THREE GENERATIONS OF FORGIVENESS

Karen was taking Karis to church. She backed out, but did not see Gabriel’s car parked behind the other van. The small Nissan was no match for the Suburban, and the front right bumper was messed up pretty bad. Karen used her cell phone to call inside. She was crying. I came out quickly, surveyed the damage, and told Karen to head for church. “What about Gabriel’s car?” she asked. “We’ll be home before he sees it. I will explain it to him,” I assured her.

Wrong. Erikka saw the damage and asked Gabriel what happened. When he looked at it, he was angry and kicked the garage. He prided himself in keeping the car looking good. Maybe too much.

I walked into the study to find Gabriel sitting silently. “Sorry, Gabriel,” I said. “Get an estimate and I will pay for it.” Mom then found Gabriel as he was on the way out and added her apology.

About a minute later, after Gabriel had left, he called and said to Mom, “It’s okay; it’s only a car.” Then a minute after that he called me and said, “Pray for me. I don’t know what’s happening.” He was sobbing. He had to pull over because he couldn’t see. I responded, “I know what’s happening. You just passed your test, and you sense God’s presence.” He answered, “Just last night Kyle said that the devil would go after us at our weakest point. Mine has been Mom.” “You won the fight,” I said. “Way to go.”

Then Gabriel added, “Thanks for not getting mad at me when I messed up your car.” He was leaving church about five years before on a wintry Minnesota day with icy conditions. He tried to turn in the parking lot to miss the oncoming car, but the old wagon wouldn’t cooperate, causing about $3000 damage to our car and aggravating the passenger in the other car–a bride pulling up for her wedding!

I reminded Gabriel that when I was sixteen I borrowed another wagon, a 1960 Chevrolet. When dropping friends off, I pulled into their driveway and scraped one whole side on a metal picket fence. My friend Johnny jumped out and said, “Doesn’t look good, Paul.” I responded, “Thanks, Johnny.” When I walked into the kitchen and handed my father the keys, I said, “I messed up the car.” My dad’s response was, “It’s bound to happen sooner or later.” He didn’t go outside to check it out, nor did he ever bring it up again. His response made me feel more important to him than metal.

He gave me forgiveness. I was able to pass on forgiveness to Gabriel, and Gabriel gave it to his mother. It started with a kind and understanding father, whose godly response bore fruit forty-four years later in his grandson. Three lessons:

  1. Granting forgiveness releases power. Gabriel was overwhelmed by the Spirit after doing something difficult. One of the ways God expresses His holiness is in His forgiveness. We don’t deserve it, but God in His mercy grants it.
  2. On the other hand, not forgiving puts us in bondage. Gabriel would never have felt such a profound release if he chose not to forgive. We withhold forgiveness to get even with others for hurting us, and we end up hurting ourselves. We put ourselves in prison, behind emotional walls. You get the choice: withhold forgiveness and stay in prison or grant forgiveness and receive the mercy of God. Forgiveness is a great gift to give to someone who has hurt you!
  3. My father’s forgiveness influenced three generations, potentially more. Sin costs a lot; obedience counts a lot!

THE FIRE GOD

God gave me caring parents. I know of the Father’s forgiveness, less of the Father’s fire. I am praying for it. Care to join me?

GOD THE SON

After Jesus cleansed the temple, “His disciples remembered that it is written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17). Jesus burned with a holy passion for His Father. John said that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire. He said that “everyone will be treated with fire” (Mark 9:49). He also said, “I have come to bring fire on the earth” (Luke12:49). He meant the fire of His holy passion and death. The glorified Christ has eyes “like blazing fire” (Rev. 1:13) and He will be “revealed from heaven in blazing fire” (2 Thess. 1:7).

GOD THE FATHER

Jesus reflects His Father, who revealed Himself to Moses as a God of fire in a bush that burned but did not burn up. Then God revealed Himself to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. The whole top of the mountain was ablaze and the people were terrified. So was Moses.

When Moses gave his farewell sermon, he said, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire.” The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse when he exhorts the church to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28,29). Why does God want to be known as a fire God?

When Isaiah prophesied that a child would be born who would reign on David’s throne forever, he also told how it would happen: “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (9:7). God burns with passion—like His Son.

GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

The promise of the Father came on Pentecost when tongues of fire rested on the disciples. Why fire? We know what fire is and what fire does. The Ephesian believers were commanded, “Never flag in zeal; be aglow with the Spirit.” The Spirit sets us on fire.

