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Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Christian Entitlement System

The funeral home chapel is not filled. Thirty-five to forty people are scattered about. A friend of the deceased has been asked to speak. We have just heard "I Did It My Way" and "Stairway to Heaven" played through the chapel sound system. Most of the family members stair straight ahead. They are praying that is all over soon. I sit in my usual place behind the podium without any control over what is being said.

The friend tells some risque stories of things he and the deceased did. Finally, when he realizes that he really doesn't know how to end his talk, he says, "And now, Joe, you are getting your just reward. I'll be Saint Peter was surprised to see you. I know you're going to stir up heaven." With that, he sits down.

Now this friend is right about one thing. Heaven will give just rewards. It just isn't the same reward for everyone.

Many people think that heaven is a reward. That is absolutely false! Heaven is a gift. It is given by God through His Son. Jesus died on the Cross for the forgiveness of all who identify with Him. Those who unite themselves with Him are forgiven. Heaven is the natural result of forgiveness.

John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Now rewards are another matter entirely. Heaven has rewards within it. Those who are faithful while in the body will receive more than those who are unfaithful. Those who have done sinful things will receive less.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Yet, many Christians continue to think that heaven will be the same for everyone. They think that their actions on earth amount to nothing when they get to heaven. They think they have simply gotten away with all the evil that they have done. Maybe that's why they think that any sin which is unknown to others is the same as not committing that sin.

I was shocked when a lady I would say is mature in her faith asked me, "Are you saying that when I get to heaven, I may still have to stand in the corner?" She had always heard that heaven is the reward for knowing Christ. I told her that I do not know what the rewards will be but I know that there will be rewards.

Many in our society want to equalize all assets. They want to take from the rich and give to the poor. There is even a disdain for those who have gotten rich. People talk of profits as if they are evil. They speak of wealth as if it is a plague which must be quarantined and cured. They have been inoculated from working so hard by all the awards given from the time of their birth. The school system gives an award to every child each year even if they haven't earned anything. No wonder that they think they should have the same as everyone else once they leave school.

Do you think the society got this idea from the poor theology taught by preachers? I have heard many preachers speak of heaven as a reward. I can't remember a sermon when one (other than myself) has preached a message of reward for faithfulness in heaven. I was surprised when the wife of a New Testament Professor told me I was wrong when I spoke of rewards in heaven.

Yes, I know that love should be the motivation for our obedience to the Lord. The Apostle Peter's positive response to whether he loved Jesus was to act on that love. But I also cannot deny the reward that is coming for that obedience.

The Apostle Paul spoke of that love which motivated him to finish his course with the Lord.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV) 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

But notice again there will be an award. There is no entitlement. There is the gift of salvation and what we have due to us from what we have done in this body.

So, love Jesus with all your heart. Prove it by your faithfulness. Prove it by your purity. Prove it by your confessions and repentances. For your reward is waiting for you.

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