Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Questions, Questions, Questions - Luke 9:25

Luke 9:25: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” 

This is another installment in my on again off again series on questions in the Bible. Today we look at a question Jesus posed in Luke 9:25: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” The parallel verse in Matthew 16:26 reads this way: “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' question in Luke comes after explaining what is required of those who want to follow him. In verse 23 he says first of all a person should “deny himself.” It doesn't say to deny oneself something as in denying oneself chocolate. It says we are to deny ourselves. This is extremely difficult because by nature we are focused on ourselves and have a desire to make sure we have everything we need and want. Our focus is on ourselves most of the time. But what Jesus wants us to understand is that we need to give up on that approach to life and focus on him and his mission in the world.

The second thing Jesus says we need to do if we want to follow him is to take up our cross. Often people will say things like, “My husband is difficult to live with. He's my cross to bear.” Or someone may say that their illness is their cross to bear. I don't think that is what Jesus is saying here. The cross was not merely a burden when Jesus carried his, but it was the instrument of execution. Jesus is basically asking us to die to ourselves. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:31 says, “I die daily.” What he means by that is that he is giving up on his own rights and desires in order to serve Christ.

I can't go into all of the details here, but God sees Christians as being in Christ and having died with him. Because of that, we should consider ourselves dead to sin, the world, and our own agenda. In 2 Corinthians 5:15 Paul says it this way, “If one died for all then all died and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” In other words Jesus Christ “took the bullet” for us when he died on the cross. We now owe him everything. So our lives should not be focused on us but on him.

Finally he says that this approach should be a daily occurence. The Bible is very practical in that it describes many actions that we are to carry out daily. God understands that we cannot live our entire lives at once. It is a day-to-day thing. So each day we must consider ourselves dead to sin, dead to the attractions of the world, and dead to our own desire to be the center. We are to rather focus on what would bring God glory and advance his agenda in the world.

He emphasizes his point in verse 24 when he tells us that whoever would save his life will lose it. And, whoever loses his life for Christ's sake and for the gospel's sake will keep it. That's a pretty strong distinction. It's one that Jesus says in another place we should think seriously about and count the cost.

So back to the question: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” The answer of course is that there is no profit in gaining everything else but losing oneself or ones soul. The way to avoid losing ones soul is to stop seeking our own way, turn to Christ, trust him and commit ourselves to being his follower. In response to that faith God promises to save our souls and grant us the gift of eternal life. It can't be earned or worked for, but must be received by faith.

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