2 Timothy 033 – Well Done!

2 Timothy 033 – Well Done!
2 Timothy 4:7-8 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 12, 2016 • 2 Timothy - The Call to Persevere


Andy Woods

Well Done

6-12-16      2 Timothy 4:7-8      Lesson 34

Good morning everybody.  If we could take our Bibles and open them to the book of 2 Timothy, chapter 4, and verse 7.  The title of our message this morning is Well Done.   I’m going to go ahead and fast-forward through my very catchy introduction, which you guys have all heard about 10,000 times.  But what a week it was around here with VBS.  You’ll notice a lot of people wearing their VBS shirts. I was going to wear mine but I didn’t think it went well with a suit and tie.  But if you were involved in VBS can you just stand for a moment so we can recognize you.  [clapping]  Thank you.  Thank you!  It was just a tremendous week ministering to the children in our church and in our community.  And one of the things that sort of blows you away as pastor is seeing the gifting’s in people, people having gifts, like acting, organizing, countless things went on where God just really… I was so proud to see God use people in this flock in a ministry setting, and so it was just a wonderful week.  It was a tiring week so let’s just close in prayer and call it day… NO, we won’t do that.

One of the things that did happen yesterday evening, it hasn’t shown up on the news too much, it has shown up on social media, is there was yet another terrorist attack later last night on the East Coast or in Florida I should say, in Orlando.  Apparently another, in this case it was a same sex bar of some sort that was targeted and I woke up this morning and it said 20 people are dead and the latest report is actually 50 people dead.  And apparently it is another ISIS type, what scattered reports I’ve read, another ISIS type situation.

So people ask, is America going to war and the fact of the matter is America is at war and has been at war for several years now.  America is under attack through terrorism.  And I bring that to your attention, not to say let’s do A, B and C to solve it because I don’t really know how it can be solved.  But I bring it to your attention just to kind of highlight the serious times we’re living in and if there’s ever a time when America is sort of on the delicate tipping scale it would be today.   So I just ask for your prayer for our country and beyond that I ask just for your awareness of what is happening.  It’s so easy to just sort of keep the Lawrence Welk music playing with our head in the sand and act like nothing is happening but we’re living in a very, very delicate and a very serious time.  And yet it’s a time when the light of God can shine as never before because light has a tendency to stand out in the midst of darkness.

We are wrapping up our section where Paul has instructed young Timothy, a  young man who is overwhelmed by the task of ministry.  Have you ever been overwhelmed by life, overwhelmed by what God places in front of us, overwhelmed by the task of ministry.  To a large extent he’s thinking about throwing in the towel.  It’s very clear Timothy is a believer, he’s called Paul’s “son in the faith,” [1 Timothy 1:2, “To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”]

So this is not a book about salvation; it’s a book about completing the race or the task that God has given us.  We all have different callings in God.  If we find ourselves, by faith, in Christ this morning the issue isn’t are we going to heaven or not, the issue is are we going to hear these words “well done” when we are evaluated in heaven.

The final reason on this list of nine that Timothy is to teach the Word of God, and preach the Word of God is the necessity for Timothy to complete or finish his task.  Verses 5-8 are essentially in that light or in that vein, finish the job Timothy.  And by extension that message is coming to us, finish the job, finish the task.  There’s a charge, verse 5, where we ran into four imperatives: be, endure,  do and fulfill.  Now I was one of the crew leaders at VBS last week so someone put on a list for me on a little tiny note card, be, endure, do and fulfill.  And I put it in my name tag and it got stuck upside down and so every time I got frustrated with these kids I looked down at this name tag, it said be, endure, do, fulfill.  So be careful what you preach, God has a way of boomeranging it back to you.

So there’s the charge, verse 6, is the reason for the charge, Paul’s not going to be around forever.  In fact, Paul is getting ready to die, verse 6, we’ve already seen his life is ebbing away as he is being poured out as a drink offering.  What’s going to happen to Christian truth once the apostles leave the scene.  That’s what’s on Paul’s mind.

Verses 7 and 8 which is our focus this morning is the notion of a reward.  Timothy, you should continue in your calling in spite of adversity because there’s actually a reward in it for you.  This reward has two facets to it.  The first is in verse 7, satisfaction of a life well spent; and the second reason is in verse 8, he begins to unpack this doctrine of rewards at the coming Bema Seat Judgment of Christ, something I’ll try to explain a little bit about today.

