Seward United Methodist Church
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
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We Must All Stand Before Christ

2 Corinthians 5:6-17

 There are very few truly universal human experiences, few things that all of us experience.  Not everyone gets married or has children.  Not everyone graduates from school or has a job.  Some people might never receive love.  In fact, there might only be two truly universal human experiences:  We are all born; and we all die.  

 We don’t usually get a whole lot of time to think about the first one, but most of us have at least some time to think about the second.  We are all going to die, unless Jesus comes back first.  What do we think about that?  Most people approach death with a lot of fear, some regret, and at the least, a great deal of hesitation.  

 As Christians, what should be our attitude toward death?  The answer, according to Paul here, is confidence.  Whether we are in the body, alive, or apart from the body, dead, we should have confidence.  We are found in Christ in either circumstance, so death should not be feared.  

 John told us in 1 John 4:18 that we read some time ago that “Perfect love casts out fear.”  So if we fear death, we should question whether or not we have received and experienced the perfect love of Christ.  

 Death should not be feared.  But neither should it be embraced.  Fortunately, the number of Christian suicide bombers is pretty low, so I don’t know that this is a big problem.  But we shouldn’t embrace death because we have important work to do.  Paul says in Philippians 1:  “For me, to live is tp serve Christ and to die is even better.  But if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ.  I’m torn between these desires.  It would be better for me to die and be with Christ, but it would be better for you that I went on living, and so I’m convinced that is what will happen.”  

 We have work to do.  And we must answer for it.  “We will all stand before Christ to be judged.” In the Greek language, the word for “judgment seat” is BEMA.  Paul knew it well.  In Acts 18, we learn that Paul was dragged before the judgment seat of the governor in Corinth and he was accused of “peddling new ideas about God.”  

 “We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies.”  Now wait a minute!  Aren’t we saved by grace received through faith?  What is this about judgment?  

 Faith in Christ frees us from guilt of our sins and the fear of death.  But it doesn’t free us from the responsibility to honor and obey God.  God is still God.  He is still to be honored and obeyed.  

 About a month ago, I preached a message to you about “comfortable Christianity.”  I said there’s no such thing. There’s no such thing as this comfortable, secure Christianity that says, “I believe in Jesus.  I’m good.  There’s nothing else to think about.  It makes no difference what I do or how I live now.”    

 This word is not about salvation.  We are saved by grace received through faith and nothing else.  This word is about what we do with the salvation life we have received.   

 Now we will all stand before Christ.  Jesus said so himself in Matthew 16:27:  “I, the Son of Man, will come in the glory of my Father with his angels and will judge all people according to their deeds.”  Romans 14:12 says something similar:  “Each of us will give a personal account to God.”  

 1 Corinthians 3 says this:  “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.  Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw.  But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.  If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward.  But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”

 Our work will be tested.  The life we live and the things we do with the gifts and  graces that we have received will be examined.  And we will suffer loss if they are found to be lacking, even if we ourselves are saved.  Is the life that we are living through Christ worthy of Christ?  

 Scripture tells us that we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the Law.  We have been set free from the works of the Law.  But there is still the work of faith.  And on the Day of Judgment, we will answer to Christ for what we have done in faith.  And not all verdicts will be comforting verdicts.  Some of us will have

been found to have squandered the life and gifts we’ve been given.  We will still have eternal life, but we will feel the loss of God’s joy for a “job well done.”  

 Verse 11 says, “We work hard because of our solemn fear of the Lord.”  Fear of the Lord is not terror, not fright.  Fear of the Lord is deep awe and reverence.  It is an awareness of God as God, and self as creature.  To be a creature is to derive our very life from God.  It is to depend on God.  

 And the fear of the Lord should motivate us.  Psalm 19:9 says, “Fear of the Lord is pure.”  Fear of the Lord purifies us.  It motivates us to flee from sin and to seek out righteousness.  

 Paul goes on, “God knows we are sincere.”  1 Corinthians 4:5 tells us that “when the Lord comes, he will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives.”  

 In God’s eyes, inward sincerity and integrity matter far more than outward success, especially because some who are successful in the eyes of the world get there by sacrificing integrity.  They may be successful in the world’s eyes, but not in God’s.  God sees our motives.  And some do the right things with the wrong motives.  So we should never put a price tag on our integrity.  There is no measure of success that is worth the sacrifice of our integrity. 

 “If it seems we’re crazy, it is to bring glory to God.”  Paul was probably accused by someone in Corinth of having lost his marbles.  We know he was accused of having gone crazy on other occasions, such as in Acts chapter 26.  Governor Festus says to Paul, “You’re insane.  Too much studying has made you crazy!”  And all the seminary graduates said, “Amen!”  

 If we are living for Christ, the world will probably say that of us, too.  The values of the Kingdom of God are not the world’s values.  We don’t fit in.  And what the world doesn’t understand, it calls crazy.  

 But “whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love motivates us.  Christ died for all, so we die to the old life.  We no longer live to please self but to please Christ.”  

 To live this way is to anticipate the resurrection.  For now, we are stuck in this life, in these bodies.  But we can anticipate the resurrection from the old life to the new by becoming dead to who we were and alive to who we are in Christ.  

 If we have truly become one with Christ, we have become one with his death.  And a self-pleasing life is no longer possible for us if we have become one with Jesus who denied himself and took up the cross.  

 It seems I misspoke earlier.  At the beginning of this message, I said that there are only two truly universal human experiences:  birth and death.  But the Scriptures tell us here that there is a third universal experience:  We will all stand before God.  Will that be a day of joy or a day of sadness for us?  

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