Ephesians 2:1-10 dynamically tells the state of our lives when we were unsaved and lived for this world, and how our whole lives changes when we became Christians:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following his desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved; through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gifts of God -not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are GOD'S WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS TO DO GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR US TO DO.
Yes, we should never boast of our good works, for that is what we were created for. We were depraved sinners, doing things for our own selfish interests and desires only, not deserving the God we sinned against. But he loved us, his enemies, and sacrificed his most precious possession ~ his only Son ~ so we could live with him eternally. This was God's free gift to us. We did nothing to deserve it or pay for it, nor can we ever.
God, then, made a way for us to be created again, born again in Christ Jesus. Jesus took the punishment for our sins in his death, then was buried and raised unto a new life as Savior of the world. So if we have faith in what Jesus did, we can follow his example in a spiritual way by dying spiritually, being buried in water symbolically, and being raised a new spiritual being. Look at Romans 6:1-13:
Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin ~ because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now, if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Yes, the members of our body no longer belong to ourselves to use for selfish purposes. The members of our body ~ our hands, our feet, our voice, our mind ~ are now instruments of righteousness to God. If our members have not become God's, then when we were baptized we were merely buried in water, but nothing spiritual happened. We did not rise up to a resurrected new life as Jesus did. Naturally, the babe in Christ does not understand this completely, but is expected to be continually learning more of it and practicing more and more of it all the time.
Did you catch what was said in Ephesians above that Jesus does to us when we are made alive together in him? He raises us up with him, and seats us with him on his throne in the heavenly places! Remember, the greatest in the kingdom is servant of all (Mark 10:43-45). And as servants, Jesus Christ has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, and has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father (Revelation 1:5b-6a, KJV).
1 Peter 2:5,9 explains further the holy priesthood: You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Yes, as living stones we are built up into a spiritual house, the temple of God, which are our bodies. Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our bodies are living stones created into living temples to God. We are at the same time the royal priests in these living temples. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands, and let them move At the impulse of Thy love; Take my feet, and let them be Swift and beautiful for Thee. Take my voice, and let me sing Always, only, for my King; Take my lips, and let them be Filled with messages from Thee. Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect, and use Every power as Thou shalt choose. Take my will, and make it Thine: It shall be no longer mine; Take my heart - it is Thine own: It shall be Thy royal throne. Take my love, my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee! Frances R. Havergal
As spiritual kings and priests, reigning over our bodies that are now dedicated to the heavenly and not the earthly, we have crowns. Over and over in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 Jesus sends his message to the churches and says, "I know your deeds." Then in chapter 3, verse 11, our Savior admonishes, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown."
Indeed, there will always be those who will try to discourage you from doing your good deeds and take your crown away, whether they be the ungrateful, the critical, the overly dependent, family, friends, weaker Christian brothers and sisters. Do not let anyone ever take your crown away from you.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in- law ~ man's enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me (Matthew 10:34-40).
In a worldly sense, you will have less peace, for you will always be concerned about the troubles and needs of others. You would have greater peace if you just went your way and pretended those people did not exist. However, in the long run, that is not peace; for the world continues to suffer, and you have not spread love (God) throughout the world. Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in my you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Yes, if you go around helping others and trying to bring peace among people who are not at peace with each other, and trying to bring peace between mankind and God, you will be hated by worldly people who do not want to get along with each other, and who do not care to get along with God. But remember Jesus' words of reassurance, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9).
"Therefore, my dear brothers, 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" (1 Corinthians 15:58). There will be some people you will try to help who will not want your help, or who will twist around your motives. Or you will sometimes become so tired because there seems to be so much to do. The more work you do, the more work you will see that needs to be done. You will become exhausted sometimes to the point of giving it all up. Moses went through this himself. In Numbers 11:10-15, he cried to his God in sheer exhaustion at trying to lead and help some three million people all by himself:
Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!' I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now ~ if I have found favor in your eyes ~ and do not let me face my own ruin."
There for awhile Moses began thinking something many people find themselves thinking once they have gotten deeply involved in helping with the spiritual and physical needs of the world. He thought he had to do it all by himself, and he was buckling under the load.
Moses was wrong. God told him to find seventy others to help him. Moses had to multiply himself by training others. When you begin to feel such a strain, multiply yourself. Find others to take with you and train, so they can take their rightful place beside you. As you do your part, know that God will do his part. Remember, we are workers together with God (2 Corinthians 6:1), and with God nothing is impossible (Matthew 19:26).
Paul, who was beaten down so many times during his ministry, and each time got back up, reassures us in 1 Corinthians 15:57,58: "But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, 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."
We are further encouraged by Galatians 6:9, which declares, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." In that last day when our eternal destination is pronounced, we can depend on the righteous judgment of God who will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Romans 2:6,7).
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. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Hebrews 6:10-12).
In the evening when you have worked all day for your Lord, and you are tired and wonder if you can stick it out another ten years or even fifty years, think on Revelation 14:13: Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."
We will have no real rest until we arrive at our destination with all the other souls we have influenced and taught there with us. After all, compared with eternity, what is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes from this earth (James 4:14).
At the end of your life, you will be able to say confidently with Paul the great tireless apostle, "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" (2 Timothy 4:7,8).
Just what will be our reward? We know that heaven will be a place prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:9; John 14: 3). We also know that God hates idleness and considers it one of the prime sins of Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49). Therefore, there could not be idleness in heaven. There will be much worshipping, much singing (Revelation 19:1-6). Perhaps, too, there is an indication that in heaven we will have a greater job to do than we have ever had on earth; perhaps this is why our earthly journey is considered a testing ground, and is so vitally important.
Matthew 25 describes the kingdom of heaven and the judgment day. Those who used their God-given talents and multiplied them for their Lord through constant use were told, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness" (verse 21, 23). Similarly, Luke tells us about a king who went away and left his servants in charge of certain things with a certain amount of money. When he returned he said, "Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities" (Luke 19:17).
Just what has God been preparing us for? Just what does he have in mind for the characteristics he is developing in us on earth in the midst of people pressuring us to give in? What tasks, what cities, what glories? We don't know. All we do know is we will never get tired.
If we continue to work, the time will pass before we know it, and Jesus' last message of love to us will be fulfilled at last:
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End....Yes, I am coming soon" (Revelation 22:12,13,20b).
Let us add in resounding unison, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"