Why Should We Be Good?

In his parents eyes there was never a doubt that he had the raw intelligence and ability to excel, but like many kids his age, success in school seemed to be elusive. It was clear that after his first year in High School that something would have to fundamentally change to enable success in his remaining three years.

His  parents rightly understood that the basic issues he faced were related to a lack of focus and clarity of objectives, coupled with the right incentives to help cultivate an internal desire to apply himself and perform at his fullest potential.

They were also aware of studies that demonstrated a correlation between high school GPA  and success in later life. Academic performance in high school had been shown to be directly linked to subsequent success in college and the obtainment of an increased lifetime income. Higher performing students increase their probability of successfully completing a college degree college from 21% to 42%. Additionally, for every point increase in GPA a typical student in high school would expect to see an increase in earned lifetime income between 12% and 14%. (1)

With all of this in mind his parents took a step back in order to devise the best approach to help their son be successful. First they recognized that their son didn’t have the emotional maturity to cope with the distractions found in his current high school setting. Every child is different in their level of maturity and parents need to assess this realistically. Fortunately they understood that there was a difference between chronological maturity and emotional maturity, and that they needed to develop an appropriate plan that considered both of these elements.

To help bring focus and remove distractions they elected to place their son in an on-line learning environment. In this environment all assignments, grades and expectations were clear and transparent to both the student and the parents. Feedback on quizzes and tests were instantaneous.

While this decision helped in terms of focus and clarity of expectations, it still failed to address the matter of motivation of the heart which would be required for their son to succeed.

These parents wisely recognized that motivation to achieve worked best when it came from within. While some level of progress could be made by applying external pressures, the real life-long successes would only come when their child drove himself internally to achieve.

To address this they devised a simple set of rewards that provided quick feedback in practical terms. The on-line education program had a combination of quizzes, mid-terms, and finals as the principle sources for grades. For each type of evaluation his parents created a sliding scale that linked grades to tangible near term financial rewards.

The rules were simple, they were printed and placed on the wall next to his desk. Only grades “C” and above would be eligible for a payment each Friday at the end of the day for the previous week’s of work. Quizzes were worth less than mid-terms, and mid-terms less than finals.

Inside each test category, the financial rewards were structured such that a “C” grade merited a very modest payout, a “B” grade was considerably more, and an “A” would be exponentially more. (Typically 2X the “B” grade.)  This model  recognized that it would take considerably more effort to move from a “C” to a “B” then likewise from a “B” to an “A,” but the rewards were structured to reflect the commensurate effort required as the student advanced to the next higher level of grade performance.

In the first year under this approach his parents saw modest yet consistent improvements across the board. Not only in grades, but in their son’s level of self-direction and discipline to get things done. During this time trust was built as he found that the payout was real each week. He readily spent his earnings on lots of little things and found himself wanting in terms of needing additional cash.

During the second and subsequent years until he graduated from High School, the strategy changed by his own volition. He recognized how much money he was leaving on the table by settling on  “C” and “B” kind of performance and started to aim for “A” level performance.

Interestingly by his own request he elected to not take cash each week, rather he wrote his cumulative earnings on a white board that hung on the wall next to his desk. The growing balance soon became its own source of encouragement and the grades he earned were no longer the goals, they simply became a by-product of his focused efforts, discipline, and perseverance in studying.  At the end of each school year his parents gave him the full balance of his reward and the process repeated itself the next year.

During this period his parents no longer had to manage his homework assignments at a tactical level. He was able to manage his own time and meet all required deadlines on his own. They told him that if he needed help to study or needed to escalate something beyond a teacher to get resolution on any matter, then they were there for him to help him succeed. In the last two years he operated at a near 4.0 GPA!

In some ways many believers and followers of Christ are a bit like that high school student.

In our case God serves as our heavenly parent and much like this boy’s parents, God deeply loves us and desires for us to be in a healthy and successful relationship with him.

