There is more to Christian living than escaping “hell” and being born again. As amazing as the free gift of everlasting life is, that is merely the first step. Jesus has much more in store for you.
How about fame?
Now, I’m not talking about worldly fame—the way movie stars, sports figures, and social media influencers vie with each other to gain name-brand recognition, admiration from fans, and lucrative sponsorship deals. I’m talking about fame in the sense of being known by God, who, when He evaluates how you lived, turns out to be pleased with your service. In Free Grace thought, that concept belongs to the doctrine of eternal rewards, a theme found throughout Scripture, yet not emphasized by many other theological traditions. That is why I am always pleased to come across authors outside of Free Grace circles who notice the same emphases in Scripture. For example, C. S. Lewis saw that Scripture promises future accolades:
There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars (“The Weight of Glory”).
But some people struggle with the idea of living to win those crowns, robes, and thrones, i.e., they struggle with the idea of seeking fame and glory. Making that your goal seems too self-absorbed and vain. Lewis initially thought that, too:
…since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven (“The Weight of Glory”).
But is it of hell? In other words, is it intrinsically wrong to seek any fame? Or might there be different kinds of fame—some worldly and some even godly? As Lewis thought more about the subject in light of Scripture and through reading other authors, he eventually came to a different view:
When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation” by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, though good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards (“The Weight of Glory”).
If Jesus presents His approval as something that is desirable, shouldn’t you desire it?
Lewis began to think about the subject in a different light. He compared it to how a child delights in his parent’s approval:
I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised (“The Weight of Glory”).
Is there anything sinful in a child taking pleasure in being told he’s done an excellent job? Not at all. Is there anything sinful in a child wanting to please his parents? Again, no.
If you struggle with desiring God’s accolades, try to remember how much you delighted in being praised by your parents and teachers and how much your children enjoy being praised by you. Similarly, can you imagine the sheer delight you’ll feel to hear Jesus say that you’ve done a good job?