Jack Graham - Ultimate Success
I want to invite you now to take your bibles and turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 3. This is a great day! It's a great day of celebration, it is a great day of anticipation of what God can do in all of our lives and ultimately that day when we will be with him. And what a glorious day that's going to be so today we live for eternity now. We make lie matter because life is so vital and if you're a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ to make a difference in the world. And when we get to heaven, when Christ comes for us, we will be rewarded based upon the life that we have been given and the life that we have lived for Him.
I need to level set this message at the very outset and remind you that the Bible tells us there are two judgments at the end of time. One is called the great white throne judgment and that judgment after the millennial reign of Christ on earth will be a final judgment of the unsaved dead; those who will spend eternity apart from God forever and ever; ultimate and final condemnation because of rejection of Jesus Christ. That's the great white throne judgment. When I was a young pastor there was a fellow in our church, an older gentleman who when he prayed he would often pray "Lord, as we come before Thy great white throne", and I wanted to say "Don't pray that for me". Because the great white throne judgment is not something you want to ever see. That is the judgment of the unsaved.
But there is another judgment when Christ comes to take us home that is called the judgment seat of Christ. And we're going to be talking about that judgment seat of Christ today and how God chooses to award, to honor and reward those faithful servants of Christ. Not all of us will be the same in heaven. Heaven is not this benign place where everyone is equal. The Bible never teaches that. The Bible tells us that we're going serve Him. We're going to be doing different things. The glory of heaven will be vast and different and so will we in heaven! And we will be rewarded not all the same. We will be rewarded differently based upon the lives that we live. All judgment is according to works.
Now I need to say very clearly that we are not saved by good works. We are not saved by doing the best that we can and hoping God will approve of us. No, we are saved, forgiven by the amazing grace of God! And we will not at the judgment seat of Christ be there to defend ourselves against our own sins; nor will our sins be judged at the judgment seat of Christ. Our sins were judged at the cross when Jesus died on the cross He died for all of our sins, past, present and future. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son cleanses us from every sin! Every sin, every stain, all the shame is forgiven forever in Jesus Christ. So this judgment doesn't have anything to do with the judgment of our sins. When we stand there, we will stand in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne! But that doesn't mean that we will not be judged according to our service. We have been given a life in Christ to live. What we do with our lives, that is what God will judge on that day, for the Bible says we will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
We were just down at St. Simons, Georgia. And at St. Simons, Georgia there is a wonderful old church that began when the Church of England sent over missionaries like Charles and John Wesley who preached under Spanish moss-filled oak trees, a magnificent and beautiful place. And the Gospel was shared here in the colonies in those days. And ultimately it became an American Episcopal Church for several centuries and is still operating as a church. We were there and it's a beautiful old church. And like many of the old churches it has a cemetery beside it and around behind it. And so Deb and I took some time to go back to the old cemetery and look around, and I'm especially intrigued in these old graveyards by the epitaphs and the descriptions, many of them brief, descriptions of the life buried there.
And, of course, when you see a cemetery or a gravestone there is a birth date and there is a death date and a dash in the middle. And as I was looking at those gravestones and thinking about the people buried there, I looked at that dash and I wondered how many tears in that dash, trials, tests? What were their triumphs? What was their testimony for Christ? Because represented in that dash is the life, either well done or not so well done, or very poorly done. So it will be with each on of us, we have nothing to say about our birthdate and we have very little if anything to say about our death date but we have allot to say about that dash, that sprint of life. And have you noticed that life is moving a little faster these days. I seem to be talking about this a bit, I shared with the North campus last week about something I heard years ago from George Carlin, of all people. But he was talking about how when you're a child, when you're under 10 people ask you how old are you?
A child will typically say something like, "I'm 4 and a half". Hold up 4 fingers and maybe a half. But you don't hear someone 37 say, "I'm 37 and a half". It just doesn't happen that way. But as you get a little older you know you start wanting the years to come a little faster so you're 13 let's say and somebody asks you how old you are and you say, "I'm nearly 16". Now you're just 13 but you can't wait to be 16. And then you become 21. It sounds almost like a ceremony doesn't it? You become 21. And then as life proceeds you get to 30 and you turn 30. What happened there? It's like milk turning. You know you turn 30. And then before you know it you're pushing 40. You know, and you're saying, "put on the brakes I'm pushing 40".