The wonderful news is that once we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ we are adopted into God’s  family forever.  Our salvation is secure, even if we subsequently elect to live a life that’s less than honoring to God.  Our eternity is covered by God’s grace and not subject to revocation.  No where in the scriptures are there cases where believers are “un-adopted” by God.

Given the certainty of our eternal security, what then is our motivation to honor God in the way we live out our lives in the here and now?  Why should we be good?

The answer lies in God’s own reward system for us.

Much like the young high school student who watched his rewards grow on his white board as he made healthy choices to do what was right in school, similarly we can be assured that God is keeping our treasure in heaven stored up and safe as we do the right things for God’s kingdom.

Jesus said:

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, NIV)

It turns out that God has devised a means of rewards that will directly impact our standing and scope of responsibilities throughout eternity. The scriptures tell us that he maintains a record of all of our deeds in this life, and that God knows our hearts and the purity of our motives in the things we choose to do.

The bible speaks of a time when each of us will come before God to be judged. During that time God will first check to ensure that our names are written in the “Book of Life.” It’s here that the names of every believer are recorded. Those whose names appear are granted to join God in eternal life. If not, then they  will be forever banished from God’s presence, sentenced to a place that the bible calls Hell for all of eternity. For those of us that are listed in the “Book of Life” there will also be a review of our Earthly lives and how we lived them out.

The Apostle John mentions in the book of Revelation of other “books” in addition to the “Book of Life:”

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12–13, NIV) –Emphasis mine

Unlike the “Book of Life,” these “books” have recorded within them all the deeds we have done in our lives. These deeds will be evaluated to determine the type and quantity of our reward that God will give to each of us.

It’s critical to note that with respect to this part of judgement, where God looks at the deeds of our life,  that our eternal standing is never in question. Once our names are written  in the “Book of Life” they are never erased. Our God is thankfully a God of grace beyond our own understanding or comprehension.  We cannot loose our salvation because we dropped the ball in terms of how we lived out our lives after receiving Christ as our savior. Rather God’s  review of our life deeds will be used solely to determine the type and amount of our eternal reward that God will give to each of us. The apostle Paul spoke of this idea in his letter to the church in Ephesus:

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:7–8, NIV)

Here we see the idea of God rewarding believers no matter their social standing or occupational standing in this earthly life. Notice too that the rewards given are given to the the individual. That each person will be evaluated based upon individual conduct. There are no group or team rewards given.

In another letter,  Paul writes to the church in Corinth where he shared additional details regarding the day of judgement that each of us will one day face.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)

Observe in this passage that the tone continues with the idea of rewards for conduct. No where does Paul suggest that a believer’s salvation is contingent upon our conduct. This makes perfect sense if we understand our salvation to be entirely based upon God’s grace and not on any contribution on our part:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV)

Paul speaks of God reviewing both the “good” and the “bad” things that we did while alive in our bodies as believers. He never states that our salvation might be in jeopardy based upon the “bad” things we might have done as believers.

Matthew recorded Jesus’ comments on the subject of rewards:

“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27, NIV)

Here we can see that those who honor God and who properly use their gifts and resources in this life to further God’s kingdom will be rewarded in his future kingdom.

When speaking on the topic of living out our lives in righteousness, Jesus warned that our motives for doing good things must be pure. God will not reward those whose motives and hearts are not genuine:

“ ‘Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.’ ” (Matthew 6:1, NIV)

Jesus spoke again as recorded in Matthew on the topic of rewards. In the following statements we can see that not all rewards are equal.

“ ‘For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’ ” (Matthew 25:29, NIV)

Charles Stanley in his excellent book, “Eternal Security: Can you be Sure,” shared the following:

“The kingdom of God will not be the same for all believers. Let me put it another way. Some believers will have rewards for their earthly faithfulness; others will not. Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (see 2 Tim. 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (see Luke 12:21, 33). Some will be given true riches; others will not (see Luke 16:11). Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not (see Luke 16:12). Some will reign and rule with Christ; others will not (see Rev. 3:21).

