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More Good News on God’s Rewards!

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! Over the last two weeks, we’ve looked at the kind of people God rewards and the type of rewards that God gives. This week we will conclude our study with some final thoughts about what scripture teaches about the nature of future rewards.

The wonder of God giving rewards is not only is it permissible to seek the rewards God gives, but it’s actually a command for us to obey! We are commanded to pursue our eternal joy in and from Christ Himself! In Matthew 6:20, Jesus says, “Lay up treasure in heaven.” This carries the same force as we were warned a few verses prior: “Do NOT lay up treasure on earth.” (vs 19) God’s commands are not burdensome (see Matthew 11:29,30) but a call to obediently pursue our joy in God!

Further, we should share the gospel with as many people as possible. Why? Because of the rewards! First, we glorify God. Second, the more people who are saved the more we have an inheritance in and with them! Paul says he was willing to do lots of things to reach other people so that he himself could share in the blessings! (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, especially vs 23) Paul is motivated by the rewards he will receive in seeking to win others to Christ! How about you? You may be afraid about what others think. But consider the rewards you will miss out on if you are not willing to reach others for Christ. Great rewards await those who seek to win others to Jesus. Mediate on this promise to encourage you to tell others about Jesus: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

Finally, do you ever wish you could break that habitual sin? For some reason, you just can’t seem to get free from it. What can help me overcome this sin for God’s glory and my good? Again, the motivation of rewards can help us break any sin’s dominion over us. When we consider what we gain in comparison to what we are supposedly losing, then our hearts will be willing to let go of the sin. Sin has “temporal pleasures”. (Hebrews 11:25) But God offers far greater rewards and pleasures. So the choice becomes between choosing sin with a little bit of pleasure or following Christ which has immense, eternal pleasure. If we would take the time to deeply reflect on what God promises us in rewards, then how could we settle for something less? C.S. Lewis said, “Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and (illicit) sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…We are far too easily pleased.”

God asks you today: “Why are you willing to settle for mud pies when I have a banquet table prepared for you? Look to Jesus and see your reward!”

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM.

Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

The Rewards God Promises

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! To think that God will actually reward us is a great incentive to live for Him. But when He tells us the kind of rewards He will give us makes the appeal to live for Him even stronger! Let’s look at some of the great rewards He promises to His people.

The greatest reward God promises is the gift of Himself! Nothing can beat the reward of having God as our inheritance! “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.” (Psalm 16:5) When God asked Abraham to leave his land and follow the LORD, what did God promise Abraham as his motive for doing so? “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) The most astonishing promise in all of scripture is in Revelation 22:4, “They shall see His face.” Amazing! If God promised us no other reward other than Himself, it is more than enough! I remember when I faced a great illness and hit a very low point after being in the hospital many days without any answers to what was making me ill. I finally took comfort in the fact, “Lord Jesus, you have saved me and made me yours. And in the end, that is all that matters! I praise you and thank you for saving my wretched soul.” Is God enough for you? Do you desire anyone or anything more than Him? The beautiful thing is that Christ promises us Himself forever if we trust in His saving work for us!

But God goes even further! He promises us that believers of all time will be part of our reward. We’ve all had certain people we just enjoy being around and talking to. Imagine being with the redeemed saints of all time, talking about the greatness and goodness of God, and hearing all the great stories of how God had worked in their lives! Hear Paul say an amazing thing: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) I get excited to think that church is a small foretaste of the fun, fellowship, love, and camaraderie we will enjoy forever before the Lord!

As wonderful as this is it’s still not all of the rewards God has promised! No more death, separation, crying, pain, broken bodies, or sickness. (See Revelation 21:4) And praise to the Lord, no more sin will ever be there! What a glorious day to know we will never ever sin again and dishonor the Lord!

Yet, there is a reward for those who don’t know Jesus Christ. “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) Will you be rewarded for your sin by being cast away from God forever? You can have God as your reward if you will turn from your sin and trust Jesus to save you.

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM.

Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

God Rewards People

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! Think about what the following things have in common. What makes the field of psychology so popular? What is it that drives students to get better grades? Why did you start the New Year’s resolution? All of these have as their end goal a reward. Psychology seeks to help people have a better life. The student wants the reward of passing and perhaps parental approval. Your New Year’s resolution promises to reward you with better living in 2016. If you think about it, there is nothing you do that somewhere in the mix there is not an incentive to some type of reward. In short, there is a payoff for everything we do, including the things we don’t want to. Perhaps the reward of doing the things we don’t want to do is to be rewarded with less desirable consequences. But biblically speaking, why is it that we move towards what we believe rewards us the most?

The reward motif is the essence of human motivation and actions. God has so wired us to live for the greatest reward. Did you know that God promises rewards for certain people in the Bible? Let’s take a brief look at some of the people God will reward one day. There is a reward for those who love the Lord Jesus and look in anticipation for His return. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) How about you? Are you excited about Jesus coming back, possibly even today? Are you even ready to meet Jesus? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? You can’t be excited about meeting Him if you don’t even know Him.

The Lord also promises to reward believers who remain faithful in great trials and persecution, even if it means them losing their life! “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) Do you know that by keeping your eye on the end prize it will help you to endure whatever suffering you go through in this life? It doesn’t mean the suffering will go away, but when you consider what awaits you for remaining faithful then you can endure the trial better.

The scary side is that God also promises to reward the unbelievers. They will be given eternity apart from Christ to coincide with how they wanted life this side of heaven: life without Jesus. Let this be an incentive for you, if you don’t know Christ, to seek the greater reward which is Christ Himself.

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM.

Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

Are you happy?

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! Our little daughter is close to 6 months old. My wife often sings to her, “If you’re happy and you know it, say ‘Praise the Lord!’” It’s our modified version of the “If you’re happy and you know it” song. We hope to instill in our daughter a view that loving Jesus and finding happiness in life are the same pursuits. Too often we as adults believe that serving Jesus and our endless pursuit of happiness are on different paths. We understand we are commanded to obey God. And we often see the commands of God more like a drill sergeant barking orders to his new soldiers. We obey because the chain of command his higher than we are. So we dutifully follow God’s orders with as much ‘joy’ as a berated soldier in boot camp. But is this the biblical picture of knowing God? Is this how Jesus spoke about His own relationship with His Father? And how should we think about our unending search for happiness in the midst of all this?

If there is one thing all people whether atheists, Christians, or secularists believe the same about is that we all are seeking happiness. It’s hardwired into us to desire happiness. We long for a utopia. No sickness, no heartache, no more broken relationships. Poverty and death are wiped away. No more false offers by dictator-like leaders who promise to make the world a better place but always fail and make things worse. Our yearning for something bigger and better is seen in our flurry of moving on to the next activity or gadget or party. Searching, searching, searching, but never finding the restful happiness we so crave. It’s our desire to return to Eden, the garden paradise. It’s where man once lived in perfect harmony with himself, his spouse, his environment, and most importantly to His Maker! Adam and Eve were in a most blessed, happy state! And it’s this Eden we are hoping to find to make us happy!

When Jesus spoke of His relation to His Father, He was joyful. He lived in obedience to the Father and told us everything God wanted us to know about Him and His plans to redeem us. How did Jesus respond to this task? Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full!! (John 15:11) Jesus’ mission is defined in terms of making us happy. Not in ourselves, but making us happy in the very God who is full of joy!

But why is that we struggle with being bored if this is what God is about? A.W. Tozer said, “Man is bored, because he is too big to be happy with that which sin is giving him.” We have settled for mud pies while God has prepared a banquet feast for us in His presence. Our problem is not that we seek happiness, but that we seek happiness in sin. But sin brings death and gloom. Jesus came that our joy would be full! Do you seek happiness? Then seek Jesus and you will find your soul full of delight! (See Psalm 16:11)

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM. Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

Making the Most of the New Year

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! Christmas is over and the New Year is at our doorstep! It’s the time people look to start afresh. For many, it’s time to start that diet that was thrown out the window during the holiday season. For others, it’s time to get their life organized, to simplify, to stay in more, to go out more, etc. People have a host of reasons for the new adventures they plan on in the coming year. But why is it when every New Year comes around people talk about having a new focus for their life? What is about a New Year that inspires a sense of renewal?

The impulse for renewal is woven into the very fabric and woof of our being. As creatures made in the image of God, we all have a sense of something not being right about our lives. We see brokenness in us and around us. Sometimes due to our own choices, sometimes at no fault of our own! However we come to experience the sense of brokenness in our lives, we know in our inner most being that something needs to change. The official first day of the New Year becomes a launching point for our expectations that things can be better than they were the year before. The New Year gives a sense that the not-so-good stuff of my past year is now behind me and I can now have a new start. It serves, in a sense, as a mini-deliverance.

We love movies, songs, and even New Years that show us the possibility of deliverance. If we would listen to the inner cries of our heart, they would point us back to the greater deliverance we all long for. Scripture says in Romans 1:20-22, “ For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” All of creation, including ourselves, lies under the heavy weight of the presence of sin in the world and the absence of the fullness of God Himself. We love hero movies where everything gets fixed in the end. We love books where the knight slays the dragon for the final victory. And we like New Years for the small opportunity it holds out for us to have things better than they have been. But we shouldn’t settle for shadows of the reality. God has much more for us to experience.

Jesus talked about the new birth (John 3:5), the opportunity to be a completely new spiritual person (2 Corinthians 5:17), and to experience a glorious ending to the greatest story of all in the New Heavens and New Earth with Him! (See Revelation 21-22). The New Years taps into our God given desire for renewal, for letting the bad things go, and clinging to a hope for a better tomorrow. Let this New Year remind you to think of the everlasting renewal that comes by knowing Jesus Christ, the only One who can and will ultimately make all things new! (Revelation 21:5)

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM. Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

Merry Christmas!

