It's Academy Award time where the words "The Oscar goes to..." are repeated over...and over...and over.
Most of us are not going to get a statue of a bald gold man. But for a Christ-follower there are rewards to be gained one day. Who will present it? How do actions count toward this? Some think our actions don't matter...while others think they are everything. As this has eternal impacts it's good to learn about it now. Let's explore your "Oscar".
But I Thought I Can't Earn My Salvation...
In this discussion, we need to draw a distinction between salvation and rewards. They are not the same thing. Salvation is what we receive as we put our faith in Jesus Christ, that He has paid the price for our sin and His perfect life covers the sin we have done or will do. We respond by faith with it being noted (Eph. 2:8-9) that:
- it is by faith we have been saved
- the faith is a gift from God
- salvation is not by works
As one expresses an authentic faith that Christ's death has paid for their sin, God will see His Son's sacrifice for the person, not the person's sins. So, because of Christ, entry is guaranteed on judgment day.
...So What is the Importance of My Actions?
Think of it in terms of a door. If you believe you go to heaven for being a "nice" person or the good you do, those steps lead you to the door. But none of us do enough good to get there. The door will forever stretch beyond us. Forgiveness or atoning for our sins can't be earned.
Thus, we put our faith in Christ's work which paid the debt. In the door metaphor, that is how we get through the "door." But, even if you have entry, there are good deeds/actions in love that are encouraged (Heb. 10:24-25). If we have put our faith in Christ we will be a follower of his and it will begin to show...as steps on the other side of the door. We could think of it as how far we each go into the house is our actions/service. We will express the example of Christ as we are being re-cast in His likeness (Rom. 8:29). We'll do things he did...service to those in need, sacrifice when not easy, prayer when it's easier to act, forgiving the enemy, inviting others to Christ as the only way to God, and so on. (He did all these too.)
"And the Reward Goes to..."
There is a judgment for the Christian, but it is one of works, not of faith (1 Cor. 3:13-14). So while a Christian's works do not bring salvation, there is an impact upon the reward in the world to come. Rewards are conditional and dependent upon our faithfulness (2 Tim. 2:12). In fact, we will give an account for our actions as well as every word (2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 12:36).
But what we do will never get us through the door. It is the good He has done. The reward discussion only begins after one opens the door of their own life to Christ (see Rev. 3:20 for a powerful door metaphor from Scripture).
And who will be your award presenter? No Brad Pitts or Angelina Jolies (or Jennifer Lawrences or Channing Tatums for the younger crowd). It is God Himself (1 Cor. 4:5).
If you'd like to read more about how to live in God-honoring ways around the theme of reward, check out these verses.
Question: How do you keep eternity before you on the days you feel discouraged or feel "why bother?"