A careful study of these passages reveals one common denominator. Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life.” (2)

Several points come from Stanley’s observations:

  1. Some believers will be very rich in God’s kingdom and others will be comparably poor. (Although even the poorest in God’s Kingdom would be better off than anything they might imagine in their Earthly life.) “ ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.’”  (Luke 12:21, NIV) “ ‘Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.’ ” (Luke 12:33, NIV)
  2.  Some believers will be given true riches because they have demonstrated that they were responsible for all that God gave them when they lived out their lives. “ ‘So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’ ” (Luke 16:11, NIV)
  3. Some will be given “heavenly treasures” to own themselves and others will not. “ ‘And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?’ ” (Luke 16:12, NIV)

Given God’s perspective and his revealed reward plan for each of us, it’s pretty plain to see that it’s in our best interest to seek genuinely from the heart to honor God in all the ways of our lives. He will reward those that truly seek to place him first in this life. The good news is that it’s never to late to start.

Perhaps you surrendered your life to Christ many years ago and have since not lived a life that you know best honors the Lord. If that’s the case, then come to the Lord in prayer, confess, and then renew your heart. Purpose to live out your life in a way that best reflects God in all that you think, do, and say each and every day.

Do this with the full knowledge that you and I must ask God for the strength to live out such a life; we cannot do so of our own strength and willpower alone. There’s a strong connection between our ability to live out Godly lives and the amount of focus we expend on Christ. The more we focus and invest our lives in Christ, the easier it becomes for Christ to have control over every part of our lives.

Keep in mind that in all of this your salvation is non-negotiable. You and I worship a God that keeps his promises no matter what.

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” (Psalm 145:13b, NIV)

His grace and love are beyond anything we could possibly comprehend. The Apostle Paul reminded us:

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NIV)

When it comes to our conduct in this life, our eye should be on the eternal rewards that God has for each of us. While God will evaluate each of our lives, we can be confident that he will do so without bias or poor judgment. He will do so with all the facts including our heart motivation. He is a just God and the evaluation will be based upon his standards, and done on an individual basis.  He will not compare my life choices to someone else’s, rather he will judge my heart, my actions, my thoughts as my own. In the end God wants to reward us!

If this idea of rewards is new to you or resonates in some way and you want to move forward with your best effort, then the best time to start engaging is now!

As soon as you’re done reading this devotion, take a moment and pray, commit yourself to a life that seeks the rewards God has for each of us. These rewards are eternal and everlasting in nature; make the conscience choice to stop looking to other people for significance in this life, instead seek to be significant in Christ’s eyes and in so doing build a life that allows you to store up your treasures in heaven.





===== Notes ======

(1) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/05/20/heres-how-much-your-high-school-grades-predict-how-much-you-make-today/?utm_term=.7bfa1648e914

(2) Charles F. Stanley, Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure? (Nashville: Oliver-Nelson Books, 1990).


Copyright FullLifeWord 2017


We’re All In Need of Adoption

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12)

I saw a picture the other day of a child posing next to a hand written sign that read “For 806 days I have shared their Love+Home…as of today I share their last name.”

It’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to go from living in the foster care system, with all of its tensions and uncertainty, to being adopted into a loving family as its newest member.

What a transformative and life changing experience!!

Gone are the days of wondering if your current family will be just another temporary place to live as you move from home to home. Gone are relationship ties that are built and then necessarily broken time and again. Gone are the needs for emotional walls of protection and the deep insecurities that develop which will no doubt have life lasting impacts.

On a personal note, I’m grateful to have lived out my childhood in the context of my birth family. In that setting I always knew how much I was loved and supported. As a child I knew that no matter what happened my parents would always love me. I grew up with siblings that to this day I am close to. We can count on each other in good times and bad.

Despite such a stable upbringing, I eventually came to realize that my wonderful earthly family was a temporary one and would not last forever. I sensed an absence in my life that I ultimately identified as spiritual in nature. Although everything around me seemed fulfilled in my life, there was this last nagging piece in my heart that had yet to be satisfied. At some point I realized that the missing element was my relationship with God.

