Introduction: Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque. We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world; we do this with one another, through worship, by the Word, to the world.
Mark Hitchcock: Well, thank you. It's great to be here with you. I've heard so much about this great church over the years, and have admired it from a distance. So it surely is a great privilege to be here today and to be in this pulpit, and it's certainly a privilege and an honor that I don't take lightly. I want to thank your pastor especially for inviting me and my wife to spend this weekend with you, and I pray that God's hand and blessing will be upon him as he's away, to energize him, and refresh him, and to bring him back to you all safely.
Well, if you'd turn in your Bibles with me this morning, we want to look at a passage in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verses 9 to 11. It's a passage that we'll start with, we'll kind of go through this passage, but we'll kind of branch out from it. But we have the opportunity this morning to read the inerrant, inspired Word of God. And in Second Corinthians 5:1 through 8, Paul has been talking there about life after death. He's been talking about the new body that we're going to receive someday in the future.
And then as kind of a capstone on that teaching he begins in verse 9 and says "Therefore we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we're made manifest also in your consciences."
May the Lord write these eternal truths upon our hearts this morning as we study God's Word together. Some of you may have heard of Buffalo Bill Cody a famous figure in the West back in the late part of the nineteenth century. He had a great Wild West show called "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," and they toured around America drawing great crowds.
But in the late eighteen hundreds they went over for a tour to Europe, and in 1899 they came to Berlin, Germany. And there in Berlin the people there turned out by the thousands to see this Wild West show.
And one of the main attractions at "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show" was Annie Oakley. She was a great sharpshooter, in fact, she was known as Little Sure Shot. She was such a great sharpshooter, you could throw up playing cards in the air some distance away and she could shoot them in half. You could through a coin in the air twenty-seven yards away, and she could shoot it out of the air. Now, one of her tricks was to put a rifle on her shoulder, to have a mirror, and to shoot an apple at some distance away.
But her favorite sharpshooting trick was, is that during her time she would ask for a volunteer from the audience to come up with a lit cigar with ashes on the end, and she'd shoot the ashes off the end of the cigar. Well, you can imagine she didn't get very many volunteers. So her husband was always there, a man named Frank Butler. And Frank would always act like he was an anonymous person there and raise his hand.
And he would come up with this lit cigar, and she'd take her .45 Colt pistol and shoot the ashes right off the end of the cigar. Well, when they were in Berlin, Germany, she asked for a volunteer to come forward for this part of the act. And to her surprise, and the surprise of everyone there, a man volunteered, and he just happened to be the newly crowned German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Well, now he was pretty nervous about this. And so he gets up there and puts a big, fat cigar in his mouth and ashes on the end. And she's very nervous, but she takes her .45 Colt pistol and shoots the ashes right off the end. And of course, there's wild applause, everyone's excited, he was impressed as well.
But the story goes that fifteen years later—of course, Kaiser Wilhelm is the one who plunged the world into World War I, with all the death and the devastation, the carnage that came with that. And Annie Oakley wrote him a letter during the time of World War I, and in the letter she wrote to him and asked for another opportunity to take a shot. [laughter] And as the story goes, she never did receive a reply back from him for that.
But I've thought about that story quite a bit, and it really teaches all of us a very important lesson in life, and the lesson is this: You only get one shot at life. There aren't any do-overs in life. There's no dress rehearsal. We get one shot in life and it's incumbent upon each one of us to take dead aim, to make that shot that we have count for Jesus Christ.
Because according to the Bible the day is coming for every one of us when we're going to have to stand before the Lord to give an account of our lives, to give an account of what we did with that one shot at life that God gave to us. We're all going to face, according to the Word of God, a final examination, and it's called in Scripture the "judgment seat of Christ."
What I want to do in our time together is to answer five key questions about the judgment seat of Christ. And these questions are: Who's going to be there; who are the participants? When is the judgment seat going to take place; what is the period of the judgment seat? And then look at the place of the judgment seat; where is it going to be? And then look at why we're going to appear there, and this is the purpose of it. And then I want to focus at the end, most of our time, on the preparation for it, or how do we get ready for this final examination that each of us are going to face?
We begin here in our passage with the who or the participants. Notice in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that Paul says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Now, the "we" there includes Paul. And I think this is a judgment for believers only.
There's another judgment the Bible speaks of, in fact, there are several judgments, but the other main one is in Revelation chapter 20 verses 11 through 15. It's called the "great white throne judgment," and that judgment will be at the end of one-thousand-year reign of Jesus on the earth. And all the unbelievers of all the ages are going to appear there before the Lord to be judged for their sins. It's where the lost are going to appear, those who have rejected Christ as their Savior.
And the judgment seat of Christ is not that judgment; it's a judgment that's going to occur in heaven after we've been caught up to be with the Lord. So, the judgment seat of Christ is a judgment for believers; the great white throne judgment is a judgment for unbelievers. But notice here he says, "For we must all appear." It's not optional; it's a necessity. We have to appear there at the judgment seat of Christ.
So every person here this morning is going is to appear at one of two great future judgments. You're either going to stand before the Lord at that great white throne as a lost person, without Christ, to be cast into the lake of fire; or you're going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ as a believer to be rewarded for this things that you've done.
Now, he says here, "We must all appear," and the word all there, I understand this to be only church-age believers. Now, you say, "Well, what's a church-age believer?" Well, the church started on the day of Pentecost with the coming of the Spirit, the descent of the Spirit, and it's going to end at the rapture of the church. So all the believers who are saved during that age are going to be caught up at the rapture.
I take it that Old Testament saints, those who died before the church age began, they're not going to be resurrected till the end of the tribulation period. You see that in Daniel chapter 12 verses 1 to 3. Also in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 when it talks about those who are going to be taken at the rapture, it says, "The dead in Christ will rise first." And Old Testament saints were not in Christ, that's a unique feature of this church age where we are united with Jesus Christ by the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. So I take it that this is looking at a judgment for believers during this church age.
Now, notice here no one is exempt; Paul says, "We must all appear." And then he switches from the plural to the singular, and he says, "That each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." So it's going to be individual.
In Romans 14:10 Paul says, "For we must all stand before the judgment seat of God so that each one shall give an account of himself to God. So we're going to have to sing solo before God someday. It's not like being in a choir where you got a whole bunch of people that could drown out your bad voice; you're going to have to sing solo before God. Each one of us is going to have to give an account to God for what we did with that one shot at life that he gave to us.
Now, the next thing we see here is the place of this judgment. He says, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." The place of this judgment is the judgment seat or the Greek word there is the word bema, the bema seat of Christ. And a bema back in that day was a step or a raised platform. It was a tribunal where you had to have steps to ascend to that place. And so, really, this platform I'm standing on right now is a bema; it's a raised plat perform. You have to come up steps to get here.
And every major Greek and Roman city had a bema in the marketplace. And this is a picture that I took of the bema seat in the agora, or the marketplace of ancient Corinth. You can see it back there in the background a bit, and then here's a close-up of it. That's the Acrocorinth in the background where the temple of Aphrodite was, and it's about two thousand feet high there.
But according to Acts 18:12, Paul stood in front of that judgment seat. So when you go there to Corinth today and stand there, Paul was actually there at one time. But you see, when Paul tells the believers at Corinth, "You're going to have to stand before the bema seat of Christ," that's something they could relate to. They saw is a judgment seat or a bema seat down in their marketplace every day.
And it's called here the judgment seat of Christ because Christ will be the Judge there. In John 5:22 Jesus says, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but he's given all judgment to the Son." So we'll be judged at the bema seat of Christ by our Lord himself.
Now, the third question about the judgment seat is: When is it going to happen? What's the period of it? We won't turn is there, but in First Corinthians 4:5 it says this, "When the Lord comes"—"When the Lord comes," I take this as referring to the rapture. When the Lord comes, he's going to bring to light the things hidden in the darkness, and he's going disclose the motives of men's hearts. So it's when the Lord comes that this judgment is going to take place.
