Pillar #4: A Clear View of the Finish Line
Every runner needs a vision of the finish line.
Christians need a clear view of the finish line, too. Why? In both cases the finish line is the end of the race, and where the rewards are distributed.
Did I say rewards? Yes I did. They’re distributed at the final review session.
Yes. The idea of reviews should be quite familiar.
Students receive academic reviews from teachers; they’re called grades. All jobs have a review process with a manager. Athletes have coaches who study and review performances. Even farmers get a performance review; it’s call a “harvest.”
God has a review process as well.
Sadly, most adults (and of course, youth) have no vision for this.
Christians are generally familiar with the Great White Throne Judgment – the separation of the sheep and goats which determines where one will spend eternity.
But there’s another judgment – the one for just the sheep (believers). It’s called the Judgment Seat of Christ: the judgment of works and distribution of rewards.
Without a clear view of these two judgments, doctrines get really messed up.
Salvation and rewards
- Salvation is a gift. Rewards are earned.
- Salvation consists of new, eternal life. Rewards take the form of possessions, crowns, roles of service, and stuff we probably can’t fathom right now.
- Salvation comes by God’s grace. Rewards comes by Christian works.
- Salvation is determined at the Great White Throne Judgment. Rewards are given at the Judgment Seat of Christ
- Salvation determines where one spends eternity. Rewards determine how you’ll enjoy eternity in heaven.
Many of today’s broken doctrines come from flawed view of these themes.
There’s a real tension between salvation and rewards… between grace and works. The tension comes from trying to choose between one theology or the other. But the themes are inseparable.
A heavy grace doctrine (some call this “cheap grace”) undervalues works and obedience.
A works-oriented faith posture squashes the life-giving gift of grace.
If you ignore works, you forfeit the pursuit of rewards (and suffer “loss,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:15). If you ignore grace, you fall prey to a view of salvation based on works.
People like to boast of God’s grace while rejecting belief in rewards. Somehow that seems more spiritual to them. But it’s dangerous. According to Hebrews 11:6, the very definition of faith assumes a belief in a God who rewards behavior.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (NKJV)
The doctrines of salvation and rewards (or grace and works) complement one another like bookends holding many of the Christian doctrines together. (Click here for Pillar #3 – discussion on Bible Doctrines) It takes wisdom to appreciate them both.
The promise of salvation provides hope and peace. And the promise of rewards provides inspiration and motivation. God leads us by appealing to our natural desires and needs.
We need security: the hope of salvation provides that.
And we need motivation and encouragement: rewards!
It’s a beautiful pairing.
Can you imagine a school with no tests? Or a job with no reviews? Or a business with no expectations for profits. Or how about a politician with no hope of re-election (ha!)
The point is this:
God created us to expect something from this life. Not because we deserve anything, but because God wants to recognize us.
God wants to reward His children.
The Christian life with no view of rewards is a dull life.
It’s no wonder there’s so little vision or talk about eternity in church today. A life with no reward is hardly inspiring, which is why so many young people (and older adults too) drift away from faith.
Biblically literate Christians understand eternity is worth living for… working toward… and talking about in the home. History’s greatest faith giants had a clear focus on eternal rewards. (Read the entire Chapter 11 of Hebrews.)
Biblically literate Christians don’t just look ahead to the next summer’s vacation… or to college… or marriage… or to that next job promotion.
They’re looking ahead to the their future rewards in heaven.
So where do I start?
- Read the Gospel of Mathew. Note how many times Jesus speaks of the “kingdom of heaven.” Many of the parables speak to the final judgments. Note which parables speak of rewards and which ones speak of salvation.
- Good resources: The Grace Evangelical Society (www.faithalone.org) also has a great website with very clear doctrinal statements and scriptural support to reconcile these two themes.
And as mentioned in Pillar #2, Eternal Perspective Ministries (http://www.epm.org/) is my go-to source for resources on heaven and rewards.
- If you haven’t read it, check out Pillar #2. It’s sort of a cousin to this Pillar #4, and sheds light on why we must have a view of the finish line.
Families that talk about, and practice, finish line faith are less likely to drift. It’s a core piece to building sound biblical literacy and helping kids and teens to make sense of the God’s eternal plan for His children.
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