Having grown up around the scriptures, I knew that the Bible spoke of being “children of God.” How could that be? I was already a child of my parents, what more would I need?

I remembered that the scriptures shared a story of another person that was also struggling with this concept. He was a religious leader in his day, a man by the name of Nicodemus.  One night he  secretly met with Jesus in the dead of night and asked him about his relationship with God. I was amazed, here was a devoted religious leader, an educated and intelligent person by any standards. Yet he knew the moment he had encountered Jesus that his life was in some way incomplete.

Jesus shared with him that in order for Nicodemus to have a relationship with God that he would need to be “born again.” Nicodemus didn’t understand at first, as he was already born, how could he be born once more? Jesus explained to him that it was one thing to be born to an earthly family, but entirely a different matter to be born into God’s family.

As I recalled that story from the Bible, I realized that while I might have an early family that loved me, from a spiritual perspective I was really an orphan. I was in need of adoption. The emptiness I sensed was my lack of relationship with God. The reality was simple: unless I was adopted into God’s family I would spend eternity alone and have to face life by myself.

The apostle Paul shared that making a personal decision to trust in Jesus Christ would allow me to be formally adopted into God’s eternal family. He shared that “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.”( Galatians 3:26 ) He went on to say that we would “receive adoption” (Galatians 4:5 ) into  God’s family and that as His child I would no longer have to live out my life in fear or uncertainty of the future. In fact I would become  “co-heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17) Wow!!!

As an adopted child of God I knew for certain that no matter what might befall me in this life, even physical death, nothing in all of creation would ever separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8:39 )

It’s a key milestone in our lives when we figure out that life is much better as a member of God’s family than by going it alone. Many choose otherwise and suffer great loneliness and lack of direction in their lives.

Good healthy families care about one another and seek to build each other up, desiring to see each member of their family succeed in this life. That’s the way it is in God’s family. Our Heavenly Father is perfect and He only wants the best for each of us. He will never let us down, even when we might think He has, He hasn’t.

If you’re awaiting adoption…you need wait no longer, the choice to surrender your life to Christ and become part of His family is entirely yours. God is present and awaits your decision, but He will never force your hand. Yours is a response to the love He has already demonstrated to you through His Son Jesus Christ.




Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

The Key To Knowledge

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52)

Marie Curie was a brilliant physicist and chemist that conducted some of the most fundamental and significant research in the study of radioactivity. Her efforts made her the first woman to win the Nobel Prize; not once, but twice!

Yet for all the knowledge she acquired during her research, she missed a critical element of knowledge that would ultimately take her life.

Specifically, the knowledge she lacked was the knowledge that the human body will die if exposed to sustained high levels of radiation. This fact was not known in her day.

She would often carry test tubes of radium around in her pockets while conducting research. She was also exposed to excessive levels of radiation in her early work with mobile X-ray systems that she was creating. Sadly, this brilliant scientist died in July of 1934 from a condition called aplastic anemia, which we know today is frequently brought on by excessive exposure to radiation.

Knowledge can make a significant difference in our lives. As Marie Curie unfortunately discovered, the inverse is also true; a lack of knowledge can also have terrible consequences. Had she known about the dangerous characteristics of radiation, she would have no doubt made different choices in terms of how she handled radioactive samples in her research.

Today, when students study radiation in labs, they are led by teachers that incorporate knowledge on how to safely handle such materials. It would be unconscionable if a teacher ever withheld knowledge on the dangers of radiation to new students.

Education and understanding of knowledge is not a new thing. At one point in his ministry, Jesus had been invited to a meal with several  religious leaders of his day. It was clear that they intended to use their mealtime to promote themselves and their knowledge of the scriptures. Jesus saw through their shallow agenda and spoke truthfully and honestly to them. The Pharisees (Religious leadership) were very offended. The scribes (Legal experts in religious matters) quickly jumped to their defense.