When you say yes to God, you are saying yes to fire. It will…

  1. Purify you. Peter spoke of trials that refined us like gold was refined by fire. I know I need that.
  2. Keep you passionate. God does not permit passion that arises from a fire we start rather than a fire kindled on the altar of heaven. The Bible calls that “strange fire.” The fire continually burning on the altar at the tabernacle was ignited in heaven and rekindled the same way when the temple was built. Nadab and Abihu acted presumptuously and recklessly when they started their own fire. They were smoke in an instant.
  3. It will open your heart to the Word. “Is not my word like fire?’ declares the Lord’” (Jer. 23:29). Jeremiah called it fire in his bones (Jer. 20). The men from Emmaus said, “Did not our hearts burn within us when He talked to us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

Fire, like water, is powerful—and dangerous. It purifies and punishes. When controlled, it is multi-useful, when out of control a horrendous blaze. Of the four hundred plus references in the Bible to fire, most of them refer to the nature or work of God. He is a fire God. At the end of this life, everyone will experience the fire of God’s holy presence or the awful fire of an unquenchable hell. I hope to God you enjoy the former.

THE FIRE PATROL

“Hey, Elijah called down fire from heaven. We could too.”

What was positive about James and John wanting to torch the Samaritans for resisting Jesus on His way to Jerusalem? Clearly, they demonstrated great faith. That action has never occurred to me.

What was negative? They misread Jesus’ character and mission. His way of retaliating with people who oppose Him is to forgive them, to let the sun keep shining on their crops. We do not overcome evil with evil, as in calling for judgment. With the God of all grace, “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

We use fire, for sure, but not the way James and John were thinking. Jesus said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled” (Luke 11:49). He was speaking of the fire of His passion and death (v. 50). Showing the kindness of the cross pours hot coals on the opposition. It gets their attention and provokes a response. Jesus had a far more effective way than judgment on the spot; it was judgment at the cross. He took the beating the resisters deserved. So we get even with love. A conspiracy of kindness beats a jury of judgment.

The world needs to “see your good deeds” in order to “glorify your Father who is in heaven.” God does not relish sending people to hell. It isn’t even being constructed for them. It is for the devil and his angels. God would much rather save than destroy.

The disciples demonstrated skewed ambition. They were offended, as if they expected everyone to buy into their agenda or else. Better have a significant supply of fire. Not going to happen. God doesn’t take up offenses. He is too healthy emotionally to live in the reaction mode with people trying to ruin His day. He doesn’t say, “Okay, no more rain on your garden, no sun today on your vegetables.”

He continues to show love, because “it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance’ (Rom. 2:5), not the judgment. Judgment on the world is punitive, on the church corrective. The world doesn’t normally say in a time of disaster, “That must be God; I need to repent.” It swears and rails against heaven.

The trigger response of judgment happens when pagans act like like pagans. It’s a hard call. Whenever God chooses to judge an individual, city, or nation, He always does it for just cause. Yet a merciful God gets more satisfaction seeing the blood of the Son applied to sins than seeing the wages of their sin ending in death. And Jesus sees “the fruit the travail of his soul and is satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11).

Be careful of a knee-jerk reaction when people get out of line. They don’t know what line they are in. If we get offended, we are too personally involved. Our unhealthy emotions will take us on a detour from the main thing. Jesus could not be sidetracked from His mission to die. “He turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village” (Luke 9:55,56).

It is not your problem to defend God. He can stand up under attack. Their reaction showed self-righteousness, pride, independence, a false need to defend Jesus, and a messiah complex, which said that they were more important than their message.

Let’s make sure our faith makes us gentle and humble, not hard on people. We don’t want them to get what they deserve but what Christ went to Jerusalem to win for them.

WHEN DO YOU PLAY THE FORGIVENESS CARD?

Dear Friend,

God is not a doting Father who can’t do anything with His disobedient children, but manages to forgive them anyway. He is not soft on sin—never has been. To a broken man who wonders if he has committed the unforgivable sin, we offer the mercy of God. To a casual sinner who boldly repeats his folly believing that “Jesus forgives me,” as you say, I would warn him from Hebrews 10.

Grace does not make obedience optional; it makes obedience possible. Permission to sin has never even been discussed in heaven. Obedience is the clearest sign of love according to John the Beloved. Disobedience betrays a wayward heart, unwilling to trust God for transformation.

My brother in Christ, you have no idea whom you are dealing with. “If we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries” (26). The paragraph ends, “The Lord will judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God” (30, 31).

David had the right response to the mercy of God: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:4). If you think forgiveness gives you license to sin, you are miles away from truth, and you are not experiencing forgiveness, whatever else is happening.

