I was saying that good works should naturally follow once a person has received grace, and if they don't, something ain't right. One blessing I've appreciated since coming to know Jesus is the freedom from trying to figure out *just how good* I have to be in order to *get in.*
If I come from a place of understanding that I can't be *good enough* to win God's favor, that Jesus already took care of that for me, then I can just be free to let the good works flow from my joy and abundance, and also free to just hand my sins over to be washed away and conquered. My spirit doesn't have to be tied down anymore by my sins, and I don't have to worry about compensating for them.
As far as eternity, it has been my understanding that for the people who have been justified by Jesus' perfection will reap rewards in proportion to their good works on earth. So whatever you have sown as far as goodness in the world, you will see the repercussions in heaven and will be richly rewarded. For example, a simple, godly woman who raised her children to love God will be joined in heaven by her children, grandchildren, etc. and all the people they brought to Christ, and this will be her everlasting joy.
I also thought that for people who died without Christ there were different degrees of suffering according to the particular sins that plagued them. For example, you suffer for your selfishness, or your inability to forgive, or the murders you committed, etc. For sin itself is distance from God, for whom our souls were created, and when we are far from him we feel the pain.
A really excellent book dealing with the afterlife that can be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone of any faith is The Great Divorce by C.S.Lewis. It is short, entertainig, and very thought-provoking, and although it was written from the perspective of a Christian it is really not dogmatic or offensive in any way. Give it a read, it is well worth it.
Sort of like parenting an attached child and using gentle discipline. A child will want to be "good" if she is loved, secure, and has good behavior modeled to her. If she is respected and treated well. She will not always succeed, because she is still a kid, after all. But the inclination to be good is nurtured toward maturity by her parent's support. With God as an involved "Father," we have the support and the motivation to be good people.
I love the concept of redemtion. To put it very simply -- God gave us the gift of life, but on our own we do a pretty thorough job of messing it up. We sit her dissapointed, scared, and sick -- and God comes along to tell us "Look, I've made a way to fix it. I am strong enough to redeem you and restore you."
I suppose it can be fun to speculate about rewards and punishments in the after-life. But I don't think we can really grasp what it will be like. I prefer to trust that God will take care of me and my loved ones, and rest in that faith.
So, how do you behave towards someone you love? Do you think of them seldom and see them virtually never? Do you come around only when you need something from them but ignore them when they and their friends or family need you? Do you give little thought to pleasing them? Of course not! You think of them often. You recall their words to you fondly. You visit with them when you can. You do things that they appreciate if you are able. This is how a Christian ought to behave. Not that there is a scoreboard in the sky, but that they feel genuinely moved to attend worship services, to make acts of charity and to live, as much as possible, in the manner that Christ preached we should.
As for our punishment being dolled out according to how bad we are I don't believe that. First of all sin is not measured by degree and hell isn't turned up hotter for those who are worse. Either your dirty or your clean. Your in our your out. Aftre being seperated from God by hell is thier anything worse that can happen to you? I think not but I guess we'll see.
The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it. We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.
But the Bible does talk alot about differeing rewards in Heaven.
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