (or at least looking down on) those whose conscience wouldn’t allow them to do so. The people who ate the meat would say “now we are under grace we can do whatever we like, our consciences are totally clear!”

The trouble was, the people who didn’t want to eat that same meat did not have the same clear conscience.

Paul didn’t say to those with a weak conscience “come on now, don’t listen to your conscience; you are free now, here, have a steak!” No, he actually tells them to be careful how they exercise their freedom.

This was obviously something that Paul felt strongly about because he also raises the same subject in Romans 14:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:1-6)

A key verse comes later in the chapter:  “So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” (Romans 12:12)

What I love about God’s kingdom is its enormous diversity. Every culture does things differently and God deals with us in unique ways. The key thing is to follow your conscience. God gives us a conscience for a purpose and it is absolutely vital that we keep it intact; if we ‘sear’ our consciences we can get into real trouble.

“…..holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19)

The first question to ask yourself is, “is my conscience clear in all that I do?” If the answer is yes, then the next questions that follow close behind are “am I looking down on people because I consider myself freer than they are?”, or “am I judging someone because they live out their Christianity in a different way to me?”. If the answer to either of these two questions is ‘yes’ then you are tending towards pride.

There are of course certain fundamentals to the Christian faith that we should hold onto tightly, even confronting people (lovingly) who are obviously sinning. But there are many grey areas that Christians can disagree on and it is very dangerous to think that we have all the answers.

Let’s have an open heart to learn from all our brothers and sisters who live out their Christianity differently to us. God seems to love having lots of different flavours and colours to make up His glorious church and His plan is that whatever we do, we do it all with love.

 May 30, 2013  Posted by at 3:23 pm God's family, Grace, The Church No Responses »
May 232013

serviceGrace doesn’t only provide for our salvation and forgiveness of sins; it releases us to serve God and His people with grace gifts that have been provided for us.

Grace doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing; it should motivate us to great works that please our saviour; as I stated in last week’s blog, never because we “ought to” but rather out of a desire to please Him.

Now we are followers of Jesus our calling is to serve Him.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul”. (Deuteronomy 10:12)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”. (1 Peter 4:10)

Every one of us has received gifts to fulfil the tasks that God has given us. These gifts are received by grace and they are acted upon with grace. It is an absolute privilege to participate in the building up of God’s church and to contribute towards the knowledge of His good name throughout the earth.

It is important to note that the gifts we receive are not rewards. They are not given as a result of reaching a certain level of maturity in our christian walk. Just as grace is given freely, so are these gifts given to us freely.

The apostle Paul was not afraid of hard work but his hard work was only accomplished through grace.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

An important question to ask from this passage is “how can God’s grace be without effect?” Or put another way “how can our response to His grace frustrate the work of His grace in our lives?”

I believe there are a number of ways this can happen:

(1) Grace is ineffective when we don’t believe it.

Doubt can be a major problem in accomplishing what God has given us to do. For example, God chose Moses who came up with a load of excuses about how unqualified he was (and God got quite angry); God called Gideon who was doubtful, saying he was the least in his tribe. Thankfully both Moses and Gideon pushed through and received God’s blessing, but it is possible to disqualify yourself through lack of faith. If God says you can do it, don’t argue; His promises are true and faithful.

(2) We can overdo grace and lean into licence.

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.” (1 Peter 2:16)

Don’t have an attitude which says “it doesn’t really matter, I can just do what I like….”

(3) Legalism

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

It is very easy to slip into legalism, but if we do we will become ineffective.

(4) Laziness

Hard work is no enemy of grace. The apostle Paul did not seem to mind speaking about his hard work (see previous verse quoted-1 Corinthians 15:10).

Keep going! If grace is central, you will be able to persevere. Life can get really hard at times and serving Jesus can be quite a struggle. As we have already seen, Paul was working tremendously hard, and on top of that he had a “thorn in the flesh” to contend with, but that didn’t stop him:

“…But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Also in 2 Corinthians 4:16 it says

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

If you are beginning to lose heart I pray these last few posts will really help you to keep going. Don’t forget, His burdens are light (Matthew 11:30) and He only wants you to keep doing what He has given you to do, not what you feel you ought to be doing.

 May 23, 2013  Posted by at 7:59 pm Grace, Reward No Responses »
May 162013

What have I done to deserve thisGrace is so unfair. We like to think that everyone gets what they deserve. Good people deserve good things and bad people deserve… well, punishment. Or at the very least, nothing.

