Messiah Lutheran Church :: What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

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Dear Christian friends,

            A man once described to me what it was like to kill someone.  He was not guilty of murder; he was defending himself.  He was put into a situation where it was either he killed or would be killed.  As he was speaking to me and describing what he had to do, he literally got sick.  I guess anyone who has a compassionate bone in the body would feel the same way.

            While he was innocent of murder, he was feeling guilty.  Was there anything he could have done differently or handled differently? He wanted absolution.  You just can’t kill someone and not have some feelings about it. To not feel anything over taking someone’s life even though it is self-defense or accidentally would seem that the person would have a pretty hardened conscience. 

            Yet, sad to say, murder entertains us.  NCIS is probably my favorite show on television, followed by Major Crimes.  They are almost murder mysteries.  The last three novels I read were murder mysteries.  Someone said that a child who watches 3 ½ hours of TV a day will see 33 acts of violence, many of which are murder.  We like to figure out who dunnit.  It seems these days there is more gore and guts than ever before.  We watch it all because it stirs the emotions.  But stop and think!  Isn’t it sick to be entertained by murder and the loss of life? 

            When someone dies, the soul, the immortal soul, leaves the body to go to heaven or hell.  For the Christian, the Bible says the “the dust returns to the ground it came from and the soul “returns to God who gave it.”  For the unbeliever, the person’s life has come to an end and the time allotted to come to know Jesus as the Savior is finished.  If a person dies without Jesus, he goes to hell.  Those are not my words; they are the words of Jesus. Today we continue our sermon series on the theme of “That’s a Good Question.”  “What Good is it for a Man to Gain the Whole World, yet Forfeit His Soul?” As we study these words let’s look at 1) The value Christ put on the soul; and 2) how we ought to value the soul. 

            What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”  It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t even argue whether the soul exists or not.  To him it is a well established fact.  On the cross Jesus would surrender his soul to his Heavenly Father, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  In his suffering he agonized, “My spirit is sorrowful even to the point of death.”  When Jesus refers to the spirit, he is talking about the soul. 

            But not all people agree with the assessment that the soul exists.  Einstein, the world’s most famous scientist, once stated that he believed in God, but when it came to the soul he said, “I cannot believe the individual survives the death of the body.”  A world famous attorney whom you wanted on your side in the courtroom was not someone you would ever see in a church pew. He said, “There is no immortality.  I do not consider that question is even debatable.” 

To deny the existence of the soul is a great tragedy of evolution.  Evolution makes man into no more than a glorified animal.  Evolution teaches there is no soul.  No wonder there is a carnival of crime out there!  If there is no soul, there is no life after death.  If there is no life after death, there is no accountability factor to God.  To far too many there is no God who exists.  If there is no Supreme Being, there is no God to whom we owe reverence and obedience.  When there is no God, get ready for a free for all.  It’s every man for himself.     

            But Jesus, the only and holy Son of God doesn’t even debate the subject.  He said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  He tells us very clearly that there is a soul.  In fact, the Bible gives us a very clear and succinct definition.  “The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit (the soul) returns to God who gave it.”  The soul gives life.  When the soul departs from the body, then there is death.    

            Not only does the Word of our holy and all-knowing God speak so clearly about the existence of the soul, our conscience also testifies of its reality.  A number of years ago, I flew fromOrlandotoAtlantawith a hurricane coming up the Panhandle of Florida.  It stirred up all kinds of turbulence. The whole Southeast was covered with clouds. Lightning could be seen flashing outside the windows on the left-hand side of the plane.  The pilots grounded the attendants.  No drinks were served. It was absolutely the worst flight I have ever experienced.  A number of people were sick and using the bags provided for such an occasion.  The plane was full but no one was talking.  People felt mortal that night.  It was the supreme time to announce over the intercom, “If you were to die tonight, could you say for certain that you would inherit eternal life?”  I was sure that nearly everyone was thinking it. I am sure that most everyone knew that they had an immortal soul and wondered where they would be go if the plane went down.   

The soul has immense value.  No one knows that more than Jesus who redeemed your soul.  “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  He is saying that your soul is absolutely priceless. 

There are things that people say are priceless.  Someone said, Childrens' laughter, an animal companion’s snuggle, smiles, happy tears, witnessing a victory of any magnitude, discovering that you are special...not better...but still very special, unconditional love, realizing and experiencing grace, finding hope, feeling peaceful...knowing peace.”  I guess that would be the warm and fuzzy definition of priceless.  Others who are more worldly would say the Mona Lisa or the Hope Diamond.  But the soul has a value that no painting or gem could ever have.  For that reason you can take all the wealth of Bill Gates, and combined fortune of the Walton family along with Rockefeller family and Warren Buffet, you can add to that all the gold in Fort Knox, the diamonds of South Africa and the rubies and emeralds of the Orient, but they are nothing compared to the value of a person’s soul. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet will enjoy their incredible fortunes for a few years, but eventually they will die.  What will their fortunes be worth to them then?  For the day is coming when all of man’s fortunes will be completely destroyed and will only fuel the fire.  

