“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37 (Read v. 34-38)
Salvation in Christ Jesus is entirely God’s free gift to us. We contribute nothing to the work of Christ. He fulfilled the law in our stead. He suffered our just punishment and made atonement for our sins and the sins of the entire world. And it is only by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit that we have come to see our utter sinfulness and to trust in Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior and continue in saving faith (cf. Ephesians 1:3ff.; 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-7).
But, as believers in Christ, justified by faith, Jesus calls us to follow Him and be His disciples and to deny ourselves and all our sinful lusts and desires. He calls us to forsake this world and the love of the things this world has to offer and to seek Him and His eternal kingdom. He even calls us to take up our crosses and to suffer as His followers in this fallen world (v. 34ff.; Matthew 6:33; 1 John 2:15-17; John 15:18ff.; Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus’ adds words of warning for us with two pointed questions: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
We all agree that a soul for which Christ shed His holy and precious blood upon the cross is of more value than all the goods and pleasures of this world. We all agree that our own souls and the salvation of our souls is of greater value and importance than anything this world has to offer us. But, do we live in accord with our stated belief?
Consider Esau in the Old Testament, who traded his birthright – including the promise to be in the ancestral line of the promised Savior – for one meal (cf. Genesis 25:29-34; Hebrews 12:16-17). For the sake of one earthly meal, He gave up gave up eternal blessings.
And what about us? Are we following Christ and using the goods of this world for the furtherance of His kingdom? Or, are we pursuing the things this world offers and only following Christ when it is convenient to do so? Are we denying ourselves and our earthly goals and ambitions to follow our Savior, trusting that His way is indeed best? Or are we indulging ourselves in this world and only using Christ as some sort of eternal fire insurance?
Indeed, we are justified by grace alone and through faith alone in Christ Jesus. Eternal life is indeed the free gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, but the wages of sin is still death (Romans 5:1ff.; 6:23). If we turn back into sin, if we turn back from following Christ, we have so much to lose. If we are ashamed of Christ Jesus and His words, He will be ashamed of us at His coming on the Last Day (v. 38).
Again, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Dear Lord Jesus, grant us faith which moves us to deny ourselves and follow You, faith which seeks first You and Your kingdom, faith which is not ashamed of You and Your words, faith which confesses You and holds fast to you and Your Word unto life everlasting. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible