The Eternal Reward of all Faithful Servants: Praise from God (1 Corinthians Sermon 14)
January 13, 2019 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 4:1-5
End Times, Heaven
The Love of Honor
So turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians, Chapter 4, be looking this morning at verses 1-5. And as I pray just a moment ago, 1 Corinthians 4 is a marvelous chapter in which we're going to be swimming in the mindset of the apostle Paul as he talks about his own view towards life, and his own view toward ministry. And we're going to begin by looking at Verses 1-5. And as I did this morning as I was praying about this text, and about what I was about to preach, I was consumed by a kind of a unifying theme here to introduce. And that is, I want to ask you the question, just think about human life, what is the fuel that propels the drive for greatness among people? What is the fuel that propels a drive for excellence in every field of human endeavor? What makes an aviator get in a single engine, single seat plane and fly for 33 and a half hours (Charles Lindberg), across the Atlantic to arrive near Paris, France? What motivated him to do that?
What motivates a pharmaceutical researcher to spend long hours in lab, pursuing a cure to a disease like the common cold or cancer? What motivates all of those hours? What motivates an explorer, to be the first to stand on the North Pole? Wherever that is. And one after the other said, "I got there." And then science said, "No, you didn't." Then the next one guy, "I was the first." "No, you weren't." But anyway, that's another journey for another day. But what motivated all of those explorers to be that one? Or what motivates a physicist to sit in a patent office and scribble out formulas that would change the way that people saw physics for the entire 21st century? What was the motivation behind that?
Or an Olympic athlete? Imagine a female figure skater that gets up way before sunrise and goes again to the rink, and works again on the quad, again and again, hitting the ice more times than she can count, more bruises, more cuts. What is the motivation behind all of that suffering?
There are many motives, but there's one I have that dominates my mind and that is the love of honor. Love of honor. It's one of the major drives in human experience toward amazing achievement and excellence in every field. I read some time ago, Napoleon when he was traveling en route to his final destination to the remote island of Saint Helena where he would die, after he had led armies 600,000 strong and more marching over the battlefields of Europe and he built a French empire that dominated continental Europe, and men fanatically followed him across the snows of Russia. Even into burnt out Moscow itself and then on to the blood soaked battlefields of Waterloo. What motivated their loyalty? And he was musing on this, and he said, this, "A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon." For a bit of colored ribbon.
Well, it's not the ribbon, but it's the honor that it represents. That's why his soldiers made those kinds of sacrifices. Charles Lindberg, when he landed, after 33 and a half hours, landed to tens of thousands of cheering Frenchmen. And I know you'll say a $10,000 prize. So you're saying that was some of the motivation, but I don't think that's what really moved him. In 1921, Albert Einstein was paraded through the streets of New York with a ticker tape parade. The most famous physicist of our day, of their day. Many Olympic gold medal winners have done so to complete that perfect gold medal winning performance, and just stand there, the music's over and the cheers just come cascading down and then she gets to climb up to the top podium and bend over and receive the gold medal. There's just honor in all of that.
A Twisted Aspect
Now, there are twisted aspects of this. Our love of honor can be perverted. It can be twisted and it all started with Satan's love of his own honor recorded for us, the primordial movement in Heaven, recorded I think in Isaiah 14, where he said, "I will ascend to Heaven. I will raise my throne above the stars of God… I will make myself like the most high." And then his servants, human servants, followed in his footsteps with the same mentality. We see it again and again in Scripture, but my mind was led this morning to Genesis 11, the men of the Tower of Babel, who said, "Come let us build ourselves a city with a tower in it that reaches up to the Heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves." The culmination of this twisted wicked self-focused love of honor, we see in Satan's temptation of Jesus in the desert where he says to Jesus, "If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread." But then just minutes later, he shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their honor and splendor. And said, "I'll give all of this to you if you will bow down and worship me."
Now, how in the world does a creature like Satan was... Creature is a created being, get to the point where he's saying to his Creator, "Fall down on the ground and worship me." So that's the twisted, sick aspect of love, of honor or ambition, would be another way to talk about it. Thomas Brooks, the puritan said this, "Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison. Ambition is a hidden plague, the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy, the original vice of the angels, and of Adam and Eve. Ambition is the destroyer of virtue, the blinder of hearts. High seats are never but uneasy, and every crown is stuffed with thorns."