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! Christmas is finally here! For kids, it has taken forever to get to Christmas. For us adults, wasn’t it just a few weeks ago we put the ornaments away from last year?! Whether long or short in our minds, Christmas is a time of celebration. The word ‘Christmas’ is actually made up of two words “Christ” and “mass”. Obviously the first word is in reference to the Lord Jesus. The second word, “mass”, simply means celebration. Christmas is the time we should celebrate the Lord Jesus!

For some, Christmas can be a time of being with family and friends. A time to recall fond memories of our own childhood and seeing those family members (whether for good or bad!) we haven’t seen since last year. However, for some, Christmas is a very hard time. It’s a reminder of what they don’t have. It can remind them of bad family memories. It’s easy for those of us who had relatively good backgrounds to ignore those who have bad memories about Christmas. How do we think of Christmas when some have had good Christmases and some bad have had bad ones?

There is a common blessing and a common warning for both sides. First the bad side of things. Those who have bad memories of Christmas can get so focused on their hurts that they forget the very reason of Christmas. Christ came to bring hope. Not hope in the generic sense. But eternal and everlasting hope for anyone who places their trust in Him. Jesus doesn’t promise everything will be better this side of heaven, but He does promise the greatest blessing of all. He promises to give Himself. So those with bad past memories need to be careful about missing the ultimate good that God offers them now due to focusing too much on former things.

The same warning goes for those with who had all good memories. The good things in life can distract us from thinking about the Ultimate Good: the reason the baby came in the manger. Even those with good things in life need the saving work of the baby in Bethlehem Who was born to die for sinners.

In light of the warnings to both groups, there is also a common blessing held out for each. Whether rich or poor, good memories or bad memories with Christmas, etc Jesus came for all types of sinners. C.S. Lewis said it well: “He who has Jesus and nothing else is the same as the one who has Jesus and everything else.” How can he say this? How can scripture keep us focused at this Christmas season?

It goes back to God’s plan. His Son was, in the words of ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’, “born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Remember that the baby in the manger scene is not just about an ethereal sense of happy times. It’s about God’s strong love to reconcile mankind to Himself. Christmas reminds us that Jesus was willing to take the curses of our sins so that we could have God Himself. Now that’s a Christmas worth celebrating!

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM. Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

The Urgency of Repentance

January 26, 2016

Grace to you! When scripture calls us to repent, what immediately comes to mind? Do you think of God pointing His finger in your face over all the bad things you have thought and done? Or does the idea of having immense sorrow over your actions seem to be what repentance is about? Biblically speaking, what are some key points we need to think about when the Bible calls us to repentance?

Scripture summarizes God’s message regarding repentance: “God commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30) The word ‘repent’ is a military term and means an ‘about face’ or ‘turn of direction’. We are going one direction in life and God’s call is for us to change directions. We are living for something other than the Lord Jesus. God issues the decree for us to do a 180 and turn back to Him. But what all is involved in repentance?

Repentance means I take full responsibility for my sin. The word ‘confess’ (1 John 1:9) in the Greek New Testament is comprised of two words meaning ‘same word’. In essence to confess a sin means to ‘say what God says about that sin.’ It means I take myself to court with God, agree that what I did was sin, and that I need to turn (repent) from that sin back to God! This is the true intention of biblical repentance and confession. Any remorse over sin that does not lead to biblical change is not repentance.

Repentance also means I stop believing and trusting whatever idol I’m committed to and instead trust in the Lord. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Idolatry is always marked by a whining and complaining attitude. A heart that trusts the Lord is marked by thanksgiving and praise to Jesus. (See Romans 1:21-25) Idols are very alluring. They always seek to win our love and trust over the Lord. Repentance will mean I stop loving my idols and love Jesus instead.

Having sorrow over sin is not enough to qualify as biblical repentance. If we only have sorrow over our sin, we can go in two wrong directions. We can despair of any hope due to the excessive sorrow over our sin and, therefore, never see the grace that Jesus has for us for all of our sin. Or, we can seek to earn God’s favor by showing Him how sorry we feel about our sin. This is a works righteousness. Our feeling bad over our sin does not earn God’s favor. Only the blood of Christ can make a person accepted by God! (Hebrews 9:22)

However, with true repentance not only should there be a true sorrow over sin but an awakening of hope and joy at the grace of God in Christ that is available to me as a sinner in need! In short, if I only feel bad about my sin but don’t have revived hope in Christ as my Redeemer, then I’ve not truly repented. God wins our hearts through love and grace. And it is only Jesus’ grace and love that will conquer my love for my sin. So when you think about God’s call for repentance in your life, think of it as God’s call for you to have joy in Him! Repentance, therefore, means to take joy in God Himself!

Looking for a church home? Come visit South Whitwell Baptist, 133 South Oak Street, Whitwell. Sunday Service: 10:45 AM. Visit our web page: www.southwhitwellbaptist.webs.com

 

 

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