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Today's Devotion: What Love Covers

The phrase “Damascene experience” is used in modern contexts to describe a sudden awakening, a moment of insight leading to a reversal of priorities and values, or a shock to one’s worldview. Its basis, of course, is in the apostle Paul’s encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus where he intended to persecute the followers of Jesus.

Two great injustices—in the legal sense of the word—occur in the New Testament. First, the perfectly innocent Jesus of Nazareth was put to death, while second, the perfectly guilty Saul of Tarsus was forgiven and set free. We know why Jesus died—to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). But why was Paul forgiven and set free from his guilt? In order that he might experience first-hand what God wanted him to proclaim to the Gentile world: the love and grace of God. Saul (later Paul) was guilty of persecuting innocent Christians, yet God’s love covered all his sins.

“Love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12)—even all of yours. Be secure today in God’s love.

God’s love is a free love, having no motive or foundation but within itself.
Thomas Brooks

Crowns are not the headpieces of common men and women. They are reserved for members of royalty to wear at momentous ceremonies such as the coronation or the marriage of sovereign rulers. Since ancient times, crowns have symbolized triumph, honor, and glory. The United Kingdom's collection of crown jewels is believed to be the most valuable in the world. Its centerpiece, Saint Edward's Crown, weighs 4.9 pounds and boasts 444 precious and semi–precious stones set in 22–karat gold. Many crowns, including Saint Edward's, prominently feature a cross, suggesting that their wearers rule by divine right.

There is Scripture to support this suggestion. Consider the words of Romans 13:1–2:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

Every Ruler Is Appointed by God

As long as we are on this earth, we are compelled to submit to governing authorities for one reason: God has placed them in their position of power. Throughout history, God has appointed kings to rule the nations, and He will continue to do so until Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, returns to rule eternally. Even pagan rulers like the pharaohs of Egypt and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon served His purposes (Exodus 9:12; Jeremiah 43:10).

Words like "king" and "lord" have lost their potency in the western world. The Queen of England is a symbolic figurehead; most of the government's work is carried out by councils and Parliament. The President of the United States is elected by citizens every four years; the power he has is tempered by the legislative and judiciary branches of government. In this context, it is hard to imagine the absolute, unlimited, raw power Jesus Christ will wield when He returns.

A Glorious Inheritance

It is even harder to imagine a sovereign Lord sharing His glory with ordinary men and women, but that is exactly what the Bible says will happen. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:16–17). Because we have been reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ, we will share in Christ's glory and receive the riches of His inheritance!

Crowning Accomplishments

Clothed in Christ's own righteousness, one day we will receive rewards for every good work we have accomplished in His name. The Bible clearly lists at least five crowns that will be awarded in heaven.

  • The first crown is the Victor's Crown. This crown will be awarded to those who discipline their minds through the study of God's Word and prayer (1 Corinthians 9:25–27).

  • The second is the Crown of Rejoicing, which will be given to those who have led others to Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

  • The third is the Crown of Righteousness, which will be given to those who have a longing for the Lord Jesus—who look for Jesus' return (2 Timothy 4:8).

  • The fourth is the Crown of Life, placed upon those who have endured and triumphed over trial and temptation and persecution, even to the point of martyrdom (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10).

  • The fifth is the Crown of Glory, awarded to the faithful shepherds of the people of God and to Christian leaders (1 Peter 5:4).

These are not by any means the only rewards that will be distributed in heaven. John 14 suggests that we will live in mansions, lovingly prepared for us by Christ Himself (verse 2). We will also be honored with meaningful work. Work may not sound like a reward, but it will be work that matches our spiritual gifts and the talents God has given us. It will be work that we delight in, and we will be assigned places of authority in the coming Millennium based upon our faithfulness to God when we were on earth.

Imperishable Riches

In all its splendor, the present version of Saint Edward's Crown is not the original crown worn by its namesake, Edward the Confessor. That crown was destroyed in 1649 during the English Civil War. Likewise, Queen Victoria's crown fell into disrepair and was refashioned. Earthly rulers are crowned and eventually buried. God is the only king with eternal rule and enduring rewards. "Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown" (1 Corinthians 9:25).

The Greatest Reward

Above all, it is important to remember that the Lord Himself is our utmost prize. In Genesis 15:1, God made this statement to Abraham, "I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." God had promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation and innumerable descendants, but the greatest reward Abraham received was God Himself. The same is true for believers today: No crown could ever compare to the splendor of seeing our Lord and Savior face to face.

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

Heaven's Oscars

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

Athletes in ancient Greece practiced for years to win prizes that would soon fade away. Christians who run the spiritual race diligently will receive rewards for their faithfulness at the Judgment Seat of Christ, rewards which they will reinvest in the glory of Christ for eternity.

The Bible tells us that one day, after the Rapture, individual Christians will stand before Jesus Christ at His Judgment Seat (sometimes referred to as the Bema Seat), where the Lord will judge us for our conduct and work as believers.

So then each of us [believers] shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:12

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

Each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 1 Corinthians 3:13–14

On that day we will receive rewards for what we have accomplished as believers between the moment of our salvation and the day that we ultimately stand before Him.

Is the Judgment Seat of Christ a final exam for heaven?

While the Judgment Seat of Christ does evaluate our works, it is not an entrance exam for heaven. Our sins have been paid in full by Christ at Calvary, so any works of man do not qualify us for acceptance to that eternal resting place (2 Corinthians 5:9–11; Ephesians 2:8–10). The Judgment Seat of Christ is where we will be rewarded for our Christian service as a believer after we have entered into heaven.

What is the ultimate goal of any rewards we may receive in heaven?

With all the rewards that we will be eligible to receive in heaven, this question remains: What are we going to do with them?

After receiving our rewards, we are going to see Jesus. In response, we're going to take the crowns that He has given us, fall down at His feet, and cast them before the throne as a gift of love. We will join heaven's elders in proclaiming "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created" (Revelation 4:10–11). At that glorious moment, we will have the opportunity to give to Christ the only thing we have to offer Him in heaven other than ourselves. And take my word for it—we won't want to be empty–handed!

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV

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