Giving Up More…Only to Gain Less (Mark 8:36-37)
Mark 8:36-37, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
American evangelist, Peter Cartwright, was preaching from Mark 8:36-37 in 1818 at a Presbyterian Church in Nashville. It was a beautiful October evening, and the church was packed. Just as Cartwright shouted the words, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” in walked General Andrew Jackson who was staying nearby.
Jackson (who didn't come to Christ until late in life) was a fiery-tempered, hard-drinking, horse-racing, duel-fighting hero. Instantly a buzz swept over the congregation and heads turned. The host pastor, Rev. Mac, excitedly pulled Cartwright's coattail and whispered, "General Jackson has come in."
Cartwright roared back, "Who is General Jackson? Who is General Jackson?" He then declared that if the General didn't get his soul converted, he would spend eternity in Hell. Rev. Mac was horrified, and the next morning rose at the crack of dawn to apologize to the General.
But later in the day, Cartwright and Jackson met each other on the street. Reaching out his hand, General Jackson said, "Cartwright, you are a man after my own heart. I am surprised at Mr. Mac, to think I would be offended at you. No, sir; I told him I highly approved of your independence. A minister of Jesus Christ ought to love everybody and fear no mortal man. I told Mr. Mac that if I had a few thousand such independent, fearless officers as you are, and a well-drilled army, I could take old England." A fear of God will inspire you to share the Gospel and lose your fear of men.
These two verses about the soul of man are some of the greatest verses in the Bible to show the importance of salvation. Mark 8:36-37 stresses the incomparable value of the soul, worth more than the whole world. If one should forfeit his soul and die, there is nothing with which he could hope to reclaim it. The loss would be irrevocable.
The story of a rich farmer is recorded in the Bible. He had a very good year. His crops produced well, so well that he did not have room for them. So he decided to build bigger buildings to hold his crops and then he decided to celebrate his earthly success by drinking up a storm and engaging in merry making. Jesus called the man a "fool" because he thought of profit only in terms of earthly things and fleshly pleasure and did not value things spiritually. Rather suddenly on the night of his celebration, he died and in death revealed he had made no profit in the matter of spiritual things.
Jesus puts the matter in financial terms. Paraphrasing, Jesus essentially said, ‘For what profit is it if a man shall become the richest man in the world, but lose his own soul?’ If it were possible for one man to own the entire world, what would be his gain in losing his soul? The devil had in effect offered Jesus the same ‘bargain’ in offering Him all the kingdoms of this world on the mount of temptation. Only a foolish person would sell his soul to the devil for the gain he can give. Nevertheless, men do it all the time. Many are giving up far more to gain far less!
As missionary C. T. Studd wrote, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” So don’t let the pleasures this world has to offer replace the true meaning of life. It all boils down to this: for which world are we living? No one has ever possessed all the world, although many people have tried. Nimrod tried to possess it. Nebuchadnezzar tried. Napoleon tried. All failed. The Antichrist will try to gain the whole world and will, indeed, rule a global empire for a few short, shaky years. But then his rickety empire will fall apart under the judgment of God, and he himself, laden down with sins, will be plunged headlong into a lost eternity.
No man can gain the whole world. But what if he could? All the pleasure and wealth and power and fame are nothing compared with his soul. Everything fades and passes away. In reality, a person possesses something but only for a short time. A man may choose money and property instead of helping to meet the needs of the world. But money and property can be held only for a short time. A man may choose position and power instead of giving his life where it would do the most good. But position and power are held only for a short time. A woman may choose freedom and pleasure instead of home and family. But freedom and pleasure last only for a short time. A person may choose the world and comfort instead of God and His church. But the world and comfort do not satisfy, and they last only for a short time.
No earthly gain will compensate for a lost soul. There is nothing in this world that can be exchanged for the soul, because the soul is of more value than anything in the world. The price of the soul is so great that all the things of the world put together do not equal its value. There is not enough money in the world ten times over which can compensate the loss of one’s eternal soul. To live for self and fortune while losing one’s soul is not only foolish, but fatal.
The greatest danger known to man is the danger of losing one’s soul. This is the greatest loss ever to come upon a person. Many are bankrupt spiritually because they did not profit spiritually. In all their life they paid no attention to the need of profiting spiritually. They did not take care of this business, either by choice or by neglect. Profiting spiritually is the most important profiting of life. You will guarantee a profit when you receive Jesus as Saviour.
PRAYER: Father, I thank You for sending Jesus, Who shed His blood on the cross, died in my place for my sins, and rose again the third day, that I would have eternal life. Help me, to share the Gospel message with others. In Jesus name, AMEN.
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Dr. Blackman is passionate about helping others grow in the grace of the Lord. His devotions are centered on how to grow closer to the Lord through a personal relationship.