Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Flattering Write-Up

By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice . . .
By faith, Abraham, when he was called, obeyed. . .

If you read through the Hebrews 11 “Faith Hall of Fame,” you will immediately see that each person named and described has one thing in common. They are commended for their great faith. The author lists stellar accomplishment after accomplishment of people who believed what God said and acted accordingly. Not one flawed person in the bunch! Just life after life committed to the faith.

Yet when you go back and read the actual accounts given to us in the Old Testament, a different picture emerges. Abraham is given credit for great faith in Hebrews 11. A closer look at his life, however, found in Genesis 12-25, discloses several times when Abraham’s faith is less than stellar. Twice he lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own skin when other men grew interested in her. Had he trusted in God’s promises, he would not have been so driven to protect himself (and leave poor Sarah hanging out to dry!). Abraham also went ahead of the Lord and produced an heir with the handmaiden, Hagar, disregarding what the Lord had promised. Most of the Faith Hall of Famers were in the same boat. Yes, they believed God. But they also had sin in their life and sometimes serious doubt issues.

So when we covered Hebrews 11 in class today, I asked my professor: “Do you think that this is how God views us? Even though I fail God and do not trust Him on a regular basis, am I going to get a stellar write up like they did?”

The short answer is: Yes. Certainly no sins we commit in this life will be brought before us as we stand before God someday. Psalm 103 tells us that our sins have already been removed from us “as far as the east is from the west.” In Jeremiah 31:34, God makes a promise to His people: "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Christ paid for our sins with His blood. That sacrifice was made once, and covers our sins for all time (Heb 10:12). Our debt is paid in full.

So what kind of a judgment will we experience? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” The Judgment Seat will be a time of rewards. Please understand, I am not talking about salvation here. Our eternal life is secure in Jesus Christ and had nothing to do with any effort on our part from the beginning. The Judgment Seat will be a judgment of works.

While it will be a time of rewards, the Judgment Seat of Christ may not be all laurels and pleasantness. We are told frequently that we will be rewarded for our perseverance and for what we do for Christ (James 1:12, Matthew 19:29, etc.). So what will be unpleasant about that?

We may experience a real loss when God judges our works in righteousness. At the moment, we are very tainted in how we view ourselves and our efforts. The things that we might feel merit reward may not be rewarded at all. And conversely, small things we did without forethought, out of love for Christ, like denying ourselves for the needs of another, may get top billing. First Corinthians 3 tells us “each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work . . . remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved.” The wood, hay and straw will be burned, and only what’s truly done for Christ will survive the fire of judgment.

I think that the writer of Hebrews is giving us a post-Judgment Fire description of those who lived lives of faith in chapter 11. Because after the Judgment, when all is said and done, we will be left with two things: 1. eternal life, and 2. rewards for the times we managed to be faithful. And that’s not a bad write up after all.

No comments: