How You Can Do Well at the Judgment Seat of Christ – Program 4
|By: Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©1998|
|When Jesus evaluates your life, what will he be looking for? What does the Bible tell us about the rewards that are available for Christians?|
Christians are told in Scripture, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” [2 Cor. 5:10] But what is the purpose of this judgment? Didn’t Jesus pay the full penalty for our sins and God remembers them no more? If so, why will Christians still be judged by Christ? This judgment has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is entirely the free gift of God and received the moment a person believes in Christ. We could never earn salvation by our good works.
But the Judgment Seat of Christ has to do with how we have lived for Christ after He saved us. Everything we have done for Christ will be evaluated and rewarded. As the Bible says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body, whether good or bad.” [2 Cor. 5:10] We can understand being rewarded by Christ for the good things which we have done for Him, but what does the Bible mean when it says we will also receive what is due us for the bad? Could it be that the unfaithful Christian will not receive the same reward as the faithful Christian? Will there be tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ because of the way we have lived? Will there be a loss of rewards, honors and privileges that will determine our status in Heaven for all eternity?
If Christ is going to reward every Christian for every deed done for Him, what about those Christians who have been disabled by disease or confined to a wheelchair? What about the person who has had his life cut short by an accident? If someone does not live a long and full life, will he be able to receive a full reward from Christ? To help us answer these questions from the Bible my guest today will be Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois. We invite you to hear what Jesus will be looking for when He evaluates your Christian life and learn how you can do well at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
- Ankerberg: Welcome. In all of these programs we have basically been talking about one thing: the moment you appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ and look into the eyes of your Savior. When He evaluates your life, what will He be looking for? My guest during this series is Dr. Erwin Lutzer, Senior Pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois. He talks about that moment:
- Lutzer: John, let’s be clear about something for those who are listening who have never accepted Christ as Savior. You do not even begin by confessing your sins. You couldn’t remember them all and even if you did, that’s not the way of salvation. You come as you are with your sins and you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. You respond to Him in faith and you trust Him. Then you are legally forgiven.
- Now, as a Christian, we are to confess our sins. It is the way in which the Father disciplines us for our waywardness. And, yes, we should confess all those sins that God brings to our attention. But here’s the good news. The sins that we cannot remember are forgiven if we confess the sins that we do remember.
- You know, it says in 1 John, “If we walk in the light as God is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” And I take that to be fellowship with God and God having fellowship with us. And then it says, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” [1 John 1:7] What we need to do is to ask the Holy Spirit to show us those sins that we must confess. If we take care of those, we need not worry about those that we cannot remember. Remember, God is disciplining us and He wants us to be in moral agreement with Him. And when we’re out of that agreement, He wants us to come to agreement and that’s what confession is all about.
- Ankerberg: The amazing thing we learn from Scripture is that after God graciously saves us, He promises us that He will also reward us for any service that we do for Christ. In spite of God’s many promises, some still ask, “Isn’t it selfish to want to live for Christ in order to earn rewards?” Dr. Lutzer answers this question. Listen:
- Lutzer: Of course, John, the more honest we are, the more we realize that our motives are always mixed; they’re tainted with self interest. And here I am: I love Christ, I want to serve Him. but there are hidden motives that I might not even be aware of. I’m so glad that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ makes these works acceptable to the Father.
- For example, Peter says that “We offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” [1 Pet. 2:5] And in Philippians 1, the apostle Paul says, “I want you to be fruitful so that your works are to the glory and praise of God by Christ Jesus.” [Phil. 1:11]
- That gives me hope because if it were not that way, we might despair and think to ourselves, “We can’t receive any rewards at all.” But that’s why Jesus can say that for “the cup of cold water given in my name, you’ll not lose a reward.” [Matt. 10:42] Or if you want a prophet’s reward, Jesus says, “He that blesses a prophet and ministers to a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.” [Matt. 10:41]
- Now, we might not know how to sort all of this out exactly, but this much we do know. There are many ways to be rewarded. Remember the story that Jesus told about being in prison and no one visited Him, no one clothed Him. And then He says, “As much as you have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me.” [Matt. 25:40] We can serve Christ today. We can invite Him into our home. We can bless Him, and we will be rewarded for it.
