Allen Jackson - Investing In The Life To Come - Part 1
We've been working on a little series talking about "The Benefits of Serving Jesus," and the premise is very simple, that if you will honor God with your life he'll reward you. That if you will honor God with your life he will reward you. I believe that, and I want to keep handing you the idea because it will change how you make decisions. It'll change what you do with your days and your time and your energy and your talent and your resources. Honor God with your life and he will reward you.
I wanna start with Jesus teaching in John chapter 12, in verse 25. He says, "The man who loves his life will lose it, and the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me". That last sentence is the punchline. "My Father will honor the one who serves me". If you will serve the Lord, God will honor you. See, I'm really intentionally trying to draw your attention back to how you understand your faith. Most of us were pitched to the idea that when you're born again, when you make a profession of faith, a confession of faith in Jesus and you believe in the new birth, so do I. It's a free gift, you don't earn it, you don't qualify for it. It's something God does for you. He gives you the righteousness of Christ.
Jesus took our sin and all of our sinfulness that we might become all of his righteousness in Christ. It's a free gift. Isn't that wonderful? But what you do with your life after the new birth is your expression of value that you attach to that great gift. And if we will honor God with our lives, if we will serve the Lord, he will reward us. And we haven't talked much about that. You're not gonna earn your way to heaven, you're not gonna qualify, but we're not all gonna have the same opportunities in eternity. God will respond to you if you will honor him with your life. Peter said, "Lord, we left everything to follow you". And he said, "You're right, you did Peter. And when I come into my kingdom and all of its glory, you'll sit on a throne judging one of the tribes of Israel".
We're not all gonna get a throne and be a judge over a tribe of Israel. It was a unique response to Peter and the other disciples who had followed Jesus with that initial invitation. And you and I in our generation have an opportunity to honor the Lord with our lives. Jesus said it plainly, "My Father will honor the one who serves me". You need the verse before it though to get the backstory. He said, "The man who loves his life will lose it". The language there is a little unclear. I think the word that's translated life in the Greek is Psuche. We usually use it to mean soul. You're a complex being. You have a body, you are a spirit, you have a body, you live in a body and you have a soul. Your soul is your will, your mind, and emotions. Your mind and emotions give expression to your will.
And Jesus said the man who loves his soul, who loves his will, his way, who's determined to hold to his thoughts and give his emotions first place will lose it, but the person who can diminish his soul in this world will keep it for eternal life. "Whoever serves me must follow me". It's an invitation for a reorientation. The privilege of being a Christ's follower is learning to take that part of me that says, "I want, I think, and I feel," and learning to yield that to the lordship of Jesus Christ. To be a Christ follower isn't about sitting in a church or having a Bible or a moral code, it's being yielded to Jesus. He is Lord.
Now here's the awkward part of that. For all of us, there's a tug of war in that 'cause there's something in me that wants to be independent. I'm a rebel by nature, and so are you. Are you doing the Bible reading with us these days? I hope you are. If you're not, come on, it'll be a help to you but right now we're in the book of Numbers. Isn't that fun? Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, that's the hotspot of scripture right there. Mm-huh-huh. That part of the story starts with the slaves of Egypt being dumped out into the wilderness. That's the book of Exodus, that's high drama stuff. And we get to the end of that season and they're gonna move into the Promised Land and that's some pretty high drama stuff. But between Egypt and the Promised Land, we've got these Egyptian slaves in the Negev wilderness, but God is up to something.
You see the slaves of Egypt don't know a holy God. Moses said, "Who will I say sent me"? And he said, "Say I Am sent me". They know the gods of Egypt, they've been worshiping demons there. They know the Egyptian holidays and the Egyptian expressions of worship but they don't know the character of God. That's what's being revealed in the book of the Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. God said, "I'll show you my character, I'll help you understand the gulf between a holy God and a righteous God and humanity". So he said, "If you want to be holy, if you want to be more like me, here's the rules". And we start reading. "I can't even keep the rules in my head".
