REWARDS FOR CHRISTIAN SERVICE
By: Harold Hall
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I'm just overwhelmed today by the Spirit of God ' the privilege of being a Christian. Everything - He just lavishly bestows upon us; pours out upon us, because we are His. All through the song service earlier I was just overwhelmed by the goodness of God to us.
You know, there is a day coming ' the Bible refers to it as 'that Day,' - and that Day is coming in which the forbearance of God for the world will be removed, and judgment is coming.
We look a lot like the world, currently. His forbearance makes them look to be in better standing than they are. His grace over our lives covers us so that when we Christians look like them ' we're okay.
But there is a Day coming, and I'm sure it will be soon ' and whether it comes universally, it comes to every person quick enough ' and I'm closer there then I've ever been. So I'm very, very aware 'that Day' is coming.
For all you young people out there, here is one of the ways you can tell when 'the Day' is approaching. (Harold puts on his reading glasses ' hearty laughter!). Praise God for the seasons in our life!
Well ' I wanted to, uhhh ' oh me ' my notes are just so crazy this time; you know something? I'm so reliant upon the Holy Spirit of God ' I'm such a poor note taker and outline maker, and I scribble little things over here, and then I scribble a lot of little things over in my Bible ' and between the two of them and the Spirit of God ' you get a sermon! And sometimes it's worse than others, and maybe today is one of those times!
But I know the heart of God in the thing, and what God wants us to recognize today is who we Christians are in Jesus Christ -recognizing our place in Jesus Christ ' recognizing our privileges in Jesus Christ ' recognizing not only our responsibilities, but all the grace that is poured out to us in Jesus Christ.
Just to get you back in the frame of mind we were in before, the last time I preached two weeks ago, I want to move you right back to the beginning, so let's turn to Ephesians 2:19-22:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
What we discussed last time is that the foundation was laid, Jesus Christ was (is) the chief cornerstone, and we are upon it (or Him). He has not changed, and we are building on that foundation.
So what we want to look at today is how are we building on that foundation? What are we doing, now that we are on the foundation? Since we've been brought near ' no longer strangers and foreigners, and Jesus has placed us on that foundation ' which makes Christians a very distinctive people, a unique people in the earth, because the rest of the people in the earth are not on that foundation, okay ' regardless of what they are doing; what it might look like; maybe it looks like they are doing what we are doing. You know, there are a lot of 'do-gooders' in the world, and surely I thank the Lord for them. My goodness, they do so many wonderful things, but they are not building on the foundation we are building on.
You see, we have been placed on the foundation in Jesus Christ, and so when we build, it has function, it has meaning, it has purpose, it has a reason to exist.
Let's drop back a few pages in our Bible to Galatians 6: 4, and we're going to look at building on the foundation:
But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
This morning, we're going to have communion, and what is one of those verses that I always read? 'Let each man examine himself '' Do you know that the Lord continually calls upon us to do the one thing the world hates to do? Examine themselves. And yet, because of our special relationship with Jesus Christ, He calls upon us to examine ourselves. The reason He is willing and anxious that we should examine ourselves, is because He knows that He has grace sufficient for all of our sins.
He is determined ' He has fixed within Himself that He will pour out His grace upon you and so He says to you as a privilege: 'You examine yourself.'
I am sure the world must think we're a little crazy. You know ' we're a little introverted. 'Those people are always talking about - the heart!' Big issues of the heart. Jesus said that all these issues of the heart: murder, envy, fornication, adultery and that sort of thing come out of the heart.
But see ' He has given Christian believers a new heart. He has given us Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God to live within our heart. So He says, 'Examine yourself - your own worth - and you will have rejoicing ' in yourself.'
And you're saying to yourself ' I can just see it on your face ' 'I'm not that happy with myself most of the time' 'ahhhh ' you tried to get that off your face, but I saw it. (Laughter). But the Lord isn't saying that! The Lord is saying, 'Examine yourself, and rejoice in the work of your hand,' because He has this grace - this little backup '
boys were younger, in Boy Scouts, we would go out and work on a Saturday. One
way we would earn money is to go to company picnics and we would run the games.
The kids would be there in what we called their second uniform, because we
weren't allowed to use the Boy Scout uniforms for such an event. This second
uniform was a red shirt that told who we were and where we were from. The
purpose of the games was to let the company employees win ' just the
opposite of what would happen at a carnival, where the purpose of the game is
for you to lose. The goal at a company picnic was to make sure that
everybody had a good time, and everybody was a winner. I always
appreciated companies who had what I referred to as 'the backup pack.' These
companies would set aside money just for prizes. And then some of these
companies would go so far as to have what we called 'the backup pack.' What
this was ' while we were running the games and making sure we had winners, and
everyone was having fun ' sometimes you would misgauge it, and you would run out
of prizes, and the outing was not over yet. So these bigger companies would
have 'the backup pack.' When someone would say, 'Go break open the backup
pack,' and that would be maybe an additional $500 worth of prizes that would now
be given out. Once the 'pack' was broken, now all of the prizes had to be given
away, because it has been purchased, okay?