A Holy Love of Honor
Well, that's Thomas Brooks, the puritan talking about ambition. So one would think that all ambition is evil, all love of glory or love of honor is corrupt, but not so. The apostle Paul used the word, translated ambition, three times in his writing. The original Greek is literally, "love of honor." In Romans 15 he said, "It's always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not named so I would not be building on someone else's foundation rather as it is written. 'Those who were not told about him will hear and those who have not heard will understand.'" The overwhelming ambition of Paul's apostolic life, and ministry was to preach the Gospel in uncharted territories. The word literally is love of honor. "I wanted the honor of doing it." That's what Paul's saying.
But then you get a different use of the word in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, where he writes to Thessalonian believers, very average brothers and sisters in Christ, who are not called on to be frontier, trail blazing apostles to the gentiles, but just to lead normal lives, he uses the same word, "Make it your ambition, [have the love of the honor] of leading a quiet life, minding your own business, and working hard with your own hands so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and you won't be dependent on anybody." Same word, love of honor different calling though. Very different calling. And then the one that binds them all together, 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul says, "So then whether we are at home or away from the body, we make it our aim, or we have the ambition, to please Christ." My ambition... I would love the honor of pleasing Christ every moment of my life. Love of honor.
Now if the motive is that Christ will honor us for serving him and that Christ will be pleased with us in everything that we do, actually that motive is not evil, it is not twisted. I would say it's required. The alternative here is not live a life with no ambition at all. Too many people are doing that. We're surrounded by them every day. They seem to live for nothing. But instead that we would have a burning ambition and the apostle Paul is probably the best in church history to point the way on how to do that. What are the mindsets of servant hood? What are the mindsets that lead to a life that's going to be lavishly honored and praised by God? But I would say it's required and there are many texts behind this. For example, Hebrews 11:6, where it says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him." In other words, if you diligently seek Him every day, He will reward you. And actually you can't please him if you don't think like that.
Or again Romans 2:7-8, the Apostle Paul is describing in Romans 2, two different ways to live and this is what he says. In Romans 2:7-8, he says, "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, to them He'll give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." Those are just the two different ways to live in this world. So the Christian life is a life of people who by persistence in doing good work seek glory, honor, and immortality. Now, we're not seeking that God would be immortal. He already is. So therefore, it's immortality for us that we would live forever. That we would seek to live forever. So then the other two are self-referential as well. That we would seek to be glorious in Heaven, to shine like the sun, and that we would seek the honor that God will give to faithful servants. That's the way you should live your life.
Now, I believe that we are still corrupted in our sin nature. We're still tempted toward vain glory. We're still tempted towards selfish ambition, and so we need to be very careful about this topic. But this is really how I see it. It really just has to do with the vertical axis and the horizontal. If your focus is continually vertical and you're saying at every moment, "All I want is to please and glorify and honor my heavenly Father," He will reward you and honor you. But if you are focused, horizontally and saying, "What I want is to please this audience, or that audience, the others. I want tens of thousands waiting for me outside of Paris, cheering me when I land my plane. I want a whole stadium of people cheering me when I finish my routine. I want the ticker tape parade where everyone sees that I'm the greatest physicist that has ever lived."
Now that is the twisted and sick aspect. I'm not saying that any of those individuals did feel that. I don't know what Charles Lindberg thought when he was landing. I think he was straight exhausted, been awake for 55 hours and he just needed to get to a hotel room and go to bed. And I don't know what Dorothy Hamill or Peggy Fleming thought when they won the gold medal. I don't know. I don't know what Albert Einstein was thinking as he's driving down surrounded by a ticker tape swirling. I don't know.
But my concerns with your hearts and mine, so we have to be careful. We have to be that, like Paul says of the true Jew, the one whose circumcision is not physical, but spiritual by the Holy Spirit. Such a person's praise is not from men, but from God. Praise from God? Is that... Yeah, that's what we're talking about today. That you, as a servant would live your whole life seeking to please your master so much so that he will say at the end of your life, not just once but many times and not just once, but for all eternity. "Well done, good and faithful servant." That's what we're talking about.
