A Life That Matters

We must make our lives count for eternity because Jesus is worth it.

Anson Kroeker on April 14, 2019
A Life That Matters
April 14, 2019

A Life That Matters

Passage: Luke 19:11-27
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This morning is significant for a number of reasons. We’ve already touched on it being our last weekend with the NBC students for this particular school year, and for some of you, this is going to be your last Sunday with us, period (until you come back to visit, which of course you will).

Today is also the conclusion to a journey that we began back in September—a sermon series that has taken us from one end of the Bible to the other, in which we’ve explored how the Bible is one story, and how Jesus Christ is the main character of that story, and how you and I are a part of this story today.

And what we’re going to do for the first part of this message is go back and survey where we’ve been this year and review what we’re learned. And then we’re going to end with Luke 19 and a final reminder about why all of this matters.

One Story

So let’s go back to where we began in September, which is where the Bible begins—“In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1). Before there was time, there was the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, existing in perfect fellowship and love. And the story of creation and fall and redemption and restoration was written before any of it began. 2 Timothy 1:9 says that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

That week we also considered the purpose of this plan of redemption, which is that we would become partakers of the love and fellowship of the Trinity itself. We catch a glimpse of this mind-boggling truth in John 17, when Jesus prayed “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world…I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:24, 26).

Before there was time, the Father chose us and gave us to the Son that we would be brought to the Son and be enabled to love Him with the very same love that the Father has had for Him for all of eternity. It’s almost unbelievable, but it’s true, and it was all planned out before the beginning.

And then the plan was put into motion. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  God created everything for His glory, and He made Adam and Eve in His image, to reflect His glory and represent Him here on earth. And we saw how Adam and Eve were given work to do and a mission to fulfill—to fill the earth and subdue it and reign over it as God’s representatives (Genesis 1:28).

But they rebelled. They were seduced by the snake and committed treason against their maker.  And in response to their sin, God cursed the earth. He brought the whole creation crashing down around them as a physical display of the horror of their sin. From that point on, the world has been broken, and in it’s brokenness, we see our ourselves.

And yet in the midst of His words of curse, God spoke hope. He promised that an offspring of the woman would come, and that while the serpent would bruise his heel, in that very act the heel of the offspring would come down and crush the head of the snake and finish him forever.

And from that point on, people were looking for this saviour to come. When Noah was born, his father said “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). Maybe Noah is the promised one. And while Noah certainly did save humanity from extinction, and God did make a covenant with Him, Noah and his family quickly proved that not even the fresh start of the flood could erase the stain of sin from the human heart. Noah helps us see more clearly what kind of a saviour we really need.

And so God began a new work of redemption through a man called Abraham, making a covenant with him and promising that through one of his offspring—there’s that word again—all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

That promise began to take shape when Abraham’s descendants became a nation, and after raising up Moses and rescuing them from Egypt, God made a special covenant with them at the foot of Mount Sinai. He promised to dwell with them and bless them and make them a nation of royal priests for the sake of the nations.

But time and time again, Israel failed in their calling broke the covenant and experienced God’s curse more often the His blessing. And so God raised up a faithful king to lead them. And God made a covenant with David, promising to raise up one of his offspring—there’s that word again—who would reign forever.

And at first it seemed like Solomon might be that promised offspring. But once again, we were disappointed. Solomon quickly turned after other gods, and Israel’s golden age came to a quick end as they began their downward slide into exile.

And so finally, just like Adam and Eve, God’s people were sent away from His presence and away from their land into the darkness of exile. And even though they were able to come back to the land after 70 years, the exile never really ended. They rebuilt the temple, but God’s presence never came to fill it the way He had with Moses’ tabernacle or Solomon’s temple. Even though they were within their own land, Israel remained locked in slavery to sin, waiting for the promised one to come and deliver them.

One Main Character

And then, one night in David’s town, one of David’s descendants had a baby. And in the fields nearby, angel armies showed up to a group of shepherd to tell them that it had finally happened. He had finally come. Jesus—the One whom they had been waiting for from the very beginning—had come. This Jesus is the main character of the story and the One whom it had always been about all along.

Jesus is the last Adam, the Father of a new humanity. He is God’s true representative and perfect image (Hebrews 1:1-3), and the one who succeeded in every place where Adam failed. And Jesus gives His perfect record of righteousness to His people us in place of Adam’s guilt (Romans 5:12-21).

