Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jesus Wants His Followers to Seek Rewards

That's a strange sounding concept, isn't it?  Does Christ really want believers to think about receiving rewards for our good deeds?  Isn't Jesus himself the great reward?  Jesus is definitely the Treasure - the ultimate Prize for which we long and for whom we labor.  But he has also taught us clearly in the Scriptures that (1) his followers will be rewarded for good works, and (2) that we should desire to be rewarded in heaven, and actually live and work toward this goal!

The Christian to be judged according to works for rewards:

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul is writing to the believers at the church at Corinth.  He is talking about receiving our new bodies at the resurrection; saying that while we are on earth in these "tents" we are groaning and longing for our new bodies.  God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee; a down payment of the glories that are to come to us! (5:1-5).  But then he applies this to our life a motivation to be faithful!  He goes on to say that whether we are in heaven or here on earth, "we make it our aim to please him. 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 Cor 5:9b-10, ESV).  Remember, this is addressed to Christians.  We know that we are saved by God's grace, apart from works.  But judgment and rewards are according to works.  The ESV Study Bible notes explain:
Many interpreters hold that the believer's deeds will provide public evidence to indicate the measure of rewards that the believer will receive …some interpreters hold that the believer's deeds will also provide public evidence brought forth before the judgment seat of Christ to demonstrate that one's faith is real—that is, public evidence, not as the basis for salvation, but as a demonstration of the genuineness of one's faith. Paul therefore makes it his aim to “please” Christ (2 Cor. 5:5–9), because the extent to which one does this corresponds to the measure of rewards that one will receive (see Matt. 6:20; Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Cor. 3:12–15; 1 Tim. 6:19; Rev. 22:12), likewise giving evidence for the genuineness of one's faith.
The Christian commanded to seek rewards:

So we know that we will be rewarded.  But should we really live life with those rewards in view?  Should we desire rewards?  Jesus, Paul and John agree that we should!
•Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20, ESV).  Have you ever noticed that this is a command from Jesus Christ?  We focus on the first part (don't lay up treasure on earth), but we should remember that Christ is here commanding his followers to think about eternal life, and provide for ourselves treasure there that can be enjoyed eternally!  Christ does not want his children robbed of eternal joy by living in materialism while we are on earth!  The prosperity gospel preachers were half-right! Jesus does want his people rich... but in the life to come!  He wants us focusing on laying up treasure, but not here; not having our best life now - but eternally with him in glory!

• They (the “rich”) are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future (1 Tim 6:18-19, ESV).  There is something about our eternal rewards that will provide us "a good foundation" in heaven. 

• Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (1 Cor 9:24-25, ESV).  Here is a clear command for us to run with the goal of winning; motivation by looking ahead to the glories of eternity. 

• Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward (2 John 1:8, ESV).  Scripture even warns us to be watchful against losing rewards!

Examples of Rewards for good deeds:

This is not a vague concept in Scripture.  We are specifically told in several places what God rewards.
• And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matt 6:18 and context.) Here is a promise of reward for un-advertised giving to the needy, praying and fasting.

• Your reward is great in heaven (Luke 6:23) "Great" rewards for suffering for Christ and loving your enemies.

• For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14).  This verse actually uses the word "repaid" for sharing food with those who cannot repay you in this life.

• If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward (1 Cor 3:14). This reward is for building the church.

• you will receive the inheritance as your reward (Col 3:24). Here is a promise of reward for doing all things heartily for the Lord.  That's right - we can be eternally rewarded for doing ALL THINGS, even working at our job (this is in the context of a slave serving his master), provided we do it with all our might as unto the Lord, not men.  What a promise!!!

• He rewards those who seek him (Heb 11:6). It is the very nature of faith to believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

• Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:8

• Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life, Rev 2:10.

• “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done (Rev 22:12). In the last chapter of the Bible Jesus leaves us with words of reward. He is coming soon, bringing his "recompense" (wages, reward). He is definitely leaving us with motivation to be faithful!

Praise God!  What a glorious future for those whom God has rescued from sin by grace!  God has given us his Son, and with him all things (1 Cor 3:21; Rom 8:32; Eph 1:3)!  Glory is coming for the people of God! 

So let us be faithful.  Let us labor with the motivation of loving God and his glory, and also with the Christ-taught motivation of laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven that will never pass away.  And for all eternity we will sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!"

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