13 Nov 2022

Paul, Aren’t You Afraid to Die? [2Corinthians 4:16-5:10]


Paul was fearless, even in the face of extreme persecution. How is it possible? 1. The Reasoning. His secret was in his perspective. He chose to focus on the unseen glory, which is eternal; and not on the seen affliction, which is transient. In fact, he sees his affliction as light and momentary, when compared with the eternal weight of glory that is to come. So, he was not afraid to die. He looked to the reward and joy that follow after death.  2. The Resurrection. The eternal glory is inextricably tied to the glorious resurrected body. He knew that even if his current body was destroyed, he will be clothed again with a better, more glorious and eternal body from God. His confidence was in God, who has assured him through the work of the Holy Spirit. 3. The Response. These spiritual realities require a response. It was not just emotional comfort for Paul, but that he would strive earnestly to please God in everything. Paul also highlighted another reason for his holy ambition- that he will stand before Jesus at the Bema judgment. Today, you too can be freed from the fears that grip this world. This is also a good time to reexamine our ambitions. And lastly, may this message help you to be ready for the Bema judgment



Sermon Transcript

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Very good morning once again to all of you, welcome to Gospel Light, our first English worship service this Sunday morning. We are really glad you can be able to join us and also for those who are able to join us online.

We live in a world that is very, very caught up with fear, isn't it? People today are fearful of COVID, people are fearful about job loss, people are worried about that inflation and the rising cost of living here in Singapore. We are worried about wars and rumors of wars. We are worried about climate change, we are worried about sicknesses, cancer, dying.

In this world, in this context of a world filled with uncertainty and fears, it is perhaps very refreshing to hear Paul says in 2nd Corinthians 5, verses 6 to 8, "So we are always of good courage." We are always of confidence and boldness.
He repeats that again in verse 8, "Yes, we are of good courage."

Some of you may say, "Paul, you can say this because your life is easy!" Huh, I want to remind you, Paul is not having a holiday in Hawaii. Paul is going through tremendous pain and sufferings, extreme pains and sufferings, and not just for a season, not just for a while, but he says, "We're always been given over to death. We are afflicted, we are perplexed, we are persecuted. We are struck down." Those were the words Paul used to describe himself.

But Paul says, "Huh, we are always of good courage." The question we may have is, "Paul, aren't you afraid to die? The level of persecution, the level of attack, the level of danger you're facing is ... is crazy. Aren't you afraid of dying at all?"

Well, we have a glimpse, we have an insight this morning as to Paul's thinking, Paul's approach to life and ministry. And how he could say, "No, I'm not afraid of dying! In fact, I'm always of good courage. Yes, we are always of good courage."

He says in verse 16, "Though our outer self is wasting away ..." [2 Cor 4:16]

He's talking about his body. He's being afflicted, he's suffering physically, his body is breaking down, there is wear and tear. He says, "Even though our body is being ruined or destroyed ..." that's the word there. " ... Our inner self, our spiritual life, our soul, our spirit is being renewed day by day." [2 Cor 4:16]

The word, "renewed" in the Greek means strengthened. "So, far from being discouraged ... " Paul says, "We do not lose heart, we are not discouraged. In fact, we are encouraged, we are of good courage."

So why, how do you arrive at that conclusion? How is it that you can go through such extreme pains and sufferings in your body and still not lose heart? Well, this morning, we're going to look at a few things, in the verses we have read.

[1] The Reasoning
Number one, let's consider the reasoning Paul gives.

How is it that you're not afraid to die? What's your reasoning? He says, "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." [2 Cor 4:17-18]

Rather long, but one central focus here, the word to me that is really important is the word, "look". "As we behold, as we look, as we consider ... " Paul says, "We are not afraid of dying, it's all because of this word, "perspective" — where we behold, where we consider, where we focus. Paul says, "My focus is not on things that are seen, but the things that are not seen, things that are unseen."

"That sounds a bit strange, Paul, how do you see things that are not seen?" Well, it's not literally seeing, but it's where he beholds, where he considers. What are the things that are seen and what are the things that are unseen? The context here is very clear. The things that are seen refers to the affliction Paul has to go through. The things that are unseen are the glories that are to come, the unseen glory that is to come.

