Grace Theology Press interviews (Part 2)
Dr. Joe Wall
Director of Training Partnerships,
East-West Ministries International
Introduction: Dr. Joe Wall has pastored several churches in Texas, including Grace Bible Church of College Station, Spring Branch Community Church (renamed Bridgepoint Bible Church), and Cypress Bible Church. He has also served as the Academic Dean of Dallas Bible College, President of Colorado Christian University, and was a part of the founding team of the College of Biblical Studies in Houston.
For the past twenty years, he has served in numerous leadership positions with East-West Ministries International, including Executive Vice President of Field Ministries and Vice President of Training.
Dr. Wall is also the author of three books: Bob Thieme’s Teachings on Christian Living (Church Multiplication, Inc., 1978), Going for the Gold, Bible Study Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2015—originally published by Moody Press in 1991, and Effective Church Growth Strategies, (Word Publishing, 2000) which he co-authored with Dr. Gene Getz. He has been married to Linda for more than 50 years, and they have two sons and four grandchildren.
Todd Mathis: Why are eternal rewards an important topic for Christians to really think through? The topic of eternal rewards doesn’t get a lot of discussion or focus. Why is it an important topic?
Joe Wall: I believe there are two or three major motives we have for everything we do that’s worthwhile. We should be motivated out of love for God, for what he has done for us. That ought to be the primary motive. But motivation for rewards in the presence of Christ at His Judgment Seat is also a good motive.
You see, every reward to us is also an honor to Jesus, because without Him we can do nothing. And thinking about eternal rewards is a way of helping us to be serious about what really is important in life. It helps us to focus on obeying and pleasing our beloved Savior, even if no one else understands why we choose to do things that seem of no earthly value. Whether or not anybody in the world ever sees it—whether or not I’m recognized by anybody—if it’s worthwhile to Jesus, then it makes my life worthwhile. It means something.
For me, it is an extremely important truth that impacts my life. Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life? How do I make decisions? For me, it’s not just a side issue; it’s a core issue of life.Anyone who is disciple of Jesus needs to be asking himself one major question is…What’s important to Jesus?
Todd: It’s very hard to ignore the topic, especially considering Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9, verses 24-27, and the way he talks about it in 2 Timothy 4:7-8. Those are such very clear passages on the concept of a future reward.
Joe: You’re right. Those are two of the crown (or stephanos) passages that are found in Paul’s teachings. James and John (in the Revelation) also write about the crown rewards. But many other different rewards are found throughout the Scriptures.
Todd: The question some people may have is, “What happens if I mess up with parts of my life or all my life or I ignore this important event?” How do you respond to those folks?
Joe: First of all, it is true that a mess-up can end up losing reward. I had a pastor friend of mine whom the Lord took home in his 40s. Instead of true repentance, he kept excusing himself and spiraling deeper into sin. One time he made a comment to me: “You know, I’m messing up now, but think of all of the things I’ve done in the past. I’ll get rewarded for those.” I said, “But there are passages in Scripture that talk about losing one’s rewards.”
The big issue is whether or not you will bounce back after you mess up. You can bounce back if you will just acknowledge your failure and get back in the race.
Everybody stumbles. The issue is not whether we stumble or not. The issue is giving up the race. One of my favorite movies is Chariots of Fire. In one of his races, Eric Liddell falls down; then he gets up and goes on to win. To me, that’s the picture of what the race of life is all about.
Todd: How would you describe our experience of heaven in light of eternal rewards?
Joe: The Scriptures says a lot about heaven—a place of enjoying the presence of Jesus forever. What we get to do when we die is to go directly to heaven. Then, when Jesus returns, we get our resurrected bodies and appear before His Judgment Seat where our lives are revealed openly and evaluated. Then He grants us rewards for what He has been allowed to do in us and through us—including positions of honor and rule in His Kingdom.
Todd: What are some final words of wisdom you want to pass along to people who are reading this?
Joe: For me, the wisest counsel would be to read the book with the purpose of seeing what God wants to do in your heart. Don’t read the book just so you can say you read a book. Read it for the purpose of listening to God, and if you see stuff in the book that you don’t think the Scriptures teach exactly like you see it, don’t let it bother you. Just follow the Word of God. Don’t follow my book. Follow the Scriptures. Take away from the book, “I want my life to be changed by having an eternal perspective.”
Todd: What do you want people who buy your book to really get out of your book?
Joe: Make your life count for Jesus.
Todd: If somebody wanted to find out more about you and your ministry, how would they find out about that?
Joe: They can go to two websites. I work with a mission called, East-West Ministries which has a partnership with Grace School of Theology for the purpose of providing grace-oriented training for national leaders among unreached peoples in many limited access countries around the world. Information on East-West Ministries can be found at www.eastwest.org. Information on Grace School of Theology can be found at www.gsot.edu.
Thank you to Dr. Wall for this inspiring and motivating interview. Dr. Wall’s book Going for the Gold: Bible Study Edition (2015) should be in everyone’s libraries. Be sure to pick this book up through your printed book or computer library sources.
Todd Mathis, M.Div.