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Where do you want to be rich? Consider two things that affect your eternity: your belief and your behavior. Your belief determines whether you will be with the Lord forever, and your behavior determines the rewards you'll receive in Heaven. How you handle your material possessions shows a lot about what you believe; you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.
A Biblical Perspective on Possessions, Rewards and Eternity
Giving and All That Goes With It
A Biblical Perspective on Money
Father, thank you for gifted servants like JR who use their skills, their gifts, their pleasures to give you pleasure to honor you. Thank you, Father, that you delight, and you consider it an act of worship when we use that which you give us for your glory even as we just saw. Now, we ask that you would give us attention that we could use for your glory. That wherever we're at with you, no matter how far, no matter how confused, no matter how certain we are about who you are, you would pierce through whatever level we're at and take us closer still to understanding you as you've intended us to know you.
We thank you for this moment, this time, the words we've already sung, the words we will sing, the things we have seen, and the things we will, and most of all, that which we pray your Word will accomplish now as we look at it. In Christ's name, amen.
Tevye wanted to be rich so he could sit and do what he wanted to do all day long, he wouldn't have to work again. This morning we're going to talk not so much about why you want to be rich because frankly, why you want to be rich is not the issue. What we're going to look at this morning is where do you want to be rich?
We've been working our way through a little series called The Green, the Gray, and the Gold. For our guests who are just joining us this week, let me remind you what that's been. The green has been our little euphemism for the biblical perspective God gives us on money. The Lord doesn't want us to stay in darkness about what he has to say about something that is essential to our life as material possessions and belongings and money. So we looked at what the Scripture has to say about the green.
Then once you understand what the Bible has to say about money and about cash (about the green), it always begs the question, "How much of my green does God want?" Last week, we looked at that gray area, which is God being a great Master of whom I am a steward of his resources. The question is not so much, "How much of what is his do I give back to him," but, "How much of what is his does he expect me as a steward to keep and use for my own?"
We know he would not want me to go hungry, to be cold, or naked without shelter. At the same time, he doesn't want me feathering my bed but using the resources he has given me to conduct the business that he's given me to conduct. So we talked about that gray area. "How much do we give?"
We looked at some basic principles last week. We saw that God has given us, his children, a baseline we should begin to operate off of that we can then grow and grow forward with, knowing that as soon as we understand who he is, how he loves us, and what he has done for us and how he's demonstrated our love, that as a reflex to his grace, we would give. What should inform our giving is not some number or percent, but love.
The answer to the gray question of how much I should give is, "How much do you want to show your love through that specific act of worship?" With your life, your talents, and your treasures, knowing that God wants you to provide for yourself and your family as you serve him.
This week, we're going to look at something that, frankly, you don't see and hear taught very much in churches. Even churches like ours that are so careful to declare to you the goodness and the grace of God. We often teach you about God's grace on this side of the grave and not the grace that awaits us on the other side. Specifically, we don't often enough talk about this issue of the reward in being a faithful steward that God has called us to be.
The question this morning is not this. "Why do you want to be rich?" The question this morning is this. "Where do you want to be rich?" How do you want to prepare for that which Jesus says you should prepare for? There's an old story of a guy who had many slaves who he was master over. He had a relationship with one who he was particularly fond of. This particular servant was a real clod. He was an individual who didn't ever get anything right. He was intellectually challenged to the nth degree.
He loved him because he saw him always doing his best, but he said, "You annoy me with your simpleton ideas and your foolish acts. I've never seen anybody as foolish as you are. I'm going to give you this stick. As a source of novelty and entertainment to me, I want you to carry this stick with you all the days that you're in my service. I want you to keep this stick until you meet somebody who's a greater fool than you."
So he watched this servant for years on end as he fed the chickens and as he made his way throughout the master's service, always carrying his stick. Whether he was sweeping or serving or even eating, he had his stick with him. As years went on, this master got sick himself and was moving towards the grave.
What he did is he brought those who he knew well close to him. He called at one point for this foolish servant who came walking in with his stick. Because this man was not very informed and intellectually a bit challenged and was a fool, he felt like he needed to explain to him what was going on in his life.
He said, "Listen, I'm not going to see you much after today because I'm going away." He says, "Where are you going?" The guy says, "I really don't know where I'm going, but I'm going away on a long journey." The servant says, "How long have you known that you are going to go on this journey?" He said, "My whole life, I knew this journey was coming that I'm going on."
He said, "Master, your whole life, you knew you were going on this journey, yet you don't know where it is that you're going on this journey." The master said, "That's right." He said, "Well, do you know what you need so you might have that which is necessary when you partake on this journey?" The master said, "No. I've never really taken much time to consider that. I don't know what I need for this journey." He said, "Master, your stick."
If you've known your whole life that you've had this journey ahead of you, and yet you've never taken care to find out where it is that you must go on this journey, where it is you should go, where it is you want to go, or what it is that will allow you to prosper on your journey, you above all men are a fool.
