By Doug Roush
While in the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus made some profound statements regarding the establishment of his church. He declared that his kingdom would be built upon the foundational truth that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. From the time of that declaration, Jesus revealed that he would be killed and resurrected in Jerusalem. Our attention is then directed to Peter’s objection to this prophecy of Jesus. However, by removing Peter’s objection and focusing on this development of thought, we see a profound ingredient involved in being a citizen of the kingdom of Christ. For the kingdom of the saved to be established, Jesus would need to sacrifice his life on behalf of its citizens. In addition, every citizen of this kingdom is called upon to make the same sacrifice as that of their King. Jesus said unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 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?” (Matt. 16:24-26). So important is this development of thought that it is also recorded in Mark 8:27-37 and Luke 9:18-29.
What Has Genuine Value?
Humanity has always been impressed with the value of those things that are temporal. Jesus often used our misplaced appreciation of that which we deem valuable to focus our attention on that which has genuine value. In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus reasoned, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, . . . For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21). He went on to say, “. . . take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:31-33). The “Gentiles” (in this context, those who are carnal minded and absent of spirituality) value and strive after earth’s treasures. Like Martha, the majority of humanity is, “troubled about many things: but one thing is needful . . .” (Luke 10:41). The “seed” of God’s word is “planted” in every heart. However, like seed planted among thorns, it is “. . . choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” in the heart of one who values temporal treasures over godliness (Luke 8:14). Indeed, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Those who are spiritual value and strive after the eternal treasures found in godliness and righteousness.
To Appreciate Our Value We Must Follow Christ
The value of being a Christian, a follower of Christ, is that when we follow him we “find our life”; that is the true purpose and nature of our life. However, we must realize that following Christ requires that we lose ourselves entirely. It is important to note that in every context where Jesus speaks of the necessity of us losing our life to find our life, he has been speaking of the point that in order to fulfill his earthly mission he would lose his life. In John 12:23-28, we find Jesus speaking of his hour to glorify his Father’s name. But in the midst of this statement, he speaks of the universal principle that those who “love their life” must “hate” and “lose their life” and “follow him.” Losing our life to follow Christ honors the Father and is rewarded with the Father’s honor. A few chapters later, we read of Jesus saying, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus laid down his life for us, proving his friendship toward us while demonstrating God’s assessment of our value. But, we are to lay down our life for him if we desire to reciprocate his friendship and demonstrate our appreciation of our own true value. In the next verse he tells us how to “lay down our life for him”: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Christians “fol- low Christ” by keeping his commandments. When we keep his commandments, there will be changes in our character and conduct that manifest the conviction that we are living to the praise of his glory.
What Will a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?
Jesus revealed the value of the soul with the questions, “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?” Though rare, nearly every generation has seen people who seemingly desire to “gain the whole world” for themselves. Much more common are those who “sell short” their souls; “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Most, without giving it serious thought, are “too busy” pursuing minuscule treasures of earth to have time to read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures. Yet God, in the Scriptures, instructs us to be sober; therein are revealed the eternal treasures of godliness and righteousness (Tit. 2:12).
When we “lose” our self-centred will and do the will of Christ, we “find” our life. God designed us to be selfless vessels. Experience teaches us that the pursuit of self- gratification brings emptiness and a sense of unfulfillment. God’s revelation teaches us that if we lose our will to the will of God, we find the abundant life he intends each of us to experience and enjoy (John 10:10).
There is genuine value in being a Christian. In fact for us to be of any value to God, we must be Christians — those who have emptied themselves of selfish will in order to follow Christ in the performance of his will. Paul articulated the transformation involved in “losing our life to find our life” with these Spirit-guided words: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The value of his transformation is articulated in these words: “. . . the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-9).
Let us prioritize the treasures of godliness, holiness, and righteousness above the over-inflated “treasures of earth.” The particular treasures of Faith, Love, Sacrifice, Service, Purity, Hope, Joy, Peace, and Suffering will be discussed in separate articles that follow. Let us be resolved to be counted among those who, like the apostle Paul, “love His appearing” and realize our true value by following Christ.