“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?” (Matthew 16:24:26).
Jesus had brought His disciples to the “coasts of Caesarea Philippi” (Matthew 16:13) to escape from the multitudes. Here He could teach them about what true discipleship was all about and what it was going to cost. Many follow Jesus like the multitudes, but few have committed their whole lives to Him. It is not following Jesus, but the reason why we are doing so what counts.
Saving is losing
The natural human instinct is to save, protect and profit ourselves. When Jesus asks us to lay down our lives on the cross, He means it, but many, like the rich young ruler, think they can have the world too (Luke 18:18-25). Jesus said to him, “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me” (:22), but that was far too costly a commitment. Yet in holding onto the riches of the world, he lost his “treasure in heaven.”
We must be willing to surrender all to follow the Lord, and this means everything we think that we can do to merit eternal life too. Many religious people will not lay down their traditions to follow Christ, and as a result religiously spend eternity in Hell. Christ must be Lord of all in our lives.
Losing is finding
There is nothing more to lose if we have lost it all. Those who lose everything for the Lord will find the greatest treasure of all, salvation. When such a message is presented to those who love themselves, their lives and their possessions, it is rejected because sin veils their understanding.
Following Jesus requires a life-changing decision that may be detrimental to our supposed welfare in the world. Moses, when he decided to obey God, lost his position in the court of Pharaoh. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:24-25). But in doing so he found his place in the plan of God. “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). This is a part of what it means to be born again. Nicodemus had to learn this truth before he could be saved (see John 3:1-21). No wonder then that Jesus told His disciples to lay everything down if they truly wanted to be different from the crowd.
What have we lost to follow the Lord? Remember, everything we cling onto, even life itself, is only temporal. They can be taken away from us in an instant. “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, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Profit is loss
Banks and big industries speak of their annual profits and losses. The world only wants to make as much money as possible by whatever means available. We must treat what we own as our disposable assets. “But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
This is probably the most difficult thing we will ever decide to do. The world is ever tempting us not to forsake it to truly follow Christ. Satan wants us to compromise and play the hypocrite. Our friends and relatives will think we have gone crazy, but they cannot see the soul or the value of eternal life. This is why so many are so eager to have Christ and the world at the same time. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). This mammon might not be gold and silver, but can just as well be houses, jobs and earthly plans.
Our souls are worth more than we will ever realise on this side of eternity, therefore we must not make the mistake of undervaluing them and selling ourselves off to Satan. Our souls were given to us by God. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). What is the true worth of our souls? It is exactly the price paid on the cross by the Lord Jesus Christ. “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14) … “For ye are bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Are we willing to loss everything to follow the Lord? Will we continue to hold back a portion of our lives from Him? By doing so we not only undervalue our souls, but we also have little appreciation for the price paid to save us. By holding back anything, we will loss it all, as Ananias and Sapphira found out to their cost (see Acts 5:1-10). We will only obtain the greatest profit when we lay everything down at Jesus’ feet.