            But listen to this: Jesus put a value on your soul. Calvarywas the proof.  The blood of the holy Son of God was the highest price ever paid for anything in the history of the world.  You can talk all you want about the money Donald Trump paid for a high rise in Manhattan; you can talk all you want about some incredible skyscraper a Mideastern Sheik paid to build in Abu Dhabi; you can talk about the money demanded for an original Rembrandt, but nothing is greater than the price Jesus paid on Calvary to remove our sins and give your soul the promise of life eternal in heaven.  The price was the innocent death and precious blood of the one of a kind, holy, Son of God.

            The fact is that no money could put a value on our soul.  OJ Simpson’s defense team, known as the “Dream Team,” could never plead our case before God in heaven in the court of divine justice.  Only Jesus could and did.  Only his blood could pay.  Only the value he put on us rescues us. Again, be reminded of the value that Jesus put on your soul.    

            Now let’s go to the second part of this sermon.  What value do you put on your soul?  How do you value what Jesus did?  It really boils down to the question of asking yourself, “Where do I want to spend eternity?”  I heard an entertainer once say something really foolish.  He announced to the world that he wanted to spend eternity in hell because he heard that was where the party was. 

Let’s look at the options - either light or darkness; crystal clear fountains or the waterless pit; either the place where hallelujahs and hosannas are sung or weeping and gnashing of teeth without end.  Valuing your soul means embracing Jesus.  When you value Jesus, you value your soul. 

            While we are in the beginning of October, at the end of the month we will be celebrating a very Lutheran festival, the Festival of Reformation.  Let me give you the example of Luther as one who learned what it meant to value his soul.  If you read a biography of Martin Luther, you would see how well-respected and recognized Luther was even before he had his theology correct.  He was given a doctor of theology degree but by his own admission he didn’t know the simplest Gospel lesson.  But that all changed with something called the Tower Experience. He was studying for one of his classes by studying the Book of Romans.  He said he had stumbled over the expression “the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel.”  For the concept “God’s righteousness” was repulsive to me, as I was accustomed to interpret it according to scholastic philosophy, namely, as the “formal or active righteousness”, in which God proves himself righteous in that he punishes the sinner as an unrighteous person….until, after days and nights of wrestling with the problem, God finally took pity on me so that I was able to comprehend the inner connection between the two expressions, “the righteousness as revealed by the Gospel” and the “Just shall live by faith.”

            Do you understand what he is saying?  The term “righteousness of God” was something he was taught to fear.  He thought this was righteousness that God requires and punishes if people are not righteous.  While that was right, he was only taught half the story.  This is where the Roman church had failed him and so many others so miserably.  That is why he spent so much time trying to appease and please God.  On that day in 1519 the Holy Spirit caused him to realize something he never knew before.   The very righteousness that God demands is also the very righteousness that God gives in the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life for him and for all people.  He died to pay the wages of sin.  He rose three days later to let the world know all that needed to be done was done.  There is no penalty pay for all who embrace what Jesus did by faith.  When God gave him the understanding he later wrote: “I felt exactly like I had been born again and I believed that I had entered Paradise through widely opened doors…” He went on to say, “As violently as I hated the expression “righteousness of God,” so I was now as violently compelled to embrace the new concept of grace and thus for me the expression of the apostles opened the gates of Paradise.”  Bottom line is this: by the Holy Spirit he learned to value his Savior.  When he valued his Savior he valued his soul. 

            I know people who have turned down jobs to make a lot more money because they were afraid that their spiritual life was going to take a back seat to their job.  A wife once told her husband when she refused to continue to go to a heterodox church, “Honey, I love you, but I love my salvation even more.”  Those are things that must be done and said so we value our souls. We won’t compromise what Jesus did single inch.   

            But it is not just putting a value on your soul, how do you value others?  How willing are you to share the value the LORD Jesus put on your soul by letting others know Jesus lived and died for them also.  How much will you inconvenience yourself to go out of your way tell others?  How much will you sacrifice of your salary to support the work of your church to do work here inJohnsCreek,Atlantaor support missionaries all around the world?  You see Jesus valued those souls too.  So must we.  How much time will spend on personal evangelism or support the evangelism efforts of your church so others can be told the value of their soul? 

 

Amen             

 

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