“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Philippians 3:7-11 NKJV
I can remember when I thought, “if only I could be a good man.” I worked hard in those days, to demonstrate a kind of virtue, or godliness of my own design. Success meant closing an eye to the deep sinfulness with in me, or comparing my own righteousness with that of others. In reality, there was no good in me, only the rottenness of my bones, and a sliding set of values that could rationalize even the most vile of actions.
““The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”
Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV
Thanks to our loving God, He sent people into my life to tell me about Jesus, about true holiness, forgiveness of sins, bought and paid for by His blood.
Upon receiving that message, I spent years trying to affirm the grace that I had received, that I was somehow worthy. In truth, there was no worth in me. I learned to rest in the grace of God, almost too much.
For some years, I rested, occupied my pew, not putting in much effort. For a very short time, I pressed the pause button, and grew stagnant. I had taken grace through faith as fire insurance. Around that time, I began to be aware of the persecuted church, and the difference between casual, non committal faith I witnessed in myself and many of my fellow congregants.
I remember watching a video of Chinese followers of Christ receiving bibles. The embrace and kissed them as if clinging to life itself. What I saw was a far cry from what I saw in myself.
In reading my bible, I noticed how the Apostle Paul wrote of his urgency to serve and please the Lord. He worked hard for what I thought to be a faith granted for free. I began to understand, that Paul was battling not for his salvation, for something greater, something not guaranteed.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
II Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV
Paul was pressing forward for the crown of righteousness. This is not a crown that all believers will receive, but one for those who press on, who lay aside all the things of this world to follow Jesus.
On an early Sunday morning, years ago, I chose to pursue that crown. I read off a missionary who prayed to Jesus to “bend” him, that he have a view into hell, to have a burden for the lost. In my foolishness, I prayed that prayer and He has been bending me ever since.
Brothers and sisters, let us seek to follow Paul as he followed Jesus. Let us lay aside the things that have placed in a stupor of comfort, and let us rise every higher. We serve our God King, who took on a crown of thorns, that we have access to crowns of more precious things.
“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”
I Corinthians 9:25 NKJV
We as followers of Christ, look forward to the appearing of our Lord. We will rejoice, and be filled. In our waiting, we are about the Father’s business, winning souls to the Kingdom. For that we will receive the Crown of rejoicing, or the Soul winners crown.
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
I Thessalonians 2:19 NKJV
Brothers and sisters, let us pray for those the Lord has called to preach and to teach. They are under great pressure from the evil one. Pray that they have integrity, anointing and endurance, as they compete for the crossing of glory.
“and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”
I Peter 5:4 NKJV
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Revelation 2:10 NKJV
Life in pursuit of crowns is dangerous, but never risky. We know that our God will deliver us to through trial, death, and to Heaven. Nothing can separate us from His love. Around the world, even as I write, followers of Christ are enduring increasing persecution.
We are entering a time of great temptation, and it is possible to lose the prize that is in Christ Jesus. We will not lose our salvation, but there will be great sadness in not honoring Jesus with all that we could.
“Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
I Corinthians 9:26-27 NKJV
Soon very soon, those who have believed God by faith, through the ages, will stand around the throne of Him who rules forever and ever, and we will cast down our crowns. I pray that I have not been disqualified before that glorious day.
“Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.””
Revelation 4:9-11 NKJV
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