A Question Without An Answer
“For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”—Mark 8:36
I suppose that question must be hypothetical. It is quite impossible for anybody ever to gain the world. You might get a bit of it, you might even get quite a lot of it, but you certainly could never have all of it. Just suppose you could. The Lord Jesus puts in one scale the world in its entirety and on the other scale He puts the soul in its eternity. He puts the two side by side and says, “Just suppose you gain the whole world, every bit of it, what will it profit you if in the doing of it you lose your own soul?” Now that’s a question that is very provoking. It isn’t just shot at us out of its context at random. It is the climax of a tremendous message which the Lord Jesus spoke to the hearts, not only of the disciples, but to every body within ear shot. I want the background and principle of this text to be clearly understood by all of us because behind this great question the Lord Jesus Christ is facing all of us with a principle of life. The contrast is between living for things that are temporal and living for God and eternity. May I remind you just a moment of the circumstances in which our Lord asked that question. He had been preaching for some three years, and a few months ahead He knew perfectly well lay the Cross. He had spoken to great multitudes; He had spoken to people one by one. There had been plenty of opportunity for them to come to a clear verdict concerning Himself. The time had come when they should know not simply something of His teaching, but the time had come for that crowd to come to grips with God. Somehow I feel that as I speak to you tonight the time has come for many of you to do that very thing. You have heard about Jesus, you’ve listened to His teaching, you know something of the Gospel, surely the time has come tonight for many of us to come to grips with God in Christ personally. At that moment the Lord Jesus faced the few disciples and said, “Who do men say that I am?” The answer was, “One of the prophets.” Then He brought the question a little bit closer and said, “Whom do ye say that I am?” You remember the answer that came from Simon Peter, “Thou art the Christ the son of the living God.” Thou art the Christ.
Here then it seems to me in the first place is a profession that every one of us has to acknowledge and I doubt whether there would be a single person here who would deny that statement. We don’t think of Him simply as someone who lived in history. I believe that everybody under this roof tonight would say without reservation exactly what Simon Peter said, “Thou art the Christ the son of the living God.” Of course we believe that. The whole evidence of the Bible is there to prove it. We know enough about the book to say that without any hesitancy. Therefore it wouldn’t be a bit difficult for any of us here to come to the same conclusion as Peter. He had walked with Him, talked with Him, watched His miracles. There was plenty of evidence for this man to say without any hesitancy, “Thou art the Christ.” Very well let me assume that much, I hope I am safe in doing it, that everybody in this congregation will go that far and say, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe He came into the world to save us from our sins. I believe that much of my Bible.” What then? Simply to believe that makes no difference to me at all. I can believe it and be lost; I can believe the right things about Christ and be completely unsaved. I can believe these things theoretically—and yet set myself to gain the whole world and then in the end just lose my own soul.
For you see, my friend, in this message that Jesus brought to His disciples following this profession that had to be acknowledged there was a principle of life that had to be accepted. What was it? The moment He said this to Simon Peter, immediately He said, “The Son of man must suffer, and be rejected and must be killed and the third day must rise again.” You remember what happened. In a moment the Lord Jesus turned His back upon him, just went right about turn and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan. Thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of man.” That’s pretty strong language. “Get thee behind me Satan” to a man who had just a second ago said, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.”
In a simple statement of Simon’s “Lord be it far from thee—not that way of suffering, not that way of pain, not that way of death”—he was expressing in those words the very voice of the enemy of souls! What’s wrong with this world? Why is it in such darkness, in such a mess? Simply because it is in revolt against it’s Creator. Simply because every human being basically is in revolt against God, refusing to acknowledge His authority and His right to rule our lives. And into that situation God has sent His Son to end this rule of rebellion, to end this era of anti-Godism to bring men and women to their senses and to faith and trust in God.
All the fruit of our rebellion, all the fruit of wanting our own way is seen in suffering and misery and agony, and pain and warfare and bloodshed and unhappiness and into that situation there comes the Christ of God to do the will of God, to fulfill the plan of God, to obey God completely, to satisfy all the law of God, to lay down His life for us who have rebelled against God. He never allowed for one moment any deviation from God’s will for His life, and offered a perfect life in sacrifice for your sin on Calvary.
There was no other answer for a world living contrary to the will of God than Christ on a cross. Here is Simon Peter expressing the very language of the devil when he says, “Not that way, Lord. I want to follow you. I believe that you are the Christ. I believe all that about you. I believe right things about who you are, but I don’t want anything in life that’s going to upset this principle of self-pleasing.” Immediately Jesus confronts him and says that’s the very voice of the devil. That’s the one thing that has landed men in a lost eternity. That’s the principle which brings suffering and misery and pain and agony in life. There is only one answer to it. It is this: If you would save your life, you lose it. If you lose your life for my sake and the Gospel’s, you will save it.
How do you think a man is lost? Oh, yes, you can be lost by absolute defiance of God, but not many people are lost like that. You can be lost by denial of God in your life. I don’t think even many people are lost like that. Listen, especially young folk, you can be lost by sheer drift. That’s all. Just sheer drift through life. A refusal to accept the principle of the cross and a determination to live your own life and carve out your own career. That’s how people are lost. That’s the voice of Satan that says, “Not the way of the cross, Lord, not the way of sacrifice, not the way of blood, not the way of suffering. I want an easy road, an easy path. I want it all to be so simple, and I just won’t put my back into anything. I am just going to drift through life and not care.” How is a soul lost? Not simply by denial, not simply by defiance, but by just drifting like this. That’s how a soul is lost.
