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The True Cost of Disobedience

INTRODUCTION: Why does John tell them to look to themselves? Numerous scriptures warn the believer to pay attention to his own condition:

  • Jesus told His disciples, Take heed lest any man deceive you (Mark 13:5).
  • We are to walk circumspectly; that is, looking all around us to check for any dangers (Ephesians 5:15).
  • We are to be sober and vigilant because the devil walks about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

We are to pay special attention to our own relationship with the Lord.

  • Paul told Timothy, Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee (1 Timothy 4:16).
  • Paul told the Corinthians, Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves (2 Corinthians 13:5).
  • We are to keep a watchful eye on our spiritual condition and be ready to correct that which is wrong when we see ourselves drifting away from God. One of the most consistent traits of a mature Christian is his ability to catch himself drifting away from the Lord in the early stages and make adjustments before it greatly hinders his testimony or the work of the Lord.
  1. The Loss of Potential Rewards what sort it is (1 Corinthians 3:13)
    1. For Giving (Matthew 6:1-4)
    2. For Praying (Matthew 6:5-8)
    3. For Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)
  2. The Loss of Previous Rewards
    1. What does it mean to receive a full reward? The only other scripture that mentions a full reward is Ruth 2:12, where Boaz says to Ruth, The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.
      1. A full reward might refer to an abundant reward, but this does not seem to be the major thrust of our passage.
      2. It might be speaking of receiving all that a believer could receive for his labors, but this is surely not the case. Will any man receive all the reward he could have received?
      3. Most likely, to receive a full reward is to receive reward for all the good the believer has done with nothing being lost by later transgressions. Every believer will want to receive a full reward for his or her labors.
    2. How can we lose the things which we have wrought?
      1. Salvation is so wrapped up in Jesus Christ that it cannot be lost.
      2. However, the Bible teaches that heavenly rewards that were earned early in our Christian life can be lost by rebellion or disobedience at a later time.
        1. Something that is wrought has already been worked for. Yet, if we do not look to ourselves and continue in our obedience to the Lord, these earlier rewards may be lost.
        2. 1 Corinthians 3:15 states, If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. This verse speaks of works (something wrought) that are burned so that the believer suffers loss at the judgment seat of Christ. Yet, the offending Christian does not lose his salvation. He is saved, yet so as by fire.
        3. 2 John 1:8 teaches us that previously earned rewards can be lost by unfaithfulness at a later time in life. We must all be careful not to lose the things that we have wrought.
  3. The Loss of Rewards for Others
    1. Why does John use we and not you in the phrases, that we lose not and that we receive?
      1. John here recognizes that when someone falls from the faith, that person is not the only one who suffers loss. Not only does the offending Christian lose rewards, but those who ministered to them lose as well.
      2. When the Galatians so quickly turned from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ and added legalistic requirements to the working of the Spirit, Paul said to them, I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain (Galatians 4:11).
      3. He exhorted the Philippians to hold fast the word: that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain (Philippians 2:16).
    2. What does the faithful Christian lose when those to whom he ministered fail to be faithful to the Lord?
      1. He has done the good and holy work of service. What is John fearful of losing? One thing we need to understand is that the faithful servant of the Lord will not lose any personal reward because of unfaithful disciples.
      2. However, there is another aspect of our future rewards that can be lost.
        1. Paul asked the Thessalonians, For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
        2. Philippians 2:16 (see above) tells us that faithful converts and followers will be a source of rejoicing in the day of Christ.
        3. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 tells us that these faithful followers will be a crown of rejoicing to those who have led them to the Lord and trained them.
      3. This part of the reward, though not a personal reward, is one of the most joyous aspects of our heavenly home.
        1. We will be able to see the results of our labors for Christ and these saints will be a crown of rejoicing for us in heaven.
        2. This adds weight to the teaching of Hebrews 13:17, which admonishes, Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Either the servants of the Lord will give account with joy (and receive a crown of rejoicing), or they will give account with grief with a result that is unprofitable to the disciple.
        3. These are sober thoughts that remind us that our unfaithfulness will be a loss to others beside ourselves. No wonder Paul connected his joy with the faithfulness of the Philippians to stand fast: Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved (Philippians 4:1).

CONCLUSION: Preaching With Effect – Duke Kimbrough (1762-1849) served as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dandridge, Tennessee, for fifty years. “A peculiarity of Elder Kimbrough’s preaching was a sudden and unexpected pause in his discourse. The use of this surprise power, like the sudden stopping of a train of cars, was sometimes very effective. On one occasion, however, the surprise came the other way. The preacher was urging upon his members the importance of looking after their religion—‘fencing it up’—and with the exclamatory statement that ‘circumstances alter cases,’ came to a sudden pause. ‘Yes,’ broke in one of the sisters, ‘that’s what I told John! I told him if he planted the corn before he built the fence the hogs would root it up—and they did.’” –from Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers by J. J. Burnett (page 291).