Preached at Milwaukee Rescue Mission on Aprill 30, 2017:
“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” – Mark 8
I just want to let you know that today is my 62nd birthday. I celebrated earlier today with my family and I have a lot of aches and pains like everyone else my age, but I am very grateful to God for the time He has allowed me to be on this planet. I am grateful to be with you tonight too.
I want to focus in on just a part of the passage I read to you earlier where Jesus Christ asks, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
This statement by Jesus Christ gets at a question that it seems like men and women are constantly asking, “what is really valuable?” What is there in life that is truly valuable? If we don’t know what is really valuable, then we don’t know how to live our life. If we don’t know what is really valuable we don’t know how to spend our time, how to spend our money. We don’t know what things to really care about, or what things we can ignore.
I heard a story about a woman who came home one day and she had in her hand a leash and at the end of leash was a small elephant. And her husband looked at her and said, “what in the world are you doing, woman? What did you just drag home?
And the woman, looking really proud, said, “It’s an elephant, and I got it for a real bargain.” All of us know what it feels like to get a bargain, to get something that we think is valuable at a reduced cost. But that story does beg the question: are the things we are pursuing in our lives really valuable? And what is really valuable anyway?
And so here in the Bible, Jesus Christ talks about what is really valuable. And so tonight, I want to ask you to consider His statement about the value of the human soul.
“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”…..that is what Jesus says. He draws a marked contrast between gaining the whole world and gaining safety for our own eternal soul.
What would it mean to gain the whole world, anyway? I mean, if we are to take that seriously….what would it mean to gain the whole world? I think it would mean that you owned all of the diamonds in South Africa. I think it would also mean that you possessed all of the gold reserves in Fort Knox in your own barns, all of the bank notes in all the banks of Switzerland. You would have the all of the fame of the stars in Hollywood, the musicians in New York, and L. A. and Nashville, all of power of the most powerful potentates in Government and business and even in crime in the U.S;, in China, in Russia, in Africa and in Europe. All of these things. You would have absolute controlling influence over people, control over people, adulation of people, the service of other people, all of the self-control of Gandhi, the musical ability of Yo-Yo Ma, the artistry of Vicent Van Gogh, all natural giftings, everything. Possessing all these things would be possessing the whole world.
To gain the whole world would have to all things in life at our beck and call, to have unlimited material resources, many, many people that wouild do nice things for you at the drop of a hat.
That’s what it would mean to have the whole world.
And there are people on this planet who really are going for the whole thing. They want to possess the whole thing. I heard recently about a ruler in Africa, in the nation of Gambia. His name was Jammeh. And he ruled Gambia. He had been ruling Gambia since 1994 and at point he vowed to rule Gambia “for 1 billion years”. Well, he didn’t rule for a billion years and in fact he got booted out very recently.
Jesus gave an illustration once about somebody trying to gain the whole world. He told a story about a rich man who had a really big harvest. And the rich man thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
And the rich man was on a project. We was trying to get it all. And the more he got, the bigger barns he had to build to hold it all.
Now, let me ask a simple question. Let’s take a little step backwards first. We’ve been talking about possessing the whole world. Let me talk about something much smaller. Instead of talking about possessing this world—let’s talk about just living in this world instead. Is there anything wrong with living in this world? I’ll ask it again is there anything wrong with lviing on this planet. Of course not. If there was something wrong with living in this world, we would have given up living completely up a long time ago. No, the truth is, this world is OK. It’s ok for us to live here. I’m not saying it’s an easy place to live in. We all know this is not an easy place to live in. But is it OK to live here? I think so.
And so the question, gentlemen, is what do we do with living here? What kind of relationship do have with this world? That is the question that Jesus Christ is getting at.
Jesus is not putting down or criticizing or complaining about this material world. He is not saying there are not things in this world and in this life to pursue. Christianity doesn’t put down this physcial world or the things in it. Christianity does not teach you to deny physcial things or say that physcial things aren’t good. Jesus doesn’t hate this world or think you should either.
