FIRST-PERSON: 'His glory is our reward'

by Joshua Crutchfield, posted Wednesday, June 07, 2017 (6 months ago)

MADISONVILLE, Texas (BP) -- "His glory is our reward" is a line repeated in Hector Gabriel's song, "Peoples Praise." I heard this song at this spring's SEND missions conference in Dallas and this phrase has since been stuck on repeat in my mind.

If I am honest, I desire many kinds of rewards, and find myself motivated to share the Gospel for many reasons, but it was not always for the glory of God.

In 2003, an IMB worker named Karen Watson wrote a letter that would inspire this song. She was in Iraq along with others to provide humanitarian aid to the embattled country. Prior to her departure she wrote a letter to two of her pastors that was to be opened and read should she die on the mission field.

Though written nearly 15 years ago, the letter captures the breathtaking image of the Gospel: "His glory," Watson wrote, "is my reward."

It seems today that the Gospel we share has our eternal destination as a focal priority of the message. I can still recite the "key question" from the FAITH evangelism outline I learned while in high school, which focused on how people can go to heaven. I have no idea how many times I have asked the question, "Do you know where you will go when you die?"

However, I have come under conviction about the aim of how I have evangelized -- I made heaven the pinnacle of the Gospel and not God. A Gospel that has anything other than God as its chief reward fails to be the Gospel.

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, the apostle Paul states that we are ambassadors of God, appealing to others to be reconciled with Him. Somehow we have taken that responsibility and have distorted our role as ambassadors into a role of holy travel agents. We have a desire to book trips to heaven, but where is our desire to see souls restored to God? Now you might ask, "Are not those desires one and the same -- to be reconciled with God is to also have heaven as your home?"

No, the goal to see souls in heaven is not the same as the goal to see souls recreated in God's righteousness. The first focuses on a person's eternal destination. We might mention sin and separation from God but the ultimate consequence for them is not that heaven is not their home but, rather, hell. We share a passage like John 14:2 that says Jesus will use His carpentry skills to build us mansions in glory. Before we even realize it, we have become heavenly real estate brokers who fail to have a concern for men, women, boys and girls to be restored into a right relationship with God at this very moment. We are simply content with believing that heaven is theirs when they die.

But what makes heaven, heaven? Is it the streets of gold, the pearly gates or the mansions? Should heaven possess all those things, but not the presence of God, it ceases to be heaven. In fact, it would be hell. Heaven is heaven because God is there and is enjoyed completely unadulterated, without any filters.

Fortunately, we do not have to wait for death to enjoy God.

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is our heavenly prelude to what is in store for us for all eternity (Ephesians 13–14). By the Spirit of God, we can taste and see that the Lord is indeed good, and His presence enjoyable (Psalm 34:8). As we read through the book of Revelation, it is not the description of heaven that evokes praise and excitement, for one day the heavenly city comes down to earth (Hebrews 13:14, Revelation 21:1–2). What evokes the unceasing worship is God, and while that worship takes place in heaven, it will resume on a newly recreated earth where God's presence will dwell with humanity forever and ever (Revelation 21:3).

Yet, we do not have to wait to worship Him, for His heavenly presence is available now to those who are reconciled unto Him.

As Karen Watson wrote her letter to her pastors, she told them that she was not called to a place, but called to God. He is the heart of the Gospel, the greatness of heaven and our eternal inheritance (Psalm 73:25–28). He extended heaven down to us so that we might taste and enjoy eternity in the present. He has entrusted us with the Gospel in order that we might glory in Him and invite others to do the same. Until God's glory is our reward, and is the kernel of the Gospel we share, we will never live out the Gospel mission as God intended.

Joshua Crutchfield is pastor of First Baptist Church in Madisonville, Texas.
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