Jesus is the Offspring of Eve who came to crush the head of the serpent, just like God promised. He is the stronger man who has tied up Satan and is plundering his house (Luke 11:22). And in His death on the cross, Jesus won the decisive victory over the Devil, robbing him of his grounds for accusation and taking away the judgement of death which Satan had used to enslave us in fear (Colossians 2:14, Hebrews 2:14-15).

Jesus is the Offspring of Abraham who brings blessing to all the nations, dying to ransom people for God from every tribe, language, people and nation, and making them a kingdom and priests to God (Revelation 5:9-10).

Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant who represents us before God (Hebrews 8:1) and who sacrificed Himself on the cross to satisfy God’s justice and pay for all of our sins once and for all (Hebrews 9:25-26).

Jesus is the Son of David who reigns as king forever (Luke 1:31-33) and who today sits enthroned at the right hand of God just like the Scriptures foretold (Acts 2:33-35).

Jesus is our true Temple—God in flesh who tabernacled among us (John 1:14). And today, we approach the Father not through a building or a location but through the person of Jesus (John 4:21, Hebrews 10:19-20).

And Jesus is the Son of Man in Daniel’s dream, the One appointed by God to judge humanity and give eternal life to those who are counted righteous in Him. Jesus is the one who will bring the fullness of the kingdom and usher in the Age to Come (Daniel 7:13-14, 12:1-4, John 5:19-29).

And that’s the story, and when we arrange it like that we can see how, from first to last, Genesis to Revelation, creation to New Creation, Jesus is the main character of this story. It’s all about Him, it’s always been all about Him, and it’s all for His glory.

We Are a Part of the Story Today

So the Bible is one story, and Jesus is the main character. But there’s a third crucial element we’ve explored in this series, which is that we are a part of this story today.

The story is not about us. We’re the supporting cast, not the main character. But we are a part of the story, and we have an important part to play.

And in order to understand what that role is, we need to understand where we are in the story, in between the first and second comings of Christ, where so much has changed and yet so much is still waiting to change.

When Jesus came the first time, He brought the kingdom of God, and has made us citizens of it. And yet, even though God’s kingdom is here, the kingdoms of this world continue to roll on in rebellion to Jesus, who still waits for His enemies to be placed under His feet (Hebrews 10:12-13).

The New Creation began on the day that Jesus walked out of His grave, and through the Holy Spirit we have been born again and become New Creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). And yet our bodies still belong to this decaying Old Creation which is still waiting to be redeemed (Romans 8:23, 2 Corinthians 4:16).

Through the blood of Jesus we are a part of the New Covenant, and this New Covenant has changed so much in regards to how we relate to God and how we relate to the world. And yet God Himself has not changed, and the Old Covenant Scriptures still have profound relevance for us today.

And so we occupy this space of tensions, of already-but-not-yet. And when we recognize this, when we see where we are in the story, it brings a lot of clarity to the Christian life. It helps us understand how to read the Bible and understand what God expects of us today.

And so, beginning in January, we took three months to explore twelve different aspects of the Christian life, and saw how the big story of the Bible brings clarity to our individual stories.

We began by considering our role as the New Covenant people of God, children of Abraham by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:29).

Next was work. Just like Adam and Eve were given work to do, so we in the New Covenant have been called to give ourselves to good works (Titus 3:3-8), which might include our 9-5, but is so much bigger than just our jobs.

We looked into our relationship with money and possessions, and saw how that has changed from the Old Covenant—where God promised financial prosperity as a blessing for obedience—to the New, where Christ has commanded us not to store up treasures for ourselves on earth (Matthew 6:19).

We looked at marriage, which we now understand to be a glorious picture of Christ’s relationship with His church (Ephesians 5:25). And in the New Creation, when we experience the fullness of our union with Christ, human marriage will no longer be needed (Matthew 22:30). You don’t need the baseball card when you’re at the game.

And here today, while marriage is still a good thing for many of God’s people, it’s no longer necessary the way it was in the Old Covenant. Single people like the Apostle Paul can be spiritual fathers to many. 1 Corinthians 7 tells us that singleness is no longer a problem to be fixed but, for many, a gift to be invested.

Next, we considered our family relationships, and how Jesus challenges us to love and honour Him more than all of our other natural relationships (Matthew 10:34-39). “Family is everything” was perhaps true in the Old Covenant, but is no longer the case for us at our spot in the story.

