It’s Labor Day weekend—the American reward to working America! It was established on the 1st Monday of September because the determining powers thought there was too great a time period between the national holidays of Independence Day (July 4th) and Thanksgiving Day—and we all need a break! And Labor Day is half way between those two major National holidays.
I read this Illustration this week:
If you’re into bumper-sticker philosophy, you’ve probably seen the axiom, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” For a vast portion of the workforce, that’s the best reason they can muster for going to the job each day. According to one poll, only 43 percent of American office workers are satisfied with their jobs. In Japan, the figure dips to 17 percent. In the first century, Christian slaves had even less reason to be enthusiastic about their work. But Paul gave them a way to grasp a glimpse of glory amid the grind. He wanted them to “adorn the doctrine of God,” that is, to show the beauty of their faith in Christ by how they work (Ti. 2:10).
A significant and often overlooked way that we serve God is in our everyday tasks. Martin Luther understood this when he wrote, “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays — not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
–Taken from Our Daily Bread, September 5, 1994.
The Book of Revelation captures the imagination of many. It’s symbolism and shroud of mystery challenges our intellect as we try to understand its message. Along with apocalyptic passages such as are found in Daniel and Ezekiel have caused serious Bible Scholars to attempt to project a timeline of events leading up to the end of time as we know it. And of course there is much disagreement as to the details. There are the Premillennialists, the Postmillennialists, and the Amillennialists.. There are the Pre-Tribulationists, the Mid-Tribulationists, and the Post Tribulationists. And these are just a few of positions on which scholars disagree. And within each of those positions there are disagreements on details.
A quick summary of Revelation would include the following: (1.)Time is growing short, so each church should get serious about being obedient to Christ’s command.
(2) God towards the end of time will allow some major disasters to occur for the purpose awakening people to their need to repent.
(3) Those who refuse to repent will be judged and condemned to eternity in Hell while those who trust in Christ will receive their eternal reward of a home in paradise where they will be blessed by God.
(4) When the end comes, it will come quickly and Christ will reward each of us according to how we have lived our lives.
And that brings us to the message for today. In Verse 12 Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” The King James Version translates that last phrase as, “…to give every man according as his work shall be.”
On this Labor Day Weekend let’s take these few moments to reflect on this concept of “Work” that Jesus plans to reward when He returns.
I. OUR SALVATION IS NOT THE PRODUCT OF WORKS.
a. There is the common misconception that when we face the final Judgment there will be a list of our good works alongside a list of the bad things we have done. And if the good works list is longer than the bad list, then we will be saved. And while that sounds logical from a human point of view, it is totally contrary to God’s Word. In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
b. In Romans 3:10 we read, “As it is written, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.” And in verse 23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
c. In Matthew 5: 48 Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And while the context of this verse is about love, the standard by which we are measured is perfection. And, perfection does not allow for even one failure or sin, so none of us would make the cut!
d. So, the obvious conclusion, is that we cannot earn our salvation by our works. As it states in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
II. WORKS ARE NOT THE SOURCE OF SALVATION, BUT THEY ARE THE RESULT OF SALVATION!
a. We are not saved by our works, but we are saved to do good works!
b. Just exactly what is the “work” to which Jesus is referring? Glen Pierpoint is quoted in Sermonillustrations.com as saying, “ Our labor for the Lord is:
i. a labor of love—“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspirited by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 1:3). ILLUSTRATION: A young teen boy was seen carrying his crippled brother down the street. Someone said to him, “That is quite a burden you are carrying.” The boy responded, “That’s no burden—That’s my brother!”
ii. A labor not in vain—“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Cor 15:58).
iii. A labor known by Christ—“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…”(Revelation 2:2).
iv. A labor God does not forget—“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them: (Heb 6:10).
v. A labor which is to be done together—“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building” (I Cor. 3:9).
vi. A labor for eternal things—“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Col 1:28-9).
vii. a labor which is to reward –“The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor”(I Cor 3:8).
viii. a labor done to be accepted by Him –“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it”(II Cor 5:9).
ix. a labor which doesn’t have an end—“He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field’”(Luke 10:2).
c. In the Gospels Jesus summed up all these in Matthew 22:36-40: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment, And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
d. The person who has truly given his or her all to Jesus and become a Christian will give evidence of that by the way he or she lives their lives. In 1 John 3:10 we read, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”
e. Our lives—our character—give evidence of our relationship with God. That evidence is what Jesus will be examining upon His Return!
III. OUR LABOR WILL RESULT IN OUR REWARD!
a. In 2 Timothy 4: 6-8 Paul gives this famous end of life testimony: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me 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.”
b. At the end of this life we who are in Christ are promised “rest from our labors” (Revelation 14:13). In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we read that in death Lazarus was comforted while the Rich Man’s reward was agony ( Luke 16: 25). In John 14:1-4 Jesus promised that He was preparing a place for us in “His Father’s House” and that He would return to get us and take us to where He is. On the Cross while speaking the thief who asked for mercy, Jesus promised that He would be with Him in Paradise—a word that suggest beauty and pleasure, safety and peace. In Daniel 12: 1-2 we read, ““At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” In Matthew 25 Jesus gives a parable about Sheep and Goats to illustrate that final Judgment before God. In Matthew 25:34-38 we read, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirst and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and your invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” And to those who failed to do those works, the King said in verse 41, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
c. Yes, there is a reward for our works—the evidence from our lives will determine our eternity. There is a heaven to Gain and a Hell to shun!
It is Labor Day Weekend. It is okay to take a break from your vocation, relax, do something fun, get some rest. But remember, the work that really counts is how we live our lives in our service for the Lord. That is the paycheck that counts for eternity.
Are you expecting a bonus? Then live your life in a way that honors the Christ who gave His life for our salvation!