True forgiveness causes us to fear a holy God who made cleansing possible through the violent death of His Son. Taking that offering lightly, if that is what you are doing, puts you on dangerous ground. Permission to sin and forgiveness from sin are opposites. If you use those two words in the same sentence, even in your thoughts, you are cheapening grace and inviting the judgment of God.

Sin is never a light matter. When we ask for forgiveness, God does not say, “It was nothing. Don’t worry about it.” He says, “I forgive you based on the shed blood of My Son.” Then He says what Jesus said to the woman taken in adultery: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Forgiveness empowers us to overcome sin, not indulge in it.

John declared two powerful truths in his first letter: God is light and God is love. Light exposes, love embraces. If you accept the light, you receive the love. If you ignore the light and walk in darkness, it creates a self-deception that does not allow you to experience purification from sin.

John says, “If we confess our sins…” The word “confess” literally means “to say the same thing as.” We are acknowledging in confession what God says about our sin, that it has the seeds of death implanted in it (sin always pays the same wage—death), and that to continue in it would bring eternal death. We accept this in our confession and thank a holy God for making provision for our sin. He does not make provision for us to stay in our sin. The person who thinks so is destroying himself one sin at a time.

And he may actually be enjoying it. Moses chose rather “to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:26). We need not be surprised—sin is fun. But when it “fleets,” we are left with shame and judgment. So don’t play the forgiveness card unless you are committed to the King and His lifestyle.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD

What if God was so good that…

when you experienced bad things, He overturned them with good?

negative talk left your vocabulary because you didn’t need it?

instead of getting upset with your spouse you got good?

Am I in dreamland? God gave Paul a revelation of His goodness. He wrote, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20). Sounds like there’s more!

The psalmist wrote, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). You cannot experience taste vicariously. The goodness of God is something to experience, not explain. We can talk about God’s goodness because we experienced it and were satisified. Want to read the menu or taste the meal?

The prodigal left home without seeing how good his father was. When he returned, he tasted his father’s goodness. He was ashamed—and his father forgave him: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he good; for his mercy endures forever” (Ps. 107:1).

He experienced goodness by way of mercy. “For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to all that call upon you” (Ps. 86:5). When my dad forgave me for messing up his car, it opened me up to receiving the Father’s mercy.

The prodigal also discovered generosity. All the things he wanted in the world he received from his dad—a party, nice clothes, sandals, a ring. The psalmist wrote, “O how abundant is your goodness, which you have laid up for those who fear you” (Ps. 31:19). God is prepared to pour out goodness from His storehouse.

What if He targeted you? And you saw so much of it that it began to be reproduced in you. If no one is good but God, only God can manufacture it. And you gave it out like God. And the more you gave out the more came back.

Sadly, the elder brother received nothing. Here is his testimony: “…you have never given me a kid that I might make merry with my friends” (in other words, “have my own party”). He frustrated his dad’s kindness. Here is the father’s heart of goodness: “My son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

A wrong perception of the Father will keep you in spiritual poverty. The snake in the garden tampered with the goodness of God: “Did God really say…?” Eve bought the lie and bit the fruit. If pleasure or pain messes with your perception of God, you will shut off the storehouse of goodness.

A right perception will open up the treasure. David said, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with blessings” (Ps. 68:19). David said, “I would have despaired unless I had seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13). God’s goodness keeps His children from discouragement. In fact, we can’t get away from it: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” Goodness tracks me down like a hound. Because of the Spirit, you are good at goodness. People are more desperate to know how good God is than how bad the devil is.

Is there enough goodness to go around? I think so: “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Ps. 33:5). Jeremiah said, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them; I will never stop doing good to them…I will rejoice in doing them good” (Jer. 32:40, 41). Let Him do it for you! Then target people—a grouchy spouse, an overbearing boss. Let goodness become your weapon of retaliation in this conspiracy of love.

THE HELL THERE IS!

Jesus went to prepare a home for us. A place is also being prepared for the devil. He doesn’t live there yet. He is called “the prince of the power of the air.” If someone told me to go to hell, I would tell him, “As best I understand, it is under construction and not yet ready for occupation.”

That changes at the end of the age when Satan is thrown into the lake (he does not go willingly) and meets up with the beast and false prophet, already there (Rev. 19:20, 20:10). They are the first three residents of hell, also called the lake of fire.

Hell is not created for human beings. They go there if they resist the evidence given them of a benevolent and purposeful Creator. The Judge, the Supreme Court of One, will say on that final day, “’Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:41,46).

The same Greek word for “eternal” is used for the saved and the unsaved. The destiny of the lost is not something to look forward to. And I don’t enjoy thinking about that. Like others, I have struggled with the idea of eternal judgment for temporal sin, for being good and kind as some are but for being blind to the reality of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work.

