I have a question about what has been termed to be "earning my crown." My husband and I want to hear your explanation of what earning "jewels in the crown" means. My parents have told me that by doing good works on earth they are earning jewels in their crowns and they will receive a greater reward in heaven. It seems to us that when we go to some kind of a "system" to be rewarded in heaven, that’s defeating the purpose, and is almost Pharisaical. If we choose to do things saying we are doing that act to glorify God in order to get a reward...to me it smacks of religion, rather than relationship with the Lord. Can you enlighten us?
Should a Christian Work for Rewards?
A resounding “yes!”
Please look up and digest 2 Corinthians 3:10-15 where Paul describes Jesus’ process for determining how well or how poorly we spent our lives on earth. The more profitable our lives, the more rewards we earn, the greater will be the position that we will have in heaven. Some Christians will be disappointed.
The Soul Winner’s Crown of Evangelism
“For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
A person’s greatest glory lies in those whom he/she has helped on the path to Christ.
Jim Tosh was the first person I helped on the path to Christ. I was seven years old and very excited about my faith. He was in the fourth grade and I was in the second. We were on the playground at school when I told him about the little lost lamb that Jesus talked about that needed a Savior. I told Jim that he was a lost sheep who needed to be found. He became a Christian right then and there.
We were baptized together three weeks later. Nine years after that he rounded a curve too fast and his “new” first car was totaled. His head hit the rear-view mirror and instantly he transitioned into Heaven’s glory. We were good friends, but I wished that he’d stayed around a little longer. I’m so glad that I talked to him about Jesus.
By the way, many surveys taken over the years declare that 98% of all Christians have never experienced the joy of leading a single person to Christ.
“Will there be any stars in my crown?” is an old hymn that has transcended generations. The melody has changed often. The idea is that we receive the soul-winners crown when we first lead somebody to Christ as Lord and Savior. Every time we lead another person to Christ, a star is attached to our crown!
The Pastor’s Crown of Glory
“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:4)
Remember that Jesus called his disciples to be “fishers of men.” But don’t forget that when Jesus restored Peter to fellowship in John 21, he made it quite clear that while Peter was still to fish for fish; Peter was to shepherd Jesus’ lambs and sheep.
We follow in the footsteps of Jesus. He was the chief Shepherd. We are shepherds, too.
Any Christian who has led someone to know Christ, knows what a thrill it is to point to some person who has done well, and be able to say, “That was one of my boys/girls.”
John wrote, “I have no greater joy to hear than that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4).
This crown is reserved for those who care for, mentor, and help mature Christ’s spiritual children and into spiritual mothers and fathers.
You don’t have to be a pastor to earn this crown. Any Bible study leader or teacher is qualified to receive this crown.
The Eternal Crown of Self-Discipline
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
The righteous live lives that are holy and pure. In every issue of life they want to do what is right.
Paul insists that Christians who wanted to take the easy way would never get anywhere without the sternest of self-discipline. Paul was always fascinated by the picture of the athlete. An athlete must train with intensity to win his contest. Self-discipline is training to win a crown of laurel leaves that wither and die within days. How much more should the Christian be self-disciplined to win the crown that is eternal life!
I recall driving one day and seeing a man playing golf. It just so happened that I passed that way again next week. Rain was pounding down in horizontal sheets. However, there he was, still playing golf in the raging rain.
That is dedicated self-discipline. May God grant us the self-control to be much more dedicated to Christ than he was to golf.
The Crown of Rejoicing: the Loving Anticipation of the Second Coming
“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 4:8)
I can hardly wait for the second coming of Jesus. My wife and I argue about just when that might occur. She says that Jesus will come before the seven years of tribulation on earth. I say that he will come right at the middle of the tribulation when Jesus opens the seven seals, the angels blow seven trumpets, and God pours out his seven bowls of wrath upon the earth.
I finally decided to pray for the second coming her way. Jesus will come at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation so that we could hold hands heading up to heaven at the rapture.
Remember, live as if Jesus were coming in the next 10 minutes. But plan as if He were not coming for another 100 years.
Victor’s Crown of Righteousness
“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5)
Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-17 that not only will Jesus give us the victor’s crown because of our godly living on earth, he gives us the crown of righteousness to use as protection from the attacks of the devil.
It is important to pray daily that every decision we make will be right. One of our church businessmen said to his employees, “If we get half of our decisions correct, we’ve done well.” I think that we all can do better than that. We have the Holy Spirit within to guide us.
When our church property ran out of parking spaces, I decided the church should buy the surrounding houses for more space. Many of the neighbors worked hard to stymie our attempt. We ended up before the city zoning commission and made our appeal. Many angry homeowners fought us and won. I was so humiliated, but rightly so.
One of the zoning commissioners said, “You’d think that a church could get along better with its neighbors, after all doesn’t the Bible say, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house?”
That was one of the worst decisions that I ever made.
The Martyr’s Crown
“Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown" (Revelation 2:10)
The band “DC Talk” published a contemporary collection of Christian martyrs and persecutions around the world. More Christians are being persecuted and martyred today than at any other time in world history.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, one Christian observed an act of martyrdom that she later repeated. From her cell window, she saw two young Christian women kneeling before their pastor. He was told to shoot both girls or he himself would be shot. He hesitated. One of the girls said, “It’s okay pastor. We know you are in a rough position. We understand if you shoot. After all, we will be going to heaven!
In a moment of great weakness their pastor pulled the trigger twice. Both girls slumped dead. But the ordeal was not finished. Once again the gun fired. The pastor was shot anyway.
The Victor’s Crown of Perseverance
“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:11)
Remember, the real test is not how we start, but how we finish.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12)
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Philippians 4:1)
Demas is mentioned three times in the New Testament:
“Demas and Luke, my fellow workers” (Philemon 1:24).
“Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings" (Colossians 4:14)
“For Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10)
Notice the downward flow: he is working closely with Paul; then, he is mentioned with no appellation. Finally, he has deserted Paul.
Three points on a graph describe his downward spiral away from Jesus! He started well, but ended poorly.
We find it easy to love this present age. We make fine beginnings, but then some comfortable corner of this present age invites us, and our Christian profession lapses, and our faith grows formal, and we do not amount to much in the end as Christians. If I should accuse some of us of being Judas, we would be indignant. But Demas – how many of us have been that!
Why did you do it, Demas? The answer: He loved this present age. Rome was so appealing. So many worthy activities he desired. Such power. Such opportunity. He couldn’t resist.
However, of all the surprises in history, can we think of anything more surprising, with Nero on his throne and Paul in his prison, that the gospel for which Paul stood would outlast the Roman Empire? The person who has faith in God expects that to happen. So, even if it takes a lifetime, he carries on.
So we name our dogs Nero and our children Paul.
Staying power is commonly associated with profound resources of interior strength that replenish our faith.
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne they lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11)
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
So why should we work to earn heavenly crowns? Because we will lay them at Jesus’ feet!
Kathi, I hope this helps to answer your question.
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Roger will respond in as timely a manner as possible. Due to the large volume of questions, patience is requested. When questions involve mental health issues, no part of any response to an “Ask Roger” question should be interpreted as a substitute for seeking professional counseling from a licensed mental health professional. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
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