Allen Jackson - Ready For Rewards - Part 2
I wanna take it one step further, God loves you enough that he's gonna give you, from time to time, a spiritual health check. You're gonna get a spiritual checkup. You ever gone to the doctor for a checkup? Isn't that wonderful? You go stand in front of somebody you know kind of casually, and they check you out from top to bottom. And they comment, "Getting a little thicker around the middle, aren't you, Allen"?
Not if I stand this way and hold my breath. They point out how you're changing. And if you've gone to the same person for a long time, they have like pictures of what you look like when you're 16 and you're not anymore. That's just not fair. And then when they've done all they can do just with what they can see, they take your blood and they're gonna evaluate what you don't even know about yourself. And they get the lab report back and they're gonna compare you to normal. I wanna meet normal. I can tell you this normal doesn't have much fun. Normal just eats sprouts, right? 'Cause they keep comparing me to normal. "You're a little above normal in this, and a little below normal".
I wanna meet him, I bet he hadn't been in the sunshine in years. So they sit there giving you this physical evaluation of what you're not and what you could be and what you need to adjust and how you can change, and then they give you a bill, and you thank them. Because you believe that the fundamental nature of the bargain is they're trying to help you be healthier, and we're for that. But you know, God cares about you and me enough that he will give us spiritual checkups, so we can be healthier spiritually. So I don't really care that much about that, I know, but God loves you. Your kids don't care about being healthy, that's why they're good with cake breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
That's why you have to teach them to eat a balanced diet. If you left it up to them, they're good with chicken fingers 24/7. They'd be chasing it with a slice of pizza from time to time. If it's green, it should not be consumed. It's better if it has sugar in it and you can fry it. You have to teach them to be healthy. Well Almighty God wants to help you and I to learn to be healthy spiritually, and we're not all that interested. And he gets that, but he helps us anyway. This isn't my imagination. Look at your notes, Job 23 and verse 10, it says, "God knows the way that I have taken; and when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold". Or Psalm 66, it's on the next page. Says, "You, O God, have tested me; you refined me like silver. You brought me into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through the fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance".
It says that God, in testing us, puts us in places that can be uncomfortable, unpleasant, awkward, not to leave us there, not because he's somehow twisted and he enjoys watching the torment, it's helping us understand the condition of our character. If there's no test, if we get what we want, the way we want, all the time in which we want it, there's no challenge to me. And God loves me enough to let my character be exposed. We do the same thing physically. When I was in college, I was a part of a big study. They wanted to evaluate the health of a group of people, broad group of people over a broader period of time. So every semester in college, we had to do a stress test, which means they would hook us up to all the heart evaluations.
So if we get all the wires on our chest and they wanted to monitor our O2 consumptions, we had to breathe into something, and they'd put you on a treadmill and they'd start out in a really friendly way. And then the longer you moved, the more evil it became, until finally you were climbing Mount Everest at a full-on sprint, and some person in a white coat with a wicked grin was over here monitoring you. And they did that every semester. Stress tests were not pleasant because the objective of the stress test was to push you to the point of failure so they could evaluate your physical condition over a broader period of time. Well, God loves you in me enough that he said he'll test our character.
Why would he do that? So we can make adjustments. The same way you have a physical checkup so you can make lifestyle adjustments to help you be healthier, God will test you in me so that we can make adjustments to be healthier spiritually. Well, why would I wanna be healthier spiritually? Because God will reward you in eternity for leading a life that honors him. And it's not an intuitive response, we have to grow up into it. Folks, the more aware we become of this, the more joyful we'll be about those opportunities. We have been so grounded in ourselves that the distinctions between ourselves and the ungodly are so small that it's hard to recognize. We've had to come up with external things and argue about wardrobe and menus because our character is so indistinguishably different.
Psalm 26 says, "Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind". Now, if we're evaluated now, in time, and the progress we have is established as genuine, it gives us a footing from which we can move forward. Look at 1 Peter chapter 1. It says, "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold, which perishes, even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed".
When Jesus is revealed, there's a point ahead of us at the end of this age, we're living, an age is a span of time that the Bible uses. And it describes this season we're in as an age, but this age will come to a close when Jesus returns to the earth. There'll be a new authority, a new structure, new rules, some of the current limits we have will be lifted. You'll get a new body with a whole different set of parameters than the earth suits you've currently got, hallelujah. But we said that at this point, we may have for a little while to have suffered grief and all kinds of trials, not a singular trial, a whole multitude of those rascals. And the purpose of those is so that our faith can be evaluated because when it's established as genuine, if you can have genuine faith, you could have a false faith, a faith that wasn't genuine, a faith you couldn't count on. When your faith is proved genuine, it will result in praise and glory and honor at that point when Jesus is revealed.
So God tests our character to see what we're made of. It's not always a battle with sin or wickedness or ungodliness, God puts us in those places so that we can make a choice and we can see for ourselves the condition of our heart. You know, in our physical lives we call that maturing, growing up. Well, God wants us to grow up and mature spiritually. It's really better if little people learn to be responsible and to mature and to grow up and accept responsibility for outcomes. That will give them a more fruitful, a more peaceful, a more contented life as an adult, is that not true? Takes a lot of love, a lot of effort, a lot of investment, a lot of time, a lot of concern, it's hard work to watch that happen in the life of a child. And God loves you and me so much that he said, "I'm committed to helping you grow up in me, and I will reward you for it".