Right about halfway through Leviticus, your eyes start to roll back and you're like, "Oh," you know, you can't eat this. You gotta dress this way, you gotta worship here, you gotta build it just like this. You put your right foot in and your right foot out, but the revelation of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy is God is different from us, that's the point. And then if you're gonna try to earn your way into God's goods, graces, it's hopeless, we can't do it. God is different than we are. That's the good news of Jesus. With the new birth, with accepting Jesus as Lord of your life, the Spirit of the living God takes up residence within you and you have a power to help you change.
Isn't that good news? We don't have to overcome evil on our own. We're not trying to transform our character. There is a power to help us if we will humble ourselves and in humility and repentance turn our faces to the Lord, he will help us become different people. Christianity is an invitation to transformation, to being different in the world. The goal of our faith doesn't get the power of a creator God to help me get my way, it's still let me be transformed from the inside out. Look at that next passage, 1 Timothy 4, Paul said, "Train yourself to be godly for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come".
That's a very important idea to have in your heart. We have a present life but there's a life to come and there's a distinction between the two. Your present life for the most part is dictated by your earth suit and your chronology, where you are within relationship to that earth suit's timeframe. But there's a life to come with a whole new set of parameters, a whole new set of experiences were delimited. You're gonna get a new body, but more than that, you'll see the kingdom of God and all of its glory. Now, here's the promise, the choices we make in this life will determine our opportunities in the life to come. "So, Pastor, I said that I thought I was born again. Aren't I good"?
You have an entrance pass but it doesn't mean you're prepared for service in the life to come, that opportunity is determined by what you do with your life in time. If you don't...if God...he says, "If I can't trust you with temporary things, how could I trust you with true riches in the age to come"? We want to learn to honor the Lord with our life in time. I'm not talking about being a professional minister. You don't have to be a full-time Christian that way. With whatever your life assignments are, with whatever your life responsibilities are, we want to learn to honor the Lord. So what I did is I brought you a collection of a handful of individuals from scripture you're familiar with and their story of serving the Lord. And I really think it's best understood in the context of lessons in giving.
How do you give your life through the purposes of the Lord? I'm not talking primarily about your money, we'll touch that, but it's a very much a secondary part of the equation. What we really want to learn is how do we give our life, what does that mean? Would it be satisfying? Is it worthwhile? Why would I do that? And the simple answer is because God will reward you. If you can't trust him to reward you, you can't trust him with your eternity. And if you're trusting him with your eternity, my suggestion would be be get as all in as you know how. Just a thought.
So I brought you a collection of folks, I didn't put them in an order of significance. Just the order that they're introduced to us in scripture. I'll start with Abraham. We meet Abraham in Genesis chapter 12, very near the beginning of the book. And God gives Abraham an invitation. He said, "If you will leave the place that you live and go to the land that I will show you, I will make your name great. I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore and all nations, all people on earth will be blessed through you".
Abraham heard that and he went and got a moving truck and he backed it in the driveway and he went in the house and he said, "Sarah, we're moving". And she was a reasonably good woman. She said, "Fine, where are we going"? And he said, "I don't know". And that's where the conversation headed a little south. And she said, "Well, why would we do that"? And he said, "God spoke to me". "Really? What'd he say"? "He said to leave". "Is that all"? "No, he said he'd make my name great and he said our offspring would be like the stars in the sky and all people on the planet will be blessed through me".
And I'm thinking the follow-up conversation there is not recorded on purpose, but they left. They loaded the truck and off they went. And a day passed and a week passed and a month passed and a year passed and then decades passed and there were no children. And then the opportunity passed and it was no longer an opportunity. And one day two angels showed up and they said, "Abraham," they were having a meal together. They said, "We're gonna visit with you next year at this time and we're gonna see your child playing in the nursery". Sarah was in the room next door, she heard that, she laughed. And they looked at Abraham and said, "Why did your wife laughed"? And he said, "Well, you see I'm an old man and have you seen Sarah"? It's in the book, I promise you can read it. It's just right there. But they conceived and Sarah gave birth to his son his name was Isaac.
And Isaac grew to be a young man. And one day God said to Abraham, "I want you to take Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice to me. Not figuratively, I want you to put him on an altar and take his life". And Abraham seemingly inexplicably called Isaac and got all the things he would needed and they started off for the place God would show them. That's what's in your notes. It's Genesis 22, "When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it and he bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood". He built pile of stones, then the wood on it to consume the offering in the fire and then he bound his son and laid him on the altar.