So you become 21, you turn 30 and then you're pushing 40 and then you reach 50. And then after a couple of more procedures you make it to 60. And then you hit 70. And then after that it's pretty much day to day. You make it to lunch. You hit dinner and you reach bedtime. And if you're blessed with a long life and you get to be 100, I hope you live a long and healthy life, you get to 100 and somebody asks you, "how old are you"? You say, "I'm a 100 and a half". And the circle of life comes back around. We had nothing to say about our birth date. Our moms had a lot to say about that! We have very little if anything to say about our death dates, but we have a great deal to say about what happens in the dash, the very quick span of life that we have been given. And it is what happens between life and death, in the dash that God will judge on that day.
And so that's why in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, beginning at verse 11 the Scripture says: "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw each one's work will become manifest for the Day will disclose it (the Day will disclose it), because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss (That is the loss of reward) though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire". Paul is saying that our lives are built upon the foundation of Christ, how firm this foundation is! And we stand on this foundation secure and strengthened forever. And if you come to faith in Christ there is this foundation in your life.
However, we are then given a life to live and we are builders on this foundation. And how you build will determine what happens at the end of your time on earth when you stand before God. Whether you have built with wood, hay, and stubble, worthless materials that will not last, or whether you have built your life with gold and silver and precious stone; that which will last, the legacy of a life well lived. Look around you today! All around you is either that which is perishable or that which is imperishable. Those things which will last forever and those things which are lost forever. And at this judgment seat of Christ, when we are judged, for the Scripture says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, our lives will be evaluated and Jesus Himself will perform this final exam.
And in this examination our service for Christ, not only what it is but what kind it is, what sort it is; the day will reveal it! That day in the pure white hot heat of the presence of a holy God, that day will reveal what our lives have truly been about, and God will judge. Jesus Himself will be the judge! So why this judgment? What is this about? One, it is to reveal those things which are hidden. It will be a transparent day to bring to light all the things that were unknown, both good and bad; our motives, both pure and impure; what we did and why we did what we did! It will be a day of vindication. God Himself will be vindicated! How many people have said something like well when I get to heaven, I've got a few questions I'm going to ask the Lord. He's got some explaining to do to me.
Well, let me tell you something: you won't be in His presence one scintilla of a second til you will forget about all your questions. "Never mind, Lord". Because on that day the transparency of that day we will see that it all makes sense. Those things in life that didn't make sense, that we didn't have a clue as to what or why it happened, on that day of revelation, that day of declaration God Himself will be vindicated! God's word will be vindicated! This is man's day. Man is having His day and often Satan is having his way! But then and there, God's day, we will see clearly the purposes and the plan of God. And all will give glory to God. And "every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord"!
This is why in 1 Corinthians 4:5 the Apostle said "Judge nothing before its time". We are too quick and too soon to judge the things of our lives. Or even the lives of others. I'm saying to you that on this day it will be a time when He makes everything right! He will reveal those things which are hidden. He will right those things which are wrong! There's a great old hymn that we sang generations ago, "We will understand it better by and by"! And we will! And on that day God will reveal these things. God will right these wrongs. And then He will reward those who are worthy; The Bamah Seat, the judgment seat of Christ is taken right out of history.
Several of us have had the opportunity to travel on a Journeys of Paul Expedition where we tracked the second missionary journeys of Paul, in Greece primarily. And on that trip we've been to Corinth, the ancient city of Corinth. And there are magnificent ruins there and you walk through and you remember so often in these ruins the ancient past and how they apply to the Word of God, and they support the Word of God. For example, when Paul spoke of the judgment seat of Christ, today in the city of Corinth you can go to a place and see the Bamah Seat.
