I was asked by my youth group to motivate them to serve God. That in itself is a wonderful thing to be asked of by ones youth group. To my knowledge every one in my youth group has an understanding of the plan of salvation and more importantly have come to a point where they have made a conscious decision to repent of their sins, accept Jesus’ payment, and give their hearts to God. So how do you motivate a group of teens who are already fired up and have a desire to serve the Lord? My only thought is to go over the crowns we will receive when we stand before God. You see, our works, which are an outward manifestation of an inward change, are recorded and noticed by the Creator of the universe. The Bible says that “the Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly” in Matt 6:4. But too often we do our good deeds to be seen of men, in which case we have received our reward when folks pat us on the back. II Cor 5:10 refers to the “judgment seat of Christ” a place where the believer “may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” Now the question remains, what is our just reward?
#1. Crown of Life
James 1:12 (KJV) “blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
Now thankfully the Bible offers 2 things along with this verse. 1. how to resist temptation and 2. how to love the Lord.
Lets tackle first the subject of temptation. In Matt 26:41 Jesus is in the garden with His disciples and He tells them to “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”. I don’t feel a need to expound upon this very self explanatory verse….WATCH AND PRAY!! James 4:7 says “submit yourselves therefore to God. resist the devil and he will flee from you.” This word ‘submit’ is extremely interesting. Merriam Webster says “to stop trying to fight or resist something”. So basically to do the opposite of resisting the devil. The Greek word hypotasso is better translated ‘to identify with’. But my favorite definition is ‘to give over or yield to the power or authority of another’.
OK, I got a little carried away with temptation and submission so let me get after loving the Lord very briefly. Loving someone or something includes more than offering simple words. It includes an outward action and proof of said statement. If I tell the entire world how much I love my wife and then go home and ignore her very existence, what exactly have I proven? I’ll let that statement/question answer itself. So to condense all of that into layman’s terms…..serve God with all of your mind, body and soul. Endure trials, resist temptation and you will receive a crown of life. Sounds simple right?
#2. Crown of Righteousness
II Tim 4:8 (KJV) “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
When I read this verse and kinda mull over it I come back to the same question. How can you love something you have never seen and may perhaps have a hard time imagining? I would like to direct your attention to I Thess 4:13-18, this passage paints a beautiful picture of the 2nd coming of our Lord and Savior. It’s going to be pretty intense to say the least for both those participating and also those who will be left behind. In Matt 5:13 Jesus tells the disciples to ‘watch’. This is an active not a passive command. He’s not telling us to sit on our rear ends doing nothing. We should be about our Father’s business in preparation for His coming and this I believe is the crux of this crown. You see, the crown of righteousness is based solely upon finishing the race and keeping the faith. And these are attributes of someone who is actively awaiting the coming of Christ.
#3. Incorruptible Crown
I Cor 9:24-27 (KJV) “24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
I actually should have listed this crown before the crown of righteousness because I personally believe that the crown of righteousness is contingent upon the incorruptible crown. So, what must one do in order to gain this crown? The long and short of it is to finish the spiritual race which is marked out by God for each believer. This is not going to look the same for each believer because we all have different gifts (which is an entirely different lesson). But I’ll say this, there is a marked difference between being ‘in Christ’ and ‘having Christ in us’. You see, if you’ve accepted Jesus as your personal savior then by default you are already in Christ. But the Christian who wins this crown will have proven that they have Christ in them. He will have lived a Spirit filled and Spirit guided life. Gal 5:24 talks about crucifying the flesh, Paul is talking about denying fleshly desires and living a Spirit filled life.
#4. Crown of Rejoicing (I’ve also heard this referred to as the soul winners crown)
I Thess 2:19-20 (KJV) “19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20 For ye are our glory and joy.”
This crown will be rewarded on the basis of an individuals soul winning prowess, evangelism is essential. Too often we get caught in the trend of “I’ll let my life be my testimony and I’ll witness by letting others observe me” and while this isn’t a bad thing it should never be the only thing. Jesus did more than perform miracles. He taught, He spoke, He preached, He led people to the foot of the cross. We should boldly testify to others of the work which Jesus performed. We should also lead the same life as set forth by Him. As Christians we need to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes He may urge us to say a kind word but more often than not if we are paying attention we will be guided to share the message of salvation. The church at Thessalonica had a mature faith of which Paul was proud of. They persevered even under great trial and tribulation.
#5. Crown of Glory
I Peter 5:1-4 (KJV) “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
In my personal opinion this is one of the greatest crowns, also one of the most difficult to obtain. It requires a special calling from God and also complete obedience as you feed the flock. I once believed this crown was reserved for pastors only but my belief has changed very slightly over the past week. Matt 24:25 gives reference to the “faithful servant”. I believe this extends to anyone responsible for the feeding and edifying of the body of Christ. This is a huge responsibility because the punishment for teaching false doctrine is as severe as the crown of glory is wonderful. All Christians are responsible to the body of Christ by utilizing their gifts but very few actually exercise this responsibility. In my opinion it will be a very small percentage of Christians who will be eligible to receive this crown. Our churches are filled with immature and infantile Christians satisfied with sucking on a baby bottle filled with spiritual milk. Most Christians don’t even give a second thought that they will one day stand before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
So to answer my youth groups challenge of motivating them I present this list of crowns. And I ask every Christian who may read this and understand…..what will your just reward be when Christ comes to claim His bride? Our salvation is based upon His eternal work which He performed on the Cross of Calvary. But our reward is based entirely upon our performance as Christians (or Christ followers). Do we bear that name with honor or do we disgrace the name upon which it is based?