Notice verse 7, as we focus this morning on just verses 7-8.  Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”   You know, we read these words and we think that these words are uttered by every single believer at the end of their lives, earthly lives.  And the answer is these words are not spoken by every believer.  Certainly every believer in Christ is going to heaven but not necessarily every believer can look back on his or her life and say these things about themselves, “I have finished the course, I have kept the faith,” “I have fought the good fight.”

In fact, the Bible is filled with stories of people who at the end of their lives are heaven bound but could not utter these words in honesty.  I think of a man named Solomon who was so strategically used by God in the construction of the temple, a man endowed by wisdom from above and yet what became of Solomon’s life at the very end.  It says in 1 Kings 11:1, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women….”   1 Kings 11:2 goes on and it says how he disobeyed the Lord’s command, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.  Solomon” however, “fast to these” women “in love.”

1 Kings 11:3 says, “He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives” plural “turned his heart away.  [4] For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”  1 Kings 11:6 says, “Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.”   1 Kings 11:8 says, “Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.”

What a tragic way to leave this earth, a man who had accomplished so much but at the end of his life basically decided that the rules of God applied to everyone else but not him and he flagrantly disobeyed the Mosaic Law.  He flagrantly disobeyed Deuteronomy 17:14-15, he put himself above the law of God, practiced polygamy with foreign woman and how they turned him away from God at the very end of his life.  [Deuteronomy 17:14-15“When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.”]

You take, for example, a man named Lot, we’ve talked about Lot, I like to ask the question, are you a lot like Lot?”  A man who was very clearly a believer, 2 Peter 2:7-8 tells us that as clearly as it can be told. [2 Peter 2:7, “and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men, [8] (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds).”  Yet how does the story of Lot end?  With him in a drunken state of mind as he was committing incest with his two daughters, through whom came forth the Moabites and the Ammonites, perennial enemies of Israel.

You think of a man named Moses who only could see the Promised Land from a distance, having died never entering the Promised Land.  You think of Ananias and Sapphira who were slain in the Holy Spirit.  A lot of people think being “slain in the Holy Spirit” is a good thing; may I say to you it’s not a good thing when you study Acts 5:1-11.  I clearly believe Ananias and Sapphira were believers because the church fell into fear as a result of the maximum divine discipline God brought upon them.

[Acts 5:1-11, But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, [2] and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. [3] But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? [4] “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ [5] And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. [6] The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.  [7] Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. [8] And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.’ [9] Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’ [10] And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. [11] And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.”]

You think of the church at Sardis, the dead church, where Jesus says in Revelation 3:2, “…for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of my God.”  Apparently the Bible is giving us stories of examples to follow, examples to reject, because the Bible wants us to finish well. The Scripture wants us to be able to look back honestly on our lives in Christ and having not led a perfect life at least be satisfied with what God did in and through us.  Could you honestly if you were to die today could you honestly say these words about yourself: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

I was raised in the home of… my mother and father were runners so I remember as a young child being taken to 10K’s, 5 K’s, in some cases marathons, and I remember watching those runners at the beginning of the race, seeing all of the excitement and the exuberance.  But then when you get to the end of the race and those same runners cross the finish line it’s a totally different picture, isn’t it?  The excitement is gone, the exuberance is gone, it’s nothing but fatigue, and in some cases agony, trying to get across the finish line.  The starting line is one thing, the finish line is something completely different.

Are we going to allow the Lord work in and through us to such a degree that we can look back on our lives in Christ and in a sense be proud, not in an arrogant sense but in a spiritual sense, of what God did in and through us.  I’m reminded of this famous quote from one business man who put it this way:  I have spent my entire life climbing the ladder of success, only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall.

And it’s interesting, you talk to  people at the end of their lives and it’s not too often you actually hear somebody say I’m satisfied; what they say is if I had it to do all over again I would do this differently and that differently.   And this is where the warnings of the Bible speak to us because we can make choices and changes now so that we won’t have to get to the end of our lives having climbed the ladder which is leaning against the wrong wall.

