Matthew 16:24-26 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul.’”
Jesus taught us the principles of denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him. Many choose not to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus. They think that they are somehow saving their life when they don’t give their life to Jesus. They think that they will be saving their life to do what they want to do, to follow life’s pleasures, and please themselves. But Jesus said they will really be losing their life. At the end of life’s pathway, they will discover that they have lost their life. On the other hand, those who give their life to Jesus will really be finding their life. It may look like they are giving up their life to follow Jesus, but at the end of life’s pathway, they will find life – eternal life. The choice is before each of us. What would you give in exchange for your soul or your life?
Some would seek the wealth that is in the world. Perhaps it is a nice car that is beautifully painted, very stylish, air conditioning, beautiful sound system, with lots of power. Or maybe it is a large house with many rooms, filled with expensive furniture, an entertainment center and a swimming pool. Or maybe it is fancy clothes to include all kinds of shoes. Even if you had so much wealth that you were one of the richest persons on earth and could afford anything, would you choose wealth in exchange for your soul? Others may seek worldly pleasures such as following their illicit sexual desires, or entertainment or alcohol or drugs. Still others might choose power or fame. And still others might choose companionship with a person or persons of the world. In looking around us, we see many who have pursued the things of this world in exchange for their soul.
We all want to be liked by the people around us. Sometimes people put too great a value on what others think rather than on following Jesus and doing the things that He taught. As a result, you might not confess your belief and discipleship to Christ before others. This happened in the time of Jesus. John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” These chose to be accepted by others in exchange for their souls.
But it doesn’t have to be a lifetime of pursuing the things of this world. It might be a moment of weakness that can have a lasting impact on your life. Remember Esau who came in from the field weary and hungry and sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. Hebrews 12:16-17 “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Learn from Esau that you must guard against any moment of weakness where you might sell your birthright.
Most of us live where it is safe to be a follower of Jesus. But there may come a time where our lives will be threatened because of our faith. This certainly happened during the life of the apostles. We read how that Herod killed James the brother of John and was seeking to kill Peter as well (Acts 12:1-3). Later, it was prophesied that bad things would happen to the apostle Paul. Paul’s friends tried to stop him from going to Jerusalem. Acts 21:13 “Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” There have been many times in the history of the Church when Christians have been killed for their faith. Some of the martyrs willingly gave up their lives rather than deny Christ. If someone were to threaten your life unless you denied Christ, would you choose to save your life in exchange for your eternal life?
The choices we make concerning our souls are really a matter of faith. Do you believe that this life is all that there is or is there life after death? Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15:19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” By faith we believe that there is a supreme God and that there is a resurrection from the dead. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” By living for the things that are not seen and eternal, you will choose not to exchange anything for your soul.
My encouragement to you is to strengthen your faith and trust in the promise of eternal life. Do not give anything in exchange for your eternal life and everlasting hope.