I. Christ’s Servants: Stewards of the Mysteries of God
And so Paul is our role model. Now, this is the first of three sermons in 1st Corinthians 4, that's going to set Paul up as a role model for us. And so we're going to look and sit at his feet, and we're going to just basically follow his example, so we desire to be faithful servants. We're going to walk through what it means to be a faithful servant of Christ and we're going to begin at verse 1, Paul servant... Sorry, Christ's servants are stewards of the mystery of God. Mysteries of God. Look at verse 1.
"So then men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God." So the question in front of us in verse 1 is, how should people regard us? Now the us is not us first. We need to stay in the text. It's how should we regard Paul and the other apostles and the fellow servants of the word of God. That's what that word us means there. But then we're going to try to follow him and try to imitate his example as best we can. So how should people regard Paul?
Paul here I think has been walking a tight rope. Remember the problem in 1 Corinthians 1 through 3 has been their overwhelming love for human agency, human servants and workers and all that. They love eloquence, they love gifts, and all that sort of stuff. And so, they were saying, "I follow Paul…I follow Apollos…I follow Cephas…" and all that kind of thing, and Paul's trying to strip that away, and he does it very vigorously in Chapter 3, where he says very plainly, verse 5, "What after all is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but God made it grow so neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes him grow." So if you take all that and boil it down, Paul is saying, "I am nothing. God is everything." But on the other hand, like I said, he's walking a tight rope. He has to go the other way and say, "Yes, but however, I am the apostle to the gentiles, and I am a conduit of God's truth and of the mysteries of God. And you need to not think too lowly of me either." So don't think too highly of me, I am just a servant, but don't think too lowly either and say, "I can't hear anything from Paul."
So he's got to say, "Yes, but I've got a special role to play." And so he has to work against Satan's work to slander Paul and this is going on all the time. Paul was one of the most slandered people that's ever lived. And so they're saying like, "I can hear the word from Apollos and I can hear it from Peter, but I just can't hear it from Paul. I'm done with Paul." Paul's shut down. He's like, "Don't do that. You need to regard me properly. And how would you regard me? Well, you have to regard me, us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. That's how you should look at me." So he wants them to know that he is a servant, but he really isn't their servant. He is Christ's servant. He's answerable to Jesus. And not ultimately them. It's really important to understand that. Some churches I think need to understand this more than they do. Now, I thank God that FBC Durham is not one of them.
I think this church has a very healthy esteem for elders and teachers of the Word and pastors and I'm grateful for that, but not every church does. There's some churches who treat their pastors like employees and though they may not say it, they say, "Look, we pay your salary. You're answerable to us." Paul would say, "Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm not answerable to you or to any human court at all. I am answerable to Christ who called me on the road to Damascus, who could have struck me dead on the road to the Damascus, but didn't. Instead now said, "Now get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do." I'm answerable to Him. My life is in his hands, my calling is I am Christ's servant."
That's what he's saying. So people ought to regard us. That's how you ought to see us. Apostles, me, as would Paul say, the apostle, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, we serve Christ. He is the master to whom we're going to give an account on Judgment Day. We're going to stand before Jesus and tell him everything that we did in the body, whether good or bad. We're going to talk to Jesus about that, 7 Corinthians 5:10. Not to you. So Christ is the master and we are faithful ministers of the Word and we have to answer to him. And ultimately, Paul says we are also stewards of the mysteries of God. Now, a steward is a servant in a household who manages the master's material possessions. The stuff that the steward manages doesn't belong to him. It's not his stuff. He is under the master managing his money, managing his kegs of wheat, barrels of wheat or of oil, olive oil or wine, whatever it is. He's managing but it's not his stuff. It belongs to the master. But he has to give an account for his management. He's going to give an account.
Stewards of the Mysteries of God
And he says, we are "stewards of the mysteries of God." Now we have sung some hymns this morning that have just melted my heart and I just wept, praise God for your gifts, just we're swimming in the mystery of the cross. How can we fully understand Almighty God dying for us? I mean, do we have the ability to plumb the depths of that mystery? Do we understand the mystery of the incarnation? Paul says, beyond all question the mystery of Godliness is great. He appeared in a body and was worshipped by angels. How do you figure that out? Christianity is a religion of mysteries. What that means is, things hidden in the mind of God, but then at the right time revealed and made known through the ministry of the Word. And so, there are mysteries that are unfolding in Christianity, things that we wouldn't know any other way, and they focus on Christ. In Christ are hidden all the mysteries of wisdom and knowledge. All of it's wrapped up in Him. Christ in us, the hope of glory is called a mystery.
