Saturday, October 21, 2017

Storing Up Treasures in Heaven

Our Real Treasures Come from the Investments that We Make for Eternity

All people have treasures that they have acquired in this life. Some of those treasures are worth a lot while other treasures are only worth something to the one that has acquired them. What kind of treasures have you acquired here on earth? Well, your treasures may be varied, from gold, cars, houses, boats, money, etc. to something that only you would cherish.  In fact, there are many different types of treasures that we can acquire in our lifetime.

But, we also live in a world where many of the material things that we acquire are not only fleeting, but disposable. Indeed, nothing seems to be forever, and most things such as refrigerators, cars, couches, washers and dryers and small appliances will not even last for twenty years. In other words, we live in a disposable society. So, even with all the treasures you may acquire and all the money that you may make while on your earthly journey, your treasures can disappear in an instant. Indeed, most people find that they will experience some loss, at some time or another, of at least one or two of the things they have acquired during their life journey. Others may lose all their material wealth and have to start all over again. The fact is, though, that all the material things in this life are fleeting. They certainly will not last throughout eternity, because we can’t take our earthly treasures with us when we die. Furthermore, many people will lose their earthly wealth even before they die, because no matter how much a person tries to accumulate, rarely does life go the way that they planned for it to go.

There are so many things that can happen to our accumulated wealth. Many people face such things as stolen vehicles, homes that are flooded from hurricanes and storms, buildings that fall down from earthquakes and tornadoes, or they accidentally just lose something they prized. In addition, many people also face the loss of personal items from theft. All these unexpected situations, losses, and many other difficulties that are faced within the process of accumulating wealth makes our Lord’s admonition to not store up treasures on earth or to not put our trust in this earth’s wealth become very significant or meaningful to us. Moreover, Christ as told us that we cannot serve two masters. Specifically, “… You cannot serve God and wealth.” – (Luke 16: 13. NASB).

In addition to the normal acquisition of wealth, we have all heard of those who hoard wealth and of those individuals who can’t seem to get enough money to satisfy themselves. But, no matter how much money or treasures that people accumulate, material wealth is only temporary. For, someday we will all die and when we do we certainly can’t take our money or possessions with us into the next life. We know this because we can't take our wealth and put it in the grave and then expect it to go where our souls go. Furthermore, Jesus Christ gave us the perfect example of not being able to take our earthly possessions with us as stated within a parable that He told about what happens to the one whose life is based upon greed and hoarding. Indeed, Christ’s parable enlightens us about the true treasures of life.

The Parable

In the book of Luke, it is recorded that while Jesus was out in a crowd, i.e., surrounded by people, “Someone in the crowd said to Him (Jesus), ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’… Then He (Jesus) said to them (the crowd), ‘Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.’ And He told them this parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man was very productive. And He began to reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.’”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? ‘So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and not rich toward God.’ And He (Jesus) said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. … For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  -- (Luke 12: 13-23, 34. NASB).

We learn from this parable that whatever you focus upon is where your heart is. Whatever you focus on becomes your treasure. However, only God is worthy of your focus. Only God is worthy of your heart! Moreover, no one can serve two masters at the same time. For, only one will have your true attention and your heart. So, who will you serve? Will you serve God or your desire to acquire earthly treasure?

Does Happiness Come from Earthly Treasures?

How many times have people thought to themselves: if only I could just have a better job and more money, if only I could have a bigger house, if only I could have designer clothing, if only I could have a boat and vacation home, if only I could have that really expensive car, or if only I could travel around the world and buy whatever I want, then I would be happy. But these types of material things or treasures here on earth will not make us happy. In fact, many wealthy people who have acquired these treasures or the things that they want are in reality extremely unhappy. That is because they have not found what really makes a person happy. Do you know what will finally make you happy?

The answer to that question is Jesus Christ. It is the love of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, that makes humans happy. For, it is only through God’s love and Christ’s ultimate sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins and receive peace, joy, and happiness forever. The Christian’s true treasure is Salvation. Salvation is the treasure that we can take with us to Heaven. However, Christians can store up even more treasures in Heaven by sharing the Gospel message and by living for the Lord.

The material things or the wealth that we store up here on earth are not transferrable to Heaven. Moreover, these earthly treasures cannot truly make us happy here on earth, because they only bring temporary moments of happiness. In fact, our hearts know that earthly treasures cannot bring us true peace and happiness. Moreover, earthy treasures and material wealth can only give us momentary happiness and a false sense of security.  But still we think that by acquiring material wealth we will somehow get that sense of peace, happiness and security. In reality, we were created to live for God who is the provider of all happiness, joy and security. God is the only One who can give us peace, joy and security which will last for eternity.