So my view is that one of these days the rapture is going to take place and the believers who are alive are going to be caught up to heaven. I like to say we're going to get an airlift and a facelift at the same time. We're going to go up and be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. And those who have died, their bodies are going to be raised and rejoined with their perfected spirits. So we're caught up to meet the Lord, and during that time the tribulation period, the seven-year tribulation is going to be raging on the earth.
So we're going to be caught up at the rapture, the tribulation will be going on earth, and we will be in heaven, and it will be the judgment of believers there for their works. That's where I see this judgment seat taking place. So the first order of business after we get caught up to be with the Lord, is going to be for us to stand before him, to give an account for what we did with that one shot at life that he gave to us.
In Revelation 22:12 some of the last words of Jesus, he said this, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according to what he's done." So it's like: "I'm going to come back, and the first thing that's going to happen is the rewards are going to be given, everyone's going to be called to account." So the participants in this judgment are every church-age believer; the place of it is in heaven at the judgment seat of Christ; the period of it is right after the rapture.
Now, that brings us to the fourth question: Why is there going to be a judgment seat? Now, before we look at what the judgment seat, the purpose of it is, let's say what the purpose is not. The judgment seat or the bema seat is not to determine if we get into heaven or not. The issue at the judgment seat is not going to be where you're spending eternity, but how you will spend eternity.
See, the issue at the judgment seat is not our salvation, but it's rewards. And we need to keep these things very clear and distinct in our minds. Salvation, our salvation is based on the work of Christ for us; our rewards are based on our works for Jesus Christ after we've trusted in him, and we can't get those things mixed together.
You know, it's tragic, most people you go ask, "Do you think you're going to go to heaven?" If they say "yes," and you say "why," they say—what? "Because I'm a good person," right? "I've done some good things. The good outweighs the bad." That's the wrong answer according to the Bible. In Ephesians 2:8 and 9, it says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." In Romans 4:5 Paul said, "It's not to the one who works, but him who believes that God justifies the ungodly."
So let me ask you this question this morning, a very important question: Have you trusted in Jesus Christ? Have you put your faith in him apart from any hope whatsoever in your works? Anyone of us here who will ever be saved, we will never be saved by our doing, but we'll be saved by his dying. We're never going to be saved by our merit, we're saved completely and wholly by his mercy.
If you've never seen how bankrupt you are before God, then this morning may God impress that upon you, and you recognize that there's nothing you can do to save yourself, but that Jesus Christ came, when he died on cross, he purchased a full pardon for you from all your sin, and all you have to do is to take it. [applause] Amen!
So if you've never done that, the Bible says "Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." And at the end of the service there's going to be some pastors down front here that would love to talk with you about that, if you want to come forward and to talk with them about your salvation, your need for Jesus Christ as your Savior.
So the purpose of this judgment is not to see if we get into heaven, that was decided when we trusted Christ. So you say, "Well, what is the purpose of the judgment seat?" Well, notice here in verse 10, the middle of the verse, he says, "That," or "In order that"—here's the purpose—"that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."
So the purpose of the judgment seat is for each one of us to be reviewed and to be rewarded, for our service and our ministry to Christ to be evaluated, to receive, it says here, a "recompense" or to receive what's due. So it's an evaluation of our life as a believer to determine the rewards we're going to receive.
Now, the difficulty with this verse is that last phrase, it says, "According to what he's done, whether good or bad." Now the good stuff we all know what that is, that's the good things we've done for the Lord. But what's the bad here that's going to be brought up? There's a word in Greek for bad that means evil. That's not the word that's used here.
There's another word in Greek that's used for bad and it means bad in the sense of worthless or useless. That's the word that's used here. I like to use that for my golf game. It's pretty worthless most of the time and useless. You can use this for your golf game. It's the Greek word phaulos, it's worthless. And he's saying here that there's some things that we're going to appear before the Lord that he's not going to reward us for, not because they were sinful things, but because they're worthless.
So what does that mean? Well, look back at First Corinthians, chapter 3. Here's another passage in the Corinthian letters that deals with this topic, I believe, of the judgment seat of Christ. First Corinthians, chapter 3, and look down at verse 11. Paul says, "For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." That's true of a church, the only foundation for a church is Jesus Christ, and the only foundation for an individual believer for our life is Jesus. Everything has to be built on him, he's the solid Rock.
