In my time with the Lord in the mornings, in addition to reading through my daily Bible I have been reading A Life God Rewards by Bruce Wilkinson. Day 10 is titled “Revealed by Fire” and begins with this verse from 1 Corinthians 3:12-14: “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 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 ones’ work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.”
Those verses are describing the day when believers will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema Seat (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.) On this day all who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb will stand before Him for their works to be judged.
Wait. A. Minute. I thought we were saved by grace not by works! Yes, we are saved by grace and not by works. However, God’s Word teaches us that when we are saved, good works flow naturally out of a life surrendered to Him (Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:8-10).
Every person who has ever lived will stand before a Judge. Those who rejected salvation through faith in Jesus Christ will stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). They will be judged for their sins, and since their sins are not covered by the blood of Jesus, they will be thrown into the lake of fire. Those who are saved will be judged, not for their sins which have already been covered by the blood of Christ, but for their works which they have done for Him after salvation.
Even though we are sometimes uncomfortable talking about receiving rewards for our works, Scripture is clear on this point: those who are saved will either receive rewards or lose rewards based on the works they have done for God after salvation. I don’t want to talk about exactly what those rewards are right now. That’s another blog post. But I’ve been meditating on those verses in 1 Corinthians 3. A picture is given there of two different kinds of works. One kind falls into the gold/silver/precious stone category and the other kind falls into the wood/hay/straw category.
All of our works are going to be “revealed by fire.” In my mind, I picture a big pile of rubies, diamonds, emeralds, gold medallions, silver goblets, and other treasures. They are set on fire and what happens? They shine brighter. Fire will not destroy those materials. We all know that precious metals are refined by fire not destroyed. Then I picture another big pile of old lumber, sticks, bales of hay, yard detritus, etc. A match is lit and thrown into that pile and what happens? It burns into oblivion. It cannot withstand the fire.
I started thinking about the things that I do for the Lord. Will they stand the fire test of the Bema Seat? Have you ever done something “for God” that you really didn’t want to do but no one else would do it so, ever the hero, you stepped in and did it? I have. I think everyone has at some point if they have ever served in a ministry. I started thinking about that and realized those works drop cleanly into the wood/hay/straw category. Anything that is not of obedience falls into that category. Every single work that we have done for God that was not out of pure obedience will disintegrate in the fire of the Judgment Seat of Christ.
But no one else would do it. “I was working in someone’s heart about it and they were just about to volunteer, but you jumped in so they thought the need was filled.”
But it was a good thing. “But I didn’t ask you or gift you to do it.”
But it was hard and I didn’t really like doing it but I did it anyway and it was a BIG SACRIFICE. “I desire obedience more than sacrifice.”
Isn’t it sad to think that we can work hard, really hard, for a long time at the wrong thing? Not that the thing itself was wrong, but the motive was wrong. We must continually ask God to examine the motives of our hearts to make sure that we are serving Him where He wants us to serve, how He wants us to serve, when He wants us to serve, and whom He wants us to serve. There’s no question that a life of genuine faith will be a life of service, but it must be obedient service. Anything else is rooted in mankind’s besetting sin – pride – and will not withstand the fire of judgment.