Material wealth is not lasting; it is temporary. Only what God enables us to do for others will last both now and throughout eternity. In other words, only what we do for the Kingdom of God is lasting. This means that when we give of our time and resources: to become an Active Relational Christian Mentor, to disciple another Christian, to share the Gospel message with a non-Christian, to visit the lonely, to visit those in prison, or to help those in need, we are actually storing up treasures in Heaven. For Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” – (Matthew 6: 19-21. NASB).

Everything material on this earth is fleeting. Only what we do for Christ and others will last. Therefore, Christians need to shift their thoughts from self-centered thinking to “other-thinking”. What is “other-thinking”? Well, it is when we think about what we can do to help another human in some manner or another. It is when we share the Good News with someone who has never heard of Christ or Salvation. It is when we share a talent, gift, or some specific information that can empower another person to be all that they can be for God, themselves, their family, and their friends. “Other-thinking” is loving your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Becoming a World-Class Christian

What is a world-class Christian? It is a Christian who focuses on Christ and on living for Him as they follow His commandments to share the Gospel message with others. But, in order to become a world-class Christian, we have to first become an “other-thinker.” The Apostle Paul explained “other-thinking” best when he said, “I don’t think about what would be good for me, but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved.”  -- (I Corinthians 10: 33. GWT). How often do you think about someone else’s salvation? How often do you think about sharing the Gospel with another person? For unless you are not only thinking about sharing the Gospel, but are also actually doing so, you are not storing up treasures in Heaven. In fact, by not sharing the Gospel, by not mentoring or helping other people who are in need, by not visiting those who are sick and in prison, and by not living out daily your salvation for others to see, you are wasting your opportunity to acquire heavenly treasures and you certainly are not allowing Christ’s light to shine through you.

A Christian’s Mission

Once we give our lives to Christ and are re-born as a new person who sees the world through Christ’s eyes, we can then see clearly and understand through God’s Word that we have been given a mission. Actually, born-again Christians have been given the greatest commission of all. Indeed, that mission gives all true Christians the chance to participate in the most wonderful and significant cause in the world. That cause is to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and His free gift of Salvation to the entire world. But first we have to not only be reborn into a new person, but we have to then change our self-centered way of thinking. In fact, it is actually by changing our self-absorbed way of thinking into “other-thinking” that we can become world-class Christians who think first of others.

The Apostle Paul wrote to many of the Christian church congregations that he and the other Apostles had helped to establish by sharing the Good News of Christ and teaching the new Christians about living for Christ and others. His writings to the Corinthians have been divided into the two books of I and II Corinthians within the Newer Testament. It is in these books and from Paul’s teaching that we learn that we are to quit thinking like children and start thinking as mature people. For, Paul said, “My friends, stop thinking like children. Think like mature people.” – (I Corinthians 14: 20 CEV).

When we think like children we become self-absorbed. As Christians who think like children, we only learn the introductory facts and facets of Christianity, thus failing to grow and mature as people of faith. So, Paul was saying in the above verse that Christians must focus on maturing in their faith and focus on their Christian actions toward others. Part of that maturing process is to change our selfish way of thinking to “other-thinking.” In other words, as Christians we are to no longer think the way that the selfish world thinks, but we are to start thinking as God would have us think. For, God thinks about love and about helping His children grow and mature in their faith. So, Christians should also be thinking about loving others, helping others, and about sharing the most important message that anyone can hear. It is the message of Salvation through the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

Although Christians still have many of the same needs as non-Christians in that we need a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs, we should also be focusing on doing what God wants us to do as we live our earthly life. Paul explains it this way: “I don’t think about what would be good for me but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved.– (I Corinthians 10:33 GWT).

The Apostle Paul wrote that “‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. … Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining the spiritual thoughts with the spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.– (I Corinthians 2: 9-10, 12-14. NASB).

As Christians, i.e., as children of God, we often do not know what God wants us to do. However, we can actually know what He wants to do in and through us. For, we have been given the Holy Spirit who indwells each born-again Christian. Therefore, we can listen to the Holy Spirit, who is privy to all the thoughts and directions of God. The Holy Spirit will show us the intimacy, power, freedom, peace, and spiritual blessings that we can receive from following and obeying the Lord. Moreover, when we seek the Lord, the indwelling Holy Spirit will enlighten us on God’s purpose and plan for our life through the Word of God and through Christ who is speaking into our life.

We do not ever have to doubt what God has in store for us, if we just ask, pray, read the Word, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings in our life. It is by walking with God in a daily relationship with Him that we can discover what He wants us to do for the kingdom of God and discover the principles that we are to live by. In other words, we do not have to be afraid of what tomorrow will bring, even when we suddenly have lost our job, our money, or our ability to maintain a life-style that we have previously had. For, God has something better in store for us, if we will just work at storing up treasures in Heaven. Indeed, God will never forsake His children, but unfortunately, His children have often forsaken Him. They have failed to store up ever-lasting treasures in Heaven.