We have an appointment ahead of us as Christ followers, as believers in Jesus, as participants in the kingdom of God. At the end of this age, every one of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The Bible talks about more than one judgment. Not every judgment includes the same groups of people, and the judgments are for different outcomes. We're not gonna unpack all of those this morning, but the judgment seat of Christ is not a judgment for condemnation, it's not a judgment of heaven or hell, it's a judgment for reward. It's an evaluation of how you and I have lived our lives, and every one of us has that appointment ahead of us.
Look in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and verse 8. Says, "We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord". It's an intriguing statement. Paul said, "I would prefer to be away from the body". Folks, most of us are doing everything we can to hang on to our body. And Paul said, "It's actually better for me to be away from the body". It seems like he's pretty heavily invested in next, doesn't it? "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad".
Now, somebody will say, 'cause I've answered the questions at the end of every service this weekend. "Well, pastor, I thought if I was a believer in Jesus, and I had said that prayer, had been dunked in the pool, I was good to go". Well, the Bible says that is the entry point of initiation into the kingdom of God, it's a gift, it's a free gift. You receive it by faith in Jesus, not by joining a church or a movement or sitting in the right building on Sunday morning, it's about a person, and it's true. You gain access to the kingdom of God. But it's equally true that God is going to evaluate what you have done with your life. Not to reject you from heaven, but he will determine the rewards that will come to you and me. We're not all gonna be treated the same. God is not presiding over a socialist system. I know that's not politically correct, but it happens to be biblically true.
Look in 1 Peter chapter 4, said, "If you suffer as a Christian, don't be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name". It's possible to suffer for reasons other than being a Christian. Some of us avoid suffering because of our faith. We hide our faith, we diminish our faith, we understate our faith, we have a private faith, we don't want a public faith because sometimes a public faith will cause you to suffer, you'll be left out. He said, "If you suffer as a Christian, don't be ashamed, praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who don't obey the gospel of God"?
Judgment will begin, God's judgments of humanity will begin with the believers. Look at Romans 14, verse 10. It says, "We will all stand before God's judgment seat". Again, it's written to believers. Verse 12, same chapter, "Each of us will give an account of himself to God". I wanna take just a minute and highlight this idea that this is not about condemnation, because otherwise there's a fear motive, a guilt and a shame that creep into this that isn't helpful. Romans chapter 8 and verse 1 says, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". God isn't holding your sins against you. He's saying, "Honor me with your life, I will reward you for it".
Now we get to choose whether we're gonna live our lives for our own selves, for our own gratification, for our own agendas, for our own kingdoms, or whether we will yield our lives for the purposes of God. The invitation is consistent through scripture. God is searching the earth for men and women who will yield their hearts to him to cooperate with him. It's how Jesus taught us to pray. He said, "When you pray, pray this way, 'Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'" When we pray that, what do we imagine? Who do we think is going to do the will of God, our neighbors? Pastors. God, let pastor get holy. Jesus taught every one of us to pray that we would increasingly be an expression of God's will in our world. It's not about condemnation.
2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him, in Christ, we might become the righteousness of God". In the plainest of language on the cross, God made Jesus to be sin with my sin so that I might be made righteous with his righteousness. My standing before God comes to me as a gift. I can't earn it, I'll never be good enough, I can't keep enough rules, it's not merit-based, I receive it by faith. In response to that gift, what I do with my life is a reflection of the value I attach to that gift. And the Creator of all things says he will reward you if you will honor him with your life.
Look in 1 Corinthians 3 and verse 8. Paul is talking to the church and he said we all have different assignments and different roles and different gifts. He uses an agricultural model, he said, "One plants and one sows and another waters". And that's where we step into it. He said, "The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor". Look in 1 Corinthians 3 and verse 11. Says, "No one can lay any foundation other than the one which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ".
Folks, the foundation on which we stand before Almighty God, the Creator of all things, is Jesus. Not the church to which we have belonged, not the denomination that we embrace, not the translation of the Bible we preferred, all of those things may have a place, but the foundation of our relationship with the Creator of all things is Jesus Christ. We are Jesus people, we owe everything to him. He is the head of the church. He's the one we call Lord. We yield to him fully and completely. But that's not the end of the story. "If any man builds on this foundation".
There's something to be done with that foundation. I have some friends who just have laid the foundation of a new home. They took pictures. It doesn't look like someplace you wanna live right now. It's just foundations, it's concrete and trenches and steel. You recognize it as a place where something could happen, and without a foundation, no matter how beautiful the structure, it's not gonna stand, you wouldn't wanna live in it. But you know it's not a completed project yet, it's the foundation. And that's the image that's being used here. Jesus is our foundation, nothing else can stabilize our lives in time or eternity. "But if any person will build on this foundation using gold or silver or costly stones, wood, hay or straw, your work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light".