But he says, "Now, if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw." So there's different kind of material you can chose to build with. "Each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work." Notice, not the quantity of it, but the quality of it. "If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire."
So over in Corinthians Second Corinthians 5 when he says he's going to reward us "according to what we've done, whether good or bad," the good is the gold, the silver, the precious stones, that which is rewardable; the bad is the wood, the hay, and the straw, or that which is unrewardable. And it says here that the unrewardable stuff is going to be burned up. Now, notice, we aren't burned up, but our deeds are. "He will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet, so as through fire."
J. Vernon McGee one of my favorite, old preachers, he used to say, "At the judgment seat of Christ many of us are going to smell like we were bought at a fire sale." I mean, we're going to make it through though it says, we're going to make it through the judgment, but because sins aren't going to be an issue there, but we're going to suffer the loss of these things.
Now, here's an important thing again to remember, at the judgment seat of Christ our sins are not going to be bought up there. I used to have this idea when I was a little boy that you're going to appear there and everybody's going to be there, and like on a big screen, like God's going to put up every bad thing you ever did, and every sordid thought you ever had. I mean, it was just the most terrifying thing you can imagine.
But Jesus paid for our sins; they're not going to be brought up. In John 5:24 Jesus said, "Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears my words, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and shall not come into judgment, but they pass from death to life." Our sins have been paid for. In Romans 8:1 it says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. So we're not going to have condemnation for our sins, but evaluation of our service.
I love that old song "It is Well with My Soul." There's that one verse of the song and it says this: "My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!" What a beautiful thought that is. Our sins have been nailed to the cross; we're not going to face judgment for our sins.
But if these bad things that are going to be brought up at the judgment seat aren't sins, then what are they? Well, I like to call them bad good works. Now I know that's kind of an oxymoron, but they're things that we did for the Lord, but they're bad because the motive wasn't right. You see, God doesn't just look at what we do, but God looks at why we do it. God's knows why we do what we do. So they're things that we did for him, but we did them with the wrong reward, with the wrong motive.
In First Corinthians 4:5, again, that verse I quoted earlier, says, "When the Lord comes, he's going to bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and he's going to disclose the motives of men's hearts." God's going is to disclose why we did what we did.
There's a story I like about a group of children that were lined up in the lunch line in a cafeteria at a Catholic elementary school. And at the beginning of the line as they were going through there was a pile of apples there. And one of the nuns had placed a sign there that said: "Take only one, and remember God is watching."
So they went through the line there and then when they got to the end, there was a big pile of chocolate chip cookies. And one of the students had written a sign and put it there, and it says: "Take all you want. God is watching the apples." [laughter]
Now, God's watching the apples and the cookies, isn't he? The Bible tells us God knows everything, God's omniscient. And here's a very sobering thought for you to think about and for me as well: God not only sees to us, God sees through us. God knows why we do what we do. God knows our motives.
Now you might be thinking at this point in this sermon, "Well, I'm doomed, I'll get into heaven, but I'm not going to get any reward when I get there." Well, look, I understand what you're feeling, because at my best I can't think of anything that I do without some of Mark Hitchcock in it, with 100 percent pure motives. I mean, maybe there's some things I do now and then that I just do so quickly I don't have time to think about it that I may do with 100 percent pure motives.
But we're such fallen, depraved creatures, we get ourselves all mixed up, it seems to me, like in about everything we do. But I'm convinced for you and for me any reward we receive when we get to heaven is going to be purely by the grace of God, but God is going to reward us.
And in First Corinthians 4:5, it's that verse I've quoted a couple of times, the very last phrase says this though, "Then each man's praise will come to him from God." And I love that statement because, again, it's in the singular. Each person's praise is going to come from God, and I think that means God is going to find something in the life of every believer to reward and to praise us for.
And this boggles my mind to think that the Lord of the ages, the Creator of the universe, the Shepherd of the stars is going to praise me someday in heaven and give me reward. Now, that boggles the mind to think that—that's what it says, "Each man's praise will come to him from God."