Heavenly Treasures

What kind of Heavenly treasures can Christians receive. Well, they are treasures that will last an eternity. Furthermore, they are treasures that cannot be stolen, burned, flooded, or covered up by earthquakes. They are treasures that have to do with love, caring, kindness, sharing, and the Salvation of others. In fact, the Bible speaks of these treasures as crowns. For, Christians will receive crowns in heaven for the things that we have done for God and for others while here on earth. But, before a person can receive any treasure or crown, he/she must first be born-again. Indeed, Jesus said, “… Truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” — (John 3:3. NASB). But with our re-birth or Salvation comes great opportunities to store up heavenly treasures. The following is a list of just a few of the treasures that Christians can lay up in Heaven for their eternity with God.

The Crown of Life

In the book of James, we learn that faith without works is dead faith. In fact, James puts it this way: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”  -- (James 2: 26. NASB). A Christian can say that they have faith and believe in Christ as their Savior, but if they do nothing to work to show the world that Christ is their Savior, their faith is dead. Indeed, it may not be easy work to tell the world or those individuals around us that Christ offers Salvation to all who would believe on Him as the living risen Son of God, but it is something that every Christian is supposed to do. Moreover, for those who work for the Kingdom of God even though they are persecuted, there will be a treasured crown awaiting them in Heaven. For the Apostle James says: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  -- (James 1: 12). This Crown of Life is a heavenly treasure or crown for the believer who finds strength to overcome temptation and who endures trials for the love of God. (See also Romans 5: 3-5).

The Wreath Imperishable

The next treasure that a Christian can lay up in Heaven is The Wreath Imperishable. We read about this treasure/crown in both I Corinthians and in the book of Hebrews. In I Corinthians Paul explains this wreath in terms that the Greeks and Romans would have understood in their day. Because the athletic games were so important to them, Paul used the Greek games to illustrate the spiritual race of the believer. The Greeks knew that in the early Greek games, one must have been born of Greek parents in order to receive a perishable wreath (usually made out of flowers and greenery) for winning just one of the games. But, Paul told the Christians that believers will receive an imperishable wreath or crown for serving the Lord.

Only born-again believers can serve the Lord. The Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.’ Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  -- (I Corinthians 9: 24, 25. NASB). However, in order to accomplish much for the Lord and receive an imperishable wreath, we must continue training in our Christian life just as an athlete would continue to train for a race. So, like an athlete who trains for games, Christians must train by studying the Word, meditating on the Word, and praying. Furthermore, we must continue to pursue and obey the Lord daily and moment by moment. The only way to accomplish things for the Lord and to serve the Lord is to embrace the Lord’s purpose for our individual lives and by doing so dedicate our lives to carrying out His purpose.

Later the author of the book of Hebrews continued this idea of running the race for the Lord when he stated: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses, surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  -- (Hebrews 12: 1. NASB). For, all Christians have a race to run for the Lord. But we cannot succeed in this journey or race unless we give up the passions of this world and focus instead on eternal treasures and living for the Lord while we are living on this earth. To get the imperishable wreath we must focus on loving others as we love ourselves, spreading the Gospel message, and helping others whenever we can. Furthermore, we must focus on obeying the Lord, studying God’s Word and staying in communication with the Lord through prayer in order to stay fit for the race and then winning this imperishable wreath.

The Crown of Exultation

The third treasure that we can look forward to laying up in Heaven is the Crown of Exultation. This is the soul winner’s crown. The greatest work a Christian will be privileged to do for the Lord is to bring others to the knowledge of Christ so that person can ask Christ to be their personal Savior. The result of our leading someone to Christ brings Christ great joy or exultation. For, Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that your joy may be made full.”  -- (John 15: 8-11. NASB).

The Salvation of even one soul is a cause for joy in Heaven, and our willingness to share the Gospel message so that a person makes a decision for Christ brings Christ great joy. For, “those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of Heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  -- (Daniel 12: 3. NASB).

Like Christ’s disciples, Christians today must do something to share the Gospel message for the harvest is ready. Jesus put it this way: “… Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages (i.e., treasures) and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”  -- (John 4: 35, 36. NASB). In other words, the soul winner will not rejoice alone, for all of Heaven will rejoice with him when he receives the Crown of Exultation.