"But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Here I am! Don't lay a hand on the boy, don't do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God because you've not withheld from me your son, your only son.' And Abraham looked up and in the thicket, he saw a ram caught by its horns and he went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place 'The Lord Will Provide.' And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'"
It's a pretty fascinating story. Now, God is omniscient, he knows the ending at the beginning. So I believe God knew what Abraham would do long before Abraham got to that hilltop with Isaac. It's really a story of Abraham understanding what's within his own heart. It's Abraham choosing to yield his life to give the most precious thing he has as a means of honoring Lord. He trusted God. The book of Hebrews, I gave it to you, you can check me. In Hebrews, it says, "Abraham believed if he took his son's life, God would raise him back to life again". That confidence was built in Abraham over a long period of time.
In fact, I think perhaps before you turn the page, an important insight in that passage in verse 14. Abraham called that place "The Lord Will Provide". And to this day it said, "On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided". It's a phrase we use pretty glibly. The Lord will provide. The scripture promises on the mountain of the Lord. He will provide and I believe that God will provide, but you need the backstory and understand to have the confidence to live that out. Abraham and Sarah had left their home they had waited decades. God had given them a son and then God said, "Will you withhold that son for me or will you yield him to me"? And in that place Abraham said, "God will provide".
That's not a simple path to walk. I think about the difference in Abraham walking up that hill lost in his own thoughts, carrying the tension in that moment with Isaac beside him and walking down that hill after that event with the joy and the freedom and the liberty that comes with that. See honoring on what did Jesus say? If we love our soul, my will and my way and what I want, if that dominates my view on my life, we're gonna forfeit much. But if we can yield my soulish approach to life and say, "God, what do you have for me? How can I honor you today? I gotta go to work. I've got responsibilities, I've got things to do. What would it look like to honor you first". He said, "You'll not only gain fulfillment in life, but you will gain a reward in the life to come".
King David, the greatest of all the Israelite kings. You and I meet David in scripture when he is a boy, Samuel the prophet comes to his house and anoints him. He's got older brothers, people more qualified, but God said, "I've chosen this one for my purpose". It's pretty exciting stuff, and David starts out with a bullet. Well, actually a sling and a rock, but you get the idea. He takes down Goliath. And in a very short period of time, he's pushed to the forefront of national attention and there's a lot of enthusiasm around David. God said he is gonna be king, the only problem is there's already a king and the king has no intention of leaving.
So David lives as a fugitive for a long time, he's hunted. God said he would be king. The prophet came to anoint him and he's living like an animal in the desert. And after years of faithfulness, David secures the kingdom. David is the one who captures the city of Jerusalem and establishes it as the capital city of the nation of Israel, more than 1000 years before Jesus. I don't believe it's accidental or insignificant that our nation this week recognize Jerusalem as the capital of this modern state of Israel. But near the end of his life, David says, "I wanna build a temple for God".
Since they were slaves in Egypt all the way until David captured Jerusalem and that's hundreds and hundreds of years, the center of worship has been a tent. And David said, "It's not right that I live in a house, a palace, and we worship God in a tent. I want to build a temple". And God sent the prophet to David and said, "You can't, there's blood on your hands". David was a warrior. Also says David was a man after God's own heart. God promised David that from his lineage would come the Messiah. That's pretty heady stuff. Anybody here ever been on ancestry.com? Did you find Messiah in your family tree? I didn't think so. David is a man honored by God, but God says to David, "You can't build the temple".
Now, at that point, if it were Allen, I'd have been tempted to take my toys and go home. Well, if I'm not good enough to build your temple, you can stay in your old tent. Did you ever get mad at God 'cause he doesn't do what you want? I have. I've stood in the field at night and shaking my fist at the heavens because the hardness of the path I was walking seemed unfair and unjust and I didn't like God's job performance and I thought he needed me to explain to him. But David didn't react that way. David took that season of his life and he put together the plans for the temple and he secured everything they needed to build it. He made treaties with the neighboring nations to provide the timbers they would need. He accumulated the plans for it, all the resources for its construction, he recruited the skilled people to do the work.
