At the end of time, we will come before God in judgment, where God’s love will refine and purge. Jesus taught us to live today with this future in mind by investing in treasures that will endure the fire instead of investing in that which will burn because they are not compatible with God’s love.
This is a sermon about the end times, about the final judgment that we will face when we come before God. Because this is going to happen, how we live now should be informed by the fact that there will be a reckoning in the future. Jesus often stressed the importance of remembering this truth. We are not to store up treasures that reward us now, but to store up treasures in heaven, in God’s coming kingdom, for that reward will never fade. Therefore we plan for the future, letting it affect how we live now.
Paul taught that while we are saved by grace, we all must nevertheless give an account of our life before the judgment seat of God (see Romans 14:10,12). Too many of us live for the present without any vision of the future, trying to get ahead now, rather than trying to store up treasures in heaven. Our present treasures will be burned away, but heavenly treasures will last for eternity.
Tryon Edwards wrote, “Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in actions; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.“ Our choices really matter. We start by making our choices but our choices then make us. There are rewards to be gained and losses to be grieved, depending on what we chose to do and not do. Jesus is telling us to be smart by thinking about the character that aligns with our destiny and to live accordingly now.
Paul describes something similar in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.”
We build on the foundation of Jesus Christ by how we live our lives. Our foundation
is that we are God’s workmanship in Christ, members of the one new humanity that was created when Jesus died for us. We are God’s workmanship—eternal trophies of God’s unmerited grace—but we are created in Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). The goal from the start was for God’s people to partner with God to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ, a living house that reflects the character of its foundation.
When we arrive at the end, the quality of what we built will be disclosed. The real you, stripped of all pretense, will come into God’s loving presence. The question is: to what percent are you compatible with God’s loving presence? Whatever can be made compatible is refined. Whatever cannot be made compatible is burned up. On ‘the Day’ when all pretense will be stripped away and the real me meets the real God, God’s perfect love will purify and refine everything I built that is compatible with God’s character and God’s kingdom. God’s perfect love will also burn up everything that is not compatible with God’s loving character and kingdom.
This is both a promise and a warning. God’s promise is that the process of refining people into the likeness of Christ apparently doesn’t end with this life. God’s warning is that this will feel like fire, because God’s love dispels all that is incompatible with love. However, it is better for us to get things right sooner than later, as taught by Jesus in Matthew 5:25-26. This is exactly why we need to be a people who think ahead. With every decision we’re answering the question: what kind of person am I becoming?
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