Summary: Attain the crown of life by faithfully wearing the crown of grace and by patiently bearing the crown of thorns.
Daniel Habben How Can I Attain the Crown of Life?
Revelation 2:8-11 1) Faithfully wear the crown of grace
November 14th, 2004 2) Patiently bear the crown of thorns
What would it take to get elected Prime Minister? What’s the most important thing needed to attain that position? It’s not speaking skills or leadership qualities; it’s money. Without money to advertise, you wouldn’t be able to tell the voters who you are and what you stand for. The importance of money was demonstrated in the U.S. elections that just finished. In those elections two candidates for senate from South Dakota spent $26.3 million U.S., more than $50 U.S. apiece for each of the state’s 502,000 registered voters (CBSNewYork.com). That figure doesn’t even include the millions more spent by outside interest groups trying to affect the outcome of that election. Yes, when it comes to attaining an elected office, you need money.
What will it take for you to attain heaven? Money? No. Morality? You would think so, but Jesus teaches us this morning that we attain the crown of life by faithfully wearing the crown of grace, and by patiently bearing the crown of thorns.
Jesus tells us this in the second letter recorded in the book of Revelation. This letter was addressed to the church in Smyrna, a city north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus, Smyrna was prosperous. The citizens of Smyrna were especially proud of the public buildings that crowned the high point of their city. Indeed from the sea it looked as if the city had a crown. This crown of Smyrna, this prosperity, wasn’t something that the members of the church there enjoyed however. Yet Jesus wanted them to know that they wore an unseen crown that made them wealthy. Jesus said: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!” (Rev. 2:9a)
What was this unseen crown that made the Christians of Smyrna rich in spite of their poverty? It was the crown of grace. This crown assured them their sins were forgiven. It gave them peace from their guilty consciences. It guaranteed that when they died they would go to heaven and there enjoy eternal life free from fear, sorrow, loneliness, ridicule, sickness, and death. No amount of worldly wealth can buy such peace and confidence.
What had the Christians of Smyrna done to attain this crown? Nothing. The crown had been given to them by God. That’s why it’s called a crown of grace. An easy way to remember what grace means is to think of the word as an acronym. G.R.A.C.E. stands for God Riches At Christ’s Expense. The Christians at Smyrna were rich because Christ had made them rich. He did that by trading places with them as the Apostle Paul explained in a letter to the Corinthian Christians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
Jesus gave us the wealth of heaven by trading places with us in hell. He did that on the cross where he suffered the heavenly rejection you and I deserve for our sins. But it isn’t Jesus’ death that makes us rich; it’s his life. Think of it like this. If I owe a million dollars, I would be thankful to anyone who paid that debt. I wouldn’t, however, claim to be rich, unless the same person who bailed me out gave me another million dollars. Christ did that when he paid for our sin and gave us credit for his life without sin. As a result, in God’s eyes we are rich and ready for life in his glorified presence!
Are you wearing this crown of grace the Christians of Smyrna wore? You are. In fact all people are! Jesus lived and died for all, not just a select group of people, not even just for those who believe in him (2 Pet. 2:1). Unfortunately not all appreciate what God has done to save them through Jesus. Many, instead, boast in their own “goodness”. But that’s like thinking a toy crown makes you a real king or queen. A crown of our “good” works does not lead to the crown of life. It leads to a crown of pain, for those who reject Jesus and rely on themselves for salvation will have to endure the eternal fires of hell as punishment (Rev. 2:11). If you have thought much about your own goodness, throw away that plastic crown of works and boast instead in the real crown of righteousness that Jesus went to hell and back to give to you. That crown of grace will withstand the fires of Judgment Day and present you as one ready to enjoy the crown of life.