Have you ever seen what Mark Twain wrote at the end of his life in his autobiography?  It’s staggering what he says here.  He says: “A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle for bread; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other. Age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; shames and humiliations bring down their prides and their vanities. Those they love are taken from them and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. The burden of pain, care, misery, grows heavier year by year. At length ambition is dead; pride is dead; vanity is dead; longing for release is in their place. It comes at last – the only unpoisoned gift ever had for them – and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness; where they have left no sign that they had ever existed – a world that will lament them a day and forget them forever.”

Sort of a life without God, a life “under the sun,” a life looking back and seeing really nothing of content, nothing of value, nothing of eternal existence.  How different Paul’s words are when he utters, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”  [2 Timothy 4:7]

It’s interesting here in verse 7, Paul uses three metaphors to describe this reward had, a reward that he wants Timothy to experience of a life well spent.  The first two are athletic; he uses number 1, the example of it’s either a boxer or perhaps a wrestler.  Second, he uses the example of a runner, and then he uses a non-athletic metaphor, the metaphor of a steward.  Let’s look at these just for a minute.

The first example Paul uses is that of a boxer or a wrestler, and that’s what is bound up in this statement, “I have fought the good fight.”  It is a reference or a metaphor that Paul uses elsewhere in his writings, for example, in 1 Corinthians 9:26 he says, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;” there he’s describing the strategic effectiveness of his ministry.  He didn’t just work hard but he worked smart.  He made the talents that God gave him count.  The man had an eternal impact and that’s essentially what he’s saying here.

And it’s so interesting that we advertise the Christian life as some sort of easy life, struggle-free existence.  Paul never describes his life in Christ that way; he said it was a fight.  There was a fight and there was a struggle the whole way through.  Why was it a fight?  Because you, as a Christian you inherit three enemies you didn’t have before you were saved: the first enemy is the world, more on that in a little bit; the second enemy is the flesh, the third enemy is the devil himself.

Jude in verse 3  uses an active verb, “earnestly contend for the faith.”  [Jude 3, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”  It’s a struggle that’s on.  Now fortunately we’re not fighting on our own resources but clearly the New Testament, and the Old Testament for that matter, presents the life that we have in Christ as a struggle, as a conflict.  The Bible tells us that right out of the gate.  Paul looks back on this struggle and he says you know, I’ve fought the good fight.

He goes on with his second metaphor and he describes the metaphor or uses the metaphor of a runner, he says, “I have finished the course.”  There was a course, he analogies his projects in God to a running race and he says I got to the end of those projects that God gave me and I completed them, I finished them, I crossed the finish line.  Well, what a race it was that Paul ran when you look at his three missionary journeys, when you look, in the book of Acts how he took the gospel all the way to Rome, you look at the churches that he pastored, you look at the 13 letters (that we call the Pauline letters of the New Testament) that he wrote, I mean what a course it was.  And yet he finished!

How different the church at Sardis, as I read earlier, where Jesus says I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.  If you were to die today what would God say about your life in Christ; is it a life that’s incomplete?  It is a life where God has given you multiple projects to finish and you just never did under His power.  Or is it a life where you can look back and say the race that God gave me to run I completed it, I crossed the finish line?  Timothy was on the edge here.  Was he going to finish the job or not?  Timothy, your reward is contingent upon this.  The satisfaction that you have looking back at your life is in a state of contingency, not your salvation.

He uses a third metaphor here, the metaphor of the steward, that’s found also in verse 7, where he says “I have kept the faith.”  Charles Ryrie, regarding this expression, “kept the faith” says this:  “The faith, the recognized body of Christian doctrine; Paul kept the faith in two senses.  Number 1, he was obedient to it, and number 2, he passed it on as he received it.”  What are we called to do in Christ?  What is our lives in Christ supposed to be?  We are to be people who keep the faith, obey what God has told us to do as revealed in His Word under His power and we are to take every opportunity that’s ever presented to us to pass that truth on to other people.

You know, some people, it’s tragic, they just never pass the truth on.  A lot of people don’t evangelize their own children.  Can  you imagine that?  How sad that is, to have the words of life and never share it with anybody else, never share it, like we heard earlier with Jim Meyer, in other parts of the world, never get behind missionaries that are doing it if we are not called to be missionaries ourselves, never evangelizing people at work, never bringing up or talking about spiritual things, talk about any number of issues, the weather, the sports, politics, whatever, personalities, but never really get to the subject of eternity.