There are philosophies and there are religion that teach that you “need to remove all earthly attachments” or worse yet that there is some evil about this physical world or things. Christianity doesn’t teach that. Our Lord and Master, God loves physical things and God love time and space and matter, He made it all and He loves the things that He made. In Romans, the apostle Pauls teaches that, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that NO-THING is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
It’s not things in themelves that cause any problem. The world is not the problem. It is the relationship that we have with the things in this world. That is what Jesus Christ wants us to understand.
And so Jesus is not putting down this world, he is not denigrating the world, he is not putting a “No trespassing” sign on the world. What He is doing is to tell us about something that is way more valuable than this world. He is telling us about the value of a single human soul.
But I want you to really understand the mathematics of this. For those of you who like mathematics, let me put it this way. All of what this world has to offer, all of its pleasures, all of its possessions, all of its power, all of its influences, all of it’s satisfactions IS LESS THAN, IS LESS THAN….you remember the LESS SYMBOL in math right….it looks like that….is LESS THAN a single human soul.
That is the mathmatics he is giving us. Now, the thing is…… although I gave it to you like mathematics, I want you to understand that this is not like any mathematics any of us have ever seen before. When you do math, you don’t normally put something really, really big on one side of the equaion and then say that it is less than something that doesn’t really seem all that big.
I don’t know….but all the diamonds in South Africa and all of everything else just seems a whole lot bigger that than this one little soul, this one little that is standing before you tonight. I mean, whom am I and who are you. You’re just one person. I’m just one person. One sould just doesn’t seem that big.
What is a soul, anway? It wasn’t that long ago when you didn’t even have to ask that question, not here on this planet. It wasn’t that long ago that everybody believed im such a thing as a human soul. But that is simply not the case any more.
In this godless age that we live in, many people no longer hold to the idea that these is anything like a soul. And there is a good explanation for that. As man increases in knowledge, mostly of the scientific and technicall kind, he is increasing getting more and more filled up with a great feeling of self-importance. Our human race was infected from the very beginning with the disease of sin, and just as people grower taller and taller on our planet, our sin, our arrogance as a race of people keeps growing too. And so in the modern way of thinking, if you can’t weigh something on a scale or put a tape measure up to it or see it under a microscoope, then many modern people say, “well, maybe it doesn’t really exist.”
But let me tell you something you can weigh on a scale, it is the fat head of the average modern person, and I’m telling you it is getting fatter and fatter every year. With every new technical breakthrough we just keep on getting more and more arrogant, more and more filled up with our own selves. Our heads hust keep getting bigger and bigger and more and more filled up with our own selves, our own arrogance, our own pride, our own feeling of self-importance.
And so, let me just put it this way. You can’t put a soul on a scale. You can’t put it under a microscope. You can’t detect it with radar. That is because God also, along with creating this world created a dimension of things that to us are what we call “spiritual”.
And it is impossible for man in his sinful nature to perceive this other reality. In 1 Corinthians 2:13, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
To someone who has not been spiritual eyes to see, this dimension of the soul or the spirit is foolishness.
Man, I tell you, if I wanted to, I could believe that radio waves don’t exist because I can’t see them flying through the air. And if I believed they didn’t exist I would never turn on my radio to listen to Bucks game. But I do turn it on. And I listen.
This Bible teaches that you have a soul. Your life is more than just about the physical components that make up your body. This universe is not a machine. It is not just a biological mechanism.
You do have a soul. You are a work of art by a master craftsman. “You knit we together in my mother’s womb.” This universe is a personal universe. Physical reality is not the beginning and end to reality. You were made for a purpose. You didn’t just happen as a biological accident.
And Jesus Christ points us to that other side of reality. He is pointing us to the reality of the soul and the value of the soul. He is pointing you to the significance of your life, and not just your physical life but your life in eternity. You are an eternal being. You have a life ourside of your physical body.
All right, that is enough about the existence of the human soul.
But what about the soul’s value? Is it really as valuable as Jesus Christ says it is? Well, to be completely accurate, Jesus actually says that the salvation, the saving of a soul is the thing of value.