"So why Paul, do you focus on unseen glory and not on the seen affliction?" He says, "For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

In short, Paul's logic is, "I choose to focus on the unseen glory." Why? "Because they are eternal, and not on the seen afflictions, because they are transient. Afflictions are real! It's what I experience on a daily basis, but to me, they are transient. So, I choose to live my life not predicated or based or dictated by the afflictions around me, but on the glory that is to come because these things last forever."

In fact, he says, "This momentary, light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory, beyond all comparison." Mind you, Paul's sufferings are not light, they are severe. Read later on in 2nd Corinthians 11, and you will be shocked or stunned. And his sufferings are not momentary, because he has always been facing these afflictions for many years now.

But in comparison, now, this is the key, they are not light in and of themselves, they are not momentary in and of themselves. But when you compare it with the glory that is to come, aah, these things, then pale in comparison. "The glory that is to come ... " Paul says, "is a weight of glory, it's heavy glory, it's super glory, and it's beyond all comparison." In the Greek it means utterly beyond description.

So Paul is so caught up, Paul is so focused on the great and eternal glory that is to come, that he, in a sense could despise the shame or the sufferings, he has to go through.

My wife is going through a difficult time in her work, a lot of things to do. But at the same time, I also see her very busily trying to get things in order, for our upcoming trip to the US.
I see her having to go online, prepare documents, ESTA and so on, and driving license here, make sure that our kids have all the thermal wears. A lot of things to do, but she tells me, "I'm very excited when I do it."

I look at her, she's a bit crazy, you know, busy rushing here, there, but I'm very excited to do it. I say, "Why do you like to do these things? I'm not excited about these things." "But these things are very exciting, because they tell me I'm going to US very soon. I'm looking forward to that eter ... not eternal, but I'm looking to the ... it's really momentary, just three weeks of happiness, of joy, as we ..."

Now, I hate traveling. Truth be told, I don't like to travel, but she looks forward to it. And so all these preparations are to her, in a sense, light momentary afflictions, nothing to be compared to the weight of glory that is to come. Perhaps some of you like me, do not like to travel and say, "I don't understand your wife."

But some of you, may be ladies and you'll understand this pain, right? This labor pain, extremely painful, but perhaps when you ask a mother, couple of years after she has a child, "Would you want to have another child?" She says, "Yah, yah, we are planning for another one." And you would say, "Aren't you crazy? Don't you remember this pain?" "I do! But it is worth it! I would want to go through it again, just so that we have another child."

When the mother pushes in the labor ward, every push to her is painful, but she'll keep pushing. Because every push is pushed nearer to glory, the crowning of a baby born into this world.
So Paul, in a sense, says, "The afflictions we go through, they're painful, it's not easy, but compared to the glory that God is preparing for us, they are light and momentary, and therefore we do not lose heart."

That's the same philosophy for Moses. "By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God, than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin." [Heb 11:24-25] Why, Paul, why ... why Moses, would you do that? Because, "He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was again looking to the reward." [Heb 11:26]

Perspective is vital in the Christian life. In fact, if I may say, this is the mindset of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well. Amongst other things, the Bible says, "Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith was for the joy that was set before Him able to endure the cross." [Heb 12:2] He was looking to the joy that was set before Him - perspective.

And perhaps, that's the perspective of even martyrs and Christian missionaries of time past. Most famous one, probably we know of, Jim Elliott, was willing to risk his life to reach cannibals, because this was what he says, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
He's willing to give up this temporal life, if it needs to be, so as to gain that eternal weight of glory, which he will never lose. To him, it's a great deal!

"So Paul, aren't you afraid to die? Aren't you afflicted all the time, severe afflictions?" "I'm not," Paul says. And his reasoning is, "Because I focus on the unseen glory, because it's eternal, and not on the transient or the afflictions, because they are transient."

There are people today who bravely, confidently look life in its face, in the eye, and say, "They are painful, they are difficult, but I will not be overcome by fears and worries, even if it means my life, because my perspective is on things above.

[2] The Resurrection
Let's look on what Paul has to say. I think chapter 4 and chapter 5 has to be read in conjunction. Because Paul now goes on, not only to the reasoning of looking to that which is eternal, but he goes on to speak about the resurrection. And they are linked because of the word, "for".