What we're going to talk about today is the fact that God does not want us to live as fools. He wants us to understand how to rightly respond to this life that we're in. This world has rightly been described as a dot that begins a ray. We are creatures who, made in the image of God from the moment of our creation, the Scripture says… We are all eternal, every single one of us. God has set eternity in our hearts.
Even when we physically die, the Scriptures make it very clear that that is not the end. Every single one of us will move towards a resurrection. Some will move towards a resurrection of a righteous, others towards a resurrection of the wicked. But all of us have begun at a point in time, and as a dot begins, a ray, most of us spend all of our time focusing not on the line that moves to infinity but focusing on the dot that quantifies such a small part of that which the ray makes up.
What God wants us to understand is he thinks it's foolish for us to be concerned about the quality of our life on the dot when that dot doesn't even register in a percentile in light of eternity. He tells us to make sure we steward that dot knowing the way we steward that dot does affect our eternity. Let me lay it out for you this way.
There are two things which determine, ultimately, your future. Firstly, your belief and, secondly, your behavior. I want to make it very, very clear that your eternal destination is inseparably linked to one thing. That is your belief. Specifically, your belief about what it is that will allow you to find forgiveness before a holy God.
The Scriptures make it clear. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Scriptures talked about how all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If the wages of that sin is death, but the free gift of God, the Scripture says, is eternal life through Christ Jesus.
Jesus said, " Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life…" Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will…never die." He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
The Scripture says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The Scripture says, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…"
The Scriptures make it very clear that that which ultimately allows us to be acceptable in God's eyes is nothing that we do, but it has everything to do about what we believe about our need, about our infinite separation from God. Jesus took the most holy, religious people of his day, and he says, "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of these men, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." Why? Because he says his standard is perfection. " … be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." All of us know that we are not perfect. So what do we do with this chasm?
We become aware of our great need, and we realize that all of us, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. The Lord, in his grace, has caused the iniquity of us all, the sin of us all to fall on him (meaning, Jesus Christ), who did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The Scriptures are loud and clear about the fact that our eternal destination is inseparably linked to what we believe.
What you don't often hear communicated and talked about is what we're going to talk about this morning. That is that our eternal compensation is inseparably linked to how we behave. In other words, though we are saved by grace through faith, what we need to do with our lives will affect our eternity. The Scriptures beg us and say simply this. "If then you've been raised up with Christ, and you're seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, where Christ is, keep seeking the things that are above, not the things which are on the earth."
In other words, your perspective ought to change. If you know living for the dot doesn't make ultimate sense, and seeking to be a rich man here isn't ultimately wise in terms of the perspective of eternity, you need to think in terms of investing and using that which God has given you, whether it's green or whether it's gifts or whether it's time or whether it's greatness, for something other than the dot.
There's a woman who wrote a little poem that she wanted to have read the funeral of her friends. I'm going to read it right here but not for the reasons that she wrote it. She wrote it basically trying to encourage us in a very humanistic way to be kind to each other, which is a good thing. How we behave towards one another in love does matter. Especially in response to what Christ has done for us.
In terms of our life ultimately having value before a holy God because we are good enough, the Scriptures make it very clear that we can never be good enough if we're not perfect as he is. What we do with our life still matters, and there is an eternal consequence to not just what we believe but to how we behave. Listen to this little poem. It says this.
"Iread of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end. He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth. For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. So think about this long and hard; are there things you'd like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged."
She goes on to beg you in reflecting at a friend's funeral about maybe rearranging your dash so your eulogy is different, and as well, probably something we should consider. Jesus' concern was something much longer-lasting than your eulogy. That which precedes the moment in your eternity where you hold up traffic for 15 minutes as you make your way to your earthly resting place. He doesn't tell you to worry about your eulogy as much as he tells you to worry about your eternity. And he doesn't tell you to worry about your eternity; he begs you to invest in it.
As we have said throughout this series, God talks a lot. There is more about money than heaven and hell combined, faith and prayer, or any of those things. Why? God knows there's a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. Let me show you that this idea again is not exclusive to the ideas and words of Christ.
In Luke 3, if you have your Bible, you can flip there with me. If not, we'll put it up behind me. In Luke 3, It talks about John the Baptist's ministry. It talks about how he came into the district around the Jordan River. While he was there, he was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He was telling people, "You've heard a lot from the rabbis about what it is that will allow you to be acceptable in God's eyes."
What John came on the scene saying is, "The Old Testament system of sacrifice and religious festivals were all there to teach you something. They were to picture for you the fact that God requires blood to be shed, that life must be expended for sin. God was showing you that he is holy, and you are not, and there's an infinite chasm between you.
The sacrifice of bulls and goats that's going on in this religious system that he's introduced, you know, has, in some way, satisfied him over this time because he hasn't come and wiped you out. But it hasn't also satisfied him completely because he continues to require more sacrifices to be made.