How do I resolve this? Only by saying that I am not God. I know of two options out there. One is called annihilationism. It says that the unsaved are extinguished (annihilated) rather than suffering for an eternity. The other option is universalism, a doctrine embraced by many in the nominal church who have left their moorings in the authority of the Scriptures and have capitulated to the culture of humanism.

I say with much shame that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has taken this detour, and its leaders will stand in the judgment for their guilt in leading a large body of people into apostasy. I would not want to take their place on Judgment Day before the Lamb of God. They have made His sacrifice meaningless and unnecessary by inviting people regardless of creed or conduct into eternal salvation. They will discover to their horror that they were called instead to eternal judgment. And the verdict of the King will stand without an appeal.

Annihilationism comes closer to the truth, but it does not stand up under the scrutiny of the Word of God. Those who invent a safer place for the unredeemed do so perhaps with loving hearts. Bottom line: they fail to let the Scripture speak for itself. Who are we to tell a holy, just and true God what is fair? In the words of Paul, “Is there injustice with God…Who are you, a man, to answer back to God?” (Rom. 9:14, 20).

A better alternative is to do what I can to see that people are given a clear choice between eternal salvation by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ or eternal punishment for rejecting the same. To share the good news, like Jesus we also share the bad news. Not to do so is like watching the blind head toward a cliff and not warning them. (Email me at paulanderson@harvestcommunities.org and I will send you my six-page article on hell).

EXTRAORDINARY OBEDIENCE

I want to be like Jesus. I want to respond to hardship like He did. The Father was so pleased with the obedience of His Son that He commented on it from His throne—and they heard it on earth. Had to be loud. What is going on in His head? The same thing going on in mine when Karis would obey quickly and accurately.

I decided I would go after the hard words, not just the easy ones. Then I realized they were all hard. None can be obeyed by will power. Try this one: “Be anxious about nothing.” Are you kidding?

As a young girl, Karis often played on the floor in my study. When Karen would call her from the kitchen, she would immediately get up and run toward her saying, “Coming.” I cannot forget it. It was instant obedience. We used to tell our children, “Slow obedience is no obedience.” She was not slow.
Neither was Jesus. He desired only to do the will of His Father. Nothing successfully pushed against Him to resist. The kings of the earth resisted (Psalm 2), but not this King.

“I do exactly as the Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). He obeyed instantly and accurately. Saul did not obey accurately. Partial obedience is total disobedience. God doesn’t give half credit.

Daniel got the attention of heaven. He “resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s rich food” (1:8). (Hey, what’s wrong with Creampuffs?) Daniel chose to listen to the quiet promptings of the Spirit and didn’t dismiss them when Ashpenaz said it wouldn’t work. “Okay then, pass the cheesecake.” He came up with a plan to obey God, not a way to manipulate an easy alternative. Careful obedience rather than pushing the limits brings wisdom. Get over it—you’re not the exception! Daniel’s obedience was cumulative, and it made for incredible influence in the world.

Mary signed up. Obedience trusts. “Let it be to me according to your word.” Statements like that become wall plaques. Such remarkable obedience. Can we sign you up?

Her husband Joseph resisted his natural inclination and obeyed the dream, then lived with Mary in purity for nine months. Call it self-control or extraordinary obedience. My heart aches for that. I don’t want more freedom; I want more obedience. If you are looking for permission, quit thinking about being used by God. You will slump into mediocrity and your generation will not take notice. But if you are searching for more ways to awaken responsive love, get ready to change your environment. There is no legalism in this at all. Love trumps it.

THE SUPREME COURT

 

“Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). “He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with the truth” (Ps. 96:13).

 

What about government?

Paul and Peter never addressed the evils of the state. They did not expect the government to live like them or to agree with them. Peter anticipated suffering from a hostile culture. He called Christians exiles and aliens, and Paul called us citizens of heaven. We don’t belong to this world, which is why we have trouble.

That we would try to change our government may suggest that we are too much in the world. A better strategy includes doing good deeds (I Peter 2:12, 3:16) and sharing the gospel, which Paul did with Agrippa. A Christian’s primary responsibility toward government is submission (Romans 13, I Peter 2). Paul and Peter suffered at the hands of the Roman government. Still they were surprisingly positive. Christians in America are more negative with a much less oppressive government. A republic brings more rights and responsibilities than a monarchy (England) or dictatorship (Rome), but the scripture still stands, “Honor the emperor.”