And the reason He puts it this way is that one of the main obstacles to a soul being saved is when a man or a woman, who was born with an eternal soul miscalculates and instead of going down the pathway towards salvation they pursue the trinkets and meager pleasures and treasures of this world.
Why does Jesus put these two things in contrast? It is because this is the very point where we fail. We place our value on the wrong things. We fall in love with the wrong things. We love the meager pleasures, the weak enticements of this life, this physical world to the things of God. We seem to prefer the enticements of our flesh to the satisfaction of the Spirit. We like the temporary buzz more than we like the enduring calm, the everlasting joy and the unending fullfillment.
But the really tragic thing about this is that our choices lead us to eternal outcome. The treasures of this world all rust and wear out. The life of the soul is eternal. This is about something far beyond the limits of a physical human life. Your choice, friend, is about whose table you will eat at for all of eternity. The God of the Universe is inviting us through Jesus Christ to join into his family and to eat eternally at His table.
Let me talk about the gain and the loss in this verse. Is this gain, gaining the whole, something that is even possible? It is not. It is not possible for a lot of reasons. No person can gain everything. No one person is capable of that. Even John D. Rockefeller wanted more. And he didn’t get it, Even Warren Buffet wants more. And he may get more, but he will never get the whole world. You see the contrast is not between 2 things that are even really possible. You can not, you will not gain the whole world, that much is absolutely certain.
But what God offers is something that IS absolutely certain. The promise off God is that whoever turns to him and trusts in His son Jesus Christ He will in no way turn out. And this is possible because the God of this universe is thoroughly reliable and good to keep his word. If you had aske Jammeh of Gambia for a seat at his table, he could have granted it to you for a while. But even at the instant he was granting that favor, the day of the demise of that promise and what favor was already written in the book of time. But it is not like that with God. His promise is sure. His word is sure and certain.
So what will you say to this teaching? It’s not like Jesus is giving a suggestion. This is not something to just put on the back burner. This is the stuff that is meant to draw us to decision. This is meant to turn us hot or cold.
The words of missionary Jim Elliot are fitting here, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Do you understand what Elliot was saying? This teaching by Jesus is calling fools out of their foolishness into wisdom.
I know, I was such a fool. And the best thing that ever happened to me was when God drew me to Himself and by His Holy Spirit I put faith in His Son. And now, I surrender myself to Jesus Christ and I daily am required to do the same. In the Gospel of Luke it says I must “take up my cross, and daily follow” him.
And so please ask yourselves: if this is really true what do I need to do? If the salvation of one soul, my own very soul has more worth than possession of the whole world what should I do about it?
Well, the word of God says your soul needs to be saved. It needs to be saved.
No one here would refuse God’s offer if they knew what was really at stake. If you knew that a great fire had just caught the corner of the Milwaukee Rescue over on 19th street and was raging in this very direction very rapidly in a way that would cut off all means of escape you would all move, run and jump for the exits and wouldn’t even wait for me to finish my sentence. That is because you would know that something needs to be done, some action needs to be taken. Being saved is important when we know the reality and the consequence of not being saved. If we don’t see the need, if we don’t believe anything needs to be doen then we will do nothing.
Well, there is a great fire raging. There is a great fire raging in the hearts of men. It is called sin. It shows itself in the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and in the self-centered living of men. And that fire is raging because the human race is separated from God. Although we were all created by God, we as a race have lost touch with our Creator. And sin is like a disease. It rages in our soul, just like physical disease can rage in a body.
And the truth brothers is that God sent His own Son, Jesus Christ to die a death on a cross 2000 years ago to defeat death, to defeat sin and to bring the human race back into real fellowship and communion with Himself. And he is letting that be known throughout this whole planet through the oppraching of His Gospel, the Goods News of what Jesus has done.
Will you follow him? You will need to give up your pursuit in other directions than in Him. The Scriptures tell us to “fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.” There is a broad pathway one that many are on that leads to spiritual death but there is pathway, and it is narrow, that leads to eternal life, eternal communion with the great God of the universe. ““He is no fool who gives .what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Let us pray.