Living for Jesus/Part 1
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg; ©2001|
|What kind of behavior does Christ promise to reward at His Judgment seat? Dr. John Ankerberg continues his response to that question in this article.|
Living For Jesus
If you’re a Christian, I’d like to ask you, do you think much about the Judgment Seat of Christ? If you say, “Yes,” you are just like the Apostle Paul. He lived with that event in mind every day. Listen to what he said: “We make it our goal to please Him”—that is, Christ— ”whether we are at home in the body or away from it, for we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:9,10).
In the past few weeks we’ve examined what the Bible says will take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ, the rewards God will give to faithful Christians, and that which we can lose. We have seen that Christ will be more generous at His Judgment Seat than we would ever dream. He promises to reward us a hundred times over for whatever we have done for Him.
But the Bible also says this will be the Judgment Seat of Christ. Some Christians will be rebuked for unconfessed sins. We will forfeit some rewards as a result of selfish, sinful living. At that point, there will be tears and regret. But then the Bible tells us in Revelation 21:4, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. There shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” As we enter into eternity proper, everyone’s cup will be full; it’s just that the size cups will be different.
In previous articles we began to answer the question, “What kind of behavior does Christ promise to reward at His Judgment Seat? I want to continue explaining to you what the Bible says about this. We saw that, first, God promises to reward those who are willing to die to self and live for Him.
Second, Christ promises to reward those who faithfully serve Him. In Matthew 25:23 we find the words that we all hope to hear Jesus say about us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” We talked about the fact that we can’t all be successful, but we can all be faithful. Are you a faithful servant of Christ in a few things?
Then third, we saw that Christ will reward those who have a servant’s heart, a servant’s attitude. Jesus said if anyone wants to be considered great in His Kingdom, they must be a servant. In the Church we’re not to lord it over one another; we are to serve each other. There are at least two kinds of people who come to church every Sunday—those who come to be served and those who come to serve. Which one are you? Jesus teaches that if you want to be rewarded by Him at the Judgment Seat of Christ, you must have a servant’s heart and be willing to serve Him as He gives opportunity.
In this article we will look at the fourth kind of behavior. The Bible teaches Christ will reward those willing to share in Christ’s sufferings. Romans 8:16,17 tells us, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Now, everyone who believes in Christ quickly realizes that there is a certain amount of trouble that automatically comes with being a Christian. If you’re a Christian and you don’t gossip, if you don’t lie, if don’t cheat or steal, if you don’t go to bed with your date—such behavior can bring criticism, joking, or ostracism from others. I believe this is part of what Paul meant when he says we share in Christ’s sufferings. The Bible informs us as Christians, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12, NKJV).
Has that happened to you? If so, the Bible says you share in Christ’s sufferings and will be rewarded greatly by Him. Maybe right now you’re in the midst of some turmoil because you took a moral stand at work. It may be very beneficial for your company to shave corners, but you know that it is wrong and said you wouldn’t go along.
Now you’re being pressured by people in your company. Possibly you fear that your moral stand will cost you your job. Or maybe there is a coworker who is making sexual advances toward you. You’re wondering if you are the only person who turns down such opportunities.
Or, maybe you’re a pastor of a church and you are wondering right now if you ought to preach on a certain topic. You know that there are some people in your church who are involved in the sins you feel led to preach about and you know your sermon would make them angry. What should you do? When we stand for biblical truth and morality, sometimes we will suffer for it! If so, remember, Christ promises to reward you greatly. Scripture says even if we resist to the point of death, that is, we are martyred for Jesus, it will be worth it. God will reward us and make it up to us many times over; Matthew 19:29 says a hundred times more. The Apostle Paul goes so far as to say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not [even] worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’ (Rom. 8:18).
Right here I can’t help but think of the teenage girl at Columbine High School who looked at a young man holding a shotgun and said, “Yes. I do believe in God.” She knew she would be killed for that. Do you think she was foolish? Do you really believe God will reward her a hundred times over for what she did?
A few years ago we were challenged by a 32nd degree Mason to debate whether or not a Christian could swear oaths of allegiance to the Masonic Lodge. As a result of that series, pastors in different parts of the country thought it would be a good idea if they tried to present that same information to their church. Many of them did and helped members in their congregation immensely. But along the way, five different pastors called and told me that after they had preached on that topic, their church fired them. They lost their jobs for preaching the truth. Pastors are supposed to represent Jesus Christ. They are supposed to teach what God said in the Bible. They are in big trouble with the Lord when they start making up doctrine or start watering it down to suit their people.
Pastors are commanded in Scripture to “Preach the word. Be prepared in season and out of season. Correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). In John 17 Jesus prayed to the Father on behalf of all Christians and said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Pastors must preach God’s Word. And if you’re a pastor who is experiencing stress or has already suffered in some way for preaching the truth, know that at the Judgment Seat of Christ you will be greatly rewarded by our Lord. You have willingly shared in Jesus’ sufferings.
But it’s not just pastors who suffer on behalf of Christ. Lay people can also experience suffering. I remember the first time we did a series of programs on the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I asked four former Witnesses to come on television and talk about the evidence God used to bring them out of the Kingdom Hall. Well, as you know, in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities there are high-rise buildings and condominiums. Each has a guard at the door as you enter. If you want to get in and talk to people about Christ, you can’t get by the guard. But through the medium of television, our program can go right into those apartments and condominiums. One night a man and his wife were getting ready for bed. She was listening to our program and said to her husband, “Hey, Harry, come on in here. John Ankerberg is going to have the Jehovah’s Witnesses on tonight.”
Why was that important to them? It was because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, you know you should never get caught reading Christian books or literature. If you are caught, or you’re seen attending a Christian Bible study or a Christian church, you risk being excommunicated from the Jehovah’s Witnesses—what they call being “disfellowshipped.”
To be disfellowshipped is first, to be cut off from the people in your Kingdom Hall. But in addition, if your Kingdom Hall brings you up on heresy charges and you’re found guilty, then the leaders in the Kingdom Hall could instruct your spouse—your husband or your wife—to divorce you. You can be cut off from your mate and your children. That has happened to many Jehovah’s Witnesses who have come to the Lord through the years. In fact, almost every ex-Jehovah’s Witness we have had on our television program as a guest has experienced disfellowshipping and been cut off from family or relatives.
I remember when we had Joan Cetnar on our program. Joan was a Jehovah’s Witness who worked at the Watchtower Headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. When she became a Christian, she was cut off from her inheritance, which could have made her a millionaire. She now lives in the same town where her mom and dad reside. When she goes into a store and sees them, she will wave and say hello. But they will never wave or say hello back. They have cut her off because she believed in Jesus. Joan shares in the sufferings of Christ. Jesus Himself said, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”