A New Year’s Resolution

new year

I’ve been thinking about the one thing I would tell followers of Jesus Christ to start off the New Year, and my decision will shock you!

Did that introduction make you want to click on a link to see more? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to click on anything to read what I’ve written, and I won’t bombard you with ads in any event (you can tell I’m getting a bit sick of the Internet lately, can’t you?). So let’s get to the point. The one thing I’d like to tell followers of Jesus to start the New Year is this: remember the Judgment Seat of Christ!

“Oh no, he’s going to preach! And if it’s about some sort of judgment, then I’m hosed. I don’t want to be judged, and, frankly, I’m not really keen on anyone else being judged either!”

I suppose at least one person out there may be saying or thinking these very things right now. Give me just a minute, though, and I’ll explain why you should really look forward to this particular judgment and why you should try to remember it every day.

I’ve been thinking about the Judgment Seat of Christ (also known as the Bema Seat of Christ) because I’ve been trying to figure out why God has me working so hard on criminal justice reform when I’m not so sure that we’ll even see true reform before the rapture and tribulation. If it’s true that we’re really that close to the end (like I think we are), then why bother, right?

The answer came to me as I awoke the other day. And it starts with an understanding of the exciting judgment for followers of Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

We know that there’ll be judgment even for believers of Christ because in the Bible, Paul wrote:

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we all must 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 Corr. 5: 8-10)

On its face, this judgment can seem a bit intimidating, but if you read other parts of the Bible and various commentaries, it becomes clear that this judgment is only for determining a believer’s rewards in heaven. It doesn’t include judgment for sin, because sin is taken care of by Jesus’s death on the cross. I repeat – it doesn’t involve judgment for sin. Jesus is your proxy on that matter through your belief in him. Like Denise says, belief and faith in Jesus Christ is the golden ticket. Leave it to Denise to dream up a Willy Wonka reference.

So even though the passage above says that you’ll receive what is due to you for things done “good or bad,” it doesn’t mean morally bad. Instead, it means that certain things have eternal rewards in heaven (the good) and certain things don’t (the bad).

Think of it this way. You’re going to do a lot of things during your walk in the world, and you might consider some of those things to be really, really good things. For example, you might think that holding down a particular job your entire life is a pretty good thing. And to the world, it is. But it might not be the thing that gets additional rewards in heaven. That makes sense, right? The Bible talks about building a foundation on Jesus, and if you build your foundation on anything else, a fire will burn away all that is worthless, which will include things you may have thought were pretty good but that simply don’t measure up to reward-giving status.

Paul often likened our journey on earth as a race to be run, so imagine it that way for a minute. As a runner, you might do tons of good things to get ready for the race – lift weights, stretch, practice your starts – but in the end, you get a reward for winning the race. Those are the rules. It’s not that stretching was a bad thing – heck, it may have been crucial to winning – it’s just that you don’t get the reward for stretching. You get it runnerfor crossing the finish line first. Likewise, there are certain things that God finds deserving of rewards, such as winning souls, developing your spiritual gifts, showing love and sacrifice to others, etc., but there are also things that you might think would be deserving of a reward and aren’t. So when you think of the distribution of rewards for “good and bad” things done in the body, think of it simply as receiving rewards for eligible things that you actually did in the world. If those things weren’t eligible, or if you didn’t do them even if they were eligible, then you don’t get the additional rewards.

Remember when you were a child? I don’t know about you, but when I was a child and I did something I thought was a big deal, I went running to some adult to tell it to. Usually that was my mom or dad. And when I told them what I did, I found out that sometimes it wasn’t a big deal at all to my mom or dad. But sometimes it was. And when it was, I got a reward. And man, I wanted to get those rewards! Even when I was fifty years old, taking care of my dying dad in the world, I was constantly trying to impress him, looking for those rewards – like a smile or a laugh. Believe me, when I get to heaven I want that same feeling of “reward getting” from God as I got from my dad here on earth.

“Hey wait, does all of this mean that I’ll be compared to other people?” No, so you should think of the race as being your own personal race, like running against the clock. This is between you and Jesus. You won’t be envious or jealous of others getting rewards, and, in fact, whatever regret you may think you feel from not receiving a reward that you could have received will ultimately be wiped away from the overwhelming joy of being with God. As Denise often says, it’s like having tickets to the Super Bowl. Your seat may be right on the 50 yard line, or your seat may be up in the nosebleed section. Either way, though, you’re at the freakin’ Super Bowl!

Now when it comes to figuring out what God will deem pleasing or not so pleasing in your life, I’ll leave it up to you to do some further biblical research. But you should remember the following cautionary note that has people like me needing constant reminders about what God thinks matters: Throughout the Bible, people were told that because they received an earthly reward for something they did in the world, they’ll receive no reward for it in heaven. Holy smokes! This makes everything a bit more complicated, doesn’t it? Oh well. As I’ve said before, Christianity is simple, but it isn’t always easy.

So what does all of this have to do with my criminal justice job and whether that job even matters? It matters because every day God gives us opportunities to add to the tally of things that will bring us rewards when we stand before Christ. That’s how much He loves us. And that love and those opportunities will continue right up until the day of Jesus’s return. Every day God allows us all to decide whether or not to do something that is pleasing to Him and worth eternal reward. And my work, helping people to see why we need criminal law reform, is just one more opportunity that God is presenting his children – through me – to do something eternally worthwhile.

opportunity

You and I are basically in the same earthly business when it comes to other followers of Christ – the “opportunity for eternal reward business.” Every day you will likely give someone an opportunity to do a good thing, and I or someone else will likely give you the same opportunity. And because every opportunity will only help the body of Christ, it should be our intense desire to keep expanding our business. Every day, look for opportunities to do things pleasing to God. Every day, look for ways to give other people those same opportunities.

So this year, remember the Judgement Seat of Christ! Work each day on earning your rewards. And, please, work each day to help me earn mine!

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