There are mysteries about the future that we don't fully understand, like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, "Behold I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed." So there is a future generation of people who will not die physically, they'll be alive when Jesus returns at the second coming of Christ. But they will be transformed, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, and so they have to have resurrection bodies. That's all a mystery. We are stewards of these mysteries, the mysteries of God. The greatest mystery of all is, what's this all about, what's the purpose of all of this? He says in Ephesians 1:9-10, "And he made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He first purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment, that's the end of everything, to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head even Christ." That's a mystery, that's what this is all about. So these mysteries will take the rest of our lives and we still won't plumb the depths of them.
Paul says, "You ought to see us as servants of Christ and stewards of these mysteries. So don't think too lightly or lowly of me, because you're going to miss some of the mysteries, you're going to miss some of the instruction. You need to stay under my teaching as I continue to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God."
II. Christ’s Servants’ Requirement: Faithfulness
Secondly, Christ servants requirements is faithfulness. What do we... What does Christ want out of us? Faithfulness. Look at Verse 2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful," that's all that Christ wants of his servants, faithfulness, faithfulness. I'm going to set you up each of you, my sons and daughters, I'm going to set you up in a ministry, in a life and it's going to be in some ways very common and similar to others, but in some way unique to you, tailor-made for you. I'm going to set you up in a calling, and I want one thing from you, be faithful to what I gave you to do. Be faithful. If you're a husband, be faithful, be a faithful husband. If you're a wife, be a faithful wife. If you're a mother, be a faithful... Be faithful to being a mother. If you're a father, be faithful to being a father. If you're a pastor, be a faithful Shepherd. Be faithful to what I gave you to do. Faithfulness.
Now for me, faithfulness, just means obedience, just do what I told you to do, you can't do any better than what Christ commanded you to do. This just destroys all worldly ambitions. There's so many ambitions that men and women have. It's like, I want this and I want that and I want to do great, it's like, you can't do any better than what Christ wants you to do. That's the highest calling you can ever have. I actually reject what Martin Lloyd-Jones and some others say, the highest calling is preaching the Word. I actually don't think that's true. The highest calling for any servant is what the master called you to do. There is no higher calling than that for you. So just be obedient. What that means is, you're a soldier, you're put at a post, stay at your post. Do what your commanding officer told you to do, and don't get lured by temptations toward treason or cowardice. Stay at your post, don't give yourself over and become a traitor, having been bought with gold and silver, worldliness. Don't become a traitor to Christ and don't be a coward when the bullets start flying, stay at your post and do what you're... Even if you have to die, that's what courageous soldiers do. Stay at your post, don't give yourself... Be faithful to what I've told you to do.
Paul met this criteria in amazing ways. He said to King Agrippa, "So then King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision," "I did what Christ wanted me to do. Everywhere I go, I'm beaten up for the Gospel, and I'm still at my post, I'm still doing what Christ called me to do on the road to Damascus."
What is Your Calling?
So the question before all of us, just right in the middle of the sermon, I just want to apply this. How about you? What is your calling? What are your spiritual gifts? Where are you positioned? Are you being faithful? Are you being faithful? Now, you may be in a process of preparation, you may not really know what your spiritual gifts are, you might be a teenager, for example, you know Christ as your Lord and Savior, but you don't know what your spiritual gifts are yet. I understand that, there's a process, but you know... And it could be even beyond that. You still don't know, but in the end, what are you gifted, what are you called to do and are you being faithful to your calling? That's all that the Lord requires of us.
