It was in my early adulthood when it dawned on me that
salvation and reward were two separate things.
In Sunday school I had always been taught that the two were intertwined.
Later in life, the Holy Spirit had to unwind
the two separate concepts to teach me this: The gift of salvation is free, but
our eternal reward is earned.
THE FREE GIFT
Jesus died for the whole world. Every person who has ever lived or ever will
live, is invited to accept the free gift of salvation that Jesus bought for us
through His resurrection and death on the cross.
“For God so loved the
world that He gave is one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not
perish but have eternal life.” John
“For it is by grace
you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the
gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8
When we give our lives to Christ and make a commitment to be
His – it is a gift from
God that we receive simply by faith.
We don’t earn salvation.
We do, however, have to earn our eternal reward.
In Revelation 20, on Judgement Day there are several “books”
that are opened. Only one of them is the
Book of Life, which your name has to be written in to enter INTO heaven. The others are books that have recorded our
dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Revelation 20:12
The Book of Life contains the name of
those who receive the free gift of salvation.
The Book of Record contains the works that you did while on earth.
God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether
it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 contains a very clear witness about what
happens on the [Judgment] Day.
(Whenever you see the word Day capitalized in the word – it is
referring to Judgment Day.)
“For no one can lay any foundation other than
the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this
foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it
is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and
the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his
reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only
as one escaping through the flames.”
I kind of picture this verse like this: Everyone is going to
stand before the Lord on Judgment Day. The
Book of Record will be opened and our works will be poured out before the Lord. Fire will fall on everything that is laid
before the Lord. The works that we did
in our flesh (wood, hay and straw) will be burned up and the works that we did
using eternal material (gold, silver and costly stones) we will receive a
reward for. Even if everything is burned up, if our name is written in the Book
of Life we still will be saved and enter heaven’s gates.
Now I don’t know about you, but I do not want to get before the
Lord and see my entire life’s work burned up and receive no reward. I want to hear “well done!” I want what I build on earth to survive the
My deepest desire
is to run the race to win, so let’s dissect what kind of materials Paul
mentions in 1 Corinthians 3.
and straw are going to burn up when exposed to fire. They are references to our flesh. When we build on the foundation of Christ
with our own strength and might and not according to the Spirit of God, we use
wood, hay and straw.
When we use
lasting materials like gold, silver and costly stones we are building by the
Spirit. (Zech 4:6)
Let me give
you an example of a time when I used wood, hay and straw to build God’s
churches in our community decided to hold a unity service. I was on staff at one of the churches as a
director of worship. We spent a lot of
time planning, praying and organizing.
We also spent quite bit of money to rent out a local auditorium and a
really nice sound system. We also hired a speaker.
There was an
associate pastor who was quite uneasy about what we were doing. He was not in agreement with the decision
that our senior pastor had made. I didn’t
understand why my associate pastor was not on board. The underlying premise was in line with the
word of God. Yet I trusted this
associate pastor’s wisdom. So I began to
seek the Lord about His opinion about the unity service.
is my associate pastor not onboard? I don’t understand what the issue is?” The Lord began to show me that He considered
the unity service wood, hay and straw because it was not a service that He had
directed the pastors to organize. The
Lord showed me that the pastors did not seek God first on His timing for this
event. They had decided to build
something great for God, but the Holy Spirit did not direct them to do so.
This is the
perfect example of using wood, hay and straw to build God’s Kingdom. Fleshly decisions made without the Holy
I spent a
lot of time planning and praying for that event. On Judgment Day when all of my works are laid
before the Lord on the altar, the work that I did for the unity service will be
burned up. I will receive no reward for
that event. It was a work that I did
apart from the Vine.
learned from that disappointing experience is to ALWAYS check with the Holy Spirit
before planning any event or when doing any “building” in God’s Kingdom. It is imperative that we are in the flow of
the Holy Spirit and we are remaining on the vine to bear much fruit… fruit that
will last. (John 15:16)
should be to know the answer to this question: Does the Holy Spirit want to do
this work through me?
God wants to
be on the throne of His Kingdom. When we
build according to our flesh using wood, hay and straw we are basically saying
that our own plans belong on the throne rather than God’s plans. This is why our fleshly works will burn up on
Judgment Day. Only that which the Lord
has done through us by His Spirit can remain…because the earth is the Lords,
As you think
about your reward, make a daily effort to let God build His Kingdom through
you. When the Book of Records is opened
on that Day – your works will not be burned up and you will receive your