Paul was a steward in the sense that he not only obeyed the truth but he passed it on, which is what a steward is.  A steward is not an owner; a steward is a manager.  We do not own this truth, we did not invent this truth, this baton of truth has been placed into our hands by the sovereignty and the providence of God and we are to manage this truth that we have been so privileged to receive on God’s behalf.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.”  I don’t think God is going to evaluate us for our success at this judgment of rewards, which I’ll talk about in just a minute, I think it’s largely going to be faithfulness.  Were we faithful with what He had trusted us with.  You say to yourself well, what do I have?  You’ve got three things beside the truth:  number 1,  you’ve got time; number 2,  you have talent; number 3,  you have treasure, three “T’s, Time, Talent, and Treasure.  And how those things are spent or prioritized, or are expended, is largely your call as a steward.  But as we’ll be seeing here in just a moment God is going to hold us accountable for those things that we were given.  Will we be found trustworthy?  Timothy, are you going to be found trustworthy by God, and indirectly the message goes to us.

So Timothy, there’s a reward in it if  you become what God has called you to become through His power.  You have the ability to look back at a whole life with satisfaction that you spent your life the right way.  It’s like have a hundred dollars in your wallet; you can spend that hundred dollar bill any way you want to spend it, but you can spend it one time.  Once it is spent it’s spent.  Paul has spent, he was spent, he was being poured out as a drink offering.  And he looked back and he says you know, I spent it the right way, Timothy; it’s a satisfaction that I have that I want you to have as well.

He moves on in verse 8 and he begins to describe a second facet of the reward and this is something called the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ.  The word Bema Seat Judgment is not found here; you’ll find it in places like Romans 4:10 and following, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and many other passages.

[Romans 4:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

1 Corinthians 10:3-15, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. [11] For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, [13] 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. [14] If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. [15] If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  1 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”]

Paul lived his life with the notion that there was a judgment coming; not a judgment to determine heaven or hell, but a judgment to determine the degree of reward he would receive in heaven and also authority that he would wield in the coming Kingdom.  Notice what he says here in verse 8, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

I looked at that and I said Lord, there’s so much there, how am I supposed to teach this?  The Lord said to me break it up into phrases.  No, it wasn’t an audible voice but it was a strong premonition (if I can use that word) that I had.  So I divided this up into seven phrases; it’s such a magnificent truth and all seven contribute to the majesty of what Paul is talking about here.

You’ll notice first of all he says [8] “in the future” it’s interesting how Paul often thought about the future.  Remember 1 Timothy 4:1, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing in His kingdom.”  What’s Paul thinking about?  A future judgment, a future kingdom.  People say quite frequently, you people are so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.  The fact of the matter is that statement could not be more wrong; the person that is the most heavenly minded becomes the most earthly good.  You know why?  Because they start understanding eternal priorities.  They start to understand the things that are actually going to last, the things that matter.  And they invest their lives according to those priorities.

We believe that in the future there is coming something called the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ, not to be confused with some of the other judgments spoken of in the Scripture, like the sheep and the goat judgment, Matthew 25, the judgment of the Jews in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20, the Great White Throne Judgment, only for the unbeliever, Revelation 12, but a special judgment for the Christian, for we are, in essence, caught up and we have a seven year destiny with God in heaven as the Tribulation period is manifesting itself on the earth below.

And it’s not an inactive time, it’s a time of many things, one of the things is an evaluation, where God doesn’t put us through a fire, but apparently He puts our works through a fire to test their quality, because every day of my Christian life I have the ability to go back to the sin nature and live according to its dictates or live for the things of God.  I have that choice.  And those things that I have done through carnality are wood, hay and stubble.  What do those have in common?  They’re all combustible, they incinerate.  And yet those things that I have done with right motives, with right empowerment, are gold, silver and costly stones.  What do those have in common?  They’re noncombustible.  And whatever is finished or exists after this fire has finished its work is part of some kind of reward we either receive or don’t receive, above and beyond simply the privilege of being in heaven.  All those rewarded are Christians but not all Christians are equally rewarded.  That’s the message that Paul here is giving to young Timothy.

Notice this second clause, “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”  A lot of people misconstrue verses like this and they this is salvation.  This can’t be salvation because everywhere Paul taught the doctrine of salvation, like Ephesians 2:8-9, he always taught that salvation is a free gift.  [Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast..”]  Here there’s a crown given to the person that loves Christ’s appearing.  So this cannot be the doctrine of salvation, this is something above and beyond salvation—a reward of some kind.