III. Christ’s Servants’ Freedom: Concern Over Human Judgments
Now, Paul's clarity on this, frees him up entirely from human evaluation. It brings us to point 3, Christ servant's freedom is concerned over human judgments. This is a very bold Verse, I love it. 1 Corinthians 4:3, Paul says this, "I care very little if I'm judged by you or by any human court." There are a lot of ways I could rephrase that. I'll try to be careful, not give him an attitude he really didn't have, but "I don't give a flip what you think about me." We are at that point now, I really don't care. The funny thing is, he clearly does care in other ways, but he doesn't care like we think he cares. He writes basically, almost all of 2 Corinthians to defend himself and his ministry against the super Apostles, so he does care very much what they think about him, but not in the way you and I, through our ego-maniacal ways would, not like that. He says, "I care what you think about me in that I want to be certain you can continue to receive the Word of God from me." But in an ultimate sort of sense, I have seen the resurrected glorified Jesus. I've seen Christ. I know I deserve to die on the road to Damascus. Paul wrote the words, "If anyone destroys God's church, God will destroy him."
"I deserve to die. So my death sentence is a suspended sentence and I'm walking under that and I realize that my life, for the rest of my life, isn't mine anymore. It was bought with a price. I am a servant of the king. So putting it a little more gently, I care very little what you think about me, and frankly, I care very little what any human being thinks about me."
It's a very powerful thing. Because we are so dominated by concern about other people's opinions. I remember watching years and years ago, one of my first children was a little baby getting a little bit older, starting to be aware of other human beings did something that everyone in the room thought was funny. And he liked that so much, he did it again and again and again until it wasn't funny anymore, alright? But I was just thinking about that feedback loop from infancy, how we care about facial expressions and expressions of pleasure. And I like you and I'm happy with what you're doing. And then we become addicted to that.
And we have to have that severed in some very vigorous ways in order to serve Christ as faithfully as we can. So Paul says, "I care very little if I'm judged by you or by any human court." Now, no one was in my opinion, I don't know anybody in church history that was arraigned before more human courts than the Apostle Paul. I mean, it's almost like the last third of the Book of Acts it is court trial after court trial, after court trial. That's just Paul on trial. So he knew what it was like to be arraigned before human tribunals. But he said, "I'm actually freed up. I'm freed up from what they think, I'm freed up from what Agrippa thinks about me, or Herod thinks about me. I'm freed up from what any of the Romans think about me. I'm freed up from what the Emperor Nero thinks about me, I'm freed up from that. And I'm freed up Corinthians from what you think about me. I care very little. It's a light thing." Their judgment of him will mean literally zero on Judgment Day. Do you understand that? Literally nothing. What anybody thinks of you, any other human being will vanish into nothingness when you stand before Christ.
As Paul wrote in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Or you could it say this way, "If God is for us, who cares who's against us." Or "If God is for us, what does it matter what anybody is either for or against us?" None of it matters. All that matters is God is for us. But so, also, when it comes to evaluation, all that matters is what God, what Christ thinks about us.
Even Our Conscience Cannot Vindicate Us
And you know, it's interesting, Paul here includes himself in this. He says, "I don't even judge myself." "I don't even evaluate my own life in ministry. My own evaluation of my life, my deeds, the seeds I planted, the harvest that came from it, I don't know." Frankly God hides most of our fruitfulness from us. We are called on to broadcast seed sow, and just sowing and sowing and sowing, and sowing. We don't know. I have no idea how fruitful I've been. And I'm pretty convinced God doesn't want me to know, because I'm pretty convinced that I can't handle it if it's good. If I find out, I've been incredibly used by God, I will become an egomaniac, and none of you will want to be around me. So God does a lot of things to humble me, and he does a lot of things to humble you.
Now I believe in heaven we'll be able to handle the truth and we will see our full harvest of righteousness then. But it won't matter at all, what any human audience thought or what I thought about myself. All that will matter is what Christ thought about me. Now he says, "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent." Do you realize how important a statement that is? Hey, I have a clear conscience. I have a clear conscience. People say that. I have a clear conscience, as though that's the final word. Friends, it isn't. Your opinion about yourself is not the final word on you. Christ's word is the final word on you. And so, just because you have a clear conscience doesn't mean you're innocent. Now, don't go too far. Conscience is important, it's part of the original equipment that God gave us in the image of God. It's that internal part of you that presses you to do right and not do wrong, and then evaluates you after the fact of whether it thinks you did right or wrong. And it's a good thing. And so Paul says, "there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, so I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man."