- Ankerberg: Let me ask you a question. Do you think that you will get any kind of reward from Christ when you stand before Him? Some think they won’t get anything. If that is how you think, here is a word of encouragement for you. Listen carefully:
- Lutzer: You know, Jesus taught very clearly that some people have a bigger place in the Kingdom than others. We have more responsibilities. Some of us are given those privileges. But right now, John, I want to talk to the person out there who thinks that what he or she is doing is of no significance. My dear friend, you are a child or a daughter of the King. You belong to Him and He is taking note of this. The Scripture says that the very hairs of your head are numbered. [Matt. 10:30] He sees the sparrow fall. [Matt. 10:29] He sees the cup of cold water given in His name. [Matt. 10:42] And so as you begin your work today or tomorrow, be mindful of the fact that God is watching and He’s recording our deeds so that He might be able to generously reward us.
- Ankerberg: In living the Christian life, there are many times we are given jobs and opportunities that are not glamorous; in fact, they are downright hard and disagreeable to do. We do not enjoy doing them. If you are serving the Lord right now but not getting a lot of joy out of it because of the nature of the job you are doing, this next word is especially for you. Listen:
- Lutzer: You know, John, I think God calls all of us to do things that we don’t enjoy. Even those of us who have ministries that are fulfilling, part of that job description are things that sometimes we do out of a sense of duty. You know, Jesus told that parable. He said that there was a slave who decided to disobey his master and then repented and went and did what his master wanted. And Jesus said that slave was better than another who would not go at all. [Matt. 21:28-31]
- And then He says, “When we have done our duty we are just unprofitable servants.” [Luke 17:10] In fact, John, I like to think of it this way: that possibly doing something that we don’t enjoy doing but we do it anyway for the glory of Jesus might actually receive a greater reward. Because it’s easy to do those things we love to do. It’s the things that we don’t like to do that God requires, and if we do them well for His glory, that, I think, attracts His attention in terms of rewards in a very special way.
- Ankerberg: Now listen, if you are a Christian, I’m sure that someday you want to do well at the Judgment Seat of Christ, right? If so, know that the Bible encourages you along this line. God wants you to receive a great reward. But what must you do now while you are living here on earth to get a great reward? What does Christ promise to reward when He evaluates your life? The apostle Paul tells us. He illustrates the kind of life we are to live by referring to athletes in the Olympics. Dr. Lutzer summarizes what the apostle Paul teaches. Listen:
- Lutzer: You know, John, I think that if the apostle Paul were alive today, what he would do is to talk about the Olympics. He was talking about sports frequently, because let’s not miss the point, what Paul seems to be saying is that the very kind of discipline that makes a good athlete makes a good Christian. And he says in 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run but only one receives the prize; run in such a way that you may win.” Thankfully, the race that you and I are in is one that all of us can win in. It’s a different kind of a race.
- But he says, “And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things.” That word “competes” in Greek really means “agonize” and we’ll talk about that in a moment. You have to agonize the discipline. They do it, he says, “to receive a perishable wreath; but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, not without aim; I box in such a way, not beating the air; but I buffet my body.” [John, I think you’ll agree with me that many Christians should read it this way: “I buf-FET my body.”] Well, Paul says, “I buffet my body and make it my slave lest possibly after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” [1 Cor. 9:25-27]
- Let me very briefly give you some of the qualities that make a great athlete that also make a great, winning Christian. The first is, of course, discipline. I agonize. Have you ever driven past a football field in August and you see these guys with their helmets and they’ve got all of their equipment on, and they are sweating and you say to yourself, “Who in the world is forcing them to do this?!” Well, of course, the answer is, “Nobody is.” They want to do this and they will sacrifice parties and they’ll sacrifice opportunities; sometimes unfortunately even sacrifice their studies. Why? All to win for a corruptible crown. Go into the high school that my daughter attended and you see behind the display case all of these trophies. But they are corruptible. They will not last forever and ever. There’s discipline.
- There is also direction. Paul says, “I just don’t beat the air.” You’re going somewhere. I was raised on a farm, John, and there is a story that’s a true story. I know it to be true because I know the farmer. He was going to plow a very straight furrow and what he did is, he chose an object perhaps a half-mile away and just kept his eyes on that object all the time with the tractor, making sure that he drove exactly toward it. It was a great idea, he thought, but as he looked back, he noticed that the furrow bent. And the reason is because, he didn’t know until he got closer, he had put his eyes on a cow and as she was walking away, he was actually being brought off course.