Do you happen to remember who followed David? Who was the king before David? Saul. Who was the king after David? Solomon. That's very good. This is a smart group. Who was the king after Solomon? I'm not gonna tell you, you'll have to look it up. But David put everything together so his son Solomon when he came to the throne, a young man with far less experience, the whole kit was already put together. The team was already recruited, everything's in place, it's fully resourced, but then David did something even beyond that and that's what's in your notes. It's 1 Chronicles 29. He said, "Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God".
There is no temple, he's just devoted to the idea of the temple. God said, "You can't build it," but David's all in. "Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God, I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple, three thousand talents of gold, seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the building, for the gold work, and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsman. Now, who's willing to consecrate himself to the Lord"? David has everything needed for the temple to be put together. And he says, "Beyond that now from my personal treasury, I wanna make an investment so the temple can be done in the finest possible way. We're gonna overlay the walls with gold".
It says he donated 110 tons. I did a little quick math on that. You know, the values change, so it's an approximation, but by current standards, a ton of gold is worth about $40 million, and he gave over 100 tons. And then he gave a ton of silvers worth about $1/2 million and he gave more than 250 tons of silver. He made a little investment for the temple. And then he did something brilliant. He had all the leaders of Israel with him and he said, "Now, which one of you wants to participate? We're all gonna own this". He did everything he knew to do with the abilities and the skills and the resources that were entrusted to him to let the purposes of God go forward. He did it physically and he did it with his leadership. He gathered the people and said, "You want some ownership in this too? We're all in it together".
And you know, until this day, the first temple that was ever built in the city of Jerusalem is known, whose name is attached to that first temple? It's not a trick question. Who built the first temple? Solomon did. We call it Solomon's Temple. I studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the first temple is routinely called Solomon's Temple 'cause Solomon presided over the construction, but you know who put the plan together, gathered all the resources, put the treaties in place, gave all, provided the gold and the silver to let it happen? It wasn't Solomon. Solomon just put the erector set together. David did. And God could trust him, he had a heart. He said he had a heart after God.
You see the yielding of our lives for the purposes of God will not diminish your life in time. It will enhance it, but it will be rewarded for all eternity, we'll give you a different example. We'll go to God himself. God put this pattern in place. God is the one who teaches us to give. John 3:16 says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life". Shall not perish, but have eternal life. God gave his Son. Why did he do that? Because we had a problem. We're a race of rebels and he gave us the rules on how to be holy. And we can hardly read the rules, let alone keep 'em. We complain about having to read them. "I'm not reading that that's dry, I'll ought to try keeping them". That'll dry you out. We had a problem so God intervened. The only resolution for our rebellion and our sin was somebody to take the punishment for that.
So he sent his Son. He didn't send him on a summer vacation. He didn't send him on a miracle tour. He didn't send him just to reflect the power of the creator of all things, he sent him to the earth. He sent him to Bethlehem in the vulnerable package of a baby knowing he was destined for Golgotha. And he watched the mistreatment, the rejection, the abuse, the mockery of a trial. The Roman governor with the audacity to condemn God's Son to death. God watched the soldiers blindfold his Son and beat him over the head and say, "Tell us who hit you". And he sat on his hands because you and I needed help.
Look at what Romans says in Romans chapter 8. "He who did not spare his own son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things"? When God asks us to honor him with our lives, he's not asking for something that he hasn't done on our behalf. He's given his best to us and we wanna participate in his eternal kingdom, but we quibble. We have to grow up in the Lord to learn to yield to him.
There's not a more powerful choice you and I can make with our lives than to choose obedience to the Lord. How many times do we have to hear the truth before we'll decide to be obedient to it? God doesn't have to convince us, we have to decide to yield to the lordship of Jesus. That's my prayer for each of us today, that we will choose him and his truth with our whole heart. Let's pray:
Father, forgive us for our stubbornness when we are unwilling to yield. Lord, we come today in humility to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of our entire person, body, soul, and spirit. We choose obedience to you with all that we are and all that we have in Jesus's name, amen.