What is your motivation for living your life? What drives you? Wait. Before you answer, I don’t want you to give me the answer you think I want to hear. I want you to give me the answer that is true of you as best you know yourself today. Examine yourself and be perfectly honest. I’ll never know the answer. But Jesus already knows it.
If you have your answer in mind, let me now share with you what Paul wrote to the Corinthians about his motivation for living: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again,” (II Cor. 5:14-15). Paul said that our Lord’s love for him compelled him — drove him — to live for the Savior rather than for himself.
The Bible speaks of a day when each of us will stand before Jesus Christ and be judged not for our sin — because a Christian has already been completely forgiven of his or her sin — but for how we lived in light of our relationship with Jesus Christ. The event of this judgment is known in Scripture as the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:12; II Cor. 5:9-10).
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In his new book, The End Times in Chronological Order, Dr. Ron Rhodes contemplates the fire that Paul says will test the quality of the life we’ve lived for our Savior and the service we’ve rendered to Him: “Fire in Scripture often symbolizes the holiness of God and His judgment upon that which His holiness has condemned . . . Perhaps the figure [of fire] is intended to communicate that those works performed with a view to glorifying God are the works that will stand. Those works performed with a view to glorifying self, performed in the flesh, are those that will be burned up.”
Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “In that day, the full truth about their lives, character, and deeds will be made clear to each believer. Each will discover the real verdict on his or her ministry, service, and motives. All hypocrisy and pretense will be stripped away; all temporal matters with no eternal significance will vanish like wood, hay, and stubble, and only what is to be rewarded as eternally valuable will be left.”
It is easy for us to begin to think of the Judgment Seat of Christ as a place of punishment. We’re conditioned to think like that. If we’ve done a good job, we expect a reward or commendation; if we’ve done a poor job, we expect to be chastised for it. So when Paul tells the Corinthians that we will each receive what we are due for what we have done here on Earth, whether it be good or bad, it is easy for us to drift back into the thought that we are being judged and punished for wrong behavior. Not so.
First of all, the words “good” and “bad” in that context don’t have moral connotations. The word for “bad,” for example, actually could be translated, “worthless” or “valueless.” It’s not wrong or sin we’re being judged for — it’s whether what we did or said had eternal value from a divine point of view.
Besides that, in I Corinthians 4:5, Paul says that when God makes known the secret purposes of our hearts, “the praise each person should get will come from God.” Note: Paul says each man’s praise will come to him from God. He says nothing about condemnation or punishment. To quote Dr. MacArthur, “God gives rewards to the victors; He does not whip the losers.”
And Dr. Rhodes concurs: “This judgment rather has to do with the reception or loss of rewards . . . [it] will focus on [a Christian’s] personal stewardship of the gifts, talents, opportunities, and responsibilities given to him in this life.”
But Dr. MacArthur explains: “At the same time, while we won’t be condemned for our sins, our present lives do affect what will happen at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Here’s how:
Sin and indifference in this life rob us of our present desire for serving the Lord. That in turn means a loss of rewards, because we will not have used our time to His glory.
Sin and indifference result in a loss of power in our lives because sin grieves the Holy Spirit.
Sin and indifference cause us to pass up opportunities for service, which we would otherwise perform and be rewarded for.”
Though we won’t be punished or condemned for our valueless service, behaviors, and motives, we will not be rewarded for them, either. We will simply receive nothing for them. This reminds me of a poem I learned in college:
When I stand at the judgment seat of Christ
And He shows me His plan for me;
The plan for my life as it might have been
Had He had His way, and I see
How I blocked Him here and I checked Him there
And I would not yield my will,
Will there be grief in my Savior’s eyes;
Grief, though He loves me still?
He would have me rich, but I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
While memory runs like a hunted thing
Down paths I cannot retrace.
Then my desolate heart will well-nigh break
With tears that I cannot shed.
I’ll cover my face with my empty hands
And bow my uncrowned head.
Lord of the years that are left to me
I yield them to Thy hand.
Take me, make me, mold me
To the pattern Thou hast planned.
Once questioned on this whole topic, Dr. MacArthur shared this poignant insight: “The greatest consequence of unfaithfulness here on earth is that it disappoints Christ.” I John 2:28 says, And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.”
So let me ask you, again: What is your motivation for living your life? What drives you? May we each consider this question and come before our Father pleading for His Spirit’s power to live a life that fully pleases Him each day.
It is a sobering thought to consider that we could be ashamed one day as we stand before our loving Savior. On the other hand, the prospect of receiving His lavish rewards if we serve Him faithfully during our time here on Earth should inspire us each to live with purpose and passion for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.