Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld , he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went u , behold , two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Since the moment Christ first ascended back to the Father, the church has been waiting for His return. The first disciples did. So did the Apostle Paul.
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
I. The Crowns at Christ’s Coming
A. The Coming of Christ
The Apostle Paul was eager to see his Savior. The Bible teaches us that during his thirty or so years of ministry, Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, starved and attacked. In this last letter he writes –
2 Timothy 4:7 have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
In other words – “I have remained faithful to do all that Christ gave me to do. Now I’m ready to go home.”
But there was another reason why Paul was ready to see Christ. Because Paul had given his life to serving the Lord, he anticipated a reward.
2 Timothy 4:8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:
B. The Crowns of Christ
Will there be crowns in heaven? Some believe that the references to ‘crowns’ are only symbolic or figurative. Yet the Bible teaches us that indeed there will be crowns in heaven.
First of all there is the crown known as the ‘diadem.’ In the hymn, ‘All Hail the Power of Jesus Name’ we sing – ‘Bring forth the royal diadem and crown Him, Lord of all.’ What is a diadem? A diadem is a crown of dignity or royalty. The first time Jesus was here on earth, He was mocked by being forced to wear a crown of thorns. The next time this world sees Jesus, He will be glorified by wearing not one, but many diadems. His diadems will signify that He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
In addition to the diadems of Jesus, heaven will also contain another type of crown known as the ‘stephanos.’ We read in Revelation 4-
Revelation 4:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting , clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
The word ‘crown’ as it is found here is not ‘diadem’, but ‘stephanos.’ The stephanos is the crown of the victor. It is the crown placed upon the head of the Olympic athlete who won the race. We will study this passage in more detail at a later time, but note what these elders do with their crowns.
Revelation 4:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns [stephanos] before the throne, saying, 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
In honor of their Savior, they cast their crowns at His feet and declare that He is the one who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power. Many believe that the crowns that you and I might earn today will be a part of our worship in eternity.
II. The Crown For Bringing People to Christ
The Apostle Paul expected such crowns and he gave his life to living in a way that would earn them. In 1 Thessalonians 2, he refers to a particular type of crown –
1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? (stephanos) Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
Paul expected a crown known as the Crown of Rejoicing. This crown is also sometimes called -‘The soul-winner’s crown.’ It is the crown for helping the lost come to Christ.
A. The Justification of a Soul Winner’s Crown
That such a crown might be given should not surprise us. Here are a couple of reasons:
1. It is the most important thing we will ever do
Think about it for a moment. One day the size of our house or the car we drive isn’t really going to matter. One day nothing is going to matter other that whether or not we know Jesus Christ as our Savior. If we don’t, everything will be lost and we will be doomed to spend forever in a place of torment. But if we do, heaven will be ours. In the end nothing will be more important than our salvation, therefore helping people come to Christ is the most important thing we will ever do and therefore it deserves a reward.
2. It is the most difficult thing we will ever do
Not only is it the most important thing we will ever do, it’s just about the most difficult. Few things in life are harder than overcoming the fear of talking with others about their salvation. Consider some of Paul’s struggles in spreading the gospel-
2 Corinthians 7:5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
Paul fought battles not only outwardly, but also inwardly. Outwardly there were enemies of the cross who continuously attacked him. Yet Paul told the Ephesians that our battles are actually not physical battles, but spiritual battles. Most of our struggle with fear is an internal battle with the devil.
B. The Joy of the Soul-Winner’s Crowns
Though the Bible tells us that there will be crowns in heaven, the real significance of these crowns probably has more to do with what they represent, than what they are made of. In heaven, the streets will be made of gold and the walls will be made of diamonds. What we consider to be precious today will be common in heaven. Why then will anyone be excited to receive a gold crown? Let me suggest three reasons why the soul-winner’s crown will be important.
1. The joy of the satisfaction of knowing that we found victory over our fears
As I stated just a few moments ago, fear is the primary reason we don’t tell others about Jesus. We are afraid that others might laugh at us or think we’re weird. We’re afraid that they might become angry at us. Or we’re afraid they might ask us a question we can’t answer and therefore we would be embarrassed. Fear keeps most Christians silent about their faith. In contrast, think of the joy and satisfaction there will be for those who will be rewarded by the Savior for faithfully telling others about Him. That alone will be a crown!
2. The joy of sharing in Christ’s suffering for men’s salvation
There will also be another type of joy in heaven for the soul-winner. There will be the joy of knowing that you shared in Christ’s sufferings.
In the book of Acts we read of the apostles being arrested and beaten for preaching the gospel. Their enemies thought that this would discourage and stop them. Yet it had a very different affect upon them.
Acts 5:41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
The suffering did not silence them. It ignited them. They rejoiced that they might be counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of their Savior. If persecuted believers rejoice here on earth, imagine what they will do in heaven. Imagine the moment when persecuted Christians are rewarded by their Lord and Savior.
3. The joy of seeing people in heaven
There is another type of joy awaiting the soul-winner in heaven. It is the joy of seeing the fruit of their labor. It is the joy of seeing people in heaven the people they have led to the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 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? 20 For ye are our glory and joy.
Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
Second only to the joy of seeing our Savior in heaven will be the joy of seeing someone whom we helped bring to Christ. Think of the rejoicing that will go on between them.
