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Richard Bennett :: Chapter 7 Fruit or Fire

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Food for Faith —Chapter 7

Fruit or Fire

  Eternal Light

Eternal Light! Eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be,
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but, with calm delight,
Can live, and look on Thee!

The spirits that surround Thy throne
May bear the burning bliss;
But that is surely theirs alone,
Since they have never, never known
A fallen world like this.

O how shall I, whose native sphere
Is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear,
And on my naked spirit bear
The uncreated beam?

There is a way for man to rise
To that sublime abode:
An offering and a sacrifice,
A Holy Spirit’s energies,
An Advocate with God.

These, these prepare us for the sight
Of holiness above:
The sons of ignorance and night
May dwell in the eternal Light,
Through the eternal Love!

             —Thomas Binney (1798-1874)

A friend of mine called Bengt was a Swedish-American who had immigrated to the United States. There he became a successful Christian businessman. Among his several ministries, Bengt delighted in transporting missionary airplanes to their destination on mission fields. One year, he and a friend of his were asked to take a small plane to Alaska for Mission Aviation Fellowship (M.A.F.). Having completed the bulk of their journey, his friend left him at Fairbanks airport, and Bengt prepared to fly solo the final lap of the journey.

Just before leaving, Bengt’s friend tossed an emergency pack into the small plane. It consisted of one bar of chocolate and a warm blanket. During this last leg of the flight, a storm unexpectedly sprang up. The treacherous winds in the Alaskan mountain range sucked the tiny aircraft into a down-draft. Flipping upside down, the plane skidded to a halt at the edge of a mountain cliff. For the next three days snow fell, but in the goodness of God the wind blew the snow off the white underbelly of the plane, keeping it from being covered. However, because the white underbelly was surrounded by snow, when the U.S. Coast Guard air search rescue teams flew overhead, Bengt’s little plane was not noticed.

After the military called off their air search rescue teams, Bengt’s son Bruce, a fine young Christian man, together with a M.A.F. pilot, asked the Lord to guide them to Bengt. Meanwhile on the ground, Bengt had become increasingly weak and had even taken a delayed action photograph of himself, which showed him waving goodbye to his loved ones with a gaunt, yet smiling face. However, God had other plans. As Bruce and his friend flew over the site of the downed plane, the reflection of the sun on the white metal underbelly drew their searching eyes to Bengt’s location.

Why do I recount this story? Later Bengt told me that during those ten days he was living at the brink of the Judgment Seat of Christ. When I next saw him, he told me that when he had been alone with God on that snowy mountain cliff, the Holy Spirit had permitted him to review his life on earth as he anticipated his soon home-call into the presence of God. He said it was as if the ‘Judgment Seat of Believers’ had come to him ahead of time. As his life spread out before him, Bengt reflected upon his years of dedicated Christian service and wondered how much of it would really count for eternity.

With great seriousness, Bengt told me that he came to realize that the church board meetings, the missionary council meetings and his many church activities, though gladly undertaken, he had really done in the energy of his flesh, in the expression of his own talents and abilities, and not as a result of the overflow of the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Bengt said that in those ten days God had shown him that such ‘worthwhile’ activities were just ‘wood, hay and stubble’, (the metaphors used in the Bible to refer to those days and deeds in our lives which will be burned up at the Judgment Seat for Believers and therefore not count for eternity).

That awesome experience for Bengt was really a revival experience in his life. Those of us who loved him and had known him for so long and had so appreciated the zeal with which he had thrown himself into the work of God later came to understand what he had meant, for his remaining few years were explained, not in terms of his own abilities and strength, but in terms of a new surge of the overflow of God’s blessing and power through his life wherever he witnessed.

It is a sober thought for Christians to remember that we shall appear at the Judgment Seat prepared for all believers. This Judgment Seat must be distinguished from The Great White Throne of Judgment. The Great White Throne is the place where all unbelievers will be judged and condemned to a lost eternity, whereas the Judgment Seat of Believers is the place where everything that was not of faith will be burned and everything that was of faith will live forever to the glory of God, because He Himself has done the work! On that day, many Christians will sadly discover that even their busyness in the church and their popularity in religious circles, which so satisfied them during their lifetime, did not count in the mind of God as genuine spiritual service.

White Pages

I have before me two pieces of clean white paper. Both are blank. No one has either written or drawn on them. If you were to look at them, you would not see anyone’s thoughts in print nor any beautiful picture. But at the same time, you would not see somebody’s mistakes! Just as there is no beauty, so, too, there are no smudges or blots. Just white pages; nothing more, nothing less.