So Paul is not looking to the things here, he is looking to the glory that is to come and the word, "for" connects that glory with the resurrection. "For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." [2 Cor 5:1]

Now, Paul is speaking about his body here, he describes his body here as a tent. Paul is a tentmaker, in fact, he was working as a tentmaker, at Corinth itself, to support himself. So he says, "My body is like a tent. It's something that is earthly, as contrasted with that which is heavenly."

And he says, "This body that I have is going to be destroyed." The word there means taken down or dismantle. So this body one day will be torn down, but it is no loss to me, because if that should be torn down, if I should die, God is going to give me a building, not a tent. Something more stable, something more permanent, and this new glorified body, this new resurrection body is not made with hands. It is not made of earthly materials, and it is eternal in the heavens.

So Paul says, "I'm going to have this glorious new body." He has already spoken of this in 1st Corinthians 15. But now he brings that to application, to apply it, to apply to his own life.

He goes on to say, "For in this tent we groan, in this body, we long to put on our heavenly dwelling." [2 Cor 5:2]

If, actually the word, "there" probably will be best translated "since". It's the same Greek word, "since". "Indeed, by putting it on, we may not be found naked." [2 Cor 5:3]

So Paul says, "We actually long for the new glorified, resurrected body. And if I should die, and if I should have this temporal earthly body dismantled, it's no big loss because we will not be naked, we will be given this new resurrected body anyway."

"For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened." [2 Cor 5:4]

"Now that I'm in this body, I suffer pain, affliction, wear and tear, breakdowns. We groan, but we can look forward to that glorified one."

Well, a story is told of a group of old folks, getting together. And they were lamenting about their bodies wearing down. One says, "You know, I have such severe neck ache that I can't really look at my phone anymore. I can't turn my head well." Another says, "Well, my eyes are failing, I can't see clearly." Another one says, "My hands are so arthritic, I can't grab things at all." And then the other guy says, "Well, at least we all have our driving license."

I ... I'm not sure if that's good news or not. But we can all understand that as we get older, this body breaks down. And we, many of you, many of us probably are saying, "Hey, we are burdened with this body."

For Paul, he says, "We groan, we look forward to that new body. And when we die, it's not that we would be unclothed, it's not that we would be permanently without that body, but that we would be further clothed." So, he uses a second picture, the first picture is that of a tent, and a building. The second picture is that of clothing, we putting off the old clothes, but I'm not going to stay naked, because God will give me a new clothes, a new glorified body.

And then he says, a third imagery here is that of an animal swallowing another animal. "This mortal life, this life that dies, will be swallowed up by that which is life." [2 Cor 5:4]

Not long ago, I ... I read about how a cat was swallowed by a python, that's the picture here. One animal swallowing another, and you know if you look to your right, you can't see the cat anymore. It's totally swallowed up. So, we will die, Christians will die, if the Lord does not come soon, we will die. But hey, no big deal, that death is no more! It will never be seen because we are going to be swallowed up by life. "So, is it scary for you to die, Paul?" "No." Why? "I know that I'm going to have that new, glorious resurrected body.

"And he who has prepared us for this very thing is God." [2 Cor 5:5] So, he's confident about God's provision, about this new body. And he says, "I know that this is what's going to happen because God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee." [2 Cor 5:5]

Now, the word, "guarantee" in the Greek is the arrabōn, which is the word, "deposit or down payment". When you want to buy something, and you are not ready to purchase it yet, you want to have a commitment to buy. So, you put down a deposit. Now, nowadays, I understand when you put deposit, you can still forfeit deposit lah! But in those days, you put deposit means you will have to honor your purchase. It's a ... it's an agreement to complete the sale, or the deal.

So, Paul is saying, "God prepares for us this glorious eternity with a resurrection body, and He is the One who will do it. And he has assured us that he will do it because he has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee. The Holy Spirit dwells in God's people."

How do we know if the Holy Spirit dwells in us? Because the Holy Spirit does not pop out of the body like that, He's not seen in physical manifestation. How do we know that the Holy Spirit is in us? Well, I think contextually so far, Paul has argued that it is the Holy Spirit who removes the veil. The Holy Spirit is the One who changes us into the image of Christ.

