Eternity; Rewards; Marginalized
To follow or not to follow…
Our congregation has the vision to help people become followers of Jesus. This is not just a nice sentiment, but carries the weight of true conviction for those who turned their life around from out of the kingdom of darkness into God’s kingdom. It implies a change in lifestyle, however gradual.
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. (Matt 16:24)
We have probably all read this verse many times – and scan over it as easily as we sing the songs proclaiming we will lay down everything for Jesus’ sake… Is it really that easy? Do we truly understand what it means?
I was startled this morning to read an Afrikaans translation where three options for the Greek word “aparnesastho” was given: “jouself verloen/afsweer/ontken”. These are strong terms! It can be translated with words like “renounce”, “disavow”, “contradict”. Denying yourself means to NOT do as you please, to NOT make your own wants/needs/dreams/desires the most important thing in life.
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems that the modern Christian mantra has become more and more focused on our own desires and working to make them reality, because that is what God wants for us… I don’t necessarily agree… And maybe I’m missing the point, but allow me to continue this train of thought, however unpopular.
Am I willing to lay down everything, even my own life, to follow Jesus? We live in a country where we still have a great amount of religious freedom. We are not generally confronted with the choice between being killed for following Jesus, or staying alive by renouncing Him. Losing our lives in the context of this passage, to us, has a more subtle meaning.
We live in a world inundated by media that urges us to believe we need very many things to be happy and fulfilled. A nice house, nice care, nice clothes, the best in technology, phones, computers, entertainment media… Maybe you are strong enough to say, alright, I can give that up, and live with only what I need to survive…
But what if it comes to having a husband/wife, a family, a wonderful fulfilling career, the best education for myself or my children… What if the cross we take up means a life devoid of those things that we feel makes us happy? What if taking up my cross means allowing God to take me in a whole different direction than where I was wanting to go?
I am not saying we should all dive into an ascetic lifestyle! But what if all of that is taken away from you? Will you still follow Jesus with your whole heart? Will you still trust that the Father is working it all out for your benefit?
So, really, I’m inviting you to think it through with me, today. I’ve had to think it through for myself many times. And its hard to imagine what life would be like without all the stuff and people we love, without the hope of realising our dreams and desires, but maybe it is a good way to establish where your heart really is.
Our life on this earth is not a game played to gain as much as we can from it. It is an opportunity to live a life that acknowledges God’s sovereign rule, a life that pleases HIM, that gives His Word, His instruction, His direction first place.
It helps us correct our perspective when we set our minds on eternity. I would offer up everything here, however painful I’m sure it must be, to know that my eternal reward is to sit at the feet of my Lord, and behold His beautiful face forever:
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then He will repay each person according to what he has done. (verse 27)
by Lise Oosthuizen
Living in light of eternity (Luke 14:12-14)
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
This parable is brought on by Jesus’ healing of the blind man on the sabbath at the feast put on by the Pharisee. It follows Jesus’ parable teaching humility to the guests of the host. Now in this parable Jesus focusses on the host and reveals the motivation in the heart of the host for why he invited those he did invite to his feast. The initial two verses (12-14) are then followed by a parable which reveals God’s heart regarding whom God is inviting to His salvation banquet.
The compatibility principle:
Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6:19-21 concerning how we ought to live for eternity, focussing on storing up treasures in heaven (which is lasting) rather than the temporary and fading treasures of this present life and world.
As believers we will all appear before God’s rewards seat (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-10) to receive what is due to us “for what he has done in the body whether good or evil”. We are saved by grace, this is a reward ceremony but not everything will be rewarded. How we live now really matters and will have an effect on eternity. We ought to live every day in light of the reality of eternity.
Moses lived like this as we know from Hebrews 11:24-26. His focus on eternity and his reward in eternity impacted his choices, strengthened his resolve to resist the temptations of sin knowing that sin’s offer of pleasure is fleeting but godliness will lead to pleasure & joy that is eternal.
What questions does it address, ask or answer?
What motivates our actions? This first part of the total parable addresses the issue of not just of who we invite to what, but why we do the things we do. These verses 12-14 address the issue of the motivation behind our actions.
These verses also bring the fore the issue of eternity and the relative value of the present compared to the supreme value of eternity.
What tension does this text create or resolve?
There is a tension in these verses between the outlook that considers only the present but ignores eternity and the outlook that lives a certain way now because of eternity.
When we see how much grace and mercy and generosity God has poured into our lives we the reasonable response is to love God and love people with the self-same love we have received from God. And knowing that God will reward a godly response to His grace in our lives should motivate us to respond to His grace by living in light of eternity to come.
What mystery does this text speak to?
This parable speaks to the mystery of eternity, eternal life after death. It raises the question what happens when we die? Do how we live our lives on earth matter? It speaks about the issue of rewards in heaven.
What happens when we die is;
“it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement” (Hebrews 9:27).
There is judgement for all after death, judgement for salvation – “Is your name in the Lamb’s book of life?” and then judgement for works how you responded to the grace of God in giving you salvation – “How did you live as a child of God?”
The first judgement is only passed by those who believed in Jesus (John 5:24) while still alive and received eternal life as God’s gracious gift. The second judgement for the believer is not by grace but about the “good works God had planned for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10) having been saved by His grace.
The following passages all speak about rewards for the believer:
Romans 14:12, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Luke 14:12-14, Matthew 6:19-21,Revelation 11:18, Revelation 20:12, Revelation 22:12…
What issues in life does this text address?
Do we see people, do we value people as God values all people?
If we act in such a way as to advance ourselves, bless ourselves through using our time, money, possessions or hospitality we in fact are not blessed. But if we use our resources to bless others, without the aim being to “get something in return” we then are blessed not by people but by God (“you will be blessed”).
If we seek to be a blessing, especially being mindful of those who are marginalized, God will bless us. Those marginalized people will not be able to “return the favours” but God will repay you with blessing now and reward on the day of judgement into eternity.
When last did I show hospitality to the marginalized? Not just inviting people round for meals hoping I would receive friendship in return, or that they would like me or think I am great….
How can I serve those who cannot pay me back? How can I give of my time, my money, my resources to those who will never return it?
How can I be like God today – giving lavishly of Himself to those (us) who could never repay Him?
What does this text say about God, myself or others?
God wants me to be like Him, who gave to those who could never repay Him. God is full of lavish grace, free mercy towards those who don’t deserve it and can never reciprocate so as to repay Him.
God rewards (“you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just”) those who are like Him in this life with their time, possessions and money.
God’s heart is inclined towards the poor, the hurting, the marginalized – He cares that we care for such people in such situations. God affords honour to the marginalized.
Godliness is the antithesis of selfishness. Godliness will result in blessing others and especially blessing those who can not or will not return the blessing.
Seek to be like God, giving, blessing with no regard for what you can get back, but rather seeking to be like God, to reveal God’s love to others.
You will be blessed Jesus said and you will be rewarded in the realm that ultimately matters – eternity.