Apparently at this Bema Seat Judgment of Christ there are going to be five crowns, maybe there’s more, these are the only ones I know of in the New Testament, given or not given to the faithful believer.  They’re described at different times in the writings of Paul and other New Testament writers.  There’s the incorruptible crown, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 for gaining mastery over the flesh, saying no to that sin nature by God’s power, not becoming sinless but hopefully we’re sinning less.

There’s a reward given to the believer that does that.  [1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. [25] And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. [26] I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: [27] But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”  KJV]

There’s the crown of rejoicing, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 for the soul winner, perhaps the evangelist or the person that persuades people under God to think a different way.

[1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? [20] For you are our glory and joy.”

And then there’s a crown I know many of you will be candidates for this, for simply enduring trials, the crown of life, James 1:12, Revelation 2:10.  [James 1:12, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”]

You have a crown of glory, 1 Peter 5:2-4, for faithfully shepherding God’s people.  You say well, that’s the pastors; yeah, they would be included but anybody that shepherds anybody, a mentoring one on one relationship, Sunday School teacher, I believe becomes a candidate for this crown of glory.  [1 Peter 5:2-4, “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; [3] nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. [4] And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”]

And then there’s the one that Paul is speaking of here, a crown of righteousness for longing for the appearing of Jesus Christ.  [1 Timothy 4:8, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”]  The ache of Paul’s heart was Maranatha, which means Lord come, Lord come quickly.  Paul was not in love with the world and its allurements; his love was for Jesus Christ and His soon return.  And isn’t it interesting that God actually rewards people for this.

The Bible is very clear that crowns can be forfeited or not rewarded.  1 Corinthians 3:15 says “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”  2 John 8 says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.”  Revelation 3:11, Jesus says, “’I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’”

It is interesting to me that those works that I do through human power are not recognized by God.  Genesis 22:2 says this of Abraham and his son Isaac, “He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’”  A lot of interesting things to talk about there but the thing that jumps out at me is when God told Abraham, “take your son, your only son,” and I say “your only son,” wait a minute, hasn’t God read His own Bible.  Doesn’t Genesis 16 talk about a strange relationship between Abraham and Hagar, and how that brought forth Ishmael?  What about Ishmael?  Why does God refer to Isaac as Abraham’s only son?

I think for the simple reason that Ishmael was a product of human works and manipulation and scheming.  It was sort of an attempt by Abraham and Sarah, a plot hatched by them to help God out.  Do we all understand that God doesn’t need any help?  And when we try to help God fulfill His Word we don’t do anything but get ourselves into trouble?

And then the child of promise was born, that child of faith, Isaac.  And isn’t that God is only recognizing Isaac and not Ishmael.  I kind of correlate that with John 15:6 which says, “…and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  Those aren’t people being thrown into hell because it says there that “they,” men, “cast them into the fire and they are burned.”  Men don’t have the ability to throw other men into hell; this rather, I believe, is the judgment of rewards.  It’s the same thing Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

There are so many things that I do through human power.  I try to, so frequently, do the ministry through my own strength and  yet what we discover in the Bible is God doesn’t recognize such a work.  He recognizes, though, that branch that is connected to the vine in terms of moment by moment fellowship and the fruit is not something that the branch is producing, it is something that is coming forth through the nurturing relationship between the branch and the vine.   That’s what God is going to reward.

So many times we do things with the wrong motive, wanting to be the center of attention, wanting the accolades of man.  I don’t think God will reward that either.  These are things that we do in His power with right motivation.  I have students that constantly say I don’t care about rewards, as long as I’m in heaven that’s enough.  Let me tell you why I think you ought to care about rewards.  First of all, God spells out the doctrine of rewards clearly in His Word.  And secondly, Revelation 4:10, of the twenty-four elders, which I interpret as a reference to the church, it says of those twenty-four elders, they will “cast their crowns before the throne.”  What is a reward?  What does it give you the ability to do?  Does it give you some sort of extra standing before God?  No.  What it is, as I’m understanding it, is a capacity to adore God, to worship God, to reflect  the light of God to a greater degree.  It’s a greater capacity to draw attention to the glory of Jesus Christ who is both our redeemer and creator.