In the end, Jesus made his position clear. In his view, the religious leaders had not only withheld knowledge to the average person that attended church, but intentionally hindered the transfer of knowledge that would lead others to an understanding of His role as the Messiah and to eternal life.

He didn’t mince words with these guys either!

In the verses immediately  prior (Luke 11:51) He made it clear that as holders of such knowledge, these teachers would be held directly accountable for not only taking away knowledge, but for hindering those that were actively seeking to understand the key to eternal life, namely  a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

When I find myself in a role teaching scripture, be it teaching adults or children, I am very mindful of the weight of responsibility that teachers bear. We must always be on guard to fully prepare ourselves and to understand the lessons we teach. Care must be taken to not interpret scriptures in a way that is anything other than what the scriptures are teaching.

We must never do or say anything to hinder someone from coming into a right and eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. Whenever we teach or share information about the scriptures to others, we need to do so with the aim of helping others to grasp the “key of knowledge,”  knowledge of Christ that would permit them to to receive Christ into their lives.

Even if we are not teachers in our church, if we are simply a believer in Christ attending church, we must never shy away from sharing with those that God brings into our lives the knowledge of salvation. While we might not be scholars, our daily conduct, our heart attitude of love towards others are often the only tools we might have to communicate the message of salvation through Christ.

If you’re reading this devotion and have never encountered the living Christ, let me take a moment and share with you what the scriptures tell us about Christ’s love for you and about our mutual need for Christ.

The scriptures tell us that Christ loves you and I to the point of death. He willingly gave his life for me and for you. (John 3:16) The same scriptures also remind us that we are impacted by something called sin. It’s a condition that exists in our world and will keep us separated from God.  Everyone is impacted,( Romans 3:23 ) and unless I take personal steps to address this condition, the condition will result in eternal separation from God when our bodies die. (Romans 6:23) But not to worry, the scriptures share some great news! Jesus has given each of us the opportunity to receive the gift of eternal life. This gift is unmerited and cannot be earned in anyway. (Ephesians 2:8-9 )

So what must one do to receive such a gift!

Admit: Admit that I have sinned and fall short of God’s expectations. The scriptures are clear that all of humanity is impacted by the presence of this sin condition. (Romans 3:23).

Believe: Believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins (John 3:16 and 1:12). Jesus is uniquely qualified to meet God’s standard for entering Heaven. As such, He chose to allow himself to be a substitute for me, to suffer the ultimate consequences of sin, separation from God,  so that I would never have to experience what that might be like. His motive…love.

Conviction: There must be genuine conviction of the need for repentance, confession, and baptism. Our hearts must truly desire to change; we must want to live our lives in a manner that honors God as an ongoing expression of our gratitude for the gift of eternal life, obtained through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9).

How do I do communicate my desire to follow Christ?

We do this by prayer.

Prayer is simply talking to God using our own words. There is no special formula. It’s not magic, its just communicating. Simply pray from your heart to God, and He will save you. If you feel lost and just don’t know what to pray, here’s a prayer of salvation that you can pray:

“Dear Lord,

I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. -Amen”

I’m Not My Own

“You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We are often willing to sacrifice a part of ourselves when our children need us, when our aging parents can no longer care for themselves, when a spouse or significant other is hurting, and needs our encouragement and support. In those times, we make the choice to humble ourselves, and serve those whom we love. Our actions are rooted from our heart, from the abundance of our love.

Jesus knows what true sacrificial love means. He expressed as much when he gave His life for me and for you. Yet he fulfilled his promise and took up His life three days later, and in so doing, brought victory over death for each of us.

There is no level of sacrifice I could personally make, that would allow me to repay Jesus for His sacrifice for me. In that way, I have come to realize that I am not my own. That He took my place, so that I would never worry about being separated from the One who is Light, from the One who has given me eternal life. For you see, he redeemed my life for a price, even before I knew Him.

I choose to live my life as one long grateful response for His sacrificial gift. In that way, I am not my own, but I am His. For I was brought for a price.





Copyright FullLifeWord 2015