Living life with an eternal perspective

“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” John 4:36

How many times do we go on a diet, lose some weight, and then put that weight right back on? It happens a lot, doesn’t it? But with God’s diet plan, the results are eternal, not temporal. Jesus said to His disciples, “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” (John 4:36). Jesus says that “he who reaps receives wages” or rewards for his labor. The word “wages” (misthos) is commonly used for rewards in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 5:12; 10:41; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:23, 35; I Corinthians 3:8, 14; 2 John 1:8; Revelation 22:12). The work of evangelism reaps eternal rewards regardless of whether you sow or reap.

The good seed of Jesus’ word had already brought forth fruit in the heart of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-26). And now, the seed of her words to the villagers was about to bear even more fruit (John 4:28-30). This mass of people from Sychar were approaching Jesus and His disciples, ready to be harvested into God’s barn (John 4:30-41).

Some of us are involved in sowing the Word of God in a non-Christian’s heart. We pray for them and live the Christian life in front of them to prepare them to believe in Christ. But then another Christian comes along and does the reaping when they share the gospel with them and they believe in Christ alone for eternal life. Both are equally important. “Eternal life” in this verse refers to the spiritual harvest. Eternal life is like a big, spacious barn, where people who believe in Christ alone are gathered, like grain, for eternal preservation. The “fruit” refers to the new believers that have been won to Christ.

Part of our reward when we get to heaven is seeing the people there that we helped win to Christ (cf. I Thessalonians 2:19-20). Think about this. As you follow Christ as His disciple, you will have more opportunities to sow and reap for eternity. You may be a sower by praying for the unsaved, getting together with them for Starbuck’s coffee, inviting them to an evangelistic service, or giving financially to an evangelistic ministry. You may be a reaper by sharing the gospel with the lost and seeing them believe in Christ alone for salvation. Either way, when you get to heaven, those people who come to Christ, may come up to you in heaven and thank you for having a part in helping them come to faith in Christ.

A child may come up to you and say, thank you for praying for me to come to Children’s Church, because I came and heard the gospel and got saved. Someone else may thank you for working in the nursery while they sat in the worship center and heard the gospel without distraction. Others may thank you for the music or the food that motivated them to come and hear about Jesus. Everything that you do for the Lord here on earth can make a difference in someone’s life for eternity. And God will reward you for this.

From 1996-2000, there was a TV show called Early Edition. The main character, Gary Hobson, is startled to open his door one day to find a cat sitting on a newspaper, a newspaper that has a publishing date of the next day. It wasn’t today’s newspaper, it was tomorrow’s newspaper distributed today. Every single day, Gary Hobson would receive the newspaper for the next day. So the TV show was called Early Edition because he received tomorrow’s news today. The point of the show was Gary trying to save people from the tragedy that was going to happen tomorrow because he received news about it today. So every day he was rescuing people and changing the destinies of people because he had received the Early Edition.

God has given us the Early Edition in Bible Prophecy. He is telling us today about what is going to happen tomorrow, so we can change the destiny of our tomorrow and the tomorrows of other people today. The tragedy is for us to receive the Early Edition and keep it to ourselves. God has given us the Early Edition about the world we live in, so we can influence its direction by how we choose to live today. You cannot know someone’s house is going to burn down tomorrow and then keep silent about it today.

God has told us that people who do not believe in Jesus Christ will spend eternity burning in the Lake of Fire (John 3:36b; Revelation 20:15). He has also told us that we will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ for the things we did for Jesus in this life, including sowing and reaping in evangelism (John 4:36-38; cf. Matthew 16:27; Romans 14:10-12; I Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelations 22:12). God wants us to have this eternal perspective because it will influence the decisions we make today.

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for telling me what is going to happen in the future so I may change the destiny of my tomorrow and the tomorrows of other people today. I am so excited to know that You will reward me in the future for what I do for You today. The rewards I receive from You on earth will enable me to bring more honor and glory to You throughout eternity. Please show me how I may sow and reap the seed of Your Word in the lives of non-Christians today. Thank You for all the Christians who are also doing this today. Please give boldness, wisdom, and favor with others so Your gospel message may spread around this world and reap an incredible harvest before it is too late. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray. Amen.

Why is it important to meet with other Christians?

 “24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The author of the book of Hebrews is writing to Christians who are being pressured to return to Judaism and give up on their Christian faith. After focusing on the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to perfect them and give them total acceptance before God (10:1-18), the writer admonishes his readers to boldly “draw near” to God in a “new and living way” without unbelief or consciousness of sin or guilt (10:19-22). They are to persevere in the faith (10:23) and Christian fellowship till Christ’s return (10:24-25), when the promise of the eternal inheritance will be awarded to those who persevere (cf. Heb. 9:15; 10:35-37).

As the nearness of Christ’s return approaches, Christians are to meet with one another “to stir up love and good works” among each other. The word “consider” means to carefully focus on another person in such a way as to “stir up” or stimulate one another to love God and each other so they can live a godly life (“good works”). Satan wants Christians to withdraw from other believers so he can attack them and destroy them much like a lion that preys upon animals that are isolated from the herd and more vulnerable to attack (cf. I Peter 5:8). But God wants us not to forsake “assembling ourselves together, as is the manner of some,” so we can focus on “exhorting one another” in such a way as to encourage and strengthen each other to persevere in the Christian faith.

