Christian Living

The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

The Judgment Seat in Paul, Peter and John

The Apostle Paul used the term “bema” when he wrote to the church at Corinth about our final confrontation with Christ to determine the gain or loss of rewards: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat (bema) of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad [phaulon, worthless]. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:10, 11, NKJV).

The Corinthians were very familiar with this word, for it was inscribed on the front of the large marble judgment throne where judicial issues were evaluated by the supreme judge, such as Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, before whom Paul stood one day (cf. Acts 18:12, 16, 17). It was my privilege to see this bema during a trip to the ruins of ancient Corinth on Aug. 21, 1952. Amazingly, it was before the bema of Pontius Pilate that our Lord took His stand (cf. Matt. 27:19, John 19:13).

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Beware Every Kind of Greed

WealthPosted previously at SI on June 13, 2008. Reprinted with permission from As I See It. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

It is now some dozen years, perhaps more, since I heard a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Dr. Green as I recall, preach at a missions conference in Wichita. His text was the famous parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), who planned to tear down his barns to build bigger ones for his surplus crops. He supposed that with his material needs abundantly provided for, he was on easy street and would enjoy a long and relaxing retirement, only to face death that very night. But rather than making the usual application of the passage to those lost persons who are preoccupied with this world’s goods to the neglect of their own soul’s eternal welfare, the professor made a pointed application to the life of believers, an application that after more than a decade I cannot drive from my mind. It was as follows:

We believers know Christ and know in theory the completely transitory nature of all our worldly goods and the express command from Christ not to focus our energies on amassing possessions in this life, but rather to focus on accumulating an ever-growing treasure in heaven. For all that, we nevertheless for the most part act exactly like the rich fool! We set before us as our chief aim the piling up of wealth and possessions with a preoccupation with houses and lands, with cars and fine clothes, with bank accounts and 401k’s. And whenever God blesses us with an increase in income or an inheritance, we automatically assume that God intends for us to spend all the increase on ourselves with yet more luxury; more vacations; and a yet larger, more palatial dwelling. “Let us tear down our barns and build bigger!” When is enough enough? When does our self-focused spending become that greed of which Jesus warned? When does it become sin?

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 2

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In spite of having a sin nature like all of us, the Apostle Paul struggled valiantly, through Christ (“I do not count myself to have apprehended; but…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Phil. 3:13-14; cf. 4:13, NKJV]), to be ready for the great day when he would see his Lord.

Precious indeed are his final words to his closest disciple, Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7, 8).

The Apostle Peter had the same anticipation when he encouraged pastors to be “examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:3, 4).

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Responding Publicly to Erring Brethren: Motives and Methods, Part 2

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Paul’s methods for responding to false accusation

In Philippians 1:12-18, Paul provides a model for our methods in responding to false accusations.

Provide the facts

Facts appear to be Paul’s primary weapon for taking on the untruths about himself. Assuming God wants us to write or speak publicly about the controversy, we should do our best to get the truth out there through whatever means are available. But in the actual writing or speaking, we should be restrained in our presentation.

Be restrained

Our Lord has withheld much information about these men from us, and it is not because He lacked knowledge, authority, or justification to reveal all. Whatever His reasons for not giving more information about the preachers of envy, those reasons were apparently controlling in this example. Though the men would have been quick to name Paul in their own messages, convincing their listeners of Paul’s wickedness, our Lord keeps their names out of the press. Though they committed their verbal sins publicly, Christ does not publicly elaborate on their sinfulness. Indeed, we are not given any salacious details that would tease and tempt our sinful flesh. Instead we get the barest of facts regarding sinful motives, and no names to put with the faces.

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Responding Publicly to Erring Brethren: Motives and Methods, Part 1

It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! (Luke 17:1, KJV)

But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)

In Philippians 1, Paul tells of some brothers in Christ1 who attacked him verbally from their pulpits, impugning his reputation and character in an obvious attempt to raise their own lights in the church by helping one of its luminaries to fall. From Paul’s day till now, the same sad sort of behavior continues to be exemplified by members of Christ’s body who should know better. Whether sitting at a desk and writing books, uploading to the Internet, or mounting pulpits on Sunday morning, men and women are still falling into the same trap year after year, thinking that the demise of someone else’s reputation in the church will enliven their own.

Speaking their hearts but lacking or ignoring the truth about the other person, they claim the servant of God to be what he is not—guilty of some imagined sin or error. From Athanasius to Al Mohler, God’s dear servants have been the subjects of gossip, smear campaigns, character assassinations, rumors, backbiting, and generally poor treatment—and not just from the unsaved, but from redeemed people acting and thinking sinfully. Sometimes their accusations fall on deaf ears, and the charge goes nowhere. But sometimes the charge gains an audience, and other proponents take it up.

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 1

All true Christians must surely rejoice at the thought of God’s wonderful promise and provision that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).

But how does this divine provision relate to Christ’s confrontation with His church, His body and bride, at the judgment throne? Does participation in the marvelous promise of 1 John 1:9 eliminate the threat of possibly losing a reward or a crown on that great day? This is a very confusing issue for many of God’s people today.

The Purpose of the Judgment Seat Confrontation

One point must be settled immediately—the issue is the gain or loss of rewards, not of salvation. Thank God, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And, “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

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Our Nasty Attitudes Toward God

Every believer experiences deteriorating attitudes toward God sometimes. Some believers are out of touch with their “inner man” and live with their heads in the spiritual sand. As a result, they may not recognize this tendency within themselves (and that is tragic). Denying reality is an old coping mechanism, but a dishonest one. Perceived or not, the attitude problem within us is real. Here are two issues related to these attitudes.

One sad but common sight is what I call “Christian brats.”

By “Christian brats,” I mean individuals who have been brought up in Christian homes, continue to attend or be involved in an evangelical church, but resent their faith as confining. They secretly wish that they had been born into a family of unbelievers so they could experience what “everyone else” is doing and not miss out on the fun. On one hand, such individuals may not have been born again by the Spirit of God; they are spiritually indifferent. On the other hand, I am convinced that many do know the Lord.

Being brought up in a fine Christian home has both advantages and challenges. Even with godly parents, children are not robots that can be programmed; they must choose to follow the Lord or not. We pray, hold our breath, and hope for the best. So much is in God’s hands.

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Outback Christians

There is an immense stretch of uninhabited territory in Australia’s interior. Australia’s land mass is nearly as vast as that of the continental US (carve off CA & FL and you about have it), yet the entire population of Australia is less than 4 times that of Minnesota! The vast majority of this sparse population hugs the coastline. So with only 20 million people ringing earth’s largest island, the vast interior is one desolate stretch of dusty waste—Australia’s celebrated “Outback.”

A documentary surfaced some years ago that included the vignette of a man who lives alone in a small house in the Outback a gazillion miles from the nearest human being. This modern day hermit is so isolated, his only routine contact with people comes when the infrequent train passes near his place and railroad employees kick off a crate of supplies as they speed past. That’s all the face time this mate needs, or wants!

Perhaps we chuckle at such a guy (rather than merely pity him) because we can identify with his isolationism. It is not always easy to live in community with people, and sometimes you wonder if a little shack in the middle of the Outback wouldn’t suit you just swell for a year or two…or fifty!

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