Saturday, June 24, 2006

Excel For Rewards in Paradise

Today's Topic: Scriptural Serving

Excellence :|: The quality of being outstanding or really good.

Who do you think about when you read this definition? A friend or relative? A famous athlete or musician? A person you envy or fear? Yourself?

Do you think of God?

God is holy, or separate from us. He is altogether different than us. He stands out in his perfections. He defines the word good. He is truly and fully and immensely good. He gave up his own Son to allow sinners to be a part of his family. God is excellent!

And God calls us to excellence as well. We are to be outstanding and really good, through the power of Holy Spirit.

But why?

Two weeks ago we learned what it means to fear the Lord as we serve the church with excellence.

Always excel because God is always watching.

Last week we found out that God doesn't call us to excellence because he wants to increase the respect that others have for us.

Never excel because others may be watching.

And the next answer to the question is:

Excel because you will gain rewards in heaven.

Here's Collosians 3:22-24 again:
"Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
Three major ideas stick out to me from this text related to heavenly reward. First, service that receives rewards requires faith. We must believe that God will actually reward us. "Work heartily... knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward." If we don't believe that he will reward us, why will we work heartily? Are you convinced that God will actually reward you?

Second, though I don't know exactly what "the inhertiance" means, it will be a true reward. God isn't offering us a cheap plastic toy to get us to buy the happy meal of heaven. What he will give us in heaven will fill us with joy, pleasure, and love for him. We are going to enjoy these rewards more than any rewards the world has to offer.

Third, we have many opportunities to gain rewards in heaven. "Whatever you do..." is an all-inclusive statement. Regardless of what we're doing -- whether it's running sound, wrapping cables, creating videos, or aiming lights -- if we do that with fear of the Lord, we can expect God to fulfill his promise to reward us. That's a whole lot of chances to improve our inheritance in heaven. Take advantage of it!

Now, someone might object, saying that this pursuit of heavenly reward could be a selfish way to gain personal benefit instead of God's glory. If you have that concern, I'd encourage you to listen to a recent message by our senior pastor, Joshua Harris, called "Jesus on Serving." He answers this by encouraging us to not "try to be more spiritual than God."

I want to explain a bit further why I think it is impossible to be truly selfish when seeking heavenly reward.

Consider the situation: You're in heaven and God is handing out rewards for all the good deeds you did on earth. Let me ask some questions.
  • How did you get to heaven? Wasn't it through Jesus' death on the cross alone, not according to anything you did?
  • Where did your gifts come from? Weren't they gifts from a merciful God to an ungrateful sinner?
  • Where did your strength come from? Wasn't God sustaining your every breath as you served?
  • Why did that serving opportunity exist? Didn't God ordain all the days and the circumstances so you could do that?
  • Why are you getting a reward? Isn't it really because God loves you in spite of your sinfulness and has decided in his excellent goodness to reward you?
Is there anyone in heaven who is going to think that you've actually done it, that you deserve this reward?

I don't think so. I believe everyone is going to see ever so clearly that only God deserves worship, even though you are getting the reward.

So, here's my final exhortation:

Fear and love God so much that you ask him for strength and gifts and opportunities to serve with excellence, and then work heartily because you know he will reward you and in doing so he will be glorified.

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