- Now listen to me very carefully. Unless we have the right goal in mind—“looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith,” [Heb. 12:2] —unless we have the right goal, our lives are going to be crooked. And if we want to have straight lives, what we have to do is to say, “At all costs, let me look at Jesus.” When trials come, when difficulties come, let me know more about Jesus; let me focus on Him to run that race.
- So we’ve spoken about discipline and direction, making sure that our eyes are focused on Christ; and also determination. Remember that story in Hebrews where it says we should “run with patience the race that is set before us” and it goes on to say “that we should not stumble.” It says keep your legs free. Get rid of “the sin that does so easily entangle us.” [Heb. 12:1] The imagery there is of a man running with a coat on and he’s getting his legs tangled up. That’s what sin can do to us. And when we trip and fall, we have to make sure that we are not taking others with us.
- But the truth is, when we do trip and fall, most probably we’re going to take others with us. And that’s why, John, I like to think of the fact that when we’re running along, when we see fallen Christians, do you know what we have to do? We have to get under them. Paul says in the book of Hebrews, help those who have “feeble knees”. [Heb. 12:12] Let’s help one another all the way to the finish line.
- And of course, we could also say that we have to run the race according to the rules. I think, for example, of Ben Johnson who ran a wonderful race and, I think, even had a gold medal you may recall a few years ago. But it was all for naught because steroids were found in his body. So let’s run the race according to the rules. And Paul says, “I do this so that I will not be disqualified.” [1 Cor. 9:27]
- We’ve said enough in this series of programs for you to know that I believe that one can suffer very serious loss when we stand before Jesus Christ. I think, John, here of the apostle Paul who even thought that he could be disqualified. That doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t get to Heaven, but he would not be rewarded well. Now, just think of what this means. Let’s be disciplined. I always tell people that they should spend time with God before 9:00 in the morning – in the Word, in prayer. Give your day to God because you’re going to be accountable to God for that day. We have to have that sense of determination and the direction of our lives must be totally given over to Him.
- And so I ask you this question today. Just think for a moment. In 20 years’ time, what do you think you will wish you had done today? From my heart to yours, do it now! Do it now.
- Ankerberg: One final word. If all of this talk about your standing before God someday makes you nervous, it need not. It can actually be something you look forward to—if you know about God’s Good News, the gospel. Listen to this—it will make your heart flow over with joy. Listen:
- Lutzer: You know, John, I’m told that in California there was a man who was caught speeding. He was brought to court and didn’t have any money to pay. And the story goes that the judge left the bench, walked down the stairs, took off his robe, stood with the defendant, paid the $100 from his own wallet by laying it on the table; went back, put on his robe, went to the bench again, took the $100 and said to the defendant: “You’re free. Your debt has been paid.”
- My friend, that is the gospel! That’s the gospel! We owe God more than we could ever pay. As the words of the song say, “Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone, Thou must save and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.” We bring nothing to the table except our great need. We receive it. We receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that we can stand in God’s presence forever.
- Right now, I speak not to those of you who will be at the Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ. We’ve talked about that. I speak to those of you who will be at the Great White Throne Judgment unless you come to saving faith in Christ. You say, “Well, how do I do that?” Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to pray a prayer and I want you to pray this prayer in your heart, because it’s not even the prayer that will save you; it’s the transfer of trust. It’s a prayer that recognizes your sinfulness and your own inability to save yourself; your helplessness. And it’s a prayer that realizes that when Jesus died on the cross, He died for sinners, to reconcile us to God. And therefore you now accept Him as your “sin bearer.” Are you willing to do that? Let’s pray together.
- “Father, I ask in the name of Jesus that you might speak to all those now who have been watching, who have never exerted saving faith in Jesus Christ. Help them, Father, to transfer their trust to Him alone, for His Word says, “As many as received Him, to them He gives the authority to become the children of God, even to those who believe on His name.” [John 1:12] Father, cause those who are watching to believe. And then, Father, after they have believed, bring them to full assurance of faith.”
- And now I speak to you directly. Have you prayed that prayer? “Dear God, I know I’m a sinner. I can’t save myself. I thank you that Jesus died for sinners.” You tell Him that. “And at this moment, I lay hold of what He has done for me.” You tell Him that. “He that believeth in him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.” [John 3:18] You can take that promise to the bank.