“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:35-36)
Jesus confronts humanity with a profound reality: Your soul can be lost. He asks: What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? We are going to see how a soul can be lost today. How does that happen? What is the path by which it can be lost?
I can’t think of a more critical question: Is your soul going to be saved or is your soul going to be lost? There are three ways this can happen:
1.) You can starve your soul.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
Think about the rich man in Jesus’s story in Luke 16: He lived well. He enjoyed life. He dressed in purple. And, he never really thought about his soul. He only lived for this world.
Bread sustains your body. The Word of God sustains your soul. But this rich man had no taste for the Word of God—no hunger for it, no appetite for the things of God.
Jesus told another story about a man who lived the American dream. He worked hard. He stored up all that he needed for a long retirement. And he said to himself: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. So, relax, eat, drink, and be merry. I’m going to enjoy myself. I’ve earned it.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Luke 12:19-20).
Let me speak to those of you who are older. You have worked hard, and you are enjoying your retirement. You’ve made your will, and you’ve appointed your executor. You’ve thought about what will happen to all these things that you own when you’re gone.
But what about you? What about your soul? Why are you not thinking about that urgently? Why would you not go after this until you come to the point of assurance as to your commitment to Christ, and his commitment to you?
2.) You can strangle your soul.
The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)
Let me speak for a moment to all of you who are in mid-life. Your schedule is relentless.
Your career is at the point where the greatest demands are on you. And, your kids engage in multiple activities.
There was a time when your heart was tender towards the Lord. You wanted your life to count for him, but now your whole life is taken up with the cares of this world. The desire for other things have taken hold of your heart. The Word of God has been choked, and it is becoming unfruitful in your life. And you are losing your soul.
Jesus is talking about what happens in the lives of people who hear the Word. It’s like a vine wrapping itself around you ever tighter. It is strangling the life out of your soul.
3.) You can surrender your soul.
Beloved, I urge you…to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
Let me speak for a moment to all who are young. God says there are “passions of the flesh,” and that they “wage war” against your soul. They wage war! That means these passions of the flesh are out to destroy your soul.
When you experience temptation toward some passion, and you give yourself to it, here’s what is happening: You are surrendering your soul! You are raising the while flag. You are saying to the enemy of your soul, “You win! I concede! I’m yours now,” and he takes you captive.
Think about this the next time experience temptation. The passions of the flesh are waging war against your soul. They’re seeking the destruction of your soul. They’re out to take your soul captive.
But your soul is of great value. It lasts forever. If you surrender your soul to sin it will be your everlasting loss, and you will have no one to blame but yourself!
Maybe you can see all three of these working in you. You say, “I look at my life and I see them all.” You have surrendered your soul to the passions of the flesh, you have been strangled by the cares of this world, and now your soul is starved. And, you no longer have a hunger for God or his Word.
You are losing your soul! Every day, every week, and every year your soul is being starved, strangled, and surrendered. Inch by inch, it’s on its way to being lost.
What Can You Do?
Bishop Ryle said, “The first step towards heaven is to find out the worth of your soul.” Thank God if you feel that today.
The soul that is saved is the soul that is given to Jesus Christ. If you see the value of your soul, this is how you will respond to Jesus Christ today.
You will come to Jesus Christ and say to him, “You have called me to love God with all my heart and soul, and I haven’t done that. Without you, I’m going to starve my soul, strangle my soul, and surrender my soul.”
“I need you to be the Lord, Savior, and Captain of this soul. I need you to feed my soul. And, I need you to guard my soul. I need you to save my soul. I need to turn my entire life, all that I am, over to you and place myself wholly in your hands.”
“Have mercy on me, Lord! Give me a new heart. Take away this stony heart and give me a heart that loves you, and desires you, and submits to you.”
What advantage would it be to you, if you were to gain the whole world and lose your soul?