Now John comes on the scene, and he's going to talk about one who himself will be a sacrifice, and his sacrifice will be so complete that the sacrificial system that pointed towards this one will no longer be necessary. The reality or the picture of what those sacrifices anticipated has arrived. That's why John first identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who's come to take away the sins of the world. He's the one who our sins will be laid upon, and through him, we will be forgiven.
John preached this message, and a lot of people responded to it. He said, "It's great that you're saying you believe what I just communicated, that you should repent, you should change your thinking about what allows you to be forgiven by God. But I don't want you just to believe. I want you to behave differently in your dash. Your dash should be different in the way you live in that dot that anticipates your eternity because of what you believe."
Look at Luke 3:8. I'm going to show you that he takes three different groups of people, and watch how he responds to them when they say, "In light of what we have heard, what should we do?" He tells them, "You should behave differently because you believe differently." That's my way of saying what John said when he said, "Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."
Don't delude yourself into thinking that God is impressed that you have some long religious heritage or you attend church at a certain place. God can fill up these pews with monkeys if he wants to. What God is saying right here is that the time is coming when each of us is going to be judged for who we really are, not what we say we are. So make sure that our lives are what we think they are.
Now, watch. People say, "How can we know? What do we need to do to show you that we really do believe?" Look at what John says. Verse 10. "And the crowds were questioning him, saying, 'Then what shall we do?' And he would answer and say to them, 'The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.'"
What's he saying? "How you handle your material possessions and your belongings, how you handle that which you've been stewarded is going to say a lot about what you believe." Some tax collectors come. Not the crowds now, some specific individuals. They came to be baptized as a sign that they believe.
" … and they said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.'" In other words, don't use your position of power to exploit other people and make more money for yourself. So far, two people have said, "How can we show you we're serious about our faith?" Both answers have been tied directly to the green. What do you think is going to happen when the third group comes?
"Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, 'And what about us, what shall we do?'" Because John knew there was a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money, he said, "Do not take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely. Be content with what you have." His point is the way that you behave says a lot about what you believe. What you believe is what ultimately determines your destination, and how you behave will determine your compensation as a servant.
Let me say it this way. The Scriptures are very clear that if you know Christ, you are no longer considered to be a sinner whose wage that you owe God is death. You are now a son or a daughter. If anyone believes in him, he can become a child of God, even to those who believe in his name. John 1:12 says, "As many as received him, you become a child of God. You move from this place of being condemned as a sinner to somebody who believes in God's provision, and you move out of judgment into life."
Being born into life, the Scripture then says, as a son or daughter, how are you going to behave as a son or daughter who is stewarding your life in response to the gift that you've been given? When you are no longer judged as a sinner, you are then judged as a servant. How you behave as a servant will affect the way he responds to you in eternity.
I'm going to explain that today and let you know that God is deeply interested in you investing well. In fact, so much so that not only does he suggest that you store up for yourself treasures in heaven, he commands it. He wants you to deal out of an enlightened self-interest that will enable you to experience in eternity what he wants you to experience in eternity.
This is hard for us because a lot of folks say, "I am satisfied with what God has done for me. Isn't Jesus enough in eternity? Just being in his presence… Isn't that enough? I don't deserve a reward for what I'm doing when I'm only doing what I ought to do." The answer to that question is absolutely. Jesus is enough.
But watch this. Grace upon grace is that God is not just going to give you more than enough. It says, "In his right hand are pleasures, and in his presence is fullness of joy." He is going to overwhelm you with not only infinitely more than you could ever be satisfied in with who he is as a person, but with possessions and power and privilege that he says he wants you to experience on top of that which already awaits you because of what you believe.
We go, "This doesn't make sense, Todd. You're telling me that this Jesus, who did not come to be served but to serve and give himself as a ransom for many is telling me to serve here in such a way that, in effect, appears to be selfish because I'm doing it out of my own self-interest."
I would correct you in that by telling you what Jesus wants you to do is to not act selfishly. Something is considered to be selfish when you pursue it at the expense of other people. What Jesus is going to command you to do is to act out of an enlightened self-interest that allows you to do good for others that will, in fact, be good for you. Let me illustrate this a couple of ways.
First of all, there is a story in Matthew 13 of an individual who was out and was walking along. He stumbled along and came up against the treasure. This is what it says. "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
You shouldn't feel sorry for this guy that he has to sell everything that he owns in order to get this field. Why? It tells you why he sells everything to invest in this field. It's because what he knows is in that field is worth infinitely more than everything that he has. Notice the words. It says, "For the joy that he has over this idea."
He knows what awaits him when he accomplishes his life-savings investment. So he says, "Don't feel sorry for me. I'm investing in a way that I, frankly, have great joy in because I know what it's going to bring me." This idea Jesus himself experienced in Hebrews 12. The writer of Hebrews is encouraging us.
