Rewards?

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When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven?  I imagine for most of us it has been a long time, maybe even never. Whenever a sermon (or book) provides a motive for obedience, it is almost always thankfulness for what Christ has done.  And certainly that is a wonderful and foundational motivation.  But is it the only motivation?

The New Testament writings suggest it is not.  For those who faithfully endure persecution, Jesus makes it clear, “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23). Paul states it plainly, “But each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8).  The author of Hebrews even reminds us that Moses was motivated by rewards, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb 11:26).

But, if rewards are clearly presented as a motivation in the Christian life, why don’t we hear more about rewards in our modern pulpits?  I am sure there are many answers to that question, but let me suggest one: we have been convinced that our obedience doesn’t matter.   While we are rightly told that only Christ’s obedience can secure our justification, and that he has kept the law perfectly for us, our own obedience receives far less attention in the pulpit.  Justification is center stage, and sanctification is peripheral.

No doubt, the downplaying of Christian obedience is borne out of good motives—some think Christ is glorified the most when we disparage our own obedience.  Our good works are just “filthy rags” (Is 64:6), we are reminded.

But, this whole line of thought misses the distinction between an unbeliever’s attempts at law-keeping and that of regenerated believer.  Granted, neither can merit salvation or justification.  Both fall woefully short of God’s perfect standards.  But, that does not mean that the believer’s obedience doesn’t matter.  God can still be pleased with it, even though it is imperfect.  Consider John Piper’s comments on this point:

It is terribly confusing when people say that the only righteousness that has any value is the imputed righteousness of Christ.  I agree that justification is not grounded on any of our righteousness, but only the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.  But sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags…[But] when my sons do what I tell them to do—I do not call their obedience “filthy rags” even if it is not perfect.  Neither does God. All the more because he himself is “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21).  He does not call his own, Spirit-wrought fruit, “rags” (Future Grace, 151-152).

It is only when we recognize that the obedience of the believer really does matter, and that we really can please our Father, that the rewards passages in the Bible will make any sense. And that can be a tremendous encouragement to those of us who labor heavily in ministry.  When we toil for the cause of Christ, we want to hear, and are bolstered by hearing, the encouraging words of Paul: “Your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

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About Jesus is a safe harbor

I am a follower of Jesus. I am a grateful delivered woman who was once an addict, but now God has restored me and renewed me. I have been redeemed and remade by our Creator through salvation of His Son, Jesus Christ! I just want to share what God has done in my life that you may have the opportunity to experience the same joy He gave me. I give God all the glory for everything in my life for I couldn't accomplish anything apart from Him. If ye shall know the truth, the truth shall set you free, John 8:32. He puts people in my life that help me and gives me the opportunity to help another. I am never surprised by his love and blessings. God has placed a confidence and love in myself that I have never had before… so "Thank you God".. for the many True Blue Christians you have put in my life and for all the blessings you bestow on me daily. I have not come this far without lots of prayers and the help and love of my true friends and family and I thank you God for those special people in my life. You are 100% my Savior! I will forever have your name on my lips. I realize now with lots of prayer and reading of the Word… that all the answers were here for me and I never asked the questions. Although I still struggle daily with other life’s daily cards that are dealt, I have an attitude now of “NO MATTER WHAT “– I will praise You, Lord~~~through my storms and my triumphs! I have much more to share and would love to answer any questions anyone may have for through all my trials what has come to be is that I want to help others to see what I didn’t see and hopefully prevent the same hurts, guilt, shame and woes that I had to deal with and give them the best gift of all… JESUS! I believe it's important that we know who we are in God ... We are a one of a kind and God has made us like no other for a purpose- His purpose. Yes, bad things happen and yes, we make poor choices, but we don't have to continue to make them. God's mercies are new each day. Once we realize, know and most importantly believe who we are in Christ, that we are a child of God, we are not an accident, and whatever the circumstances before us each day no matter what they are... God gives us the choice and the power of Him to choose right and live right. We no longer have to live in the past, but in the present and look with expectation to the future with God by our side guiding us and directing our steps. He is our strength and our hope needs to reside in Him. Let his power and love work in your life today and see that life does not have to be the way you are living now. He wants to help you, but you have to let him. He can't make us come to him, he is not lost - WE ARE! Please share this blog with others to encourage them for the glory of God!
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