(The Only Thing That Makes Sense)
By Henry Jaegers
Jesus said, "For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
The picture on the cover of this booklet comes from an incident in the life of Jesus recorded for us in Matthew 19:16 -22. It is a story of a rich young man who came to Jesus and asked, "what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" Now that was a good question for every young person to ask. Unfortunately, many are so absorbed with this world's treasure that the forethought of life after death never occurs to them. But this young man was commendable because of his honesty in asking such a question.
By asking this question, he was confessing a need for something that his riches could not give to him. No matter what his thought of eternal life might have been, it was still a sincere question that Jesus answered carefully and compassionately. Consider Jesus' answer to him. First, he told me the importance of observing the law given by Moses and his reply was, "all of these things I have done since I was a young person. What else do I have to do? Think carefully what Jesus said, and the young man's response.
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt is perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
Do not misunderstand Jesus' words to say that getting to heaven requires giving your riches to the poor. The gospel of Jesus is not a social gospel, it is a gospel that deals with the souls of men. What Jesus was telling the young man was, the riches of this world at the present time holds you captive. If you are to find true riches, you must surrender yourself to a different king and come and follow me. Jesus was saying that to have eternal life, it comes through following Jesus and forsaking all the other gods of this world that control our minds and our lives, forsake them and transferring ownership from them to follow Jesus only. Thus, we conclude that following Jesus is the only thing in life that makes sense and brings true joy and happiness into life.
Let us further consider the words of Jesus at the beginning of our message.
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
So, what is this "soul" that we are referring to? It is not an easy word to define but we can begin by saying that it comes from within a man. Riches and things of this world are external and sometimes internal selfishness and greed control our outward actions, but the soul is that which is the root of the source of everything we do and think. But it is significant, that the soul that Jesus is talking about is something that relates inwardly to God.
Augustine in his prayer stated it like this: "Thou hast made us for thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until we find rest in Thee”.
By this, we gain some clear id idea of what the soul is. It is an inner compulsion place in our hearts by God and can only be met by acknowledging his presence within. He has created us to live in peace with him but when we refuse, reject, and ignore this God space that God has placed within, we have in essence lost our souls. To refuse this relationship that God wishes to have within us causes a vacuum to take place, and this vacuum causes us to go after things of this world to satisfy this emptiness within created by this vacuum.
That in effect describes the soul. It is the inner space that can only be filled by God and Jesus call us to consider the fact that it is possible to worship the god of this world and we are at the same time destroying and eventually losing our souls (our capacity for God). The question that Jesus asks us to consider is a serious one because our relationship to God hinges upon the outcome of our life with its meaning and purpose.
There is a book in the Old Testament of the Bible that is written and explains to us the problem of gaining the whole world and losing our soul. It is the book of Ecclesiastes and it was written by a man who had experienced everything that the world has to offer and at the end of his life he summarizes all of that with the words "vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit". He begins the book and shares his experiences with the man who lived his life as a carnal human being. He started out well with the proper motive and desire and was honored by God and became one of the richest kings who ever lived.
He had wealth, he had wisdom, he had access to every source of pleasure and eventually embraced all the idolatrous practices that heathen worship had to offer. His relationship to the God who gave him all of this, deteriorated and he wound up losing everything that he formerly had. Imagine a whole book given to the subject. I am of the belief, that despite all of this, he was allowed by God to write this book to help us to learn the important value of its lessons. Here are some of the conclusions he relates, as he completes this book.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes11:13,14)
In the light of all of this, should we turn our hearts away from this teaching taught so clearly in Scripture? As the apostle, Paul stated, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
Although Jesus is quite clear in warning men of the dangers of living life without God, there is a positive note to all of this and we will end our message with this.
We must never forget that God is always good and he always has our best interests in mind but we must heed his warnings as stimulants to cause us to experience the greatest joys in life that are possible. And that joy is to experience every day, the presence of the living God as we come to his word and hear him speak directly to our hearts. Along with the many words of warning, there are also admonitions of love contained therein. So, in light of all of this, what can we do to change our course of action?
First, we must give serious consideration to the teachings of the word of God. If we do not take his word seriously then there is no hope for us no matter what our experiences and words of others may tell us. God's word is final and comes from one who cannot lie. He has given us his word to instruct, to reprove, to motivate and to keep us on a straight course of life.
The second thing we must do when coming to the word of God is to pray and ask God to help us to hear what he has to say. I must allow him to put his finger on the things in my life that are hindering me from enjoying his presence and his blessing. This is where repentance begins when we face the truth about ourselves as God sees it. It is then that we are able to go forth to the next step.
The third step it is necessary to agree with what God has said about us. When we resist his word, we hinder only our own souls. We must humbly and honestly agree with what God has said. That is what the word "confession" means. It means “to agree with God” when he points out that which needs to be corrected. Of course, our agreeing with God assumes being confronted by God as he touches our sin.
The fourth thing we need to do, we need to cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness and God has said: "ye shall seek me and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) Once we had done that the final step will take place.
We must call upon the name of the Lord. An acceptable prayer that you can pray is this:
Lord and Savior of my soul, I come before you recognizing my failure to measure up to your divine standards. Forgive me for my sin and make me your child today. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to live a life of gratitude and faithfulness, all of my remaining days. In Jesus' name I pray.