He says, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us [the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the concern for many things] , and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…" Now, watch this because as in all things, Christ is our example. "…fixing our eyes on Jesus…"
What that means is don't just look up into some heavenly cloud structure that we think looks like Christ. Remember, Christ is our example. " [He is] …the author of and the perfecter of our faith…" Watch what he did. "…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Let me tell you what those words mean and why this is relevant to our conversation. When you understand what I'm about to share with you, that Jesus begs you to believe, this will be your perspective. Christ did come and live a selfless life. But, in effect, what he did was very selfish. How can that be? It wasn't selfish in the human sense that what he did is seek his own interest at the expense of others. He selflessly gave himself as a sacrifice, knowing that his Father would greatly reward him for what he had done and bestow on him the name that is above all names.
In fact, he knew the reward was so great for the sacrifice that he would make that he despised the same of the naked humiliations and the sufferings of the cross. That word despised; he considered it despicable. He considered it worthless. He considered it not even something worth factoring in. It just didn't even matter.
So somebody said, "Yeah, you might have the name above all names, you might be enthroned in the heavenlies, and you might be entrusted with all eternal power and glory, and all will bow before you, but do you really want to go to a cross?" He says, "Go to a cross? What wouldn't you do for that?"
Jesus says, "The idea of suffering keeping me from eternal glory… Suffering doesn't even factor in as something to be considered as too costly given the weight of what waits for me at the end." This is what David had in mind when he said in Psalm 119, "I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great spoil." His point here is this. "Lord, when I consider what I've been given, and when I consider the greatness of what you tell me, I've stumbled onto a great spoil here. I'm going to reorder my entire life based on what I've found."
This is the point of today's message. God wants you to understand that he wants you to think about the line and not the dot and how you invest your life as a mother, as a father, as a son, as a steward of the gifts and resources, the time, the talent, and the days and the treasure that he has given you.
Jesus operated out of an enlightened self-interest, and he is cutting you in on the deal. What are you going to do? If you believe that Jesus knew what he was talking about, if you acknowledge that you believe an example, how then shall we live? You would say, "What should we do then in keeping with our belief?" My answer is going to be, "You should handle material resources, you should handle every day, every spiritual gift, every talent that you've been given, in light of eternity and steward it thereof."
Watch this. Matthew 6. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…" Why does he say that? He doesn't say that because somehow treasures on earth are bad. He's telling you that because they don't last. He's warning you. "…where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."
My wife and I are blessed to have a great home that has recently been surrounded by a rash of burglaries. This week, in order to preserve that which moth will eat, rust will destroy, to maybe minimize thieves that steal, we had our little friends from ADT come on out and give my wife a little more security. Mostly for her, as opposed to keeping those things.
What we did today is we acknowledged that Matthew 6 was true. What we did this week is we said, "Yep, it's a fact. No matter how many times I tell my kids to bring in their stuff, they still let it out in the rain, and they start to rust. And moths don't destroy, but 6-month-old Golden Retriever puppies do at the Wagner household." Believe me. "In our neighborhood recently, it's been abundantly clear that thieves still."
What Jesus is begging me to do is invest somewhere a little bit better. He warns us this. He doesn't say, "If you keep things on earth, they might be lost." He says, "I guarantee you they will be lost." I have had the privilege of being with a number of different people as they get to the end of their dot, or if you will, the end of their dash. I've been with men who've been worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars at that moment. I've been with some folks who are worth less than nothing. They both, at that same moment, are thinking about the same things.
They're not thinking about how much they had that moth could eat or thieves could steal or rust could destroy. They don't ask for their possessions to be brought around them. When I've sat there with these individuals, and some of them, like I said, who've been worth lots and lots of money…
I know one who has said to a friend before as they were surrounded in their home and died in their home with doctors caring all around them and surrounded by their immense wealth, "Friend, these are the things [pointing to his paintings and possessions and hobbies and collections] which make a deathbed terrible. I'm leaving it, and I can't take it with me. I'm leaving what I've invested in and what I have loved."
Jesus is begging you to understand the genius of that statement now so that on your deathbed, though you will miss your loved ones, you will go, "The way I have lived my life is what makes this moment filled with hope. Not because I'm going to present a resume to God that's going to allow me to get from him forgiveness. My destination is not going to be determined by what I've done, but how I stand before him as a steward is. I have stewarded my life well, and now it is payday. I look forward to that moment."
This is what Jesus says in verse 20. He says, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…" One guy said about earth's financial forecast, "It's just not that Jesus is pessimistic. He does know that earth's currency will eventually become worthless when Christ returns. But he is especially bullish about heaven's ability to perform."
So he tells you, "You have a chance to store up, and you only have one place you can store it where it's going to have the return that you want." So he commands you out of wisdom to go ahead and invest wisely. Do you understand that? He says, "Use what you've been given in this dash to prepare that which endures and not which is fleeting and not that might be lost but that will be lost."
You have right here, in Matthew 6, the ultimate insider trading information. What Jesus is telling you is, "I can guarantee you what this market is going to do and perform." Think of it. If you lived in the south some 150 years ago, and you were just filthy rich with Confederate money, and you know the North was going to win, what would you do?
