Wednesday, 13 May 2015

In what way will Christians have to give an account of their lives?

Last Sunday at The King’s Church Mid-Sussex I preached about the judgement and holiness of God. This message was the latest in our current series ‘What happens when I die?’ and if you missed it you can download it here

Some of the biggest questions that people have about belief in God surround this issue. How can you believe in a God that is full of love and full of wrath? Isn’t that a contradiction? Do you really believe in a God who will judge everyone?

Later that day somebody asked me a question.

If God no longer remembers our sins (Hebrews 8:12), why do Christians still have to give an account for all that we have done on Judgement Day?

It’s a great question and important to consider. If our sins have already been forgiven what will be judged? 

When we think about such things a fear may arise that on that day we will feel guilty or condemned for our failings as we stand before Jesus as judge. But Romans 8 v 1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, so how exactly will we be judged?

The Bible is clear; Christians will face some form of judgement (John Hosier prefers to use the word assessment) when Jesus returns. 

Matthew 16 v 27 says “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.”

Revelation 22 v 12 says “Behold I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”

And in 2 Corinthians 5 v 10, a letter written to a church community, Paul writes:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Firstly, we must be clear that the judgement Christians face does not call into question God’s forgiveness of sins. We believe in a gospel that emphasizes grace not works. Ephesians 2 v 8-9 leaves no room for doubt:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Our salvation is not earned or deserved, it is a gift from God. No amount of good works can ever get us right with God; we are saved by grace and grace alone. In Jesus, God has removed our sin as far as the east is from the west and our salvation in Jesus is secure – amazing! 

So certainly, on that day of judgement, we do not need to fear that our sins will be remembered in the sense that we will feel guilt or condemnation or stand trial for them. 

Wayne Grudem writes this: “…it should not cause terror or alarm on the part of believers, because even sins that are made public on that day will be made public as sins that have been forgiven, and thereby they will be the occasion for giving glory to God for the richness of his grace.”

For the Christian, judgement day will be an opportunity to celebrate the incredible, all encompassing grace of God in his forgiveness of our sins through his son Jesus. 

However, the Bible does state that Christians will have to give an account of our works. Ephesians 2 v 10, says: 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We are saved by grace – Yes! 
We are saved and adopted into the family of God – Yes! 
We are saved and forgiven from our sin – Yes!

But we are also saved to do good works – we are here for purpose!

It is clear from what the Bible teaches that, when Jesus returns, Christians will face a judgement (or assessment) to evaluate and bestow various degrees of eternal reward based on how we have lived our lives; our words, deeds and actions. 

Now this is a huge subject because the Bible suggests there are degrees of rewards and we are going to spend a morning exploring this whole subject on Sunday 14 June!

However, for the sake of this blog, the key points are that the New Testament speaks about living in such a way that it impacts eternity and it regularly uses words such as ‘rewards’, ‘crowns’, ‘goal’ and ‘prize’. For example, see 1 Corinthians 9 v 24-27, Philippians 3 v 14, 2 Timothy 4 v 8 and Luke 6 v 35, 

1 Corinthians 3 is probably the most explicit passage to help us understand this. Here Paul writes that our works will be tested by fire and that, as a result of that ‘test’, some people will suffer loss and others reward. 

“If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their 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 person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3 v 12-15

Clearly, from these verses, we can see that the quality of each person’s works will come under assessment and there are degrees of loss and reward that are linked to our works in this life. 

But it is important to avoid misunderstanding here and to state that no one will be left feeling disgruntled, envious or short-changed in heaven. We will all find our fulfilment, happiness and joy in God and so there will be no room for comparison and envy; only celebration in what God has done. 

So the headline is this. For those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation, our salvation is by grace alone and Jesus has fully paid the price for all our sin.

However, we will still have to give an account of our life with regards to our works, deeds, actions and choices – that is the judgement (or assessment) that Christians will face when Jesus returns. Based on this judgement there will be various degrees of rewards in eternity – come along to TKC on 14 June to hear more. 

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