To me a reward is like what Mary did in John 12:3, which says, “Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”  She had this costly perfume, to the point where Judas, in that story, got upset that such a lavish gift was being poured out on Jesus.  But she had it and it was some sort of capacity that she had to adore Jesus, to worship Jesus even more.  Not to win brownie points from Him, not to gain some sort of extra mileage or a higher standing from Him, just out of gratitude for what He had done and was about to do for her.

That’s why I think we ought to be concerned about rewards, something that’s in our hands and physical and real and tangible that can enhance our worship experience, not some sort of self-centered materialistic mindset which says I have more than you.  In fact, I don’t even know if we will even experience such a motive in the afterlife, since we will be resurrected the motives will be completely pure at that point. But having something to adorn Christ with; some believers apparently have a greater capacity with that than others.

Notice this expression here, which “the righteous Judge,” how interesting it is that Paul keeps thinking about judgment.  We’ve already made reference back to chapter 4 and verse 1 where he refers to Jesus as the “judge of the living and the dead.”  Paul understood that this life ends in judgment.  This life is not something where we, as reincarnation teaches, that we somehow get recycled and come back in a different life form and this just goes on throughout the eons of time.  That’s not the biblical worldview; the biblical worldview is this: it is appointed for man once to die and then face the what?  The judgment.  [Hebrews 9:27, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,”]

Now we know that this is true for the unbeliever.  They are headed for a horrific judgment called the Great White Throne Judgment, you can study that in Revelation 20:11-15.  [Revelation 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. [12] And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. [14] Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. [15] And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”]

That’s not the judgment Paul is speaking of here; he’s speaking of the judgment of rewards, the judgment of evaluation, the judgment where God is going to take stock, take account of our lives in Christ and how we spent those lives.  And isn’t it interesting, when you think about a performance appraisal you live differently, don’t you?  I remember going through college, those professors that just take a midterm, I had a tendency to study harder for those teachers.  The teacher that just said well, I’m going to give you a final and that’s it, I had a tendency to get a little bit lax until the last 24 hours of the semester.  This is what thinking about the next life and this inevitable judgment does.  It makes us wiser in terms of how we’re investing this brief time that we have on earth that James alludes to as mist that appears for a little while and then disappears.

Look at this clause here, which “the righteous Judge, will award to me….”  As Paul looked at his life and his death that was imminent he was looking forward to the next life.  He wanted to see Jesus Christ.  Let me ask you a question, are you looking forward to this judgment or dreading it.  That, and how you respond to that question is a barometer of sorts.  I believe that it can be either an affirmation from the Holy Spirit or a warning from the Holy Spirit concerning our priorities.

You know, an exam in school is fun to a certain extent; I know that seems strange for me to say that but if you’ve actually been diligent in  your preparation you sort of look forward to an exam.  The same with a performance appraisal at work; it’s something you look forward to if you’ve been diligent on the job.  But the student that has not been diligent, the employee who has not been diligent, those exams that are on the horizon are a fear, a dread, in some cases a terror.  And I don’t want to turn heaven into hell either, as some sadly do.  But there is this contingency of rewards and are we looking forward to this examination or not?  That’s only a question we can answer individually before God.

1 John 2:28 says this: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”  It’s speaking clearly to the believer because he says “little children,” what’s it going to be “little children,” are  you looking with great confidence to the return of Christ, or are you running the risk of shrinking away from him in shame at His coming.  The reality of the doctrine of rewards, the balance that we’re trying to communicate theologically which says there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.  [Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”]  We’re heaven bound, and yet faithfulness here on the earth as Christians has significance in some sort of way.

You’ll notice also this expression here, “on that day;” “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day,” what “day” is he talking about?  I believe that he typically, Paul does, refers to as the day of Christ, when we see Jesus face to face.  Philippians 1:10 says, “so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”  It’s that day where we are, if we don’t die before the rapture, where we’re caught up and see Jesus face to face.

It’s very different than the day of the Lord.  In my way of thinking the day of Christ is a completely different concept than the day of the Lord.  The day of Christ is more of the destiny for the Christian; the day of the Lord, on the other hand, is that frightful time of judgment that will be poured out upon the earth through the various seal judgments and trumpet judgments and bowl judgments spoken of in the book of Revelation sometimes, a time period called the  70th week of Daniel, sometimes it’s called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” a time of great distress and perplexity for the nations.