But the key idea here really is this: the person you are today is going to determine the rewards you receive tomorrow. The Bible tells us this is training time for reigning time. It's training time now for that time we'll reign with him. Your life here and now, and my life here and now will impact our life and our existence for all of eternity. It matters greatly what we do with that one shot that God gives to us.
Now, we've answered four questions so far: Who's going to be at the judgment seat? Church-age believers. When's it going to happen? It's going to happen after the rapture in heaven. Where's it going to happen? At that judgment seat of Christ there in heaven. And we've seen the why of this judgment—it's to review and to reward our lives. The final issue now I want to focus in on is how do we get ready for that day? I call this the preparation. How do we get prepared for that coming day?
Let's pretend like this is a large classroom and it's Friday afternoon, and you know, people's minds are wandering, they're thinking about all kinds of things. And finally, then suddenly the teacher says, "You know, our final exam is going to be on Monday morning, and you're going to face the final examination. But I'll tell you what I'm going to do; I'm going to give you all the test questions ahead of time for the weekend."
Man, you just hit the bonanza, right? I mean, you pull out your pen, and if you're a halfway-decent student at all, you write all these things down so you can save time over the weekend, and so you can cram, and so you can do well on test. Well, you know God has scheduled a final exam for each one of us. It's not a pop quiz. God scheduled it, we know it's coming, but God has graciously given us the test questions ahead of time.
Now, what I want to do in the time we have left here this morning is give you twelve of the test questions that God is going to use to evaluate us and review us and reward us. Now, we're not going to have time to spend a lengthy period on each one of these, but you might write these down as we go through them, and the verses there, and go back to study these. Because one of these days you're going to stand before the Lord at that final exam, and these are the things that he's going to review your life for. So let's look at each one of these; we will go through them rather quickly.
The first one is: How we treat other believers. How we treat other believers. In Hebrews 6:10 it says this: "For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you've shown toward his name, in having ministered and still ministering to the saints." See look, God's going to remember what you've done for God's people, and for one another.
How we treat one another in the body of Christ is going to be one of the things God is going to review us for. Are we kind, and are we gracious, and are we loving and forgiving toward one another? That's what God is going to review us for.
I like the old poem I heard years ago, it says: "To live above with saints with love, oh, yes that will be glory. But to live below with the saints we know, well, now that's a different story."
All of us can be cantankerous and hard to get along with sometimes, but what I always ask is I hope that other people will be gracious to me and kind to me when I fail, or when I'm hard to get along with. And I want to try to return that to them. But God's going to judge us for how we treated other believers.
A second thing that God is going to exam our lives for is: How we employ our God-given talents and abilities and opportunities. God has given abilities and opportunities and talents to every person here. Remember in Matthew 25 Jesus told the parable of the talents. And in Luke 19 he gave the parable of the pounds or the minas. And what those two parables have many common is you have a wealthy nobleman, and he's going away for a long time.
And it pictures Jesus leaving this world for a long period of time. And he leaves all of his riches and his goods to stewards for them to take care of them and do business with them while he's gone. And then at a point in time he comes back and he calls them to account to what they've done with what he's given to them.
Now, what that pictures is, is that Christ is going to come back someday and he's going to call you and me to account: "What did you do with the talents, and with the abilities, and with the opportunities that I've given to you?" And sadly many believers I think just squander what God has given. And to me one of the greatest things in life is to see a believer who has talents and abilities and opportunities, and see them using that to their full potential. God is going is to reward us someday for that.
A third thing God's going to judge us for at the judgment seat is: How we use our money. How we use our financial resources. In Matthew 6:19 Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven."
Now what he's saying there is not that it's bad to save money here on earth. In fact, you go back to Proverbs, he says, "Look to the ant, you know, the ant saves up in the summer for the winter that's coming." He's saying, "No, it's not wrong to possess possessions, but it's wrong for our possessions to possess us." And we need the send when we have, some of it ahead.
You know, people today are always asking me when I speak at prophecy conferences, I guess they think I'm a financial expert as well. But he'll say, "Well, where should I be putting my money today in these uncertain times in which we live? Should I be putting it in stocks or cash?" You know, a guy the other day said, "Should I be hiding it in my house, or buying gold or whatever else?" And my recommendation is always just diversify; that's what the Bible says, "Cast your bread out on many waters."