III.Becoming a Soul-winner
A. By directly sharing the gospel
Down through the centuries the Lord has called many of His followers to become missionaries, evangelists and church planters. Jesus told His disciples to go out into the world and to preach the gospel to every person. But did you know that there are missionaries right here in Franklin County? Who are they? It’s us. We’re Christ’s ambassadors right here at home. Our mission field is where we work, where we live and where we buy our groceries.
“But I’m afraid!” many might say. The truth is, we all struggle with fear. Yet we also need to understand that fear can be overcome. How so? How can we overcome the fear of sharing the gospel?
Prayer is a mighty weapon in overcoming the fear of witnessing. How do I know that prayer will help? Consider Paul’s prayer request of the Ephesians-
Ephesians 6:18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly , as I ought to speak .
What was Paul’s prayer request?
‘I don’t know enough’, some will say. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean we can learn. Study your Bible. Mark passages of scripture that explain the gospel. Read books that will help prepare you. You don’t have to be a Bible professor to share your faith in Christ. Remember that the woman at the well went back and began to evangelize her whole city, just moments after her salvation.
As you are around your friends and co-workers, enter into conversations with others about God, Jesus or salvation. Here’s a simple question that will easily open a conversation about salvation – ‘Do you believe that there is a heaven?’ Most are going to answer either ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ If they say ‘Yes’, follow up by asking them how a person gets to heaven. If they answer ‘No’, ask them why they believe that way. If they say ‘No one can know for sure’, ask them if you could show them some verses from the Bible. Don’t try to beat people over the head with the Bible. Talk with them in a normal conversation.
There is something else that we need to remember. Just because they don’t pray the sinner’s prayer with us, that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t used us. It’s been said that the average person hears the gospel at least seven times before they make a decision. Seven is not a magical number. That statistic is only saying that it often takes a number of exposures to the truth before someone is ready to receive it. If that is true, who is the most important in the process – the first person to witness to them or the last? Or what about the 6th person who got them right to the doorstep? Consider what Paul said about how God uses many of us to do His will.
1 Corinthians 3:5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6 I have planted , Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
Over the past several decades the Lord has used Billy Graham in a great way to bring thousands to salvation. Often he has preached to stadiums that are packed full. Who is the most important in the process – Billy Graham who preached to the packed stadium or the hundreds of faithful Christians who helped pack the stadium by inviting their friends? Collectively God used both to bring people to salvation. God used one in one way and another in another.
B. By indirectly sharing the gospel
1. By the way we live
Titus 2:10 …adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. [‘Adorn’ = cosmetics, to embellish with honor / dignity]
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
2. By the way we bid
Matthew 22:9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
Luke 14:23 …Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in , that my house may be filled.
3. By the way we give
a) Ministry of the local church
At Twin Oaks we strive to minister to everyone from the newborn to the senior citizen. In addition to the regular services, we offer Sunday School for all ages, Awana, Teens For Christ and other special ministries. In order to provide such ministries, we must divide our annual budget into various categories. Sunday School receives a part of our annual budget and so does our Awana program. As each of us gives our part, our church is provided with the funds that enable us to have such ministries. Thank you for your giving. Through your generosity you help us take the gospel to our community.
b) Missions around the world
At Twin Oaks we also provide you with opportunities to be a part of world-wide missions. Consider these words from our Savior-
Matthew 10:41 He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward… 42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
Most of us will never go to a foreign mission field. Yet each of us can have a part in spreading the gospel around the world. Jesus said that even a cup of cold water given for the right reason would receive a reward. Those who join themselves with a prophet will share in the prophet’s reward. Those who join themselves with foreign missionaries will share in the missionaries’ reward.
How can we join ourselves to foreign missionaries? At Twin Oaks we have four main areas where we focus on missions. These four areas of emphasis are spread throughout the year. During the winter season we focus on the Lottie Moon Offering which helps support foreign missionaries. In the spring we focus on the Annie Armstrong Offering which helps to support missionaries throughout North America. During the summer months we focus on supporting the Gideons. Then during the fall season we set our focus on the Samaritan’s Purse Shoe Boxes. This year we have set a goal of at least 400 boxes. Our goal is not just 400 boxes, but 400 gospel witnesses to boys and girls around the world. Imagine being in heaven one day and having a child come up to you and thank you for sending them a shoe box.
One of my favorite stories involves an elderly couple who had served for the most of their adult lives as missionaries in Africa. After decades of living in difficult and extreme conditions, it was time for them to leave the field. They arrived back in America with very little money, no pension plan and poor health.
As the boarded their ship home they soon discovered that they were traveling with President Teddy Roosevelt who was returning home at a big-game hunting expedition in the wilds. As the ship neared the port in America, hundreds of people could be seen standing on the docks, cheering and waving banners. But the welcome was not for the missionary couple. It was for the president.
As the crowds cheered the president, the elderly couple quietly slipped off the boat and away from the celebration. The man was very discouraged. He said to his wife – “Why should we have given the best years of our lives and no one cares. No one is here to welcome us home.” But then his dear wife said to her husband – “But don’t forget, we’re not home yet.”
Who will be the ones cheered in heaven? Will it be the politicians? Will it be the sports heroes? Will it be the rock bands? No my friend. The ones who will be celebrated in heaven will be the ones who denied themselves so that they might dedicate their lives to serving Christ. Without a doubt, those who overcame their flesh and their fears and sought to win souls to Christ will be at the top of the list of Christ’s good and faithful servants.