We then looked at our relationship with the law, and how we’ve been set free from the law through the death of Christ (Galatians 3:23-26).

And yet, our freedom from the law is not a freedom to sin. Rather, we are to pursue holiness and love as put our sin to death by the power of the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-14, Romans 8:13).

We next turned to the themes of suffering and healing, and saw how God does not guarantee us a pain-free life at our spot in the story. We should expect to suffer. But our suffering is hopeful suffering, the suffering of a woman in labour who knows that her pain is leading to new life (Romans 8:18-25).

Next was spiritual warfare. We saw that the entire story of the Bible from Genesis 3 onwards is a story about a war between the serpent and the woman’s offspring. And so spiritual warfare isn’t one part of our lives; it is our lives. Ephesians 6 confirms this by describing the armour of God in terms of the basic equipment of the Christian life (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Then we looked at prayer. Prayer began in Genesis 4 as people called upon God to send the serpent-crusher. And the last prayer in the Bible is much the same: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). And we looked at the Lord’s prayer and saw how Jesus teaches us to ask God to keep His promises and fulfill His purposes.

Next we focused on our mission, revealed in the Great Commission as a command to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). We saw how those words “all nations” deliberately echo God’s promise to bless all the nations through Abraham’s offspring (Genesis 22:18).

And so this is our #1 job at our part in the story. We must go to the tribes and languages and peoples and nations who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus. And it’s only once we’ve completed this work of proclaiming the gospel to all nations that Christ will return like He promised (Matthew 24:14).

Because Christ is going to return. He will come and reign on the earth like He promised. Last week we saw how the Bible concludes with a glorious vision of the New Creation, where we will be resurrected, bodily, and God will dwell with us, and we will reign with Him over the New Earth just like He intended from the beginning.

The Parable of the Minas

So take a deep breath. For many of you, that’s review, but that might be a lot to take in if you’re just visiting with us today. If you want to explore any of this more for yourself, I’d encourage you to check out our website where you can read or listen to any of these messages from this year or the blog posts that have gone along with it.

But as I thought about how to conclude this morning, my mind went immediately to the parable from Luke 19 which we read together earlier.

Jesus told this parable to warn people that the fullness of the kingdom was not going to arrive on the timeline they were expecting. We see that here in verse 11. They’re on their way to Jerusalem, Palm Sunday is about to happen, and they think everything is about to go down all at once. All God’s promises are going to be fulfilled at once, and the Age to Come is going to begin.

And Jesus uses this parable to tell them that it’s not going to happen the way they expected. He was going to go away for a season. And in this parable He tells them what to do as they await His return.

And so this is a perfect place for us to end this series. This is what our Lord wants us to know at our spot in the story.

So as we consider what the different elements in this parable represent, it’s clear that the nobleman represents Jesus. And he calls his servants, who represent us, and he gives them each a mina. A mina was a unit of money, about three month’s wages for a labourer. Giving this money to them is an act of trust. They could go out and spend it on themselves. But he tells them to manage it for him, to “engage in business” until he comes (Luke 19:13)

So what do these minas represent for you and me? In another version of this parable, Jesus said that the master gave his servants “talents,” and that word has often caused people to assume that these talents or minas are special abilities, the kinds of things you’d see at a talent show.

But a talent, like a mina, was just a unit of money. And they just represent resources. Things that came from God which we get to invest for His sake.

These resources can certainly include our abilities. Are you good at something? That’s a gift that came from God and you should use it for Him. That’s a part of your mina. But it can be broader than that. Your mina includes anything—abilities, opportunities, relationships, time, even actual money—anything that He’s given you which we can and should use for Him. Bible college students, think about your years of training at NBC—that’s a part of your mina.

So the nobleman gives his servants a mina, and he goes away for a time, and then he returns. This represents the second coming of Jesus. This is the part we are still looking forward to.

And when the nobleman returns, he calls his servants together and takes an account of what they’ve done with what he gave them. And once again, this is what is going to happen for you and I as well. 2 Corinthians 5 tells us, “…we make it our aim to please him. 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 Corinthians 5:9–10).

Those who have trusted in Jesus are not going to face God’s judgement against our sin. It’s not a question of whether we get into heaven or not. But we will give an account for what we’ve done in this life. And this accounting will have real consequences for us.