You would take every bit of that Confederate money that you have, and you would invest it every way you could in a way that would give you favor in that which was going to be currency in the days ahead. You would only keep that money which was necessary to provide for you as you lived in the near future. You would make sure you planned for what you knew was coming.
I'm telling you. Though it seems, "What in the world is God doing telling me to act selfishly to invest for me," that's exactly what he's doing. Why is he doing that? Because in God's economy with heaven, his resources are not limited, and he will not steward to you greatness in a way that will cost others provision.
He knows if you steward what he's given you here and now, though it's for your best selfish interest long term, it's also in the best interest of others. It is a win/win. God begs us to take everything we've been trusted with right now, which on earth is eternal investment capital, and to deal with it with an enlightened self-interest.
Do you see where the rubber meets the road here? Do you see why John said what he said in Luke 3? Some of you going, "I'm here every week. I am going to tell folks day in and day out that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, that no one comes to the Father except through him, that he is the visible image of the invisible God, that all the fullness of deity dwells in him in bodily form, and that God is not a man that he should lie nor a son of man that he should repent." Numbers 23:19 says, "Has he not said, and will he not do it? Has he not spoken, and will he not make it right?"
God is not a liar. When Jesus says it, you can book on it. When I'm telling you this right now, how many of you are out there going, "Come on"? I'm begging you to listen to what God says to you and what Jesus is telling you so it will be well with you in that day. Not in the sense that it will change that destination, but it will change your compensation.
Let me make this clear. When the Bible talks about heaven and hell, it always talks about heaven and hell this way. Heaven never gets worse. It only gets better based on how you behave. You're in heaven or out of heaven biblically based on what you believe. But heaven gets better based on how you behave. You can go, "Wait, how can that be? In his presence is fullness of joy." You are right, but I'm going to make a case and explain to you how this is in just a moment.
Heaven can get better. It can't get worse. Hell, on the other hand, cannot get better. It can only get worse. The Scriptures are very clear. Let me walk you through a few places. In Romans 2, it talks about hell for a moment. It talks about how men will have certain consequences based on how they live.
Because of your stubbornness, it says, and your unrepentant heart, you're storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. It seems to be that just like you can store up treasure for yourself, you can store up wrath for yourself if you do not have your sin dealt with.
In Matthew 11, let me show you this. There are levels of hell. "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day." In other words, "They would've repented if they had seen what you have seen."
"Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you." I believe you could sub "the West" into "Capernaum" right there. The grace we've been given and the miracles we have seen and the attestation to the reality and the truth of the word of God and the blessing that comes that we've had as a nation in terms of walking with Lord…
Though we have not seen the miracles that Capernaum saw through the person of Jesus Christ, we have seen the goodness of God rolled out on our land, and I tell you, just like folks who've said I agree that if God does not ultimately bring the United States of America to its knees in judgment he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.
The point is not now nationally how we are going to do. The point is individually do you understand that if you reject the life that you've been given and you continue to suppress the truth and unrighteousness, and you continually say, "I'm just going to continue to operate in my own little basis of belief and reject the revelation that I've been given," there are degrees of hell.
You might say to yourself, "At least I'm going to be in the penthouse of hell." Room service in the penthouse of hell will consistently give you weeping and gnashing of teeth. In the finest place in hell, there is nothing there that will remind you of anything that is remotely good because if you choose to be alienated from God and want nothing to do with his will and way, then he will put you in a place where there will be nothing there that will remotely remind you of it.
There are degrees of suffering, but the finest degree is not something you want to experience. Likewise, the lowest level of heaven, if you will, is fullness of joy. Jesus is telling you, "Let's make it better." You and I go, "How can it be better than to be in his presence?" The answer is grace upon grace. I'm going to prove it to you in just a moment.
Quickly, without taking you there, go back and read sometime Acts 18. In Acts 18, one of the servants of Jesus whose dot was dramatically transformed when he met Jesus Christ, so he determined to live his dash differently, the guy by the name Saul whose name became Paul who previously persecuted folks for their belief in Jesus Christ, and then became one who was persecuted as much as any many who ever lived for the cause of Christ was in a town of Corinth.
He was preaching the gospel in Corinth. There were some men there who weren't happy with what he was preaching, so they dragged him before a proconsul. They drug him before a man there who sat in what was called the judgment seat. The Greek word for it the bema seat. This seems to be an insignificant moment in Paul's life in Acts 18, but what happens is he was brought before this bema seat, and the man there said, "Why do you bring this man before me?"
They said, "We bring this guy here because what he's teaching people about heaven is inconsistent with what we believe about heaven." The earthly judge said, "I couldn't care less what you think about heaven. You're bothering me, and I'm not going to put up with you. Get away from me," and he sends them away from the judgment seat.
That little event in Paul's life, the reason I share it with you is because it became formative for him. He uses this little analogy, this bema seat, this judgment seat, to drive home a point that is relevant to you and I and will close this idea that we're looking at today. Here's the idea.
