There is a legend you may have heard which says that when we get to heaven people will be rewarded according to how they have lived in this life with differing forms of transport. When a certain vicar arrived at the pearly gates he was given a bicycle identical to the bicycle he had ridden around his parish all his life. But as soon as he got inside the he saw a man driving around heaven in the poshest Rolls Royce you can imagine. The vicar cycled over to the nearest angel and complained.
“How is it that I am still riding this bicycle when that man is driving a Rolls Royce?
“That’s easy,” the angel explained. “When you were doing your job and preaching your sermons, people fell asleep. That man was a taxi driver. When he was doing his job, people didn’t just stay awake. They prayed!”
Will there really be rewards in heaven? Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount.
MATTHEW 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven? But just what does that mean? Part of the answer is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians chapter 3.
8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labour.
There are rewards God will give in heaven to those who have served Him on earth. We do not know what form those rewards will take – but they are waiting for those who have served God faithfully in the strength he supplies. The rewards are for every believer who has helped build up the body of Christ, the spiritual Temple where the Holy Spirit dwells.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
Many of the things we do only last a few seconds or a few minutes. Much of what we do will only last this lifetime. But Paul is saying here that there are things we can do in this life which will endure into eternity. Words and actions which will have eternal value and significance. Building with silver and gold – let me suggest six kinds of things we need to be doing if we are serious about storing up treasures in heaven! Nothing new here – just six reminders.
EVANGELISM – planting the seed like Paul did
Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
1 Corinthians 9:16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
In the ministry of Jesus the gospel is simply an announcement. “The kingdom of God is near you.” The kingdom of God – the Kingly Rule of God – the things that God has promised to do to save his people – the kingdom of God is near! Not an invitation – do you want God to be your king? But a declaration – God IS King and God is ready to act as king in YOUR life! The gospel of the Kingdom is simply the announcement of the Year of the Lord’s Favour. Not an offer. Not an invitation. Not a debate. The true gospel is simply an announcement that Christ has come, that Christ is risen from the dead and that Christ is Lord of all. And that announcement is so earth-shattering that it demands a response from every one of us who hears it. Repent and believe!
This was the apostle Paul’s announcement in Athens:
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
The credit crunch and the crisis in the world economy has caused very many people to rethink their lives and their priorities. The false gods of Money and Entertainment and Shopping are being exposed as empty. People are realising that their treasures on earth are being eaten away by the moths and the rust and the thieves are breaking in and stealing the wealth and possessions so many have relied on and even worshipped. I believe that many people are more ready to hear about spiritual things – true treasures in heaven. We must be busy proclaiming the gospel with boldness!
BUILDING UP DISCIPLES – watering the seed like Apollos did
Colossians 1:28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labour, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
1 Thess 2:6 As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.
10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
When we build up other Christians we are laying up treasures in heaven. Especially when we care for new Christians and young Christians and build them up in the faith.
Christ commands us to love one another as He has loved us. Paul spells out what God’s kind of love means in practice!
1 Cor 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
As we thought this morning, that in the Early Church that loves was shared with ALL believers. None were excluded. None were left out of the common life those first Christians shared. But as well as showing God’s kind of love to other believers, we need to be showing that love to our neighbours and even strangers as well.
GOOD SAMARITAN LOVE
In the Early Church they announced the good news: Jesus Christ is God, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, Jesus Christ is Lord. And alongside the preaching, healing the sick and driving out demons those first Christians were also meeting people’s needs, helping them, loving their neighbours! The early church brought people to Christ by announcing the good news and by being Good Samaritans – by showing God’s kind of sacrificial love to complete strangers.
If each of us went out of our way to give real practical help to just one stranger or one acquaintance each year, and if even just one in ten of those people was drawn by those expressions of love into the church, that would bring to Christ more people than everything else we do all put together. Preach the gospel. Love your neighbour. By THIS will all men know you are my disciples – by the love you show! The same kind of sacrificial love as Jesus expressed for us dying for us on the cross. Loving each other like that. Loving strangers. Being good Samaritans! Loving your neighbour as you love yourself.
And let’s remember. God doesn’t call us to like our neighbours but to LOVE our neighbours AS WE LOVE OURSELVES. Love isn’t a feeling – it’s a command to practical action! To put his/her needs at the same level as your needs – to give their needs the same weight as your needs. If their family are hungry and your family are hungry you share the food you have – you do not eat and leave them hungry. That is Good Samaritan love. If they or their family are sick and your family are sick you share the medicine you have. If they have nowhere to sleep and you do – you find them somewhere to sleep or you share your home with them. That is Good Samaritan love. If they need to travel and you are able to help them travel, you help them travel. That is Good Samaritan love. If your have a loved one who is dying and they are dying – you are at their bedside as well as at your own loved one’s bedside. That is Good Samaritan love. If their child is lost and your child is lost – you search for both children and not just your own. That is Good Samaritan love. If they are in debt and you have money you help them with money. If they face a problem you help them sort out their problem – however long that takes, however much it may cost you in time and energy and heartache and money. Because that is Good Samaritan love. That is loving your neighbour as you love yourself!
And the people you help are not just your family, not just your close friends, not just your Christian friends, but rather the strangers you meet on the roadside. They are your neighbours simply because they are in need and you are in a position to show mercy to them and help them. Not just your friends but even your enemies as Jesus teaches us to love our enemies just as much as we love our own families.
The parable of the good Samaritan is so memorable it has given us not one but two phrases which have entered into our language. The first is the example to follow, the “Good Samaritan”, the person who goes out of his way to help out. But the second phrase is the opposite, an example to avoid, “Passing by on the other side”. The priest and the Levite who both go out of their way to AVOID helping out.
Are we the kind of people who help out? Good Samaritans? Or are we the kind of people who close our eyes to the needs of others and pass by on the other side? Jesus commands us, Love your neighbour as you love yourself! Go and do likewise!
If we want to be building with gold and silver, we must be
RELYING ON GOD’s STRENGTH
9 For we are God’s fellow-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
So what does it mean to be God’s fellow workers?
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. ONLY GOD GIVES THE GROWTH
Zechariah 4:6 `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.
NOT BY MIGHT collective strength, to armies or forces or warriors or fighting men. In anything God calls us to do for him if we put our trust in MIGHT, we will be wasting our time.Not by might of NUMBERS Not by might of MONEY. Not by might of GOOD PREMISES. Not by might of NEW TECHNOLOGY. Not by might of LOTS of ACTIVITIES. NOT BY MIGHT – says the Lord Almighty. He is the ALL MIGHTY God. In comparison to His great might, all our human resources count for nothing at all!
NOT BY POWER the strength of individual men and women. We must not put our trust in our own power or our own efforts. All our skills and abilities count for absolutely nothing! NOT by power of training or experience or human wisdom or hard work.
Not by might nor by power,
BUT BY MY SPIRIT says the Lord Almighty
If people are going to be saved, God is going to do it. Not us, in our strength, by our efforts, but God. By the power of His Holy Spirit. Our part is to make sure we are available to God and ready to obey Him when He wants to use us, and that we don’t get in God’s way by trying to do His work for Him! God gives us Power from on High. Power to be witnesses for Jesus. The power of the Holy Spirit. The dynamo and the dynamite of God the Holy Spirit at work in OUR lives, which can accomplish so much more than we can ever ask for or even imagine. Serving in God’s strength for God’s glory – so God gets the credit – not us!
Building with gold and silver. No surprises in those five ways and none in the sixth,
Paul’s own example of prayer for the churches he has planted and the people he cared about so much! We get to know God through prayer. Prayer isn’t just a useful tool to help us in our Christian service. In Richard Foster’s words, “Prayer is nothing more than an ongoing and growing love relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Prayer is the heart of our relationship with God.
But then our evangelism and our disciple-building and our loving should also be the topics of our urgent praying.
Eph 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
We must pray to draw near to God, to listen to God and to ask God to move mountains.
“We must write prayer again into the lifestyle of our churches; meaningful prayer, urgent prayer, repentant prayer, constant prayer, Spirit-led prayer, even sacrificial prayer!” Eric Westwood Baptist Union President
I make no apologies for repeating that quote to you. I will keep on repeating it – until we do it! Write prayer again into the lifestyle of our churches!
BUILDING UP DISCIPLES
GOOD SAMARITAN LOVE
RELYING ON GOD’S STRENGTH
12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.