Now the Bamah Seat was a raised platform where the magistrates would judge the people. You would bring your disputes and settle your disputes there, and it was a place where judgment took place. It was also a place, this judgment seat where, it was a platform for people to say things. The philosophers could speak there, and people with ideas could come there and speak at the Bamah Seat. The Bamah Seat was also a place at the Corinthian games or the Isthmian games. Like the Olympics of the ancient world these games were well known, and the judges would stand at the judgment seat, the Bamah Seat and there they would award or reward and honor the great athletes. Much like you see at the Olympic games today, when there is the gold and the silver and the bronze medal and they're standing on this platform, the Bamah Seat, Paul takes that right out of history and says, "In heaven we will all appear before this judgment seat of Christ and there we will be honored as honor is due, or some will be stripped of those rewards because they had nothing but the charred embers of a wasted life to present to Christ".
And that day there will be a fiery test in which Paul describes that all those worthless things, all those meaningless things, all those wasteful things, so much, that looked so important here today, that we give our lives to be, it will mean nothing there! Absolutely nothing! And it will all go up in smoke. And some will have nothing but a platform. They're in Christ and they will not experience hell fire, but they will experience the fire of this judgment which wipes away a life that is not truly given to Christ. Paul pictures it as a person, their house is on fire and they lose everything except their life. They run out of the house but everything is lost. You know, they're saved but singed. They're barely saved. And a lot of people are like that. Saved but barely saved! And you will escape with nothing on your back and that is to suffer loss.
So I'm challenging you today to live at the judgment seat of Christ. What a difference it would make if we began every day at the judgment seat of Christ! In view of that day when we stand be, in the decisions we make, the choices, the activities in which we engage what a difference it would make if we began in light of eternity, realizing that what we do and why we do what we do will be judged accordingly. It's not the duration of our life, it's the donation of our life that matters the most. It's not the length of life but the depth of life, not the quantity but the quality of life. So what's in that dash for you? Are you building with wood, hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stone? Are you living a life that will be rewarded or a life that will be regretted? You say is it possible to regret anything in heaven? Indeed.
You know the Bible says that on that day when we stand before Christ in heaven that He will wipe away tears from our eyes. Tears in heaven. Could it be that some of those tears wiped away will be those tears of regret? The tears of regret because we didn't share our faith with our friends or our family members, our children, and our children are lost and separated from God forever. Will we regret with bitter tears our failed and wasted witness? Will the tears of heaven be wiped away because we have lived lives that have not honored Christ but in fact dishonored Him in many ways? We can't take our lives for granted, can we? Now's the time to right the wrongs! Now's the time to witness of our faith! Now is the time to serve our Lord! Now is the time to do what God has called us to do!
There's a book out called One Hundred Things To Do Before You Die. It's written by Dave Freeman, a very popular book. In this book he offers counsel. This life is a short journey. How can you make sure you fill it with the most fun and that you visit all the coolest places on earth before you pack those bags for the very last time? Dave Freeman gives a list of all these fun things to do including attending the Academy Awards and running with the bulls in Spain. The sad thing is that the author of this book died recently at the age of 47 after hitting his head in a fall at his home. He had only accomplished half of the items on his list. And according to a friend interviewed after his sudden death, Dave Freeman's mantra in life was you should live every day like it would be your last. And the friend added, "There's not that many people who do that".
But you know with all due respect to Mr. Freeman and his one hundred most important things to do before you die, there's a lot more important things to do than go to the Academy Awards and spend your life doing the coolest and most fun things and spend your life running with bulls in Spain. Oh, life is full of great experiences. I don't minimize that and it ought to be some fun things that we get to do that you want to do in your life. No problem with that. But life is so much more than just doing cool things and having fun, isn't it? How are you building? What if we had our own list of those things that by God's grace we will do for God before our time is done?
Those ministries, those things for His glory that would say, "Lord, by Your grace I will do this until You come for me". What a difference that would make in our life! In other words, if there's someone that you need to tell I love you, if there is a parent you need to embrace to say thank you, if there is a child that you need to hold and say, "I love you", do it now! Do it today! Don't wait another second to do what God has called you to do! If there's someone that you need to share, with whom you need to share your faith and introduce to Jesus, don't wait until it's too late and your eyes fill with the tears of regrets! Do it today! Do it right now! Build your life to last. And you'll hear those words, "Well done, good and faithful servant".