1 Thessalonians 5:10 says, “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”  This the day of judgment, this is not the destiny of the Christian; it’s the destiny of the world.  In fact, it’s analogized to the flood; you know, God is pretty good at judgment, He’s done it at least twice that I know of: number 1, the global flood; number 2, the city of Sodom and Gomorrah both experienced cataclysms from God.  And what was the state of the world like before those judgments came.  The Bible is very clear, they were eating, they were drinking, they were giving themselves in marriage and being married, and the moment those judgments came it swept them completely off guard.

Jesus said in For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah, Matthew 24. Matthew 24:38, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Just prior to this horrific day of the Lord will be a time of business as usual for the world, and they won’t know what has happened to them until it is too late, having rejected the gospel, having rejected the perpetual warnings of God.

Genesis 6:3 says, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he is mortal his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”  Prior to the flood God was, I’m not sure how He did it, perhaps through the preaching of Noah, warning, striving with lost man but eventually even the patience of God is exhausted.  The 120 years came to its conclusion, the judgment of God came, Jesus said that’s exactly how it’s going to be in the end time.  That’s the day of the Lord.  How different our destiny as children of light, for not the day of the Lord but the day of Christ. Seeing Him face to face, experiencing an evaluation from Him, not to determine eternity but Him wanting to reward us, Him wanting to say about our lives “well done.”  This is what Paul is speaking to Timothy about.

Notice this expression here, “not to me only, but also to all….” In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge , will award to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all….”  This judgment of rewards, this Bema Seat judgment, is not something that you as a Christian can opt out of.  You can’t take a summer class and get out of this requirement.   This is coming for everybody.  Paul is very clear it’s not just for me.

2 Corinthians 5:10 is even clearer, he says, “For we must all” speaking of the church, universal church, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each” notice that word “each,” 2 Corinthians 5:10, “so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Paul, I think actually through his sports metaphors says this is what makes our judgment different than the typical athletic contest in the world.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 he says, “Do you not know that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. [25] Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  In the world of athletics you’ve got winners and losers.  There’s not multiple gold medals given out for a single athletic contest in the Olympic games.  But here he says “we,” we “all,” “each,” so all of us can win the gold.  All of us can win the prize; all of us can hear from the Lord “Well done, they good and faithful servant.”  All of us can have the potential of being deemed faithful as stewards of God.  What an incentive for motivation; what an incentive for looking at the opportunities that God places in front of us.

The last expression there in verse, when he talks about this crown, he says, “and not only to me, but to all who have loved His appearing.”  Loving, yearning for the appearing of Jesus Christ.  Why would a person that simply loves and yearns for the appearing of Jesus Christ, why would such a person be rewarded?  The answer is we’re living in a world system that is constantly seeking to alienate our affections from God back to the things of the world.  That’s part of the good fight that we’re in.  The way the world system dangles carrots in front of us constantly to get our eyes off of Jesus and back onto the world.

And yet the believer that under God’s power resists that allurement is rewarded.  This world system, I’ll tell you, one of the great three enemies that we have, 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [16] For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. [17] The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

Why is the world system the way it is?  Why is it so anti-God?  There’s a simple answer to that: it’s orchestrated by Satan himself.  1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”  Ever since the fall in Eden Satan has been given temporary custody, authority over the world.  I’m not saying God isn’t sovereign because He is.  But in the little temptation in Luke’s Gospel Satan offered to Jesus on a silver platter the whole enchilada.  Luke 4:5-8. [ “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. [6] And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. [7] ‘Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’”]

Satan, in fact, said these kingdoms of the world have bene given to me and I can give them to whom I please.  Jesus never argued with Satan on that point because it’s true.  And how easy it is to allow the world to squeeze us into its mold.  Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  I like one translation which summarizes it this way, “don’t let the world squeeze  you into its mold.”  The anti-God satanic philosophy of the world that works overtime in the life and mind of the child of God, that seeks to alienate our affections and attention from what really matters.