How is a soul saved? “He that saveth his life shall lose it. He that loseth his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” That doesn’t mean that a soul of a person is saved because he volunteers for the mission field. It doesn’t mean anything except staying right where you are now and living there on this principle: that you have lost your own independence and your one concern is to live for the glory of God. That is conversion. Now I do trust tonight that you and I know the meaning of what is to be saved. Not a cheap decision for Jesus, not simply that you believe certain facts about God, but it means that in your own will and in your own heart you are saying to the Lord, “Lord, I understand that you came to save me, that you laid down your life for my sake in order that I might be saved and redeemed from sin. Because that tremendous love is calling for a response, I just cannot go on drifting and seeking to please myself with no real purpose in life. I see that it means the end of my own way and my personal wishes.” Oh, how many folk today just say, “I don’t feel led to do this and I don’t feel led to do that kind of thing. It’s too hard. It’s going to cost too much.” It is so convenient to be led like that! I very much question whether it is the leading of God. Have you ever really faced this principle that conversion—a real experience of the new birth—is just laying down at the feet of Jesus your right to yourself? Have you faced that? Have you really been through that experience in your heart? Yes, you believe the right things about Christ. You read your daily notes and you say your prayers. All that in your head you believe is right about the Gospel: that Jesus is the Christ, and yet in the matter of experience and application, in your heart, you are still saying “no” to the Lord and to the cross and to the principle of not your way—but His. You are still saying you want to run your own future, your own choice of friends. You want to make your own marriage. You want to choose your own partner for life. You want all this for yourself. That is what we are doing today so many of us—believing right, but living wrong. Deep down in our soul there is a spirit of rebellion against the whole principle of Calvary. Beloved, if that is true of you tonight, I am sorry, but I must say this to you—you are not a Christian. That is how a soul is lost. Just like that. How is a soul saved? By laying at the feet of Jesus his right to his own way, to his own ambition and to his independence. A principle that has got to be accepted.
Now in this text we have chosen tonight, I want you to notice finally that there is a peril here to be avoided. What does Jesus say at the conclusion of this message? This: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and 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.” Here you see the tremendous power of this question in its setting. Here Jesus says in effect, “That is all right. If you want to save yourself, if you want to live for yourself, I am warning you that one day you are going to lose your life. One day you are going to lose out.” Perhaps tonight there are all the marks of losing out in your own personal experience. A man’s soul is not simply lost at the moment when he dies—it’s being lost all through life. There’s no peace of conscience. There’s no rest. There’s no sense of contentment. There’s no sense of poise. There’s a certain sense of shriveling and a man somehow gets smaller and smaller as he seeks to live for himself—just sort of wrapped up in his own selfish pleasure. The man is being lost. You can see it happening. It is not something he sees when he breathes his last, it is happening all through life. Jesus says, “All right then, you want that principle. You want to live for yourself. Well then, if you gain the world, what are you going to gain if you lose your own soul?” Because a man who lives on that principle, who has been ashamed of me and of my words, who has been ashamed of the cross, ashamed to be identified with Christ, ashamed to lay down his life at the Master’s feet, one day I will be ashamed of him.” “You reject Me now,” says Christ, “I will reject you then.” Oh, the awful peril to be avoided. The awful peril of setting as it were my teeth and refusing to accept the principle of the cross in my life. Ashamed of Jesus, ashamed to bear His cross, ashamed to be known as a Christian, ashamed to live for Him, ashamed to be identified with Christ, ashamed to do the thing that is right, ashamed to go straight, ashamed to be true, ashamed to be known in school, in store, in business house as a child of God. Ashamed! Jesus said if anybody lives like that, one day I am going to be ashamed of him. Oh, the peril of living on that basis. My dear friend, that is the simple challenge that lies behind that question. Do you see it? Do you see the power of this question in this setting? There is no answer to it. What is it going to profit you even if it led to the satisfying of your ambition and you gained all in the world that you could possibly gain, and in the gaining of it you lost your own soul? Let me conclude by asking you a straight question. Are you a Christian? Are you? Don’t answer that question easily. Don’t say, “I’ve been in The Moody Church for twenty years, of course I’m a Christian.” Don’t answer it easily and say, “I believe everything the Bible says about Jesus, of course I’m a Christian.” Don’t say, “I’ve been brought up in a Christian home and I have been taught the right things and I am at college. I’m studying to be a missionary, I’m going in for Christian training and Christian work therefore I’m a Christian.” None of these things make you a Christian. The simple basic issue that I present to everyone of you is this: Has there been a moment when the cross has gone right down to the citadel of your heart and you’ve laid down your life at the Master’s feet and you are His forever? That’s what it means to be saved. For that’s losing your life for His sake and the Gospel’s. Are you a Christian? All through the years the matchless spell of the Christ of Calvary has gripped hearts of business people, of kings, of rulers, of common people of every country, race and clime, of every tradition and background. Sunday by Sunday fellows and girls have come to The Moody Church and, sometimes with tears, have laid their lives at the Master’s feet, stopping life on the self-principle and beginning to live on the Christ principle. That’s conversion. Nothing else than that. Is that true of you? Will you face the cross in your life and accept the principle of “no” to self and “yes” to Jesus Christ forever?