God’s grace isn’t like that though. It defies our understanding.

Abraham was one of the first people to receive grace, not because he deserved it or was better than anyone else; he wasn’t. In the mystery of God Abraham was chosen and grace was lavished on him. God is an extravagant God and Abraham’s blessing is still going on now thousands of years later.

When God bestows his grace, however, it is no guarantee of an easy life. In fact it can make things harder! Joseph, one of Abraham’s descendants, received great grace in the promises he was given by God, and he also received grace to sustain him through the trials that came along because of those promises. If you have received God’s grace, don’t expect everything to be plain sailing. But you can expect Him to be with you every step of the way.

God’s choice – unexpected

Throughout the bible and beyond, God never seems to go for the obvious choice. This should be a real source of comfort for you and I (especially if, like me, you don’t have much to shout about). If you are clever, attractive or influential you should be even more grateful that God has made an exception of you!! It says in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

Before David was chosen as King, he was in exactly this position, even overlooked by his own father when Samuel came to pick the future king from among David’s 7 brothers. Everyone had overlooked David. He was just a shepherd boy out in the fields, but God saw that he was the sort of person he could use and chose him to be king. The rest as they say is history!

So don’t disqualify yourself too quickly. God in His grace has chosen you and appointed you for great things in His kingdom. You may have once been an adulterer or even a murderer (as David later became) but that doesn’t mean that God cannot use you. No-one is too far away from His grace.

Let’s look at one more character from the bible; Peter. He boldly proclaimed in front of Jesus and the other disciples that he would never deny Him, but within a few hours of this proclamation he had disowned Jesus, not just once but 3 times. He would have felt totally condemned and worthless at the realisation of what he had done, but Jesus graciously and lovingly restores him. Within a couple of months, on the day of Pentecost, Peter is leading out and proclaiming boldly the news about Jesus.

God’s grace not only chooses us but it also sustains us when we fail.

This grace is absolutely astounding! We can only ask in astonishment the same question as David did in 2 Samuel 7:19 “Is this your usual way of dealing with men, O LORD God?”. (Net bible)

What have I done to deserve this? Absolutely nothing. Amazing!!

 May 16, 2013  Posted by at 7:13 pm Grace, Temptation 3 Responses »
May 092013

rewardsLast week we looked at the whole subject of dead works and what they are. But did you know that whatever work we do which is not a ‘dead’ work will be rewarded?

The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.” (1 Corinthians 3:8)

Each one of us will have our works examined and we will give an account to God for them. Later on in the same chapter of Corinthians it says what will happen to all of our works:

But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

All the dead works we talked about last week will be burned away.

We get an idea of how Jesus is going to judge our works in Mark 12. Jesus was watching the people putting money into the temple treasury: “…Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money.” (Mark 12:41). He saw the actual gift, the motivation and resourcefulness of each person. He also observed the attitude of people as they made a public show of their ‘generosity.’ Jesus did this through His limited human nature, but one day He will do it as God, the all-knowing judge who knows every motivation of our hearts.

As we come to realise that Jesus is the one who judges us rightly, we are released from what others may think and say about us. The apostle Paul puts it clearly in 1 Corinthians: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

The bible also encourages us to carry out our works in secret as our heavenly rewards far outweigh any rewards this earth can offer: “…And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5-6).

It is clear throughout scripture that Jesus is for rewards. We really shouldn’t be too pious to dismiss them. Our motivation, of course, is always to please Jesus but we should also be eager to receive the gifts He has promised. By playing down rewards we are playing down the joy of the Giver who is outstandingly generous and delights in giving extravagantly.

The apostle Paul didn’t seem too worried about working towards and gaining a reward:

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 me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

The danger of ‘ought to’.

Finally on this whole subject of our works: It is a very common trap in Christian circles to busy ourselves doing things we feel we ‘ought to do’. In fact we can burn out by attempting to do everything that needs to be done, feeling overwhelmed by our task. It is so important that we find out exactly what God’s will is for our lives and concentrate on that. We will always find good and noble works to do that occupy our time. God has not called us to save the world on our own – He has a specific plan. Be like Jesus: “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

After all, He said that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He has uniquely gifted you for the task He has given you to do. It may be hard but it is do-able, because a loving father would never give his child a task to do that the child is not suited to. If you find your work load impossible, you need to go back to God and ask Him what it is that you are doing that maybe He has called somebody else to do.

 May 9, 2013  Posted by at 8:21 pm Grace, Reward No Responses »