Reformed Baptist Fellowship

They Have Their Reward

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on March 7, 2014 at 7:01 pm

A loving father approached his two young sons to teach them a lesson they would never forget. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” he began. I’ll give you each a dollar a day for the next month, or else I’ll give a hundred dollars at the end of the month, your choice.” “A dollar a day,” the first thought to himself. “That sounds so good! I could stop on the way from school and buy a candy bar every day!” So the first son chose option one. The other deferred to the end of the month. As the weeks passed, the first son was having a good time. He decided to try many different kinds of candy bars and choose a favorite. The other son sometimes felt a little jealous, but he kept thinking about the much larger gift his father had promised. It wasn’t always easy, but he knew he had made the much better choice. Finally, after what seemed like forever, the month was over. The big day for the second son had come. His father was true to his word. A hundred dollars was enough for a shiny new bicycle. When the first son saw it, suddenly all those candy bars, now long gone, seemed worthless. He was filled with regret, and resolved never to make the same mistake again. Delayed gratification is enhanced gratification.

The Lord Jesus Christ has taught us this principle in the Sermon on the Mount. He contrasts two kinds of people. The first live for the present. They seek instant gratification, even in their religion. The second are Jesus’ true disciples. They are future oriented, humble, God-fearers, practicing secret devotion and self-denial, and by patient continuance in well doing they seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life in the age to come (Rom 2.7). Hear the Lord’s counsel from Matthew 6 (emphasis mine):

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

The original culture where Jesus first spoke these words was intensely religious and peculiarly Jewish. The proud Pharisees parading their religion were generally held in awe and admiration. Many who would not imitate them still thought their extreme religious commitment was praiseworthy. Jesus urged His disciples to shun the common, worldly perspective. The hypocrites’ steps go down to hell. “They have their reward,” now, in this life, and that is all there is.

Our culture today, in some ways, could hardly be more different. A man praying aloud on a street corner is thought deranged, and pitied, if not despised as a villain. Giving to the poor fares a little better, but fasting is for kooks.

So who are the conspicuous public figures that are almost universally admired, grabbing all the gusto of the moment with no thought for Judgment Day? Hollywood celebrities must be near the top of the list.

Last Sunday 43.7 million viewers tuned in to the Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen Degeneres,[1] a wealthy, lesbian comedian. It was the now famous “selfie” which crashed Twitter[2] that got me thinking about this. She posed with about 11 other celebrities—well dressed, all smiles, and obviously having fun. The image seems the very picture of good cheer and success, and millions and millions of Americans are evidently very envious.

Almost immediately the image brought to my mind Jesus’ words, “They have their reward.” Unbelievers like these seek instant gratification. They often achieve it, but it is like four weeks of candy bars. A nearer analogy would be the happy sow that eats well because the farmer is fattening her for the slaughter at the end of the season, and she has no idea what is coming.

A recent online article from ScienceNews claims, “Delaying gratification is about worldview as much as willpower,” and explains,

Willpower alone doesn’t explain why some children forgo a marshmallow in hand for the prospect of getting two gooey treats later. Kids’ beliefs about the reliability of the people around them, such as the trustworthiness of an experimenter, can dramatically shape their willingness to wait for a sweeter payoff, a new study finds.[3]

How do real Christians persevere in lives of delayed gratification? Not by willpower, but by faith and hope. We trust God, believe His Word, and confidently expect His praise and reward when the Lord Jesus Christ returns for us.

Dear reader, you should rather pity Ellen and her ilk than envy them. They are having “their best life now.” Pray for their salvation, and pray against the influence of their pernicious example. If you give, pray, and fast in secret as a disciple of Christ, your Father in heaven has far better things prepared for you.

1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb (Psa 37.1-2).

–D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com

.

