As The Gift So The Reward

May 27, 2013


1 Corinthians 3:12-3:15

As is my custom, I am sitting here two days into the twelve days of Christmas thinking about something other than a traditional or customary Christmas message. I must confess that I am a major humbug. Bible College did Christmas in for me. After studying the origins of the holiday and all its peripheral paraphernalia the so-called holy day/holiday was shot in the head and needed to be buried as I see it. Add to it the crass commercialism, higher rates of suicide and sorrow for the lonely and/or poor and I frankly don’t get the enthusiasm that Christians have for these days. Maybe they all need to go to Bible College if it is a good one.

Frankly, Christmas is weird because it is the only birthday celebration where the person with the birthday sort of gets a nod of acknowledgement and usually no gifts. Imagine if on your birthday a big party with thousands of attendees was thrown in your honor. However, when you got to the place where it was to be held they shuffled you over to a chair behind a support beam and left you there. People come and go and give each other presents, hugs and kisses but they seldom even look your way. In fact, if you try to get up or say anything the host gruffly puts you back in your seat and tells you to be quiet. They sing songs about you and maybe even say some things about you but they never say anything to you. Finally, after everyone has left stuffed from food and drink, when you didn’t even get a hors d’oeuvre and a glass of water, the host comes over to escort you through the mess to the door. He practically pushes you out the door without a handshake and then as an afterthought wishes you a happy birthday as he slams the door. Yippee! That’s the kind of birthday I want and yet that is pretty much what Jesus gets and even worse Jesus has to share His celebration with some old fat dude in a red suit that gets more attention then He does though the fat dude is faking some of the powers that Jesus has for real. Talk about adding insult to injury! If it was you it is a good wager that you would be furious and cause a bit of a scene. Fortunately, Jesus doesn’t throw meteors or something at us for the folly we do.

I am firmly convinced that true Christians need to abandon this day that is really unholy. Almost the only thing we do that is biblical is read Luke 2. After that, it goes haywire. We weren’t told to celebrate His birth. We were told to remember His death and we have even botched that celebration but we’ll wait until that time to deal with it. As glorious as the miracles were pertaining to His birth they were only done to prove His deity, His worthiness and ability to be the matchless Lamb of God sacrificed on our behalf. He could have done all that we are told about His birth and the miracles of His ministry and then ascended into Heaven without the Cross and we would all still be in our sins. Yet, we have a bigger blowout for the birth than we do for remembering His sacrifice and through it all we are usually greedy and unthankful for what we give lip service as being the reason for the season.

If we must or desire to celebrate His birth then let’s institute Incarnation Day or Nativity and make it a real birthday celebration for the King. Let’s spend the day in prayer, praise, worship and service. Let’s get the season in the right timeframe as well and separated from the winter solstice. Let’s not just give money for the poor. Let’s go find a poor person or family and seek to meet their needs and not just for a day. The wise men brought him gifts on one day two years after his birth (take them out of your crèche) but what they brought sustained the family for their round-trip to Egypt and their stay there and maybe even until they got established in Nazareth. It met their needs.

If we took all the money that one congregation spent on gifts that would be soon broken, stored and forgotten or being disliked returned or given away we might get them off of welfare or even some education. Man, that sure beats one big meal a year and maybe two if we provide a Thanksgiving meal. Just send a card to the one you love saying that $100 was donated to the Incarnation Day fund in their name. You’ll find out how spiritual they are real quick by the response.

Some would worry about the kids. How will little Johnny survive without a Gameboy®? When the whole family comes to the Church and goes on the mission they will get to see how good they really have it. They might even develop a spirit of gratitude and compassion for others rather than materialistic greed and pride. If that fails, get the Gameboy® later when the crowds are gone and you won’t get trampled in the spirit of Christmas.

I realize that the concept of making the celebration of Christ’s birth actually be all about Him rather than Nieman Marcus and Satan Claws is somewhat radical for this culture but it is rational. That being said I want us to consider a passage that is not the traditional for this season.

1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Co 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
1Co 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

I really do not know how non-securists can look at this and see anything other than eternal security. God gives the gift of salvation and never takes it back but He does evaluate what we did with that gift and will reward us accordingly. This passage certainly sheds some light on 1 Peter 4:18 that says that the righteously will scarcely be saved as well as chapter 5 of this book where Paul says to deliver a saved sinner over to satan that the flesh may be destroyed but the soul saved.

With such a wonderful, priceless gift of love and security given to us it is reasonable to expect that we should want to give Him the best that we can. While we can never repay God for what Jesus did for us, and we should not try, a heart filled with gratitude and love would normally want to express those things with a gift.

In all the rush and hubbub of this season many people will get things they do not need or want by people who really don’t know them but are just getting them a gift because of some felt obligation. After all, you must give gifts at Christmas. It’s the rule! Thus if the person is a relative, boss, co-worker or someone you want to impress or apologize to they will get a gift. Some of these folks you will spend a lot of time trying to get the right gift and others you might get the latest fad or the traditional gift just to get it done. Personally I think they bring out the ugliest ties and sweaters knowing someone will buy them in last minute desperation.

You don’t have to guess what Jesus would want as a gift. It is pretty clear throughout Scripture that God has always wanted His people to trust Him as much as obey Him. Indeed, you have to trust Him before you can obey Him. In these last days, it is even more important to do so as so many are falling away and we are approaching days that will make the Dark Ages seem radiant.

In some ancient Asian cultures, if you save a person’s life they become your slave and you have the right to do with them as you will. Why? If it were not for your action the person would be dead. Since you have, in a manner of speaking, given them life then that life is yours to control. They no longer have a say in it. How much more so should we live our lives with the same attitude? We were dead in trespasses and sins on our way to the Second death. Jesus not only saved us from Hell but He made us kinsmen and joint-heirs with Him. If a man can willingly give up his will and plans because another human saved his life it should be much easier for us to do it for Christ who did a much greater thing.

