Reward and Punishment- Part I

When I was in Junior High my English teacher taught our class how to write a “precis”. A precis is a shortened version of an essay or article that maintains the meaning of the original piece of writing. He would do this by assigning us a 500 word essay on a particular topic and once completed would require the class to rewrite that same essay in 250 words, then 100 words and finally 50 words. This exercise trained us to convey information in a more precise way.

At the time I didn’t see the usefulness of this exercise other than the fact that if you did it correctly you were rewarded with a good grade and if you didn’t you were punished with more homework. Later on, however, in my work as a preacher and Bible teacher tasked with writing weekly lessons and sermons limited by time and space constraints, I saw the wisdom of this discipline.

I mention this training because many times in our spiritual lives we only look at the reward or punishment aspect of certain disciplines without actually seeing the final benefit that the reward ultimately leads us to. Take sexual purity for example. There are numerous commands in the Bible that forbid any number of immoral sexual practices. The punishments for these are certain condemnation and loss of our participation in the kingdom of God (1Cor.6:9). Obedience, on the other hand, results in more than simply avoiding punishment. There are definite rewards that come with an effort at sexual purity which are experienced in the here and now.

For example, sexual purity leads to peace of mind. In a world that is saturated with sexual images and enticements, sexual purity is a shining path of sure behavior that never fails. One who pursues sexual purity has a clearer spiritual vision more able to discern the presence of the Spirit in his life as well as an ever growing sense of personal worth. People who are sexually pure experience true freedom having been liberated from the bondage that sexual sin creates. Those who seek personal freedom through sexual emancipation only enslave themselves to their sexual passions that in turn destroy their souls.

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