We see this in verses 16-17. The first servant comes, and he’s made a 1000% ROI. And what does the master say? “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities’” (Luke 19:17).

Three Truths About Rewards

Now there’s three things we need to notice about verse 17.

1) First, notice that the faithful servant is rewarded. This reminds us that God is going to reward Christians for their faithful service to Him.

I remember hearing about this truth for the first time and being somewhat hesitant towards it. It seemed so different than what I had been taught. But then I began to read the Bible more carefully and realized that Jesus spoke repeatedly about God rewarding us. And he explicitly used reward as a motivation for us.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3–4).

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13–14).

Over and over again, Jesus tells us that God will reward our faithfulness, and He tells us to seek that reward.

2) The second thing we need to see is that there are different levels of reward for different amounts of fruitfulness. The first servant made ten minas and his reward is ten cities. The second servant in verse 18 made five minas, and so he is given responsibility over five cities. Our reward will be in proportion to our fruitfulness. And more on this in a minute.

3) The third truth about rewards is this: the reward for fruitfulness is more responsibility. Did you notice that the servant who earned ten minas wasn’t given 100 minas and told to go on a shopping spree? His reward was authority over ten cities.

The ten minas were a test. And now that he had proved his abilities, he was rewarded with a position of real responsibility in the nobleman’s kingdom.

So what does that mean for us? Just remember what we learned last week. Eternity is not just going to be an endless family reunion in a floating cloud city. God is going to create a New Heaven and New Earth, and Revelation 22:5 says that His servants “will reign forever and ever.” Or like Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:12: “if we endure, we will also reign with him…” Or like he wrote to the Corinthians, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).

That’s what’s ahead of us: a position of responsibility and authority and even royalty within the eternal kingdom of Jesus.

And the parable of the minas tells us that our position, our amount of authority within that kingdom, will depend on how fruitful we are with what He’s given us today.

The master has entrusted you with resources, and what you do with them is telling Jesus what kind of responsibility He can trust you with when His kingdom comes.

And you know what that means? It means that your life today is an internship for the Kingdom of God. Right now you are enrolled in an internship for eternity.

And so your life matters. What you do matters. Your decisions and your habits matter. What you do with what Jesus has given you matters for eternity.

In Conclusion

So connect this truth up with some of our topics in the last three months. Think about what we’ve heard about the priority of good works, loving and serving each other in the body of Christ. Think about the radical, counter-cultural truths we’ve heard regarding money and marriage and family. Think about the summons to mission, and the challenge that we need a good reason not to go to the unreached.

Do you want some motivation to take these things seriously? To not shrug them off but to get to work being fruitful for Jesus? You’ve got it, right here in Luke 19. You’re in an internship, and you’re being tested. You’re going to give an account for what you do with what you’ve been given.

Right now, even in how you are responding to this sermon this morning, you are telling Jesus what kinds of things He can trust you with in the Age to Come.

Isn’t this powerfully motivating? Doesn’t this make our excuses sound as weak as they actually are? Doesn’t this make the story feel as real as it actually is? Doesn’t this make actually doing something—like moving across the world to reach the unreached—seem like less of a big deal and more like the kind of thing you just do when you really believe that your life is an internship for eternity? Doesn’t this make you want to crumple up your bucket list and throw it in the trash and say with Paul, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)?

He is Worthy

That Scripture I just read points us to the very final stop we need to make this morning. Because we have to close the loop and remind ourselves of why this matters. Why even the idea of an internship and eternal reward matters. It matters because Jesus matters. Being a faithful steward of your resources matters because those resources came from Jesus. Reigning with Jesus matters because it was Jesus who died to make us a kingdom of priests to reign with Him in the first place.

Your life matters because Jesus matters and He is worthy of all of your faithfulness, all of your obedience, all of your sacrifice, all of your worship.

And so we’re going to end this morning by singing a song together about the worthiness of Jesus. This song comes from Revelation chapter 5, which pictures God the Father holding a scroll that contains His purposes for history. And someone needs to open it, but nobody in heaven or on earth or under the earth is able to do so.

But then we read in verse 5, “And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals’” (Revelation 5:5).

And as the chapter goes on, the heavenly choir celebrates the worthiness of the Lion and the Lamb. “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10).

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12).

And all of heaven worships, transfixed on the worthiness of Jesus Christ. And we’re going to join them this morning as we conclude our service, and conclude this series, with these words about the worthiness of Jesus.

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