And Jesus has purchased our redemption, and His 'backup pack' is grace. So He comes to us and says, 'Examine yourself. I've got ' a back up pack! ' so when you are examining yourself, I am sufficient for all of your transgressions.'
So as we build on this foundation, He wants us to examine ourselves. And let's ' let's keep in mind ' it's just for us.
For all the 'do-gooders' of the world, when that Day comes ' when that day of judgment arrives ' and all those 'big' people have done these wonderful things ' He's going to say: 'I never knew you,' and turn His back ' because everything they have built ' has been built upon the sand. Every single deed that they do, regardless of their motivation, no matter what it is ' they are building upon the sand. It's always going to be on the sand, because they have not yielded themselves to Jesus Christ, and they are not on the foundation, so they are left on the sand.
I don't care how many generations the money lasts ' I don't care how many foundations they set up to do good ' it's all on the sand, and it's all going to be burned and destroyed, and come to nothing ' and He'll say: 'I never knew you.'
But that's not us, see. You need to always understand, that when you're in Jesus Christ ' you're in! It's a big 'club,' all right? There are millions of people around the world, and there are the generations that went before us who are now in heaven, and we are joined with them, all referred to as saints. We all build together, on the foundation ' Jesus Christ ' and it's a completely different standard than the poor, poor world doing the very best that they can.
So, if we will always remember ' we have to remember - that there is them and us. That's why we implore them to join us, because ' there's them and us, and they need to be over here on this foundation, receiving these privileges, receiving these compensations that the Lord has prepared for those that serve Him.
Now I think it is important that we look at God's standard for 'good works.' What I want to talk about this morning is 'the gold standard' and 'the silver standard.' It isn't that God has two different standards, but they are just so clearly identifiable in the Scriptures, and I want to show you God's 'gold standard' for 'good works,' because when we examine ourselves ' uhh ' to what are we going to compare? We're not comparing ourselves to other Christians, because this verse clearly says: Let him examine himself.
When we go before the communion table, we examine ourselves. We are not comparing ourselves with the people sitting next to us. We are simply looking at ourselves, and we are looking at God's standard ' His Word - and we're letting the Holy Spirit touch our hearts' ' to change us - so we'll conform to God's Word, okay? That's all we're working with here. This is not one of those times when we look up and look around. It's always ' looking at ourselves, because we stand before God's throne alone ' we are rewarded ' singly ' by God ' to us. I know that sounds, really, really scary ' but it should always be looked at as a privilege. As you find, this is the way He set it up. This is a privilege we have, to examine ourselves, and look at the work we do.
Let's look at God's 'gold standard' for service. Turn to Mark 9:41: 'For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.'
Let's dissect this just a little to see who the giver is, and who the recipient is, because this is the 'gold standard' of good works. The person giving the cup of water in Christ's name is doing it because they are a Christian believer. They are the only ones who would give anything in the name of Jesus Christ, except they belong to Jesus Christ.
If you find yourself in the company of those who belong to Jesus Christ, like Jeff this morning came up and gave me a cup of water, which is interesting, because I never ask for water when I speak, but today ' Jeff walked up and gave me a cup of water. I just had to laugh inside myself. Here we are ' a cup of water given in Christ's name, by a person who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, because ' given to me, because ' I belong to Christ. So, both the giver and the receiver are the Lord's.
Have this for a little follow-up. When this exchange occurs, 'Assuredly, I say to you,' ' how is that for a nice little emphasis; let's just stop. 'Assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.'
We are going to read some other verses where there are rewards that can be lost. But it says here in Mark 9:41 that when a Christian helps another Christian ' because they are a Christian - and because the person who needs help is a Christian, and they recognize it ' 'they will by no means lose their reward.' This is 'the gold standard.' This is the preciousness of being inside the Body of Christ. Us, ministering as Jesus said in other verses; us ministering to Jesus, by recognizing Jesus in our fellow believers, and ministering to them because they belong to Jesus. Absolutely ' 'the gold standard.'
As you see, it has absolutely nothing to do with the world at all. That's why everything they build is on the sand. It's, it's ' poor folks ' I'm sorry 'they are just left out. And one of the ways we can recognize that they are left out and that they need Jesus is to recognize what we have being in Jesus Christ. If we recognize what we have being in, we will recognize that they are left out, and hopefully it will be a motivator to us to try to reach them.
