For we [believers will be called to account and] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives—the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord [and understand the importance of obedience and worship], we persuade people [to be reconciled to Him]. But we are plainly known to God [He knows everything about us]; and I hope that we are plainly known also in your consciences [your God-given discernment].
2 Corinthians 5:10-11
When you know you’re going to meet with your boss in a couple of weeks for a performance review, how do you act? Most of us look at our list of responsibilities to be certain we get all our tasks accomplished and we make sure we’re pleasant to the people around us. The stakes are pretty high. We may want a promotion or a raise, or we may want to hear that we’re doing a good job so we can stay employed. We do whatever it takes so that the review is as positive as possible. In other words, the reality of the review makes a difference in our choices.
The Bible tells us that we’ll be called into the Boss’s office one day for the ultimate performance review. We’ll stand before Jesus Christ to give an account of our choices as Christians. This is called the Bema seat, which is named after the victory platform in the ancient Olympics. Many believers aren’t aware this judgement seat is coming. They know there’s going to be a judgement at the end of time for unbelievers, but they are unaware there’s another one for those who have trusted in Christ. On that day, you and I will look Jesus in the eye as He reviews the times we made selfish choices and the times we were gracious to others, the moments we hoped no one was watching and the ones we hoped the world knew what we were doing. All our selfishness will burn up and vanish, and we’ll be left with the reward we’ve earned by pleasing God.
And this is the only performance review by Christ we’ll ever experience. For that reason, we need to get ready now by aligning our lives with God’s purposes and His ways. I want that review to be a good experience for me. How about you?
The most important thought I ever had was that of my individual responsibility to God.
Everything we do after becoming a Christian passes under review by Christ and nothing is hidden from Him. Not only are our actions seen but our motives and attitudes as well. In the corporate environment, quite often it is job performance that is rated. If you’re a productive employee, most of the time you’re not rated on your motive. In other words, you may be performing at a level and your motive is to be promoted or to receive a pay increase. In actuality you may even resent your job or your supervisor but you bring your actions into compliance with expectations so that they will personally benefit you and your desired goal. Sometimes our performance is designed to elevate us in status with co-workers or to elevate us above the status of co-workers. Often our performance is designed to bring attention to us, to give us our sense of value, or to in some way make us feel important.
The apostle Paul, as he is telling us that there are many reasons why some even preach the gospel, says that not everyone has a pure motive. We can find even in the church individuals who serve and work for selfish reasons, thinking that in some way that in the end they’ll be rewarded.
“Some, it is true, are [actually] preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry [toward me—for no better reason than a competitive spirit or misguided ambition], but others out of goodwill and a loyal spirit [toward me]. The latter [preach Christ] out of love, because they know that I have been put here [by God on purpose] for the defense of the gospel; but the former preach Christ [insincerely] out of selfish ambition [just self-promotion], thinking that they are causing me distress in my imprisonment. What then [does it matter]? So long as in every way, whether in pretense [for self-promotion] or in all honesty [to spread the truth], Christ is being preached; and in this I rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
What Paul is saying that even if there are those who labor for the wrong reasons, nonetheless the work of Christ is done. Notice how he distinguishes between the two groups. One group works out of envy and rivalry with a competitive spirit or misguided ambition. They operate out of selfish ambition and self-promotion and their motive is to cause him distress. The second group operates out of love, and in all honesty to spread the truth. Both groups accomplish the same goals for the church and the kingdom of God.
You may say, “If that’s the case, what’s the big deal? After all things are getting done and that’s what counts.” Yes things may be getting done but what of the individual? Can we really think that those who operate with wrong motives will stand equally with those whose hearts are pure?
So we must look at what the Bible says to the individual.
“However, brothers and sisters, I could not talk to you as to spiritual people, but [only] as to worldly people [dominated by human nature], mere infants [in the new life] in Christ! I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. You are still worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? For when one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” and another, “I am [a disciple] of Apollos,” are you not [proving yourselves unchanged, just] ordinary people? According to the [remarkable] grace of God which was given to me [to prepare me for my task], like a skillful master builder I laid a foundation, and now another is building on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work. If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire.”
1 Corinthians 3:1-4,10-15
Do you see that we as Christians cannot afford to operate as the world operates for not only will our visible work be judged as to its effectiveness but our motives, our attitudes and our hearts. On that day doing the right thing for the wrong reason will cause all our effort to be in vain. Listen to Paul’s words again: “”For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]? ….each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is; for the day of judgement] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work.”
Paul no doubt is thinking of how pottery is placed in an oven and fired. As the clay is heated, hidden flaws appear and often the vessel that looked good once it passes through the fire is useless. Silver only becomes pure when it passes through the fire. So everything we have done or will do since we have come to know Christ will pass before the Bema seat and those things we have done with right motives and attitudes will be rewarded and those things we have done with wrong attitudes and motives will vanish.
I want to make sure that we understand that this judgement is not to determine whether we will enter heaven. This judgement is for believers whose entrance into heaven is already settled when they accepted Christ. This review is the determination of reward for work well done.
The most powerful words anyone can hear will be when they hear Christ say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”
Just as we would prepare for an earthly job performance review, we ought to prepare for the eternal performance review. We do so by asking the Holy Spirit to search our hearts. We ask Him to reveal our motives and if those motives are incorrect to convict us and to change us until we serve because we love God and others and not for selfish reasons. We ask Him to access our attitudes and if our work is being done with poor attitude, with a grumbling, resentful heart then He would make it known and we would repent and let the Holy Spirit restore our joy and desire to serve the Lord and the people He places around us.
I pray that each of us will be lavishly rewarded when we stand before Christ on that day. Let’s start now working toward that goal.
Dr. John Thompson