  1. How can “Ellen and her ilk” be compared to Pharisaical hypocrites when they are in fact, not acting hypocritical at all? She/they are not acting any differently than Jesus or anyone else would expected them to if they are indeed in a lost state. The Matthew 6 verses and subsequent commentary are about those who perceive themselves as righteous. Has Ellen stood on a street corner and claimed righteousness? Boastingly or haughtily claimed the grace of Christ? (She did arrange for a common pizza delivery guy to come to the Oscars, be brought out onto stage unbeknownst to him, deliver pizza to some of the celebrities in attendance, then tipped him $1000. $600 out of her own pocket, by some accounts. Something I’ve never heard a church or pastor do to an unexpecting pizza delivery soul on a Sunday morning. But that is neither here nor there, as we are currently using her here as our godly target practice.)

    Also, aren’t these the exact people Jesus moved toward, sought out, befriended, dined with, versus casting them aside in righteous ‘pity’?

  2. while i dont agree with Ryan Werner, what struck me was a Reformed pastor admitting to desecrating the Lords day watching a worldly event on tv ,Remember the sabbath day to keep it HOLY. We who believe the biblical reformed doctrines also keep the Lords day.I just want whoever reads this to know ,this is not the way the Lord walked,neither is it the way of His true followers.With some of us the Lords day is still a Holy day

  3. Hi Pastor Meadows.

    This is sort of off topic… but, I see you are from Exeter, New Hampshire. Did you know that John Newton Brown (the author of the New Hampshire Confession) pastored a church in your town the 1820s and 1830s? He was a very interesting and devout man–and a very talented poet, editor, and writer.

  4. Dear Ryan,

    Thank you for reading my blog post, and for your feedback. I hope my comments below will help to clarify my point.

    You wrote, “How can “Ellen and her ilk” be compared to Pharisaical hypocrites when they are in fact, not acting hypocritical at all?”

    The point of comparison I made was not hypocrisy but the worldliness of seeking immediate gratification in the admiration of others. In this unconverted Hollywood celebrities and unconverted Pharisees are exactly alike.

    You wrote, “She/they are not acting any differently than Jesus or anyone else would expected them to if they are indeed in a lost state.”

    The fact that ungodly people can be expected to live in an ungodly way while they are lost does not diminish their guilt before God one iota, nor excuse them from public scrutiny and criticism.

    Your next comments sure seem to suggest that you think Ellen is morally superior to all churches and pastors, whose good works tend to be done in secret instead of in front of 43.7 million people for public admiration. Did you ever consider that you haven’t heard about many righteous acts of many Christians because they do not call attention to them like Ellen does? I hope my article helps to empty the Ellen Fan Club for the eternal good of its former members.

    Further, some ungodly celebrities preach their moral superiority all the time, and they call us to be good like they are, for example, in their approval of sexual perversion. In their view, biblical Christians are the ones who are evil and need to repent. But Scripture says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5.20).

    Your phrase “godly target practice” is a cheap shot that could be directed toward any preacher who points out the bad example of particular sinners, like Jesus condemning the Pharisees, or Paul criticizing the Cretans (Tit 1.12-13), or a hundred other biblical examples I could mention.

    I hadn’t thought of inviting Ellen to dinner; thanks for the suggestion. She is welcome at my table. I never suggested anybody “cast her aside in righteous ‘pity.’” As anyone can see, I rather urged my readers to pray for her salvation—a most benevolent response.

  5. I was aware of J. Newton Brown’s association with Exeter, New Hampshire, but I do not know much about him. The New Hampshire Confession, for me, is an occasion of sadness, because it was an accommodation to preserve the formal association of churches losing their grip on the robust theology of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

    A happier fact about Exeter is that here George Whitefield preached his very last sermon, and we have a monument in town to commemorate that event. His text was 2 Corinthians 13.5, a stirring call to self-examination.

  6. There seems to have been a misunderstanding above (ric peters). For the record, I did not watch the Academy Awards on the Lord’s Day or any other day. It’s not my kind of programming. I read about it online on a weekday.

    Also, I hold to the 1689 LBCF and believe in sanctifying the Lord’s Day.