So Paul is saying, "Just as the Holy Spirit is in your life and transforming you and sanctifying you, you can be sure just as He has begun this glorious work already in you, He will furnish you with that glorious resurrected body when we should die." That, I think is his logic.

"So Paul, aren't you afraid to die, because in ministry, you're severely persecuted and afflicted?" Paul says, "No, I am not! I'm not afraid of death. I ... I'm not saying that I won't die, in fact, I know I will die. But I am able to have good courage, I am not losing heart, I do not despair, because I choose to focus on the unseen glory which is eternal, and not on the seen afflictions, since they are transient. This is where I focus my life on."

"And I know that this glory is assured, because the resurrected body is something God will give. I may have this tent dismantled, torn down, but that's fine. I'm not going to be Casper, the friendly ghost, floating around for all eternity. I'm going to have this glorified body, and God has guaranteed it, assured us with it, because he's already given His Spirit."

[3] The Response
Now all that I think is clear, simple. So, let's come now to thirdly, the response.

In the light of the eternal weight of glory, in the light of the assurance of the resurrected body, Paul now talks about his response to these wonderful realities.

He says, "So we are always of good courage." [2 Cor 5:6] I repeat that again, in fact, he says it twice in verse 6, and verse 8. And you would see that he kind of reverses the order, but I think the point is clear, "While we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." [2 Cor 5:6]

So he says, "No loss if we should die." That's the effect. And the reason why he can be of good courage, even though he has not seen that glorified body, for his own version, the Paul's glorified body is because he says, "We walk by faith, and not by sight." [2 Cor 5:7] "Yes, I've never seen this body of mine, this glorified body of mine, I've not seen in a sense, that state I will be in, but I walk by faith, I trust God. And it's okay if I have not seen it as yet."

He goes on to say, "So whether we are at home ..." [2 Cor 5:9] You can say whether we are at home in this body or whether we area at home with Christ, it doesn't matter." Because verse 6 and 8, how they, how he has reversed that order anyway. So he saying, "Whether we are dead, or whether we are alive, whether we are alive now or whether we will have that new life in the future, we make it our aim to please Him." [2 Cor 5:9]

So the response Paul has is not just saying, "I'm going to be comforted, I'm going to be courageous, I'm going to not despair ... " He says more than that! "... It's not just that I will not despair, but I want to proactively make it our aim to please Him." So it's not just a message of comfort, even though that will be true. But it's a message of proactive service to God, we make it our aim, the word there means to strive earnestly, or if you would like, it is our ambition to please Him.

By the way, some people think Christians should be very nuah [Hokkien dialect], very laid-back, very lepak [in Malay]. Huh, I don't think so. The Bible tells me that Paul has great drive and ambition. I believe Christians should be ambitious, but be careful of what you're ambitious about, that's all. Paul's ambition is to please God or to please his Lord and Savior.

Now, he goes on to say, "For ..." [2 Cor 5:10] This, "for" connects with verse 9, isn't it? So he says, "Because of the glory that is to come, we are not only comforted, but this drives us, we make it our aim to please Him." And then he adds another reason to why he is so zealous, and passionate, and earnest about pleasing God.

He says the second reason here is, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." [2 Cor 5:10]

"So because of the resurrection, I aim to please Him because of the judgment that is to come, I aim to please Him." That's his reasoning.

The word here, "judgment seat", now I must say this, what I'm going to say may not be the most familiar to you. Because I think there is a particular school of thought, very common in Christiandom, where I think it may not be fully representative of what this verse is saying. I will not ... okay, I will not go on further, I will explain first and hope that maybe you can catch it.

But Paul here now says, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. " [2 Cor 5:10] The word, "judgment seat" is actually one word in the Greek, Bema. So you would have heard Bema seat judgment, right? Those who have been Christians for some time, you will hear people throwing that word around, bema, bema, bema. And you would hear that people speak about bema, as if it is only at the athletes conferral or the athletes prize presentation.