Jesus said to Pilate, the governor who would illegally release Him to His death, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight” (John 19:36). Jesus had political activists on His team. He disappointed them when He didn’t make His move against Rome. It wasn’t that they were thinking too big; they were thinking too small. He was not overthrowing Rome; He was overthrowing every government. Our battle includes principalities and powers. Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, not to make Rome more tolerable. That agenda is insufficient for world-changers. “Put not your trust in princes or in the son of man in whom there is no help” (Ps. 146:3). This psalm shows the vanity of any trust less than the Creator, and certainly not government. Our message is subversive, undermining every earthly and demonic power. Making a government more Christian-friendly is not our assignment.

 

What about counter-culture?

The church is engaged in a conspiracy of love, bringing a message that cannot be received apart from the Holy Spirit. Being counter-cultural means suffering. The reason we don’t understand I Peter is that we have not suffered for our faith like Christians in other countries. Suffering causes the gospel to explode with power. We never were a Christian culture in America, but we had the underpinnings. Those have gradually been stripped away, and persecution is now possible. If the people of God respond with love as Jesus and the apostles mandated, the world will better understand the gospel of grace.

Christians and non-Christians are worlds apart. They are dead in their sins, while Christians are dead to sin. To speak to the world in a moralizing way as if they should conduct themselves in a spiritually acceptable manner subverts our message. The world thinks it is, “Be good and go to church.” It is centered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are not trying to make people better. We are called to make them new. We are not surprised when pagans live like pagans. They have no other way until encountered by the living God.

Our message is counter-cultural. It speaks about an alien government, an absent King, and an other-worldly kingdom. The early church expected persecution, not agreement, and they were not surprised. And Peter told us not to be surprised.

What does “post-Christian” mean? That we’re the bad guy rather than the good guy, that morals are up for grabs, that the Christian underpinnings are no longer visible, that we are at a disadvantage rather than an advantage…

…which actually puts us at the advantage. It’s not a fair fight; darkness never wins. The church in America has offered society Christianity Lite. Now they may see what we are about. Think apostolic Christianity, when the world looked on with fear: “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord…” (Acts 5:13,14). The greater the distance, the greater the respect. They have watched with low-level tolerance. That is changing!

What about judgment?

If we call it to fall on a post-Christian America, are we asking it also for a sleeping church living far below the New Testament standard? Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27, 28). This will prove more effective than judging. Kindness reveals our identity: “You will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish” (35).

We’ve been quick to judge, slow to love. Peter reminds us that judgment begins in the household of faith (I Peter 4:17). Do we have a double standard? I was sad as a pastor that so many young people dishonored the marriage covenant by having sex before marriage. We should not expect pagans to live like Christians, but Christians should. Are we surprised that non-Christians of the same sex are sleeping together or that a largely non-Christian court favored humanism over Christianity?

Don’t worry. Our King wins! Isaiah said, “The government will be upon his shoulders.” And John powerfully wrote, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!”

SO WHAT ABOUT REWARDS?

Are rewards a motivation to serve faithfully? They were for Paul. They can be for you, too.

JESUS ON REWARDS. He spoke about rewards six times in the Sermon on the Mount. The persecuted could start rejoicing because of their great reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12). Acts of kindness to enemies brought a reward (Lk. 6:35). Cool!

Hypocrites who gave for show just got what they wanted. Those who gave secretly would be repaid by the all-seeing Father (6:4). The same applied to prayer and fasting.

It is possible to store up treasures in heaven (20). Might as well start now. One simple way is giving a cup of water to a follower of God (10:42). The Big Payoff happens with Christ’s return: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory…and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27). Rewards are given for good works, for taking persecution joyfully, for praying without ostentation, for refreshing a traveler or inviting the poor to dinner (Lk. 14:14). God does not reward the spectacular; He honors the faithful, like stewards who make wise investments (Matt. 25:23), those who pray persistently or do simple acts of kindness.

 

PAUL ON REWARDS. Did the champion of grace write about rewards? Even more than Jesus. He told the Corinthians that those who worked with durable materials would be rewarded, while some will be fortunate to have barely made it (I Cor. 3:11-15).

Paul used different analogies to speak about rewards. He compared followers of Christ to athletes going after the prize, and he told Philippian friends that he was one of them (3:14).

He wrote Timothy that he had finished his race. What awaited him? “…the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Not sure what the crown is, but knowing God it must be worth pursuing.

He said that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). Our lives will come under the scrutiny of the one appointed by the Father to judge the living and the dead. “So each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). Judgment for the Christian does not determine where we will spend eternity but how. The way we live here impacts our future. Obedience counts!

JOHN ON REWARDS. In the final book, Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12). And John writes, “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great” (Rev. 11:18).

We are saved by grace, given responsibilities by grace, which we exercise in the power of the Spirit. Then we are rewarded for doing the works God planned in advance for us to do. It’s grace from start to finish. Go for it!