Though there are individuals on this earth who sit in judgment who doesn't care what you think about heaven, know this. There are those who sit in judgment in heaven who care how you live on earth. Do you catch that? Acts 18 in Corinth, Paul experienced a time when folks didn't care what he thought about heaven because they were worldly-minded people and said, "Don't bother us in our courts here on earth with what some man thinks about heaven."
What Paul's going to do is he's going to walk you through now and show you that there will be one who will sit in a bema seat, a judgment seat, in heaven, who does care what you thought about heaven while you were on earth. I believe it's my job as a shepherd, my job as your friend, your job as my friend, as my fellow brother and sister in Christ (if you are one), to help me look forward to the day when I stand before my King.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10, this is what Paul said, referencing back to that moment where he talked about the judgment seat. "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." This is not an idea that he just has in 2 Corinthians 5. Watch this. I'm going to explain this.
Go to Romans 14. You'll see this. "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God." Let God judge your brother. Don't you know that as the Lord said, "Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess and give praise to God. So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God?"
One more place: 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. This is very important. What Paul is going to make infinitely clear right here is what's going to happen at that judgment seat. If you are a son or a daughter, which means you're not judged on your works…you're judged on the works of Jesus Christ… Very simply, if you're here today, and you don't know what you believe about what's going to get you into eternity or what determines your destination, let me make it infinitely clear.
Christianity, unique among world faiths, has nothing to do with what you do. It has everything to do with what he has done. That is gospel plain and simple. All the verses that I quoted at the beginning say that what you believe about who you are and who God is and how God bridges that infinite gap between our sinfulness and his sinlessness and holiness determines our eternal relationship with him. So he begs us to change our thinking, that performance is what's going to enable God to accept us and to understand that forgiveness comes through trust in his provision for us.
Once you have become a son by believing in his Word and the sacrifice of his Son and what he's done for you, you are then a steward of the dash you've been given. You will then be judged by how you do in response to what you believe. How do you perform as one who acknowledges your Master?
Watch this. Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 3 that we're not going to be tested at the bema seat, we're not going to be tested specifically about our beliefs. That's already established. Our destination is not going to be determined at our judgment seat before Christ. The reason we're there is because it's already been determined that we believe he is our Savior, who has the right to judge us.
So he is going to now judge how we behaved in light of our acknowledging his provision in our life. This is what Paul says. Verse 11, first of all, he says, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." You can't even stand there unless you stand on the foundation of the provision of Jesus Christ.
" [But] if any man builds on the foundation with gold [thus the title] , silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 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. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
What does this mean? I am so excited to teach you this this morning because you don't hear it very often. What this means is that every single one of us is going to have a chance to stand before our Father and get judged how we live during the dot. Next Sunday is a time when we celebrate what God has done with a lot of us.
I do mean not just those who you see on this stage looking out at you, but those who greet you when you walk in, those who have invested in this ministry, those who labor with children, those who work quietly in the office, those who set up here until early hours of the morning and will tear down until late hours of the afternoon, those who labor as prayers in support of this ministry, those who have given out of their small amount, those who've given sacrificially and with joy.
We get to see a glimpse next Sunday of what God is storing up for us in heaven. We will rejoice. There will be some of you there who will watch who have attended Watermark faithfully but have never contributed with your gifts, with your life, with your talents. You can still celebrate at the good things God has done, but you're not a part of this because you have not invested in it in any way. Not just financially, but where your heart has not been here.
The reason your heart hasn't been here is because your treasure hasn't been here. Jesus doesn't say, "Wait until your heart is there and then put your treasure there." He tells you to put your treasure there, and your heart will follow. When you invest in something in the New York Stock Exchange, you begin to care about how that company's product is perceived publicly, how folks talk about it, whether they buy it, whether they think it's a good product or not. You know how the market perceives that product determines how your investment goes.
When you look at the newspaper, you look for those four symbols. Which symbols do you look at first? The ones that you've invested in, because your heart is where your treasure is and Jesus is telling you, "If you want to invest in that which will give you ultimate return, don't wait for your heart to be there. Put your treasure there, and your heart will be there."
There are a lot of folks who care desperately about this ministry. Partly because they've invested here with their life. They care deeply about what we teach, they care deeply about our programs, they care deeply about our people because they know the people who we minister to here and the effects we have out there will have eternal effects for them personally and to the glory of their Savior that they care for.
Now, watch this. These are things that are essential for what you do to stand at the judgment seat. What I want to show you is that, first of all, Paul says, "Don't be too quick to credit yourself that what you've done is something of gold or silver and not wood, hay, or stubble.
In 1 Corinthians 4:5, he says, "Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time…" In other words, don't give yourself too much credit. " … but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God."
We're going to be surprised at the things I did and you did that God says, "That was done in a way that honored me and will, therefore, earn a reward," and the things we're going to find that nobody ever knew about that God is going to venerate in great ways. One of the dangers in doing what I do is I get a lot of affirmation. People who teach get a lot of affirmation. People who sing and use their gifts get a lot of affirmation. There are many who do this because it's a way, frankly, to gain some sense of notoriety.