It is a very good thing to have a clear conscience. It's not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, as a Christian, I can say, I think almost 100% of the time, if you violate your conscience, you have sinned. So don't violate your conscience, don't do something your conscience tells you not to do. Now, if you press me and say, "Pastor, what's the difference between the voice of conscience and the voice of the Holy Spirit?" I'll say, "Let's have a long discussion over coffee. I don't know that I can tell the difference. But I do know that our conscience can be corrupted and hardened, but then it can be healed and redeemed, and the Holy Spirit can use it. So Paul mentions it positively. All he's saying is, his clear conscience is not the final word on his life. Christ's evaluation is all that matters.
IV. Christ’s Servants’ Judgment: Secrets Exposed, Rewards Given
Fourthly, Christ servant's judgment secrets exposed, rewards given. Look at verse 5, "Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time. Wait till the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of people's hearts."
Well, since human judgments mean nothing, he's saying to them, "Stop evaluating my ministry. Stop weighing it." Now listen, it is essential that Paul be proven as a faithful minister of the Word of God, that's essential. And all congregations should evaluate their teachers, their pastors, their elders continually in some sense. Because it is possible that elders, pastors, teachers of the Word can be wolves in sheep's clothing. But keep in mind, Jesus said, "By their fruit, you will recognize them." He taught that you would be able to identify wolf-ish behavior and be able to see the snarling teeth under the sheep clothing. So it is important to evaluate the teachers of the Word, and also Luke in Acts 17:11 talked about the Bereans, you remember the Bereans? He said, "Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness, and then examined the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true."
Let me ask you a question, do you think I'm going to be offended if I find out that you guys went home today and read over 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, to see if what I said was true? No, please do it. Please go back over the Scripture and see if what I said is true, see if this is what Paul is teaching about how a faithful servant of Christ should be. If on some point you think differently, let's talk about it, etcetera. But that's exactly what Bereans should do. But once you've settled, if the pastors are faithfully expositing the Word of God and are faithfully teaching the Word of God, then be thankful for them. And keep receiving the Word from them. That's what Paul's zealous about here. However, ultimately only Judgment Day when Christ returns will we be able to see the final truth. Like was said of George Whitfield, he said he wanted this in this tomb, here lies George Whitfield, what sort of man he was that day will reveal. In other words, that's all there needs to be said about George Whitfield. At the second coming of Christ, wait till the Lord comes, and on that day, everyone's works are going to be tested, and there'll be gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay and straw, there's going to be all of that, all of that will be revealed on that day.
Final analysis. The Lord alone then can read the human heart. Christ is going to lay bare all of our hearts, he's going to lay bare our motives, why we did what we did. Some people, we will find serve the Lord from pure motives, as much as sinners can ever do that, love for God vertically, love for others horizontally as best as we can do it, never perfect. Our works all need to be purified. But the motives, why we did what we did will be laid bare. Jesus said to the church in Revelation 2:23, "I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds." So he's going to test our motives. Why we did what we did? And our works, what we did? So the Psalmist says in Psalm 1:39, "O Lord, You have searched me and You know me." I think one of the best things we can do as servants of Christ to say, at the end of the Psalm, "O Lord, search me and know me. Try me, and test me and show me myself, and see if there's any hurtful way in me, any unrighteous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24, do that. Just say, "Oh God search me, give me a fore taste of that judgment, so I can do a course correction."
V. Christ’s Servants’ Reward: Praise from God
Christ servant's reward ultimately is praise from God. Now, we come full circle to where I began. 1 Corinthians 4:5 is, in my opinion, one of the most important Verses in the Bible on rewards. If you were to ask me, what are the rewards, what are we getting? I want to boil it down to these three words, in one of the translations. Praise from God. ESV has commendation, that's fine, but I just like simply praise from God, not praise for God, we'll be doing that for all eternity, giving God the praise, giving God the glory.
No, this is something else, this is God praising us. And this is not in the sense of fall down and worship me, it's not that. It's the sense of a pleased father commending a beloved son, or daughter. This is good fathering, we'll talk about this at the end of the chapter. But Godly fathers commend their children and say, "Well done." And so Godly master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And I love the rest of that statement. Not so famous, but I've talked about it so many times. "Well done, good and faithful servant. You've been faithful of a few things. I'm going to put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your Master." That's the reward.
Come, you and me, Father, Heavenly Father, and adopted son or daughter, let's the two of us share together the joy that I had over that particular good work. Let's have a relationship over the time you went into your room, closed the door and prayed to your Father as unseen and I will reward you with how much that pleased me. The time that you gave to the poor and needy, and no one knew what you did, no one knew what your right hand or your left hand was doing, you just did it to please me, I saw it, well done. Enter into my joy over that. That's the reward, praise from God. And my feeling is, this is the very thing that Jesus told you to store up in heaven. When he talked about your giving and your praying and your fasting, none of those things should be seen by others, to be praised by them. You should do them all vertically that God would see you and praise you and He will and then he said, "Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is there, your heart will be also.
Store up, praise from God. Store it up, store it up, every day, store it up this afternoon. Store it up tonight, store it up tomorrow morning, that God would praise you, praise you, praise you, praise you for what you did. Such as, I'm pleased with you, I'm pleased with you, I'm pleased with you. So many Scriptures teach this. Paul says in Ephesians says to find out what pleases the Lord. Don't you think the implication is to do it. Find out what makes God pleased with you, and just for you to have a father-centered life, and say, "I just want everything I do to please you Father, all the time," and he will express it to you. And actually, Hebrews 11:6 says that you must believe that He will express it to you some day.
Alright, so that's 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, let's apply it. Let me just start by speaking to you, who are as yet perhaps unbelievers. Maybe you're invited here today, maybe you came in off the street or maybe you've been coming to church for a long time, but you know that you're not a Christian. Here's the thing, the Bible makes it very plain in Romans Chapter 2, that we're either storing up praise from God or storing up wrath from God. One or the other.
There's no third option. Every single day, if you're an unbeliever, you're storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. But here's the beauty of the Gospel, we've already sung it, we praise Jesus for this. God sent His son to stand under His righteous justice and wrath against you and take it from you on the cross, so that He, Jesus stands before you and says, "Give me all of your sin and guilt and I will absorb the wrath of God for that and you'll be free, there'll be no condemnation for you." And all you need to do for that is trust in Him. No good works will merit him doing that for you, He just offers that to you freely by grace through faith. So trust in Christ. And once you do that, once you trust in Him, you will immediately flip and start storing up treasure in Heaven, start storing up praise, praise from God in heaven. That's a whole different way to live.
Secondly, let me just speak to you who are already redeemed. You came in here, you're believers, you've been listening, I just want to set before you an ambition. Just have an overwhelming ambition all the time. 2 Corinthians 5:9 tells us to please God every moment of your life. Don't live a flaccid, lazy, pleasure-seeking, indulgent kind of... I could keep going and will next week, American life that seeks a truce with the surrounding Christ-hating world and seeks a lazy, pleasure-seeking, sodded way of life that is so endemic here in the west. Let's not live like that. Let's instead live a life of ambition, a life of fiery ambition. I don't know, some of you might be like Paul called on to go overseas and preach the Gospel where Christ has never been named. There's still unreached people groups.
Others of you may be more called like 1 Thessalonians 4:11 to lead a quiet life, mind your own business, work hard with your hands and live a glorious life. There's an honor in that too, but whatever God's calling you to do, live every moment, a life of ambition. I want to please my master every moment. In order to do that, finally I just would urge you more and more free yourself from care about what other people think about you.
What difference does it make what your acquaintance in the cubicle over there or the person sitting next to you on the plane, or the neighbor diagonally across the street or your unsaved relative thinks about you? What difference does it make? If that's hindering you from sharing the Gospel with them, get over it. It doesn't matter what they think about you. Free yourself up and then say, "Lord," vertically, "All I want in each of these relationships is to please you," and God will give you power to share the Gospel with each of them. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the Apostle Paul, thank you for the things that he taught us, thank you for the example that he is to us. And Father, I pray that you would please strengthen each of us, free us up from fanatical commitment to self. Free us up from caring too much what people think about us. Free us up O Lord, to do the river of good works that you have prepared in advance for us. Help this church to be on fire for Christ, to be on fire for souls, to see more and more people in the community and even to the ends of the earth, brought over into safety and salvation through faith in Christ. Strengthen us Lord, and fill us with your spirit. Thank you that you've loved us enough to tell us the truth in Jesus's name, Amen.