The Crown of Righteousness

The Crown of Righteousness is another of the treasures that a Christian can receive. This Crown is not to be confused with the righteousness of God which a gift given to us by God when we are born again. The Crown of Righteousness is instead a reward to be earned by the saved. If the believer looks forward to and lovingly anticipates the second coming of Christ, it will affect his/her whole life. This love for Christ and looking for Christ’s return will lead the believer to remain steadfast in their faith. In encouraging Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote to him and among other things said, “But you be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing.”  -- (II Timothy 4: 5-8. NASB).

What does it mean to love the appearing of Christ? Well, it means that Christians must not detour in our journey for the Lord. We must not look back, but instead finish the course with our eyes fixed on Jesus. Within our journey we are to keep the faith and never betray any of the commandments of Christ; looking with a heart of love toward Jesus’ second coming. In staying focused on Christ and in fighting the spiritual battles that come against us and Christ, one may receive the Crown of Righteousness. But, staying the course and keeping focused entirely on Jesus Christ is not always easy. For example, we read in the Bible that when a young man said that he wanted to follow Christ, he suddenly stated, “‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-by to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” – (Luke 9: 61, 62. NASB).

Those may seem like harsh words, but once a person has committed to Christ as their Savior, they must focus on living for Him and then fulfill their purpose in life for Him. Christians cannot give part of our lives to the past and to worldly pursuits and still live for the Lord. Indeed, the Lord wants us to be so devoted in our love of Him and in our service to the kingdom of God, that we will not allow anything or anyone to keep us from obeying Him and fulfilling our ministry and purpose for the Lord. (See Acts 20: 24-31). Do you love the Lord so much that you are willing to fulfill your purpose and ministry for the Lord? If you don’t know what your ministry is, think about and look into the ministry of Active Relational Christian Mentoring.

The Crown of Glory

The last treasure that I will mention today is the Crown of Glory. This reward or treasure is for the faithful and obedient God-called pastors, deacons, and elders. The Apostle Peter explains this crown within the book of I Peter. He says, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”  -- (I Peter 5: 1-4. NASB).

Although pastors or those that shepherd God’s people such as deacons and elders are specifically listed as those who can receive the Crown of Glory, every born-again Christian may share in the Crown of Glory by: praying for the pastor, deacon, or elder; encouraging the pastor, deacon, or elder in the work of the Lord; giving tithes and offerings (see Malachi 3: 10); and giving freely of your time to the service of the Lord. For, God delights in our desire to please Him and to serve Him. By exhibiting eager obedience to God’s instructions and by fulfilling our purpose for the kingdom of God, we are showing God just how much we love Him and His gift of Salvation. We are also storing up treasures in Heaven.

In Summary

If you haven’t thought about storing up treasures in Heaven, it is time to start thinking about doing so now. Why? Well, we only have so many days allotted to us here on earth. We only have so many days to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ before its time for us to go home to be with God. Each of us who are true born-again Christians should be fulfilling our purpose here on earth which has many facets. Our purpose is to glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our purpose is to also share the Gospel message with as many people as we can. In addition, our purpose is to help other Christians in their times of need. We are to also help non-Christians understand who Jesus Christ is, so that they can someday perhaps make a decision for Christ. But if we think that our purpose in life is only to store up treasures here on earth, we are going to be very mistaken, disappointed and surprised when our time is over here on earth.

How many people have you shared the gift of Salvation or the Gospel message with? How many people have you helped in some loving and kind manner while not wanting anything for yourself in return? How often have you engaged in a ministry of servanthood that can further the kingdom of God? Think about these questions. Then, pray that God opens the door for you to help others. You can step forward to share what you know about Christ with someone who may not have ever heard the name of Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that be thrilling? Active Relational Christian Mentoring is just one of the many servanthood ministries that you can engage in to help others, while it also gives you many opportunities to store up treasures in Heaven. Mentoring often opens the door to share the Gospel message. Of course, there are many other Christian ministries you can choose to engage in, but whichever one you choose, start today! For, time is running out for all of us to do the work that Christ has asked us to do.

If you choose to look into Active Relational Christian Mentoring, you might want to read the book entitled: The Three-Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring; Women Mentoring Women with Christ at the Center. The author of this book is Vicky Lynn Thomas and the book can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Christian Faith Publishing Co., iTunes, and Google Play. This book will give both the individual woman and even church groups information about mentoring which can then help lead them into establishing mentoring relationships for the Lord. You can do it! You can Mentor for the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Vicky, this posting is excellence for God in its BEST and TRUTHFUL sense!!! It is a crown jewel in your writing, which is always at the top in content and style, etc.
    What a privilege to read all of your postings as well as to read your book: The Three Strand Cord of Active Relational Christian Mentoring; Women Mentoring Women with Christ at the Center by you, Vicky Lynn Thomas.
    Again, this particular posting has taken my breath away. God richly bless you and your family in our beloved Christ Jesus, with all my love and friendship, Dear One. Donna McCoy-Harms