So it says, 'He can rejoice in Himself alone ' not in another,' (we're back in Galatians now, Chapter 6:5), for each one shall bear his own load.' Again, recognizing that we stand before God as individuals, recognizing that the Lord has something for each one of us to do. So we bear our own load because the Lord is willing to give each one of us our own load, whatever it is. To one He gives one thing, to another He gives another. Again, it's very important that we don't compare, because He does as He wills. 'In a great house, there are vessels of honor, and vessels of dishonor, and each man bears his own load, to do with, as what the Lord gives Him to work with in his life'.
Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 3:10: Paul is speaking: 'According to the grace of God, which was given to me as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and others builds on it.' That's interesting. Paul examined himself, and referred to himself as a wise master builder. That's not being arrogant. It's the load that the Lord gave him to bear. I wouldn't want to step over there, and try to pick that load up! God didn't give it to me to bear ' He gave it to Paul to bear, and Paul did bear it, and referred to himself as a wise master builder ' rightly so.
But he goes on to say 'others now build on the foundation that I have laid.' Of course, that would be you and me, 'But let each one take heed how he builds on it, for no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus.
'Now if anyone builds on this foundation, with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one's work, of which sort it is.
'If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved yet so as by fire.'
What we identify in this passage is ' you can build with gold ' and we've read the 'gold standard,' ' I've yet to read the 'silver standard,' but we can build with silver, we can build with precious stones, or we can build with wood, hay and straw, because our lives are building something as we stand on this foundation of Jesus Christ. The 'gold standard' shows us God's heart in the matter.
If you just give a cup of water ' I tell you, there will be a reward. This is God's heart. Just a cup of water! 'I have a reward for you,' the Lord promises! And there are so many other things we can do beside carry a cup of water. You see, it's the heart of God to pour out blessings upon His children ' to set aside rewards in heaven ' to prepare a place for you, that is just for you ' that's everything in His heart!
Just as much as He abundantly pours out His grace upon us here on the earth, so we can endure the sin-sick place that we live in, and the part we contribute in that ' He has grace for us in our life, because He wants reward us every time, and the whole purpose of Him telling us to examine ourselves is because He wants you to have more opportunity for rewards! That's His motivation! He absolutely wants to reward you! Everything ' everything in His heart is toward you, so He says, 'Look how you build, and these are the standards by which you may examine it, and I will move ' my heart is to move ' toward you.'
Now here's an interesting verse, in Galatians 6:6: Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.' Now I know everyone of you are thinking about material blessings, making sure the Pastor has a good wage, and all that good kind of stuff, you know, those that teach, let them be compensated for it in some way ' but folks that isn't what it says. It says, 'Share in all good things with him who teaches.' I'll tell you ' that is just one of the reasons why I love this fellowship, because we practice this. What is the very, very, very, best thing that the church can do for anyone in the church? What is the very, very, very, very best thing? If I hand you $20, is that the best thing I could do for you? If I hand you $1,000, is that the best thing I could do for you? When you say it like that, it doesn't sound like, does it? What is the very best thing that any church could do for any member of the church ' except include them in the fellowship of the brethren? To be a part ' to share the life; and let me just contrast it - and I say it with a heavy heart - this nation is filled with Pastors isolated from their congregation ' separated ' set apart ' 'pedestalized' ' to their destruction, to where they quit and give up being in the ministry; they can't go on; they are so isolated and so destroyed.
We old-timers ' when we first set this church up ' one of the reasons we put multiple speakers in place with a plurality of Elders, was to break up that problem that exists in America, in particular, of 'Pastor worship;' in isolating the Pastor, because we have watched other men be destroyed because of being isolated from their fellowship. You ones here in this congregation ' you have given us the very best, by including us in your lives, and fellowshipping with us, and treating us like people, and not criticizing us when we have to share what the Lord has told us to share about the flaws of our life. You know: 'Do as I say, and don't do as I do, and here is what I did; don't do that. You know '?
And He's told us to share these things as examples so that you can see, and you don't come up to me later and say, 'You know, you really shouldn't have shared that; you really exposed yourself.' That's what often happens in other churches, and that's what causes the isolation, and I just want to thank you for giving the very, very best that a church has to give, and that is the fellowship of the saints ' brothers ' sisters ' standing together. Thank you so much. I'm glad that verse is in the Bible. See, those are the 'good works' that will stand forever; these things will be rewarded!
That is the best we can do, to accept one another, enjoy one another for what we are able to contribute and not make those comparisons, but examining ourselves, and examining our own works. I just thank the Lord for that.
Verse seven. Then we have a nice little discourse here. Just like the other passage, 'Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that he will reap.' That's both inside the church and outside the church. That has universal application. The corn grows in America the same that it grows in Europe; the same that it does in Africa. You throw it down there in the ground, and it comes up. That's a universal truth. But inside the church, we probably get a little more scrutiny. I think the Lord has enough scrutiny for everybody ' individually ' right down to the last soul on the planet. He's able to see it all. And so, we want to be careful what we are sowing, and that's why He's asking us to examine ourselves.