But one of the things I always tell people when they ask me that though is the surest thing you can do with your money though, if you want to be sure to get to greatest investment, is send it on ahead. You can't take it with you the Bible says, but you can send it on ahead. And Jesus said, "You can store up treasure in heaven." God will reward us for that someday.
A fourth thing God's going to evaluate in us is: How we endure suffering and trials in life. In James 1:12 James said this, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he's been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him." So there's a special crown in heaven for those who patiently endure the trials and the difficulties of this life.
And I think we all know here today that trouble and problems are the common denominator of mankind. We all have them. We walk into a church and see people coming in, and you think, "Boy, those people, look how good they look, they don't have the problems I have." Everybody's got problems. Everybody has struggles in life. And Christ is going to evaluate—did we patiently endure? Did we persevere under those trials by his grace? And there's a reward for that in heaven.
The fifth thing God's going to reward us for is: How we spend our time. How we spend our time. Every one of us gets 168 hours a week; that's how much time we get. And while theoretically if you lose money, you can always try to go get some more money; but when time's gone, it's gone. God's going to call us to account for what we did with our time.
In Psalm 90, it's the oldest Psalm, it was written by Moses. The psalmist there said Moses said, "Teach us to number our days, so that we can present before you a heart of wisdom." We need to count our days, the Bible tells us, so we can make our days count. We need to count our days. In fact, Ephesians 5:16 says, "Redeeming the time," redeem the time, buy up the opportunities, "because the days are evil."
There's a story I love I read years ago about a great Scottish preacher named Thomas Chalmers. Earlier in his life he had squandered a great deal of his time. He was very frivolous in his life and his ministry. But later on he was deeply convicted of that and became one of the leading pastors in Scotland, and a man that was greatly used of God.
And someone later in his life asked him about those wasted years of his early life. And he made a statement that I love; I've never forgotten it. He says, "I had forgotten in my earlier life two magnitudes: I thought not of the littleness of time, and I recklessly thought not of the greatness of eternity." Those are two great magnitudes we need to keep in mind, the littleness of time.
And I tell you, the older I get, the faster the time seems to go. Life is short. It's pictured in the Bible like a vapor that just comes and goes away, a mist, a flower that comes forth in the morning and withers in the noonday sun. The littleness of time and the greatness of eternity—two great magnitudes that should grip our lives as we think about how we use our time.
The sixth thing God's going to review us for is: How we run the particular race that God has given to us. God has given you a race to run and God is going to evaluate you on how you ran it. In First Corinthians 9:24 Paul says, "Those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may win." Run to win the prize.
God has given you a lane to run in, and he doesn't want you running over in somebody else's lane, and trying to do what they're doing. He's given you a lane. He's given you abilities and talents and God wants you to stay in that lane, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, and run your race to the glory of God. You see, I don't have to run your race, and you don't have to run my race. And to me, that ought to free us all up. We don't have to try to be somebody else or do what someone else is doing. We run the race that God's given us to run, and we're gonna be called to account—how did we run that race that God called us to run?
A seventh thing the Lord's going to evaluate in our lives, and this is very convicting to all of us, is how effectively we control our body. How effectively we control our body. In First Corinthians 9:27 Paul says, "I buffet my body." Now, that's not buffet [buh-fey] there, that word there that's written. [laughter] It's not "I buffet my body," I do a lot of that, but it's "I buffet [buhf-it] my body." And that word literally means to beat your body black and blue, to bring it in unto discipline.
He says, "I buffet my body and I make it my slave; lest having preached to others I myself should be disqualified." And he didn't mean he's going to lose his salvation. The word there disqualified is the word adokimos in Greek, and it was used of a person in the Olympic Games who was declared disqualified from the games. Paul says, "Look, I can preach to other people, but if I don't bring my body under subjection, I'm going to be disqualified from reward."