So you hear of how God is going to reward Christians just as athletes would be rewarded at the end of the competition. But the word, "bema" does not need to be limited to an award ceremony for athletics program, because the word, "bema" literally just means a step. So in olden days, there will be a platform or a step, where judges would sit and preside over cases, to see if this is a worthy cause, to see if this is guilty or innocent. They will sit on this step, the bema, to render judgment.

And that is the way the Bible uses it, for example, Jesus was brought before Pontious Pilate, and Pilate sat down on the judgment seat, and the word there is bema. You can check it out, not just Jesus before Pilate, but Paul himself also appeared before Festus. And again, the word, "tribunal" translated in our ESV, is actually the Greek word for bema.[Acts 25:6]

So my point to you here is when we read, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ," [2 Cor 5:10] it is a real judgment. There is a real judgment involved, particularly when you see the words, "... whether good or evil." [2 Cor 5:10]

So Paul says, let me just bring you back, Paul says, "This is my aim, instead of being discouraged in life, I make it our aim, we make it our aim to please God in all that we do, knowing the eternal glory to come, knowing that we will have a resurrected body. But besides that, we make it our aim to please God, because there is this judgment that we will face."

Much like how judges will preside over cases, this judgment will be based on one thing. What is this judgment based on? There's only one criteria for this judgment, not the color of your skin, not the number of years you have lived, not the amount of wealth you have accumulated, not the reputation you have gained in this world. It's only based on one thing, what is the one thing?

Very clear ah, here! Based on one thing, one criteria — based on "What he has done." [2 Cor 5:10] So we will all appear before Jesus, and we will be judged based on what we have done. We will be judged according to our ...? Say it! We will be judged according to our ...? Deeds or works. Now, I know that's very hard to squeeze out from Christians. Because we're all very familiar with the teaching, we are saved by grace, without the works of the law, correct?

So we are very hesitant to say, "God is going to judge us according to our works." Because you almost sound as if we are saved by works, but that's not what Paul is saying! Nobody is saved by works! We are all saved by grace, through faith. We are all saved because of what Jesus has done and because we believe in Him and His finished work.

But salvation by grace through faith will be evidenced by works. So we are not justified by works, we are justified by grace, but the man who is truly saved by grace will have works. And that will be the basis of judgment when Jesus sits at the Bema Seat of judgment. Now, this is not new, this has always been what the Bible is saying!

I bring you back to Psalm 62:12, for example, "And to that to You, O Lord belongs steadfast love, for You will render to a man according to his work." Again, there is no way a man earns God's favor by his works, but a man who has received saving grace will have works. Because God has changed his heart and will give him the ability to live a godly life. So that will be the basis of judgment.

Matthew 16, verse 27, the words of Jesus Himself, "For the Son of Man ..." He's talking about Himself, "... is going to come with His angels and the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done." According to his works, according to his deeds."

John chapter 5, verse 28 and 29, "Do not marvel at this for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." You see the good and evil that is spoken off here by Jesus and probably referred to by Paul. So, there is a judgment!

Some, because of their deeds, who prove that they are God's people will receive the resurrection of life. And some, by their deeds, who are filled with evil and absolutely no good, will be sentenced to judgment or damnation." That's the word that is in the Greek.

It's even more explicit when Paul wrote to the Romans, "God will render to each one according to his works." [Rom 2:6] It's explicit here! "To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life." [Rom 2:7]

Now, clearly, Paul is not saying, "God gives salvation to those who serve Him, as if they earned it." No, that's not the point! "But those who are God's people, those who are saved by grace, those whose hearts have been turned around by God will be people who will be patient in well-doing. Because they are people who see the glory, they are people who appreciate the glory. They are the people who look for glory and honor and immortality, to such people, God gives life.

"But to those who are self-seeking, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, to them, there will only be wrath and fury." [Rom 2:8] Now, you can begin I hope to understand that being a Christian, is not just what you say. The true child of God will be evidenced by obedience, by good works in his life. Now, he is not saved by good works, but he's evidenced by good works. And if you have no good works, that means you were never saved.

A mango tree will be evidenced by the mangoes. That's the rule! That's why Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7:21, "Not every one that said to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of My Father, which is in heaven."'