  7. Pastor Meadows,

    My heart was warmed, grieved, and motivated as I read your post! It was clear, Biblical, loving, and straightforward. It smelled of the savor of my Master.

    Thank you,

    Mike Waters
    Heritage RBC

  8. Dear Scott,

    Thank you for your thoughts. And please forgive me for not addressing you by name in my initial post. A courtesy that you extended me in your response.

    We may have to just agree to disagree on the analogy/comparison. As I see it, it simply doesn’t play. Jesus spend a good bit of his ministry going after the religious of the day. Quite aggressively at times. He did so because of their claims of righteousness and their adamancy to reject and stifle Jesus himself. To the sinner, to the Gentile, the blatant, worldly, insert tag of preference, his position was much different. It was gracious. It was loving. It was not condemning. He carried all the judgement of the universe in his hands, yet withheld it. Furthermore, he moved toward these in love. He came not for the well, but the sick. Not for the righteous, but the sinner. That statement alone from Jesus should a clear delineation with regard to the analogy you chose.

    As I read your words, you have chosen not to withhold your judgement, public scrutiny and criticism. If you have searched the scriptures for yourself, see that example from Jesus himself, and been given the permission by Jesus himself to do so, then that is between you and Him. I simply don’t see it. You’ll give your account. I’ll give mine.

    I don’t believe Ellen to be morally superior. And I don’t even know what it means to be in the ‘Ellen Fan Club’. But I see Ellen and everyone else on that TV screen at the Oscars as created in the image of God. People that He loves. People that He died for. People with God given talents, gifts, and purposes. Are they currently misguided and perhaps unaware of these truths? Of course. But no less loved and cherished. Therefore, not deserving of ‘target practice.’ I’m sorry if the phrase was received as a ‘cheap shot’. It wasn’t. She was, in fact, targeted. You singled her out, without her permission, without her knowledge, and without ever having extended her the same grace and good news of the gospel of Jesus that was extended to you. That appears to be a cheap shot. High-minded even. If not by undeserved, inexplicable, unwarranted grace, are you not Ellen? Was I not Ellen? His loving kindness leads us to repentance. Not being unknowing and unexpectedly ambushed.

    You reference Titus 1:12-13 as justification for your approach. This is a section of scripture that again is addressing the religious, lawful, Jews among the church. “The circumcision party”, “not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people”. The command given in verse 13 is to “rebuke, that they may be sound in the faith…” Wouldn’t the terms “rebuke” and “sound in” suggest these are people IN the faith? Or who already know and understand the truth, but have strayed or been influenced? If so, and again, why would this apply to the unrepentant non-believer? You can’t rebuke what they don’t have. You can’t restore them back to something that they never had.

    Perhaps to level set a bit… I was led to the Reformed Baptist Fellowship Facebook page by a post a friend shared about Lent. “Lent and the Sufficient Work of Christ” to be exact. It resonated with me greatly. Then having seen other comments here on your blog post, having gone back and revisited the FB page and read more in detail, and cross referenced that to some dear friends we’ve sadly and painfully watched slip into some of these same adherences, it all makes much more sense. I was compelled to respond as a courtesy. And pray with all my heart something in it could spark a change of heart, mind and approach in the future. That said, all of the above coupled with the fact you responded at all to Ric Peter’s comment and did so citing LBC 1689, we will likely stay at an impasse. The yoke of slavery has been removed over the past couple of years. I intend to not go back to it. We’ve been set free.

  9. Dear Ryan,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ve read it repeatedly and I am reflecting on it. It seems that on some things we are poles apart. Some of the issues you raise are vast in their scope and implications. May the Lord give us, and all who read these comments, more light from His Word.

    In the fear of God and with love to all, I stand by the comments of my original blog article. The larger point is that we must live to please God and patiently await an eternal reward from Him, rather than seeking the instant gratification of popular approval in the here and now. I certainly hope you can agree with that.

    Yours in Christ,

    D Scott Meadows

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