They cast their crowns before the throne. - Revelation 4:10
Do you play chess? I'm familiar with how the pieces move and I can play on a very elementary level. But I don’t know much at all about strategy, and I can’t think moves ahead like more experienced players are able to do. Most of us know enough about the game to realize what it means when, at the end, the player who will win on the next move announces “Checkmate.” The losing player recognizes the loss, and lays his king over on the board. Defeated, he bows in submission to the victorious opponent.
In John's vision of the throne in heaven recorded in Revelation 4, the living creatures before the throne of God fall down and worship, and cast their crowns before the only true king, the Lord God Almighty. No creature can stand in pride before his Creator. Even if we try to act as our own little sovereign, eventually every one must acknowledge that it's "checkmate." The fiercest enemy of Christ will acknowledge him as Lord at the judgment when Jesus comes again (Philippians 2:10-11).
What does it mean for us as believers who already confess Jesus as Lord to "cast our crowns" before his throne? I think it is recognizing that any honor we have received and any privilege we have enjoyed has been given to us by God's grace. The fact that we exist to stand before him in heaven is all of grace. All our achievements, all our spiritual progress and acts of righteousness come as a direct result of grace. We cast our crowns in deep reverence and humility, unwilling to claim any glory for what God has done.
Gratitude constrains us to lay our crowns of honor, position and achievement at the feet of the one who provided it all to us. This is nowhere more true than spiritual matters, where we who were dead in our trespasses and sins are now alive and redeemed by God's grace. It is humbling to admit that we can do nothing of any spiritual value apart from the Lord. The work we do, he works in us. When we work hard, it is the grace of God working in us. When hearts are changed and souls are saved through our efforts, God worked through us to accomplish what only God himself can do.
Have we really learned to cast our crowns at the Savior's feet? Let's check: Is there anything I "own" that I claim to have gotten on my own without his enabling, benevolent hand? Have I done any real lasting good, apart from doing his will? Do I still clamor for recognition or credit for what I have done in service to him? We know the "right" answers to these questions. But in our conduct, words and speech, do we ever show that we are clinging to a crown instead of laying it before him?
The spiritually mature man or woman gives all glory to God. When a Christian boasts, he displays his immaturity and betrays that he has not yet denied self. There is no question that we will all one day cast our crowns before the Lord on his throne. But when we as Christians speak and act with pride, we show that we’re not yet ready for that day to come. In heaven around the throne, no one will say, "Look what I did! See my mighty works!" Not one before him in glory will say,"I got here the old-fashioned way; I earned it!” We will all cast our crowns.
At the end of a chess match, the loser has no choice. He may be angry and defiant, even in forced surrender. But around the throne of God in heaven there will be no pouting in self-pity and no praising through clenched teeth. There will be only glorious praise and worship to the one we acknowledge as our true king. May God show us his mercy and grant us grace to grow so that we may loosen our grip on any crowns we're still clutching and joyfully cast them at his feet.