Do you think God can sort through that and see that? "Do you think God might use me though I'm in this for me for your good?" You bet he will. "Do you think he'll allow me to get away with that?" You bet he won't. That's why every week, every day, I go through a process of dying to myself and saying, "Lord, in that there's any self-interest in what I am doing, expose it and show me to be a fraud if that's what this thing is about."
I'm going to tell you what the Lord is up to in the midst of this is sometimes, when I am serving for the ways he wants me to serve, there are some things that come along with it that are a blessing me in this life. Let me ask you this. Isn't that consistent with a good Master? Certainly. But he tells me not to invest for those reasons here and not to give myself too much credit because of what people might think about what I do here or what you do here or what you give here, but to make sure what we do we do by faith to honor him, and we seek to do it in a way that is first of all and primarily in relationship with him.
What you do and what you give and how you serve will bear you no glory in eternity if it is done outside of the context of relationship with him. John 15:5. There is no reward without relationship. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." Which means random acts of kindness not done in the name of Jesus for his glory to serve others because you love Christ bear you no fruit before his presence.
Revelation 2:2-4. I'll show you that and another thing. "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance…" There are faithful men and women who are persevering on this earth. They tolerate evil men. They put to test those who call themselves apostles. They are theologically dogmatic. If they're not, you find them to be false, and you betray them. " … and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary." All of this is good, right? Watch what he says. "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love."
"You've done all of this outside of relationship with me. You become religious professionals or philanthropic men or women, and that bears you no good before me." Why? Because Hebrews 11:6 says, "And 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 seek Him."
Watch this, because you're not going to hear this very many times between now and the end of your dot, and I mean that. Your eternal destination is determined by your belief, but how you behave based on what you believe determines something about your eternity. If you do anything apart from a relationship with him and dependence upon him, it will be wood, hay, and stubble.
Not only should you do what you do in the context of relationship or it will not count, but there is no reward when human recognition is your goal. I alluded to this, but let me make it clear. Be aware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father, who is in heaven. It doesn't mean that God won't use it for good here; it just means you're not storing up for yourself treasures in heaven, because you're doing what you're doing here so you can get your treasure here.
There's a reason we enable you to give the way that we give. There's a reason when we build our sanctuary here, and by the grace of God, it looks like we are going to be able to tell you guys just like we thought we would something before summer about a property opportunity. If somebody here can give enough for us to buy some property and be able to maybe move forward where we can build and begin to make an impact on this city, to change lives for Jesus Christ, we're not going to name the sanctuary after you.
We don't even want to know where it came from as best we're able. We have to know. For some reason, certain people will know, but we want you to have your reward. If you want to name the sanctuary after you, we'll still build it, we'll put your name on it, but God will use it for his glory. There will be no reward for you, and we're not going to put your name on it.
You want it to be gold and silver? You do it because you do it for him. We said already you don't do it without faith, and you don't do it without love. Luke 6 very quickly says, "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."
You do it because you love God; therefore, inseparably from that commandment to love God, you love others by faith in relationship with him. Not for human recognition but for his glory. Now then, what's the loss? I close with this.
This Thursday, I had surgery on my right shoulder. That's why I'm walking like this. I'm quick to get my arm back in a sling in a moment. I am a dad. I love my five children. When I get them out of the bath, one of the things we love to do is they get themselves in a little long towel, and they wrap themselves up. We call it the hot dog.
I grab both ends, and I just start rocking them. We get them rocking until the centrifugal force can have them go up and around a couple of times, and we give them a good little dizzy spell going up and around. That's probably why I had shoulder surgery. I have not been able to that these last few days. I have not been able to hug my kids and pick them up with both arms the way I've wanted to. I've experienced some loss.
I have not been able to serve my wife around the house. There a lot of days I don't want to do yard work, but I couldn't do yard work if I wanted to. There are lots of days I go, "I have to take the trash out again. I have to bring the stuff in for her again." I couldn't have done that if I wanted to, and I experienced loss.
My sickness once again reminded me of what my health is for. There is an opportunity for me to serve in my strength. Some of you have a great mind, great spiritual gifts. Some of you have a lot of resources. Some of you in your poverty don't have as much to give as somebody else, and you go, "I'd love to be able to significantly make a contribution to this church when it gets ready to build something, and I can't."
In a sense, their financial status is more sick than yours. They would go, "I'd love for me to somehow come across something so I could do that." In your health in that area, you can. Jesus says, "The way you handle that which I give you during the dot will determine what I give you to honor me when you're in my presence." This is the sense of loss.
What the Scriptures seem to indicate is that when I get to be with Jesus, if I have not been faithful with what he has given me now, he will not then give me things which I will be able to use then to serve him in a way that I want to in his presence. The faithfulness, the reward of a faithful servant, is more opportunity to serve.
Can you imagine the frustration you will experience when you stand before Christ, and you see that he is exactly what this crazy pastor has told you for the last years that he is. God is there, he exists, he died on a cross for you, and you have been saved from eternal wrath because of his goodness, and all you get to do is tell him, "Thanks."
