The Bible is filled with motivation for spiritual maturity. There appear to be two major motivational mechanisms for living for Christ: (1) My appreciation for what He has done for me, and (2) His appreciation for what I have done for Him.
The second motivational mechanism is the focus of Tom Lancaster’s book entitled Improving the Quality of Your Eternal Life: A Primer on New Testament Exhortations to the Believer.
Confessing/denying and the Judgement Seat of Christ?
In 2 Timothy 2:3-10, Paul emphasizes to Timothy the need to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and to be hard-working in the face of persecution. In 2:15, he exhorts Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” “Approved” (dokimos) means “acceptable,” though perhaps a more specific meaning of “passing the test of integrity”1 would have been understood by those living in Paul’s day. Sandwiched between these admonitions to excel, Paul inserts a saying addressed to believers that is frequently misinterpreted, primarily by those who hold that a believer can lose eternal life. The correct interpretation, however, proves just the opposite:
11This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us.
13 If we do not believe, He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)
In these three verses, Paul covers the foundational truths of justification, faithful discipleship, and eternal security. If we died with Him (identified with Him in His death on the cross), we shall live with Him (have eternal life). If we endure (are faithful in our discipleship), we shall also reign with Him (a reward for faithfulness). If we deny Him (continually live as though we did not know Him), He will also deny us (treat us in the same manner before the Father). If we stop believing3 (abandon the faith after having received eternal life), He remains faithful (to His promise of eternal life) for He cannot deny Himself (He cannot break His promise).
The privilege of reigning with Christ, and more, is denied for those believers who do not endure. Paul follows the above passage with the explanation that, “…in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
Few Christians realize that perhaps the greatest obstacle to the growth of God’s kingdom does not come from unbelievers, but believers who lead worldly lives! By their poor witness, they actually work against the purposes of God. Paul had this in mind in Philippians 3:18-19, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.” That is, their lifestyles are directly opposed to the cross of Christ. They will face “destruction” at the judgment seat of Christ,4 for their god is their stomach, and their glory is something to be ashamed of. They have pursued earthly things, not righteousness.
This “destruction” (Philippians 3:19) at the judgment seat of Christ is not condemnation to hell. Rather it is destruction of all that one’s carnal, faithless lifestyle has “built” in this life. In 1 Corinthians 3:9-17, Paul says we as believers are God’s building (oikomdomē), or more aptly put, His “construction project.” With His help, we are to build upon the foundation which is Christ (his death for our sins). In this sense we are metaphorically constructing and adorning a building through the lives we lead. The goal of every believer should be to build with materials that endure unto eternity. If we use defiled, corrupted, rotting materials, our “building” will not only be unattractive; it will be structurally unstable. In the real world of construction, such a building would not pass inspection by city officials and would not be certified for human occupancy. To the degree of its “rottenness,” the building would be torn down, perhaps all the way to the foundation. All of the planning, labor and materials invested would be destroyed (1 Corinthians 3:17), leaving little in the way of a suitable habitation.
Furthermore, we are not constructing just any building by the way we live, but God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16), a building that is designed for praise and worship … one that is beautiful outside and in … one which proclaims the God who dwells within … one that is a beacon to others … and one that will endure the test of time: “…and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” 5 Regardless of the way in which a believer builds, his foundation will not fail, for the “rock” of Jesus is a sure foundation.
These are good words for us to hear and heed.
Serving Him with you
Until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor, Grace Theology Press