And look in our culture where the sexual revolution has taken place and we're just literally inundated with sexual images constantly, the appetites of our body have to be brought under control. The sexual immorality that's out there, the pornography that's out there—may God help especially the younger people who are here to understand the seriousness of this. It talks about the appetites of our body; it talks about our appetite for food as well. We're to bring our body into subjection so that we can receive reward.
The eighth thing that we see here is: How many souls we witness to and win for Christ. In First Thessalonians 2:19 Paul says "For who is our hope or joy or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming?" He tells the Thessalonians, he says "One of these days when I stand before the Lord, you all are going to be there, and you're going to be my reward in heaven." Because he'd shared the gospel with them and they'd come to faith in Christ.
Now, not every one of us here are evangelists, in fact, probably most of us aren't. We don't have the gift of evangelism. But every one of us can witness to Christ with our lips and with our lives. And my favorite definition I've ever read of evangelism is: "It's one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread." Isn't that beautiful? You know, we're beggars; we have nothing to offer to God but our sin.
But we, when we come to Christ, we found the Bread of Life. And we find him, we just go and tell another beggar out there, "I found the Bread of Life. Let me tell you about him and how he satisfied my soul." How many souls we witness to and win for Christ—God's going to evaluate us on that.
Number nine is: How much the doctrine of the rapture means to us. In Second Timothy 4:8, right at the end of his life, Paul's just probably a few weeks from death. He says this, "In the future there's laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, is going to give to me on that day," then he says, "but not to me only, but all those who have loved his appearing."
He's saying, "If you look for the rapture and believe Christ could come at any moment, and you're living a righteous life in view of that, God is going to give you the crown of righteousness someday when you get to heaven." For those who love his appearing and live in view of that.
The tenth thing the Lord's going to judge us for, and this is a sobering one, is how humble we are. How humble we are. What did Jesus say in Matthew 18:4? He says, "Whoever humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." In God's economy, the way up is down. In God's economy down is up, and up is down. It's when we humble ourselves that we become great in God's economy.
And you know that to humble yourself doesn't mean you go around every day thinking about how bad you are. No, it's not thinking about yourself at all. It's being captured every day with the grandeur and the majesty and the greatness and the infinity of God, and thinking about how you didn't deserve your salvation; in fact, you deserved the opposite. God came in his grace and he saved you. As we think about those things it's just natural in our lives that we become humble and realize who we really are before the greatness of God.
Remember Martin Luther's great quote? He said, "God made everything there is out of nothing, and if we become nothing, God can make something out of us." We become nothing, God can make something out of us. And he will reward that someday.
Well, number eleven of what God will evaluate us for is: How faithful we are in our job, our vocation. Colossians 3:22 says "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you'll receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." How you do your job, whatever it is, or your vocation, God is going to reward you for that if you've done it heartily as unto the Lord.
A great old story I love about H. A. Ironside the great pastor from the Moody Memorial Church. When he was a young man he worked for a man who was a cobbler; he made and repaired shoes. And he made H. A. Ironside sit in there hour after hour every day pounding these pieces of leather to get all the water out of them so they'd be totally dry, so they would make good soles for shoes.
And Ironside knew that there were other cobblers in town that didn't do this process. And so one day he asked old Dan MacKay, he says, "Why do we go through this process? These other guys don't do it." And here's what Dan MacKay told this young H. A. Ironside, he says, "I don't cobble shoes just for the money I get from my customers. I'm doing this for the glory of God. I expect to see every shoe I ever repaired in a big pile at the judgment seat of Christ."
That's a great way look to at life, isn't it? "And I don't want the Lord to say to me in that day, 'Dan, this was a poor job. You didn't do your best here.' I want him to be able to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' " Then he went on to explain that just as some men are called to preach, he was called to fix shoes. And that he only did this—he did this as well as he could to be a testimony for Christ.
And then Ironside said, "It was a lesson I've never forgotten. Often when I've been tempted to carelessness and slipshod effort, I've thought of dear devoted Dan MacKay, and it stirred me to seek to do all that I can for the One who died to redeem me."