The day is capitalized, it's talking about a specific day, that judgment day that we've already mentioned. "It will be revealed with fire," by God's fire. "The fire will test the quality of each man's work. And if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it's burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames". This is a promise, this isn't a threat, this is an invitation. You've been welcomed into the kingdom of God, and now the invitation is to use your life to honor the Lord, and he will reward you richly. And when your life is evaluated, it will stand the test of his evaluation, and what you have done in time will create exponential opportunities in eternity. It brings a meaning and a purpose to your days that defies the turning of the calendar.
It brings a meaning and a purpose to your days that can't be stolen by the existence of evil or wickedness or injustice, or principalities and powers and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Because we can choose to honor the Lord with our lives in the midst of all of those things around us. Paul can write from a Roman prison cell where he's being unjustly held because he is an advocate for Jesus and is anticipating his execution. And he said, "I have run my race, I have kept the faith, I have finished the course, and there is in store for me a crown of righteousness". Those aren't the words of a defeated person, or a frightened, or an intimidated person.
It's Jesus standing before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, and the governor says to him, "Do you know who I am"? Can you imagine saying that to Jesus? He was so full of himself. He said, "I have the power to have you executed". And Jesus said, "You got no power unless my Dad gave it to you, and you don't want me to call him". When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter was his friend, he pulled the sword and he's gonna fight for his friend. And Jesus said, "Peter, put your sword away, if I needed to, I could call legions of angels and we'd rock these boys' world". Living Bible.
We have the privilege of honoring the Lord with our lives. But I love the integrity of scripture, it tells us it's not easy, that those choices aren't easy, that it will require endurance, that there are times it'll be uncomfortable, unpleasant. And we're told that if we will do that, our character will be changed, and that Almighty God, the Creator of all things will take notice. And he will respond to us not only in time but he will reward us for all eternity. The alternative we're told in the plainest of language is that we can live our lives for ourselves. We can establish our throne in time, and we can do everything we can to make our lives as pleasant and as comfortable and to accumulate the power and everything else that we think will bring contentment to us, and then what we have done will be evaluated by God. And his judgment is really about what has value in eternity and what doesn't.
And if our evaluation has been linked only to what has value in time, he said it's not gonna be worth much in eternity. He uses these unique categories, he talks about gold and silver and precious stones, and wood and hay and straw. One in very small amounts have great value. The other can have value, but they take significant quantities. I have filled barns with hay, but a barn filled with hay, I can hold in a hand precious stones that have greater value than multiple barns filled with hay. So the valuation system that he's inviting us towards is different than the one that the world's system holds. And we have to learn, the Spirit of God will help us to value the things that God values. We looked at one last week, it said, "A gentle and quiet spirit is of great value in God's sight".
Well, in the global economy, a gentle and quiet spirit is not held in high esteem. I read this week an NFL player for the first time got a $30 million a year contract, not because he had a gentle and quiet spirit. I don't begrudge him his contract but I'm telling you there's a point ahead of us where a gentle and quiet spirit will be richly rewarded. And everybody can cultivate one of those if they want to, but you'll have to do something with your arrogant, bold spirit. We're going to be evaluated, and rather than be frightened or intimidated or threatened by it, the invitation of scripture is to be prepared. Jesus is not frightened by the end of this age. He came to earth, he got an earth suit. He only made it 33 years. We killed him. He died the death of a criminal in the most humiliating way possible. Naked, hungry, and thirsty, beaten almost beyond recognition, he was crucified.
By the standards of this current world system, he was an abject failure. But at the end of this age, he will be revealed as the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. And every knee is going to bow, and every tongue is going to confess. His life, when it's evaluated by the standards of God's judgment, it got a good outcome. Now, we haven't been called to that, but we have been given the invitation to honor God with our life and time. And if the world system says you're not a success and God says you are, you'd be all right. We've been using an ungodly system to try to find our self-worth and our value and our objectives.
Again, I'm not against nice things and enjoying life, if your stuff bothers you, bring it to me, but I don't intend to compromise my character or my opportunities with the Lord to accumulate stuff that I can't keep. There's a higher objective, and the voice is speaking into my life, and the voice is helping me establish parameters and goals. I want to be voices that are fueled with the perspective of God's Word. God loves you. He's made it possible for you and me to be participants in his eternal kingdom. We can't earn it, we can never deserve it, it's a gift.
And after you've received the gift, begin increasingly, on a daily basis, to make the determination to honor the Lord with your life. You will never regret it. It may be difficult in the moment, but don't you give up. God loves us enough to help us grow up in him, amen. I brought you a prayer. It's really intended to be a proclamation, a statement that you and I can make over our lives. Did you know that your words have spiritual authority? It's important to use them to bring God's best to your life. Why don't you stand with me and we'll read our prayer.
It's at the bottom of your outline. If you've been ignoring the outline studiously, it'd be helpful at this point. Let's pray together:
Heavenly Father, search me and help me to know my heart. Deliver me from a life of deception that I may choose a path which honors you. Establish me and I will be secure, you anoint my head with blessing and honor, for I choose you above all else. May the glory of God be reflected in my life. Let Jesus be praised for his transforming power at work in me. Give me strength to complete the course you have marked out for me. In Jesus's name, amen.