Your life and mine could have many days which are like those white pages. Though once smeared by sin, now, because of the wonderful mercy of God, and through the Atoning Blood of Jesus, every page of life for the believer has been cleansed. Nothing remains but that which is as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18 NKJV). As I look back upon some of the pages of my life as a Christian, I remember with sadness how, wittingly or unwittingly, through willfulness or through weakness, I have sinned and grieved the Holy Spirit. Except for the Blood of Jesus, those white pages would have been forever blotted with the ugly stains of sin and self-centeredness. What wonderful mercy and grace God has extended to me, so that even those pages which were once so sin-stained are now as white as snow! White pages; but, praise God, no blots or smudges!

However, it is a sobering thought for me also to realize that whatever the Holy Spirit has not done through me has not counted for eternity. In the words of the Apostle Paul, those days of life can be described as having been saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:15 NKJV). When there has been no overflow of the Holy Spirit from my life, though my sins have been erased by my forgiving Lord, nothing has been accomplished that will count for eternity. White pages; but, sadly, nothing more!

Though some of the pages of life will remain forever white, other pages will have recorded on them indelible pictures of exquisite beauty—pages painted by His own nail-pierced hands of love—glorifying Him forever. For every believer, these glorious pages are the record of those days when we have been available vessels through which an eternal God was able to do His eternal work. Yes, white pages; but, praise God, much more!

Wasted Years

How tragic it is when those who are daily invited by God to ‘come and dine’ waste years of their lives that they could instead spend in the joy of ever-deepening fellowship with their Lord and in bringing pleasure to the Savior Himself.

My heart fills with sad joy when I recall an elderly gentleman whose very salvation was sullied by the hurt of lost opportunities and of years wasted on the superficial pleasures of life. Soon after my conversion, together with a few other young people who had also just received Christ, I went to a local hospital to minister. Every other Saturday night, we shared the gospel message and prayed with some of the elderly folk who had no hope of ever leaving their hospital ward. One particular evening, I moved over to the bedside of an elderly man who, as it turned out, would die before our next Saturday night visit.

After having heard our brief Bible message, he was obviously very moved, and, with tears rolling down his face, he falteringly disclosed: “I know I’m saved and going to Heaven.” “That’s wonderful,” I replied. Before I could say anything further, he began sobbing, not with unrestrained joy but with the pain of inner hurt. With a feeble voice, he whispered: “Yes—but not completely—you see I’m seventy-one years old now and seventy years of my life have been wasted!”

As a young convert, what could I reply? I don’t remember how I tried to comfort him, but I do remember going home that night, getting on my knees and saying to the Lord something like this: “Lord, even now I am looking into the future on a life that one day I will be looking back on. When it is my time to come to Heaven, I don’t want to come with my soul saved but my life wasted. Tonight, I again yield my life to You. I pray You will make it really count for eternity.”

In the Old Testament, Habakkuk warned that it is possible to expend a great deal of energy and then later sadly discover that what we have done has amounted to nothing. When he informed the people of his day, the just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4 NKJV), he also warned them that those who do not apply the faith principle of total dependence on God to activities of life labor to feed the fire (Habakkuk 2:13 NKJV). Because those people established their city completely independent of God, nothing but ashes remained. Similarly, whatever we do that has not been totally dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ will one day be brought to nothing in the fiery presence of God.

Later in the New Testament, Paul likewise warns:

Now if anyone builds on this foundation [the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NKJV).

The seventy-one year-old gentleman in the nursing home was glad he was saved, but he was also very sad that he was saved—as through fire. The fire that would burn the wood, hay and stubble of his life, is the same fire that will purify the gold, silver and precious stones of those through whom the Holy Spirit has been free to build with God’s own imperishable building blocks.

Eternal Light

An eternal God will do His eternal work through each Christian who, abiding in Christ, nourishes his faith and applies God’s Word to his life. Such believers will be able to face each new day with glad anticipation as they assuredly testify: Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28 NKJV). Effective, regular Together Times will encourage us to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, and not in the energy of our flesh.

One day, in the all-searching light of God’s Holy Presence, those people who have been available vessels for the work of the Living God will rejoice with exceeding joy. Yes, as we are drawn to His banqueting table day by day, the God of Light and Love invites us to enjoy transparent fellowship with Him. In this way, we will become His channel of light and love to a dark and selfish world.

Spiritual Check-up

  1. If I continue to live the way I am living now, will there be any fruit from my life at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
  2. When I pray, do I approach God as Eternal Light or do I regard Him merely as my personal benefactor in Heaven?
  3. Now, do I need to pray the prayer of David: Revive me according to Thy Word (Psalm 119:25 NKJV)?
Chapter 6 Time to Tell ← Prior Section
Chapter 8 Come and Dine Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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