You know, maybe for me as a pastor one of these days I'm going to stand before the Lord, and all my sermons are going to be there in a big pile. And, boy, that would be a terrible sight to see. But if you're an attorney the cases you've done; or you're a mechanic, the cars you've worked on; or housewife, the loads of laundry you've done and the diapers you've changed; or whatever it is, it's all going to be there as it were—did we do what we do heartily as for the Lord? God will reward us for that someday.
And by the way, what's the one group of people that are going to receive the strictest judgment at the judgment seat? It's teachers, right? What did James say in James 3:1? "Don't let many of you become teachers, knowing as such you will incur a stricter judgment."
I heard a guy say one time, "If you get to the judgment seat of Christ one of these days and you see a long line, a couple of lines, and one of them has a bunch of preachers in it, go get in the other line. It will go quicker." And I think that's true, because preachers are going to get a stricter judgment, and we're going to be judged—and Bible teachers, we're going to be judged for the accuracy of what we said. But even more sobering is—did we live it out ourselves? We're telling other people things, but did we really live that out in integrity before the Lord?
Well, the final thing here that God's going to judge us for is: How we use our tongue. It's not too convicting, is it? Matthew 12:36, Jesus said, "Every careless word that men shall speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment." Now if you're having problems with your tongue, don't blame the tongue, look deeper. The tongue is the tattletale of the heart. The tongue is the bucket that dips down into the well of the heart and brings out what's down inside. So if you're having problems with what's coming out of your mouth, the problem is down inside your heart. You need your heart to be changed by spending time with God in prayer.
I remember hearing a story about a man. He heard that old, great song "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise," and he said, "Every time I hear that song I wish I had a thousand tongues with which to praise him." His friend's standing next to him, he says, "Well, not me." he says, "I've got enough problems with the one tongue that I have." I think we can probably all relate to that.
Well, the final exam for each one of us is coming someday, and those are the main test questions. So my challenge for each of you is to get ready, to start cramming for the test so that you can get an "A" on your final examination.
One final word of encouragement I want to give here is this: You might be here today and maybe you're up in years a little bit, or maybe you're even a younger person, but you're saying to yourself, "I've blown my life up to this point. God's given me that one shot at life and I've wasted most of it up to this point." Or maybe you can say, "I've wasted all of it up to this point." And maybe you're feeling very discouraged and in despair here this morning as you hear this message. Let me tell you this: God is gracious in giving rewards. He's more gracious than we can ever imagine.
Remember the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew, chapter 20, that Jesus gave? Remember, there were some laborers that worked all day. There were some laborers that worked about three-fourths of the day, some about half of the day. And then there was a group that went out just for the last hour. And when it came time to pay the workers, they all got paid the same thing.
And one of the lessons—there are a lot of lessons in that parable, but one of them is: God is gracious in giving rewards. And so wherever you are in life today, begin to serve Christ with all you have today. It's never too late. Give God what's left of your life and surrender it to him and he will reward you beyond your wildest dreams. Whatever you do, don't give up.
I know your pastor has been giving you a challenge or a dare every week as you all have been going through the book of Daniel, so here's my very simple challenge to all of us today, and it's this: Let's live today in light of that day. Let's live today, let's live this day in light of that coming day, that coming day when we're going to stand before the Lord for our final examination, that day when we're going to be called to account for what we did with this one shot that God gave to us.
Let's live today in light of that day so that when we stand before the Lord we can hear those greatest of words that can ever fall upon human ears, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Amen. Well, let's pray together and let's look to the Lord in prayer as we close.
Our Father, we come before you now, and we thank you that our salvation is not based on what we've done, but it's based on what Christ has done for us. But it's based solely on that finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross. And, Father, I pray that if there's anyone here who's never accepted Christ, that right now, right where they sit they might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved.
But, Father we thank you for if unspeakable privilege we have to serve the Lord Jesus Christ with our good works. And I pray that the ambition and the aim of everyone here would be to please you. That we wouldn't waste that one shot at life that you give to us, but that we would take dead aim in our lives, we'd use that one shot you've given to you to bring glory to your great name. May we live today in light of that day as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We ask these things in his precious name, amen.
Closing: What binds us together is devotion to worshiping our heavenly Father, dedication to studying his Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.