The more we meet with other believers, the more prepared we will be to face Christ on “the Day” of His return for His church. Satan will whisper lies to us (“No one would love me if they knew all about me,” “I cannot depend on others to help me,” “Christians are such hypocrites,” “No one would miss me if did not go to church,” “I am not needed”) to keep us from meeting with other believers. But the more Christians focus on the truth (“Christ wants to love me through other believers,” “I can learn to depend on others through Christ who strengthens me,” “Christians are imperfect sinners like me,” “I am an important member of the body of Christ,” “I am needed to love and be loved in the church”), the more motivated they will be to connect with other Christians.   

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me dismiss the lies that keep me from meeting with other believers who encourage and strengthen me and I them to be more prepared to face You at the Judgment Seat of Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How are Christians to respond to those who differ with them about their Christian liberty?

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” Romans 14:1

The apostle Paul is writing to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome who had differing views about how God’s will was to be practiced with regard to nonessential issues (“doubtful things”) such as food, drink, and observing certain “religious” days. Jewish Christians wanted Gentile Christians to observe their Jewish customs and Gentile Christians wanted the Jews to practice their customs. These practices are not wrong in and of themselves. Examples today may include food, drink, recreation, clothing, personal grooming, birth control, schooling, holiday observances, etc., when no sin is involved.  Paul instructs believers to do the following:

1. They are to “receive” or accept one another even though they differ about what their Christian liberty permits them to do because God “receives” them in Christ (14:1-5a). For example, the stronger Christian whose faith permits him to eat all foods and observe every day the same, was not to “despise” or condemn the Christian whose faith did not permit him to exercise his Christian liberty to the same extent. Nor is the “weaker” Christian, who does not believe he has the liberty to eat all foods or view all days the same, to “judge” his more liberal Christian brother because “God has received him” (14:2-3). 

2. They are not to “judge” one another for these differing practices …

a. Because they can observe them “to the Lord” for His approval (14:5b-8). In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians observed the Sabbath and Jewish feast-days while Gentile believers did not. Paul says it does not matter what days you think are sacred, what matters is that you seek to please the Lord.

b. Because only Jesus Christ is qualified to judge them, and He will at “the judgment seat of Christ” (14:9-12; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).  

How can I prepare to face God as my Judge?

“These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you.” Psalm 50:21

Asaph refers to God as “the Mighty One” who has come “out of Zion” to call “the earth” to stand before Him as a witness “that He may judge His people,” Israel (50:1-6). He was not rebuking Israel for offering animal sacrifices as He had prescribed, but He does remind them that He did not need their sacrifices because He already owned everything they presented to Him (50:7-13). What God wanted from His people was what the giving of their animal sacrifices represented, namely their “thanksgiving” to Him (50:14). He wanted them to “glorify” Him by calling upon Him to “deliver” them “in the day of trouble” (50:15). He was not interested in a ritualistic form of worship from them. He wanted a vital relationship with them whereby they looked to Him to meet all their needs. 

Although Israel presented animal sacrifices as God had instructed them, they loved what God hated by participating in the sins of the wicked (50:16-20). It seems as though Israel concluded that it did not matter to God that they had lived hypocritical lives because He had “kept silent” about their sins up to now (50:21a). But the truth was their sins did not matter to them. So God says to them, “You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes” (50:21b).

God graciously warns His people, “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver: Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God” (50:22-23). Sincere gratitude and obedience toward God would glorify Him and bring about His “salvation” or deliverance from His coming judgment. But going through the motions of formalistic worship while at the same time participating in the sins of the wicked would invite His wrath. 

All people, saved and unsaved, will eventually face God as their Judge after death (Hebrews 9:27). There are no second chances after death. For those who do not believe in Jesus for His gift of eternal life (John 3:36b), they will face God as their Judge to determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). Those who do believe in Jesus (John 3:36a) will also face Him as their Judge to determine their degree of rewards in His coming Kingdom on earth (I Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Knowing this is intended to motivate people now to prepare to face Christ as their Judge in the future. 

Going through the motions of worship and using religious words does not prepare unbelievers or believers to face Christ as their Judge. If you have not believed in Jesus yet, it is important to understand that your thoughts, words, and actions are all stained with sin (Isaiah 64:6). No amount of formalistic worship or pious speech can save you from your sins. Only Jesus is qualified to save you from your sins because He alone, being God, is without sin (John 1:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). He paid the full penalty for your sins when He died on the cross and then rose from the dead (John 1:29; 19:30; I Corinthians 15:3-6) so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). He invites you right now to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life. The moment you do, He guarantees to save you forever from hell and give you everlasting life (John 3:16; Acts 16:31).

For those who do believe in Jesus for eternal life, you can prepare to face Him as your Judge by living to please Him now (2 Corinthians 5:9-11). As you yield to the control of His Holy Spirit daily (Ephesians 5:18), He will give you the power to live a victorious Christian life (Romans 8:1-17) so you can face Christ with boldness instead of shame at the Judgment Seat of Christ (I John 2:28-3:3).