How do you know you're part of the kingdom? On that day, it will be very clear, you have done the will of the Father. On that day when Jesus comes, why is it that Jesus would say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you." Because they are the people who practice lawlessness. They were never saved, even though they say, "Lord, Lord, didn't we do miracles? Didn't we prophesy in Your Name." "You never did the will of My Father, you were filled with sin. I never knew you."

The judgment Jesus presides over will be absolutely objective and clear — based on your works. Because God's people will have good works, those who claim to be God's people, but who are really not His, will be evidenced by their lack of good works, and indeed evidenced by their lawlessness.

So, that's why Jesus would also give the parable of the weeds and the wheat. This is what we went through a couple of years ago in the journey through Matthew. "The Son of Man will send His angels ..." [Matt 13:41] again very consistent, "The Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His Kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace." [Matt 13:41-42]

Notice "His Kingdom", I think Jesus is referring to the gathered church. He's referring to people who call upon His Name, He's referring to people who go to church services. People who call themselves Christians. He is going to send His angels to gather out of people like this, who name the Name of Christ and say, "There'll be those amongst us who are actually law breakers. They are the weeds, the corrupt ones, sown in within the true ones. And though their whole life they may say, "I'm a Christian." They had no good works, They are law breakers and their fate is the fiery furnace and in that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."'

But, "The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, he who has ears, let him hear." [Matt 13:43] And "the righteous" here obviously are people who are not law-breakers, but who do the will of the Father.

Now, if you think this is not clear enough, let me give you another example Jesus gave about the sheep and the goats. [Matt 25:31-46]

He said, "When I come, there will be a judgment, there will be a separation, the sheep will be on My right hand, and the goats will be on My left hand." Now, sheep and goats don't look very different, at least to Singaporeans. We can't quite tell them apart. You which one is goat, which is sheep or not? Okay lah, you all smart, okay. Aah, but in a sense, they look quite alike, right, just like the weeds and the wheat, they are very similar in those days. So there is a sense of similarity, but at the end of the day, Jesus is going to separate them into two camps. The right hand and the left hand.

And on the right hand, he will say, "Come, you are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." [Matt 25:34] Why? Because of your works. "I see your works — you served Me, you served My people, you gave, you clothed, you welcomed, you visited, you came. You were marked with works, good works."

To the bunch on the left, "You call yourself My children, but you are not My sheep, you are goats, you are fakes, you are hypocrites, you are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. You will join them there." Why? "Because you never had any works." You did not, you did not, you did not, you did not, you did not.

It's abundantly clear that God will judge all men in the kingdom that way. And, "He will bring every deed into judgment with every secret thing." [Ecc 12:14]

Think about that, folks, I ... I do not know how much time this judgment is going to take. I, I really do not know because frankly, if I, if anyone sits here, listen to your story, one by one we will all be ... we will be all be lost, right? I'm ... I'm not sure, but somehow God is going to bring every single deed and word, even the secret ones out, and he would judge them.

"Every careless word we speak." [Matt 12:36] Every word, I don't even remember what I said yesterday. "But every word will be judged, for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned." [Matt 12:36-37]

Wah, this judgment is very, very thorough! "On that day when, according to My Gospel, God judges the secrets of men." [Rom 2:16] Think about this, what you do on your dates, young people, what you do in your office, how you treat your helper at home, how you drive, what you send as a text message, what you watch on your computer screen, how you came to church and what you do in service. Every single thing!

What you thought about when nobody ... when you thought nobody knew what you were thinking about, every single thing will be laid open, "So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God." [Rom 14:12] "God will disclose the purposes of the heart," [1 Cor 4:5] Don't have to worry, everything will be abundantly clear. "And no creature is hidden from His sight, are all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." [Heb 4:13]

Knowing therefore, that, "We must all appear before the Bema of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for our works done in this body, whether good or evil ..." Paul says, " ... we make it our aim, always to please." [2 Cor 5:9-10]

This body is given by God, I hope you will not idolize your body. It's stupid to idolize your body, because it's ... it's going to be torn down one day anyway. But it's also equally wrong to ignore your body, as if it's not important. No, everything you do in your body is of eternal consequence! Because the judgment we will face at the end of time will be based on what you have done with your body or in your body.

