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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

HOW MUCH IS YOUR SOUL WORTH

Matt 16:24-28 Then said Jesus 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? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. (Also see Mark 8:34-38, 9:1; Luke 9:22-27)

Jesus, in the three preceding verses, had just foretold of the suffering and death He must endure at the hands of the Jewish leaders after arriving in Jerusalem. Still expecting the Savior to establish an eternal kingdom on earth, His apostles refused to accept the fact that He was destined to suffer death and leave them. Because they doubted these prophetic events He revealed to them, Jesus admonishes them for being misled by the Satan-inspired leaders of the Jewish nation, who had turned from the divine Word of God to the worldly doctrines of men. For their doubt, Jesus admonished Peter and the other apostles by saying to them, Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art an offense unto Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men (Vs. 23).

Having previously told them of His impending suffering, Jesus then told His disciples, and tells us today, that they also must be willing to suffer in order to find eternal life by following Him. Having rebuked Peter and the other apostles, Jesus called all the people (Mark 8:34) to come to Him, including His disciples, and gives them this warning: If any man will come after Me, that is, desires to become His follower, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. To become a Christian and follow the teaching of Jesus Christ is conditional. As it was then, so it is now. To become and remain a faithful follower of Jesus, one must have the wisdom, which God promises to those that ask for it, to be aware of, avoid, and refuse to give in to earthly temptations and desires that often divert our attention and detract us from carrying out our Christian responsibilities. We must deny ourselves by saying "no" to any and all physical cravings that interferes with, and reduces the effectiveness of, our dedicated service to the cause of Christ.

The "cross," as used here, is a symbol that fitly represents the suffering Christ bore on the cross of Calvary. The "cross" that Christians are to bear represents the suffering that our Savior assured us of, which lies before us. Our cross could be the threat of, or the actual infliction of, mental or physical harm that can be expected and must be borne by those that follow Jesus. To a less harmful degree, our cross is more often that of self-denial. This is a cross that faces us at all times. Luke says it is one that we must bear daily (Luke 9:23). Afflictions, trials, persecutions, and temptations of all kinds, are crosses that must be borne by us in order to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, which God desires of all His children. As Jesus bore His cross, so we too must faithfully take up our cross and, without loosing sight of Him, closely follow after Him.

The reason for bearing our own cross, was given by Jesus to His disciples then, as well all Christians today: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. The proper setting of our life's priorities is essential in seeking salvation by following after Jesus and the inspired, truthful preachers of His gospel. By this scripture we know that unless we deny our selfish desires, take up our cross daily, and obediently follow the course designed for God's children, we will lose the hope of everlasting life He promised to the faithful disciples of Christ. Indeed, the cost of everlasting life in heaven is great, but the worth of attaining it is beyond measure. In the lesson text Jesus describes the true worth of a heavenly home for the soul in this manner: 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? Earthly power is useless and means nothing when death comes, earthly glory and pleasures are past and fail to console those that have died, and wealth attained, either honestly or unlawfully, cannot buy a dying man or woman one more moment of physical life.

The question each person on earth, in whatever age they lived, must ask themselves is this: How much is my earthly life worth when compared to the eternity of my soul? This we must know, the soul of mankind is immortal, while the uncertainty of the human lifespan is only months, years, and sometimes exceeds the century mark. Although the answer seems obvious, there are few that conduct their lives with the end goal of attaining eternity in heaven. Yet Jesus tells us in this inspired scripture that no amount of earthly gain can compensate for that which awaits the eternally lost soul - the soul that is destined for an eternity of torment because of the failure to suffer the sacrificing of one's life to follow in the footsteps of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works. Here Jesus speaks of Judgment Day - that final day when the universe, as we know it, will be no more, and every man and woman that ever lived upon the face of the earth will receive their just eternal reward. And that reward will be given to each person according to his (or her) works. Those that sacrifice earthly fame and fortune to follow Christ and obey God's commands, which He teaches, shall gain eternal life in heaven. On the other hand, those that choose to spend their earthly lives seeking worldly wealth and glory, instead of serving our Lord, shall lose their souls for eternity. The soul is inhabited with the intellect of mankind. Unlike other animals that roam the earth, men and women have the power to think, reason, and make judgments that direct their physical bodies to act according to the direction they receive from their intellect. Therefore it is the mind of each person that results in one's actions, which Jesus refers to in this text as his or her works. If the mind leads one to evil, worthless works, the soul is lost. But if directed to be obedient to the will of God, faithfully submit to following the example and teaching of our Savior and His inspired disciples, and demonstrate our love for God by doing that which is good for our families, friends, neighbors, and fellow Christians, our works will be judged good, and our soul's reward will be eternal life in heaven.

Preceding the thought in verse 28 of our lesson text, Mark adds this thought: Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels (Mark 8:38). Luke adds the same thought in somewhat different words. Indeed, the world is filled with men and women that are ashamed of the gospel message of Jesus Christ, the doctrine which He established in His teaching, and the church which bears His name. Whether it resulted from the lack of knowledge and understanding of New Testament teaching, or because of family or other peer pressure, or simply because of the Satan-inspired allure of worldliness, or any other manmade distraction, this you must know - there is no favorable consequence in the source of your shame for Jesus. The result is the same when one is drawn away from the Son of God and His gospel message, which is the only message of hope available to mankind who seek eternal salvation. To be ashamed of Jesus as the Son of God assures us of this one thing: He will be ashamed of us and ignore our plea for salvation at the end of time. On Judgment Day, any shame for Jesus, which we demonstrated during our life on earth, will follow us into eternity.

All three gospel writers that recorded this event, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, told those standing in His presence on that day, this important fact about the kingdom of Christ Jesus: There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom. The kingdom of Christ, as it is used here, does not refer to the end of time, but to His spiritual kingdom, His church that was soon to be established. There were some in His audience on the very day, which Jesus prophetically announced the coming of His kingdom, that He said would still be alive at the time it was established. As we look back on this incident, we realize that His kingdom was established on the Day of Pentecost that immediately followed this prophecy. As Mark wrote, the kingdom of God (was to) come with power. Reading Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, and Acts 2:1, we are assured that the power of God brought the church of Christ, His kingdom, into existence on that day.