He goes on to say, 'He who sows in the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption. He who sows in the Spirit, will in the Spirit reap everlasting life.'
It reminds me of the book of Hosea where it says, 'They sow the wind, but they reap the whirlwind.' But, you always get more back than what you sow. That's how it works when you sow to the flesh. If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind, because there's always going to come back some ten-fold; some hundred-fold, whether it's corruption, it will be that way, or whether it's to the Spirit ' it will be that way also. So even when you sow in the Spirit a little, you'll reap at least ten, and maybe even one-hundred fold.
Let's take a look at 1 Timothy, Chapter 2, verse 1. (Again, I was tickled this morning when we were having our morning prayer ' how the Lord included the passages that we're using today): Therefore, I exhort, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and for all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior, who desires that all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.
See ' when we sow into everlasting life, it's not just everlasting life for ourselves, but it has an impact on the entire world. When we sow into everlasting life, by the Spirit of God ' when we practice these things ' when we are looking for a peaceable life ' a quiet life that we can live in reverence and peace ' that's good and acceptable in the eyes of God.
It's all about the salvation of souls, so that they will join us into this privileged, privileged position. So when we build, we want to look that we are building this quiet and peaceable life in which we're willing to pray. In fact, this actually shows 'the silver standard.' 'The silver standard' is that we pray for all men everywhere. Not just for the household of faith, and we'll see that again in some additional verses.
That's 'the silver standard:' Not only do we work for the household of faith, but we live in the household of faith, according to the word of God, prompted by the Spirit of God, so that all men everywhere might be saved, because of our good works - because of our seeking God.
It's an opportunity, folks. It's an opportunity that God has for us, and doesn't it say in the book of Revelation that there is even a soul-winners crown? See ' He's determined to reward you. He's determined ' He will reward you.
In Galatians verse 9, 'and let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.' Absolutely ' absolutely true. Verse 10: Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith. And there we have the gold standard and the silver standard, all in one book. We are always, always, aware of touching the Body of Christ, and making sure we minister to those in the Body of Christ, but we also will be rewarded as we do good to all, and what I like about it, is that it says, 'as we have opportunity.'
The Lord - the Lord Himself - will give you opportunity ' and I know what you're thinking of: you're thinking of the last time you missed that opportunity ' the person walked away and you went: Ohhhhhh ' there was an opportunity, and I missed it! But you see, every time that occurs, that's when we look to God ' we examine ourselves, right when we did that, when we said, 'Ahhh - We missed it!' What were we doing when we say that to ourselves? We were examining ourselves. By the Spirit of God, right at that moment, we examined ourselves, and we said we came up short.
What do we do every time we come up short? 'Lord ' I'm sorry. I missed that opportunity. Forgive me, Lord. Pour out your grace upon me. Give me another opportunity, will you Lord?' See ' we examine ourselves - on-going ' on-going, every day ' when the Spirit pricks us, we examine ourselves ' we repent.
When we do that, I am just quite sure that cleansing fire that will come in the future ' it comes at that moment and burns up that hay and stubble. It burns it up ' it's gone, so it's not littering the foundation where we are working. We don't want to litter that foundation. We don't want sand under the next block. We want to set that in there and seat it in just right. So the Lord gives us that opportunity, that we can examine ourselves and see what we are building with: gold - silver - precious stones.
I'm sorry ' the Lord didn't show me what 'precious stones' were. Hey ' maybe that's the souls that are saved through our ministry. That might be it! (Laughter). I'll leave that to the Lord!
But I know, that He's giving us this chance to build, and He gives us all an opportunity, and if your opportunities aren't the same as the other person's ' that's all right. You're only examining yourself. What do you know? You're not Billy Graham. Well good ' we got that out of the way! But whoever you are, the Lord will give you your own opportunities, and you know ' I really enjoy watching people like Pastor Abraham and others who create opportunities ' you know ' who put together these big crusades, and do these other marvelous things, and they create a situation in which there can be opportunity. Isn't that neat?!
But you know something' maybe you're not one of those kind of builders. We don't all build the same. My work does not look like Steve's work. My work does not look like Thomas's work when I build. My work certainly doesn't look like Ken's work when he builds a piece of furniture. I wish I could do what they do; I cannot. But ' I do my own work. I do my own work when I build, and ' it is what it is, and I have to be content with the level that I work at, and the Lord gives me opportunity to do what I can do.
What happens in the natural ' that we can see in the natural ' the Lord gives us in the Spirit ' more and more and more, and more. We just need to have those spiritual eyes that see all those opportunities that the Lord is giving us. So, we examine ourselves, and we rejoice in it, because it gives us a new opportunity, to build more, and more, and more ' with more gold, more silver, and more precious stones, because the Lord will provide the materials for His house. Praise God, praise God!
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