A Call To Worship

King David wrote in Psalm 28:7: ”The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”

Hymn—“While Jesus Whispers Peace”


Pastor Don Fortner, 69, went home to be with the Lord last Wednesday morning, April 29, 2020. He was born on June 10, 1950 in Bladen County, North Carolina. After graduating Piedmont Bible College, he became pastor of Lookout Baptist Church in West Virginia. He then moved to Danville, Kentucky in 1980 where he pastored Grace Baptist Church for 40 years. Pastor Fortner was a champion of the gospel and bold as a lion. In honor of his life, testimony and ministry, one of his sermons preached for Grace Baptist Church, Danville, KY, has been selected for this service—“Degrees Of Reward In Heaven”. What is Pastor Fortner’s reward now that He is with the Lord in glory?

Scripture Reading (On “Crowns”)—James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:1-4; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

James 1:12: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

1 Peter 5:1-4: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

2 Timothy 4:6-8: ”For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 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.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27: ”Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

These texts (and several others not listed) are sometimes used as the basis for a heretical doctrine—that, in virtue of a believer’s faithful service to Christ on the earth, God rewards His people in heaven with various crowns and different degrees of honor. This idea is rooted in works religion, and is an outright denial of the grace of God in Christ. It is a doctrine used by pastors and churches to control the members and lord over God’s heritage.

Whenever the Scriptures refer to a distribution of rewards to God’s people, it is never based on the merits of the believer, but always on His own gracious covenant, and the blessings procured by Him in it. The many blessings (rewards) bestowed on His elect are all earned and purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ, and effectually applied by the Holy Spirit. This includes the blessings received on this earth and in heaven.

The crowns of life, of righteousness, of glory, of incorruption, &c. are not rewards earned by the believer based on his/her endurance of temptation, or faithfully shepherding a church, or fighting a good fight, or running the race with zeal. Rather, the believer is blessed because the Lord Jesus Christ has earned both the righteousness whereby they perform these good works, and the crowns that are given to them in heaven. God never rewards the works of believers, as deserving in themselves. Whatever commendable works they do are those that the Spirit of God works in them, by virtue of Christ and His righteousness, both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil 2:12,13).

Opening Prayer


After Abram delivered his nephew Lot from the confederacy of kings, he received this word from the Lord in a vision—“Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” This was true, not only for Abram as he journeyed through this world as a stranger and pilgrim, having his eyes set on his heavenly home, but it was also true of Abram once he reached the city prepared for him by God. Abram’s exceeding great reward in heaven would be Christ Himself. And it is the same reward all of the redeem will receive on that day of rejoicing. Are there degrees of reward in heaven? We are not so vain or foolish to glory in men. Christ wears the crown and He reigns supreme with all glory and majesty. Our reward will be to reign with Him, for all things are ours in Him; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or you, or me, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are ours, and we are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. He Himself is our exceeding great reward. He is ours and we are His, not by degrees, but in the whole. Christ is all, and in all, and we are complete in Him. What works can we render on this earth to earn a crown in heaven? What additional works could we render on this earth that Christ Himself has not rendered for us? Salvation is by grace, free grace, full grace, all of grace. Christ is our crown— our crown of righteousness, our crown of life, our crown of glory, our incorruptible crown. He is Don Fortner’s crown, shield and exceeding great reward.

If the Lord Jesus Christ is your crown, then in what way has He been your exceeding great reward this week?

Hymn—“’Jesus Lover Of My Soul”

Sermon—“Degrees Of Reward In Heaven”

Hymn—“Hallelujah! What A Savior!”

Closing Prayer


Lord, make us to know our end, and the measure of our days, what it is; that we may know how frail we are. Behold, Thou hast made our days as an handbreadth; and our age is as nothing before Thee: verily each of us at our best state is altogether vanity. Whom have we in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that we desire beside Thee. Our flesh and our hearts fail: but Thou, O God, art the strength of our hearts, and our portion for ever. Amen.

Guidance Notes
[1] The proceedings of the worship service should be conducted by one person. If it is a family gathering, then the head of home (Father or Mother) should assume the leadership. If it is a church gathering, then the Pastor, Deacon or an elder should assume the oversight. If it is a gathering with friends (peers), then one of these persons should take the lead. It is the responsibility of the leader to maintain order and discipline during the meeting. This important position should not be delegated to a person on the basis of his/her musical ability. Just because someone has a good voice or can play an instrument does not qualify him/her to lead a worship service.
[2] The leader should set a time for the worship service, making it known to all who will be attending. The leader should ensure the worship room is clean and clear of anything that might distract. The leader should give a five minute notice before the service begins. At the scheduled time, the leader should start by calling the group to worship.
[3] Children of all ages should be attending the family and/or church gathering. It is the responsibility of the parents to train their children how to be respectful and attentive during a worship service. The leader should ensure all toys and devices are put out of sight. It sends the wrong message to young children if they are allowed to play during a worship service. The leader (and group) should exercise patience and gentleness if some of the children are a little disruptive. In certain circumstances, one of the parents may need to take the child out of the room until discipline of the child is regained.
[4] Here is an example on how the proceedings should go:
“Let us worship almighty God.” Read the statement under “A Call To Worship”.
“Let us stand together and sing our first hymn—‘Name of the Hymn’.”
“You may be seated. Let us continue to worship the Lord by hearing what He has to say to us from the Holy Scriptures. Please turn in your Bible to the (Scripture Text) and I will read from the opening verse.” The Scripture should be read by the family or church leader.
“And may the Lord add a double blessing upon the reading of His Word. Let us now come before the Lord in prayer.” Although the opening prayer may be delegated to someone else in the group, it is a good policy for the family or church leader to assume this responsibility.
Read the statement under “Testimonies”.
“Let us stand together and continue to worship the Lord by singing our second hymn—‘Name of the Hymn’.”
“You may be seated. We will now come under the teachings of God’s Word. Let us be attentive to the gospel minister. He has prepared food for our souls. May it please the Lord to edify us in the gospel.”
“Let us stand together and continue to worship the Lord by singing our third hymn—‘Name of the Hymn’.”
“You may be seated. Let us close our meeting in prayer.” It is a good policy to delegate this responsibility to another leader in the group. For instance, if the father is leading the family worship, then he may ask the mother to close in prayer; or, if the Pastor is leading the church worship, then he may ask a Deacon or an elder to close in prayer.


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