Unlike that Asian culture we can live without giving Jesus what He truly desires as a gift. We can give Him sorry seconds or thirds. Often people donate things to a Church that should have been trashed but they want a charitable deduction. In reality they are giving their trash to Christ. I have seen things come in for a pounding in rusted unmarked cans or clothes that are ripped or soiled. Those who gave it for the family in need were actually giving those gifts to Christ. You would be offended if someone gave that stuff to you and yet some dare to give such things to Christ.

The bottom line is that Jesus wants us to give Him our lives as a gift just as He gave His for us. That doesn’t necessarily mean He wants you to die physically though some have earned the martyr’s crown. He wants the living sacrifice that Paul speaks of in Romans 12. We are alive physically but dead to all but His will. We say we love Him but there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friend. How can we do less for someone that is now our Saviour and kinsman?

Sadly, what we often give Him is whatever might be left over after we have done what we wanted to do. In essence, we are giving Him wood, hay and stubble. We keep all the good stuff for ourselves but so often what we think are the good things are really junk. We just have bad discernment and a poor sense of value.

I can remember when my Great-Grandfather Beck would come and visit. He always brought me a bag of jelly beans. That was great but he was always chewing something that came out of a can. Since he seemed to enjoy it so much I must have thought that I was getting ripped off and begged him for some of what he had. Well, he put some in behind my lower lip and at first it was a thrill and then I was ill. My mother came out just as my face turned into Joseph’s coat of many colors and then I raced to the apple tree in the corner of the yard and fertilized it. After that, I was glad for the jelly beans and left Pappy have his chaw. My sense of value had changed with experience.

Growing up my wife and I were blessed with real butter. Margarine was not welcome in our families. When I grew up and married there was a long time when I could not afford real butter so my kids grew up on margarine. At some point we had some real butter given to us and my wife and I were thrilled but the kids said, “Yuck” and wouldn’t eat it. Sadly, they had no sense of the real value because they had been too long exposed to the fake.

Sometimes we spend too much time attracted to fake items and God allows us by some experience to get our values realigned. Unfortunately, some of us go through many experiences but never experience the wisdom we should have gained in those times so our stinkin’ thinkin’ and poor values remain until death or we are old and look back on a wasted life. While we can be thankful that our passage teaches us that if we are saved we shall not lose our souls we should be horrified that we may have nothing to give Him in that day.

Rev 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
Rev 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

We see that the elders who have received crowns cast them at His feet because without Him they would never have gotten those crowns. Crowns also represent glory, honor and power and while they are given those things they realize that He is the source of all that and out of love and awe for Him they give the crowns back as an act of worship.

When we brought our Mothers a gift of dandelions she would often thank us or reward us with a kiss or a cookie. While the Greek word misthos means wages as well as reward I am not ready to toss out the idea that the rewards are more of a thank you in the same manner as Mom’s kisses and cookies. Since we don’t work for our salvation and we are sons and daughters we don’t get a salary as hirelings but we can get rewards for our gifts to Christ in this life.

As is the gift so is the reward, thus if we have lived our life in selfishness, or in vain, then as our life was void of gifts we shall be void of rewards. If we gave Christ bits and pieces of leftovers that wood, hay and stubble shall be burned but we shall be saved. However, if we have lived a life seeking to please Him and to be filled with the Spirit that we might have the power to do so then we will have gold, silver and precious stones to put in one or more crowns that the believer might have given to him or her.

Oh, the joy to have one or more crowns studded with precious stones that would represent the gifts we have given Him in life. Even greater the joy to be able to give those crowns back to Him as a gift of worship in gratitude for the marvelous work He has wrought in us and for the fantastic future about to unfold before us! What a time of rejoicing. It will make the most raucous Pentecostal service look like a funeral.

Yes, that will be a great time for some but what about the others. Before the service, I had one of the deacons hand you a small bead that looked like a diamond. Brothers and sisters, my greatest fear is that when others are tossing intricately studded crowns at His feet all I will have at best is a small gem the size of that bead or worse yet nothing at all. The only thing more horrible than having nothing to cast at His feet would be to be thrown in Hell. Yes, God has promised to wipe away all tears but we cannot imagine the sorrow and weeping that will belong to those who are saved though as by fire!!

Brethren, I want you to look at that bead and ask yourself how you think you will fare at this judgment! What kind of gifts have you been giving to Jesus? Does He get your throwaways or seconds or nothing at all? Is it all about you and all you need Jesus for is to save you from Hell and assure your good health and prosperity? Will the dream house you are building here be a spiritual house burned to the ground leaving only the foundation? Look at your gifts to Him and you will see your reward.

It is not too late to start giving Him quality gifts and to be able to give Him a bejeweled crown rather than a bonfire. Lay yourself on the altar and tell Him you want to give Him your life, all of it, not just a couple hours a week or only on Christmas and Easter. Show your love by laying down your life and taking up your Cross not just with lip service.

As sad as it will be to only have the foundation left there may be some here in worse shape. You may have never had the foundation laid. Oh, you attend church, pray and even give a tithe but you have never been born again. Accept the gift of Christ’s salvation then you will truly understand the need and glory of His birth. Give Him your life as He gave His for you and you will know what real gifts and treasures are. Today is the day to receive that gift. We aren’t promised tomorrow. If He returns for His own in what we call the Rapture there will be no second chance because you have heard the Gospel today. He is risen and coming again. Saint and sinner alike, are you ready? Maranatha

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