You say well do you have any examples of that.  I’m glad you asked, verse 10, “for Demas, having loved this present” what? “world,” cosmos, “has deserted me,” oh, well, Demas he was never saved.  I beg to differ with you on that one.  Colossians 4:14, this is what Paul says of Demas about seven years earlier, “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas”   Philemon verse 24 says, “as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.”  Who was Demas?  He was with Paul, he was a co-minister with Paul.  And yet sometime between A.D. 60 and 62 when Paul wrote these words, A.D. 67, Demas had fallen in love with the world and had left Paul.  And consequently there is a reward at the Bema Seat Judgment for the believer that follows the pattern of Paul and not the pattern of Demas.

Where are you affections today?  Where is  your attention?  Where is our priority?  Do we understand that this world is not our home?  1 Peter 1:17 says, “…conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;” what is our time on earth equated to?  Just a “stay,” a sojourn.

I Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”  What is our position here in the world?  We’re just “aliens and strangers.”

Hebrews 11:13 says we were “strangers and exiles on the earth.”  [Hebrews 11:13, “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

You know, one of the doctrines that’s in decline today is the doctrine of the pre-tribulational rapture of the church.  According to LifeWay Research, only 28% of preachers 45 years old and younger hold to a pretribulational rapture.  This compares to about 36% of preachers overall.  The survey of 1,000 pastors was done by LifeWay Research.  Why is it that the doctrine of the rapture, or the any moment appearing of Jesus Christ is in decline?  Why should that be concerning?  What that tells me is the Christian world is falling in love with the world, rather than the soon return of Jesus Christ to take us out of the world.

It’s not the first time that this has happened, George Gunn of Shasta Bible College says, “Interestingly, references to John 14:1-3” that’s the promise of the Lord in His Father’s house are many rooms, He’s gone to prepare a dwelling place for us,” the first references to the rapture of the church in the Scripture, Gunn says, “Interestingly, reference to John 14:1-3 virtually disappear when perusing the writings of the Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers.”  This was a few generations after the apostles left the scene.  Gunn writes, “This is a bit surprising, given the abundance of material in these later writers when compared with the Ante-Nicene’s.” Early church fathers.  “I would assume” Gunn says, “that with the rise of Augustinian amillennialism and its optimistic interpretation regarding the present arrival of the Kingdom of God, the kind of hope held out in John 14:1-3 ceased to hold relevance.” [George Gunn, “John 14:1-3: The Father’s House: Are We There Yet?,” 30, n. 24]

What happened to the church?  They fell in love with the world; this is the kingdom.  The focus became what we’re building now rather than focusing on the promise of the Lord of being taken from the world.  And Paul simply holds out to Timothy the possibility of reward for the believer that resists this trend under God’s power and  yearns for the return of Christ.

Speaking of which, if Jesus were to come back today in the rapture would you go?  I have a feeling that the Sunday after the rapture the churches will be just as jam-packed with people as ever because so many people, particularly here in the south, in the Bible belt, go to church because that’s part of the ritual, the tradition, the culture.  Jesus is not coming back for a denomination; He’s coming back for the regenerated child of God.  And the question is, where are you today with God?  Are you one of His children or not?  How do you become His child?  You become His child through what we call the gospel; “gospel” means good news.

We call it good news because Jesus did all the hard work.   He did everything that’s necessary to bridge the gap between a holy God and sinful man through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  The whole thing is paid for.  The sin debt has been paid for.  We simply receive what He has done as a free gift.  You can receive that right now as I’m talking.  It’s not something you can earn or work for, it’s not something you give money to do, it’s not something you join a church to do.  It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord, where the Holy Spirit places you under conviction and you respond by faith, which means trust or reliance in the promises of God.  You are no longer trusting in yourself, you’re trusting in what He has done.  That’s the only way to receive the gift of God which is by faith.  God doesn’t have any grandchildren.  I can’t get to heaven based on what my parents believe, I’ve got to have my own faith in Christ.  And you can have that faith right now simply by trusting as best you know how in the promises of Jesus Christ.  If it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk, our missionary, Jim Meyer and his wife are available after the service to talk.  That’s what it’s all about, the gospel, the greatest news God gave to man.  If the gospel is something you’ve trusted in or are now trusting in then on the authority of the Word of God your whole eternal destiny is changed.  Shall we pray?

Father, thank You for this warning from Timothy and our walk as Christians; help us, Lord, to invest wisely in the brief time we have left; make us people of faith as we walk out Your promises.  We will be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name.  And God’s people said… Amen.