A Heavenly Reward Program

A heavenly reward program

How many rewards programs do you belong to? Coles, Woollies, frequent flyers…coffee cards. Sandra has so many coffee cards from different shops that she almost needs a whole wallet just to put the cards in. The question is do we really get the rewards that we are expecting through these loyalty programs or are they just another ploy to get you to spend more? But then, when you get money off your bill or a free coffee there is a sense of satisfaction that your commitment has finally paid off.

As a Christian I am also looking at a rewards program. In our modern western society, we have been encouraged to look for an instant gratification and deal with the consequences later. Very few of us save up for a house, or a car or a holiday – instead we put it on credit or borrow money. The consequences of this instant lifestyle are the pains of making repayments with interest. I am not criticising you for borrowing money, I am just saying that is human nature to look for rewards in the present rather than saving them up for a later time.

Luke 6:17-26 talks about blessings and woes. It’s the gospel of Luke’s version of the beatitudes in what is called ‘the sermon on the plain’. There are several similarities between this sermon and the one recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7 and reflects that this message was at the core of what Jesus taught and probably was spoken out on several occasions. One key difference is that in Matthews version, when Jesus says blessed are the poor and the hungry – he goes much deeper than material poverty and physical hunger. In Matthews version Jesus speaks of poverty ‘in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3) and a hunger ‘for righteousness’ (Matthew 5:6).

The message of the gospel is good news for the poor; the hungry; the distressed and the persecuted. Why? Because it starts in the heart of God who is loving, merciful, compassionate and forgiving. God’s love is not measured out according to social standing, wealth, reputation or physical attributes. God’s love is the same for everyone, whether we are young or old; sinner or saint; rich or poor. It’s just that not everyone acknowledges their need for God and because of their level of wealth, comfort or education may never recognise what God has to offer.

That’s not to say that we don’t want more than we already have. Most people would say that if they had more money, they would be more comfortable. By world standards our church community is wealthy. And the wealthy always have trouble making room for God. If you are comfortable with your life and your purpose then there is no room, need or desire for what Jesus is offering. The poor and the rejected, on the other hand, have nowhere else to look but up and in looking up, discover that God’s rewards program is better and more enduring than anything the world can offer.

So, it’s good news for the poor (in spirit), and when we accept this as good news it is hard not to tell others about it. When we discover the grace of God it becomes the motivation for how we live each day. The problem is, the world has always rejected the gospel because it shines light on people’s sinfulness. Christ’s goodness shining through your life makes other’s badness obvious and that makes them uncomfortable, so they push back, reject and ridicule, so that they can go on turning a blind eye to cycle of sin that they have perpetuated in my life. It’s easy to take such rejection personally, but in reality, it’s God they are rejecting. So, Jesus says, you’re blessed if people reject and persecute for his name sake (Luke 6:22) and that you will not only have great rewards in heaven (Luke 6:23), but you will know the presence and the comfort of God each day.

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Who Am I

Who am I?

Who am I? It is a universal question of identity. We all struggle with this question – to figure out our identity – our value and what we consider to be valuable. If we start with who am I, and why am I here, then knowing the end (where am I going?) helps us to move forward with purpose. For deep down we all strive for purpose and significance in the life that we live. There are 4 philosophical questions that lay at the foundation of any worldview. Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? How do I know the truth? But many people don’t know how to answer the questions, or if they do, it’s their best guess.

Most people use some form of GPS to navigate to where we want to go. Even then. But no matter what device we use or even if we are ‘old school’ and use a map, knowing the destination is only half of the problem. If we don’t know our starting point, then we are lost and have know way of navigating towards the end goal.

So, where do we start? The Bible starts in Genesis with an interesting statement, “in the beginning God”. Similarly, John’s gospel starts with, “In the beginning was the word”. So, for the Christian the starting point and the destination is God. I come from God, by the grace of God – I get to be with God and along way I get to know God through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is all very deep I know, but as we reflect on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, we find Paul declaring the earliest recorded version of the gospel message (written before the 4 gospel accounts).

Paul reminds the church that Christ’s mission (his death and resurrection) was for a purpose; and that more than 500 people saw the Jesus in resurrected form, including Paul. Although Paul’s experience happened sometime after Jesus ascension into heaven and his addition to the list of Apostles was unusual, especially for someone who had done so much in his early life to persecute the Christians. But then Paul says an interesting thing. “By the grace of God, I am what I am?”

So much of the New Testament revolved around God’s work in Paul’s life. Once Paul discovered his identity – who he really was – his whole life changed. He knew the power of God’s forgiveness and grace that set him free from his past and gave him access to a future in the presence of God. And because his life had such a dramatic turnaround, he gave all his energy to convince others of their value to God and purpose in life. Along the way he suffered opposition and ridicule…but his conviction that Jesus was the truth and that knowledge of God’s grace empowered him and carried him through.

Paul said, I am what I am, by God’s grace. He was not a self-made man – he gave that up to follow Jesus’ call on his life. He knew who he was, where he had come from and where he was going. How clear are you on your identity and purpose in life? How do you know that you are in the right place, right now? Before Paul encountered Jesus, he knew a lot about God, but his experience of God’s grace and forgiveness changed him forever. Really knowing Jesus is experiential. Jesus wants to walk with you through all the chapters of your life – so that, like Paul, we can declare “I know who I am” by the grace of God.

God bless, Tim Winslade