Monday, April 17, 2006

Casting Crowns in Cleveland

The storm clouds that just passed were lit purple and blue and red by the setting sun. My wife and I were out with a friend for an evening sail on the Chesapeake Bay. We marvelled at God's creation in the sunset, the perfect winds, and his most gracious mercy in allowing the storm to pass early.

We also, somewhat less spiritually, admired the mansions along the waterfront.

"When I get to heaven," our friend said, "I'd like to have a waterfront home like that one. But, now that I think about it, I haven't really suffered much for the Savior. I'll probably end up in some place like Cleveland."

We laughed at the thought of "Cleveland" even existing in heaven. God's new world will not be boring or ugly or even plain. But it does point to something that is true: heaven will not be a place of exact equality. God will give rewards to believers according to what they have done on earth. Some will end up, metaphorically, in waterfront homes on the Chesapeake Bay. And some will end up in Cleveland. None of us will deserve either, but we'll get it anyway.

As an organizer of church volunteers, I'm always wrestling with this question: How do I non-manipulatively motivate people to do hard work for no earthly pay? I've become convinced that the most reasonable way to motivate people is to point them to heaven's rewards. God will reward those who serve him faithfully and truly.

But even the idea of heavenly reward can get twisted by our sinful hearts. We can jealously or arrogantly seek heavenly reward. "I'm going to live on the waterfront!" However, I was reading in Revelation 4 this morning, which says...
"And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 'Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.'"
I find great encouragement from this passage. Here are the twenty four elders, presumably the twenty four most rewarded people in the new heavens. They had crowns on their heads, which only could have been bestowed by the King himself. Nevertheless, they cast those crowns down in front of God in worship.

Here is my great encouragement: Regardless of how much reward we get in heaven, no one is going to be fooled into thinking we did it! If we live in a waterfront mansion, we won't be able to deceive ourselves into thinking we did it. If we end up with an apartment in Cleveland, we will know that God is ever so merciful to let us in at all. Everyone will worship God and God alone, recognizing that only Jesus Christ earned anything in heaven. We're only there through him.

Therefore, all the more, let's serve to pursue eternal rewards!

Let's seek to receive crowns to lay down before the Lord in worship, whether that's in Cleveland or on the Chesapeake Bay!
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1 comment:

Chris said...

When I read the title I was afraid it was going to be a concert review... :-) I was relieved to find that wasn't the case. Thanks for some good thoughts.