So this is where I think I would like to express a little bit of diff ... difference. To a lot of people when we read 2nd Corinthians 5:10, we only say, "Oh, that is a judgment for Christians, only for rewards." I think that is true. For the Christian, there will be no condemnation, because their works will mark them out as God's people, and God will reward them according to their works. That's true!

But I think we forget the other aspect that this judgment, hypocrites will be shown up. They will be like the goats separated from the sheep, the weeds separated from the wheat and there will be a fiery furnace awaiting them. So Paul says, "I serve hard, I make it my aim to please Him because I am not complacent about my faith. I do not want to be eventually seen as a castaway." Remember he, he spoke about that in 1st Corinthians 9, "I do not take my faith for granted, I make it my aim to please Him."

We are not saved by works, but we are saved by faith, by grace through faith that works. And I hope you will be diligent to show that, to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, therefore.

We live in a world gripped with fear. What are your fears? Perhaps this morning is an opportune time for you to redirect your focus, to have a change of perspective. And it's not just mental gymnastics, it's thinking biblically, it's walking by faith and not by sight. Sufferings are real, cancer is real, job loss is real, but there's something even more valuable, more eternal, and that is the heavenly glories, in the heavenly body that is to come.

I asked you today, what is your ambition? Maybe it's a good time to think about your ambition. So many people are so ambitious for the things of this world that will fade away anyway. Paul says, "I make it my aim to please Him." I hope that is your goal!

Finally, are you ready for the Bema? One day Jesus would sit on that step. I'm not sure, literally or figuratively, but I'm sure that He will render judgment. Would you be ready? Would you belong to the sheep or would you belong to the goats? Would you be able to say, "Lord, I did the will of the Father, by Your grace."

It's not about whether you come to church, whether you call yourself Christian, God will judge you according to your works. If there is fruit of God's work in your life, praise Him and keep pressing on. There's no letting go, there's no letting up! Paul says, "This is what I strive to do all the time."

But if today you examine your own life. Now by the way, I'm not asking you to doubt your salvation, please, but I'm calling you, as Paul will later on also say, "To examine your faith." Is there fruit? Is their life-change? Is there obedience? Is there growing righteousness? Because my aim here is not to shake you out of your assurance, but to perhaps help those who have been presumptuous to today, repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to ask Him for a new heart, that you may then live this kind of life.

Long sermon, but I hope it is helpful to you. May this be a sobering reminder as you draw near to the end of this year. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You this morning. You do not sugarcoat Your truth, and there is really no need to. You use Your servant, the Apostle Paul to write it just as it is. And we pray today, we will be honest before Your presence. We will be honest also to ourselves, that we may not deceive our own selves.

Father, thank You so much for what You have prepared for Your children. Yes, in this life, You have called us, perhaps to suffer. We live in a fallen world, and just as Your Son was persecuted and suffered, we know that, that is also what we are called to.

But we are so thankful that together with Jesus, we can look for the joy that is set before us. We can choose today not to focus on the seen afflictions, because they are transient, but we can focus on the unseen glory, because they are eternal. So give us wisdom to have proper perspective this morning.

I know some of my brethren today are going through hardships, uncertainties, fears. They may even be fighting for life, and even though, death is in a sense rather final, help us to realize it is not the ultimate thing. Because all that means, is that we are unclothed, this tent is dismantled, but we will be clothed with something way better, we will be given a building made without hands eternal in the heavens, that this mortal life will be swallowed up in life. And we will be ushered into eternal, unmolested joy and satisfaction and glory.

We pray Your people, therefore would be wise, together with Paul to make it our aim always to please You. Not just to be comforted, but to proactively take steps to preach the Kingdom of God, to serve You, and to be making disciples of all nations.

Father, we pray, You will make Your people today ready for that Bema seat of judgment. I know You will, I know that is the inevitable outcome of true saving grace, please do that in our midst. And for those today who perhaps know that there is no authentic fruit in their life, Lord, thank You, it is still not too late for them to repent and believe.

So, thank You again for these sobering reminders. May we walk worthy of Your calling. May we follow Paul, not to be afraid of dying but to take up the cross, deny ourselves and follow Jesus well. Thank You, we pray all this in His precious Name. Amen.

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