He doesn't say, "You've been faithful with little things. Come be faithful and serve me with much." In a sense, your shoulder is limp, and your pocketbook is empty. He gives you nothing in the heavenly economy through which you might serve him in eternity in the way that, frankly, will hurt you, and you will experience loss.
Somehow God mitigates that with the fact that there will be no tears in heaven. But I know this. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. I want you, and Christ wants you, to store up for yourself the opportunity to have things that when you see him, you can serve him in a way that will be a consistent profession of your love.
Guess what determines your ability to embrace him then, serve him then, reign in power with him then, have possessions then that you can steward for his glory in eternity, in a way that I can't understand, but he makes clear. Guess what determines that. What you do with what he gives you now.
Can I tell you and encourage you mothers this morning? You may think, "Well, gosh. As a mom, I am so wrapped up in what I'm doing. Do you know this? This is what Jesus says. He is so good that if you give even so much as give a drink of water to a little one, he will remember and give you your reward in heaven.
Do you know what, moms? There is no sense that the folks who have been given more on this earth to serve him with will get a greater reward than those who've been given a little who have been faithful with that. It is directly proportional with faithfulness, not to amount. Some of you aren't even mothers. Some of you go, "I've never had a child I could steward my life and give my life to." Do you want Paul says? He says, "I've come among you. I've imparted my very life to you as a nursing mother tenderly does her child."
Every single person in this room should be investing towards that Mother's Day right now where we're investing in spiritual children, not just biological children. Where we're investing what God has given us so that on that day when God celebrates those who mothered little ones with the faith, you will get a card that you'll be able to use for his glory in a way that will please your soul.
I want to show you a little clip, and then we're going to sing a song, and we're done. This drives this point home. When you realize in that moment what it is that you've had the opportunity to do, and you've squandered your dash, because though you said you believed, you did not behave consistently with it, you will regret every piece of silver that you were selfish with, every material item you stored up yourself treasures for here, and everything that we use for now in light of seeing the value of something far greater than us, we will see at that moment the foolishness of it.
That is why Jesus comes to you and loves you and says, "Let me give you some enlightened self-interest and some enlightened instruction." Use what you have today in a way that will allow you to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," so you will be delighted to serve him during the line. Don't spend your dot on you, because it will always go towards nothing. Spend your dot on him, and love others. It will give him glory, and it is for your good. That is called a win/win in negotiation circles.
Stern: It's Hebrew from Talmud. It says, "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."
Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I just… I could have got more.
Stern: Oskar, there are 1,100 people who are alive because of you. Look at them.
Schindler: If I'd made more money. I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I just…
Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.
Schindler: I didn't do enough.
Stern: You did so much.
Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car? Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin… Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would've given me two more for it. At least one. He would've given me one more. One more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. I could've gotten one more person, and I didn't…and I didn't.
[End of Video]
It's possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving. What I'm trying to communicate to you is what Jesus is going to say is there's going to be a time when if you're not faithful with what you have today, it will hinder your ability to give tomorrow. When you see when you know him as you're fully known, and the love that you have by faith you have in reality, to not be stewarded more to serve him well will be a great loss.
What a number of friends have done is we've provided for you a book that we think synthesizes these last three weeks as well as anybody has in a very short section. On your way out today, we want to give you that. We want to invest in you. All we ask is that in taking this book called The Treasure Principle is that you'll commit to us that you'll read it. It takes two hours to read well.
We ask if you take it to move it to the top of your reading list. As a steward of what we're giving, just say, "I'm taking it," and that means, "I will, in fact, read it in the next couple of weeks." We're asking that you take this little section of the Watermark News. You write your name and either an email or an address. Not because we're going to ask of anything for you except give you an opportunity to share how The Treasure Principle is going to bear fruit in your life.
If you'd like a copy of this book, we'd like to give it to you today. You just ask for one with your name and a way we can contact you and say, "Tell us how God is bearing fruit in your life in a way that we can celebrate with you." When you walk out, we'd like to hand you this book and give it to you and steward it to you. Every parable that God gives us about this, there are five things, and we close with this. First, the commissioning of the steward.
He says, "You're my servant, and this is what I'm going to give you. Secondly, he comes to where he departs as the master.Then when the master departs is when the opportunity for the steward exists. Then the return of the master comes, and then the reward of the servant is distributed. Today you live in that moment with that opportunity. It's our prayer that you would take the treasure principle that Jesus Christ taught and invest it with your life.
We hope you have a great week of worship, and let us know how we can serve you. We'll see you.
It's clear that money and giving are important, but it's also easy to become jaded about the way churches often speak about finances. In "The Green, the Gray and the Gold" sermon series, Todd takes on the myths, misconceptions and musts of a true biblical perspective toward money and all that goes with it. You'll see that ultimately our attitude about money and material possessions is inseparable from our spiritual condition, and our spiritual condition is inseparable from true joy in life.