In the book, Point Man, author Steve Farrar tells this story:
The photographer for a national magazine was assigned to shoot a great forest fire. He was told that a small plane would be waiting to take him over the fire.
He arrived at the airstrip just an hour before sundown. Sure, enough the Cessna was waiting. He jumped in with his equipment and shouted, “Let’s go!” The pilot swung the plane into the wind, and soon they were in the air.
“Fly over the north side of the fire,” said the photographer, “and make several low-level passes.”
“Why?” asked the nervous pilot.
“Because I’m going to take pictures!” retorted the photographer. “I’m a photographer, and photographers take pictures.”
After a long pause, the pilot replied, “You mean, you’re not the instructor?”
The photographer so caught up in his own business, he forgot to ask a very important question – “are you my pilot?”
From the dust cover of one of Max Lucado’s latest books: “Best-selling author Max Lucado turns the greatest lie we've believed on its head—the one that says, ‘It's all about me’"
In his sermon, Losing the Soul To Save It, British theologian J.B. Lightfoot, writes…
“One of the moral paradoxes of Scripture – the most decided, the most contradictory, the most reckless of them all. A complete inversion of language. And it is no isolated expression. It is forced on our attention again and again. We cannot wander far in any direction without encountering this startling signpost, announcing the path of destruction as the only high-road to salvation.”
Let me just insert—Jesus said in this morning’s text—“Take up your cross and follow Me” — “the path of destruction becomes the high road to salvation”. We all have the wonderful luxury of knowing that Jesus literally did that, the disciples didn’t – well not right away. But they knew the meaning—Jesus meant they were to renounce self-dependence, selfish pursuits—to imitate Jesus. Lightfoot goes on…
The context, moreover, enhances the paradox. We are told that a man's [soul] is absolutely priceless to him;
Again—in this morning’s text we read, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” priceless…Lightfoot goes on…
…that no exchange can be an equivalent; that no compensation will requite him for the loss: yet in the same breath we are bidden to despise it, to abandon it, to fling it away like a broken potsherd or a rank weed. The contradiction is direct and positive; and in this contradiction the lesson is to be sought.
So really what we have is a very well-known passage, a statement made by Jesus on more than one occasion; "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
And then comes this explanation…
Verse 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” NASU
Save Your Life – Lose It
What Jesus is talking about here is selfishness—or perhaps better defined as self-centeredness. Max Lucado in the book I referred to earlier, “It’s Not About Me” calls it, “me-centric”
“Whoever wishes to save his life—” is not about keeping a life safe from harm; rather keeping it safe from others and specifically keeping it safe from God; protecting it from God—from His will, from His plans.
I know that may sound odd, but it is true. You probably have friends and loved ones who are doing that very thing. Because, they have this overwhelming sense that God doesn’t want us to have fun, that God doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves or to be happy.
Not only that, there is this sense that the pursuit of our own happiness is our main job; that it’s our primary responsibility. And that isn’t just out there in the world—the church is permeated with it.
Did you hear the news this week that Congress has launched a probe into televangelists and their fund raising? Congress wants to know how they spend all that money they raise—
Know why Congress wants to know? Because they suspect they’re spending it on the pursuit of happiness—not the work of the Kingdom.
Jesus says, if you’re saving your life, if you’re living your life for you—if you’re the main character of your story—if you are spending your life on you; then you are wasting it and in the end you will lose it.
I suspect there isn’t really a harder teaching than this. There are doctrines we won’t fully understand this side of glory. There are portions of scripture that keep us befuddled. We won’t ever figure God out—He is infinitely greater than we are and while can’t figure Him out we can be at peace about it.
But there is something that just feels right about being in control of our lives. After all, if not me? Who?
Well there’s the paradox JB Lightfoot was talking about. I can be in charge of my life, my plans, my happiness or God can be in charge of my life, my plans, my happiness.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
Let’s see, God in charge or me in charge; Almighty God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth responsible for my life—or me. I choose me.
Lose Your Life – Find It
Well if I choose God, then I have to slip back to verse 24: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
“Let him deny himself” is all one word in the original Greek Aparneesasthoo and is interpreted, “Let him deny, or renounce, himself fully—in all respects—perseveringly. It is a compounded word, and the preposition apo, which means “abundantly” increases the intensity. So that a follower of Christ will need to observe it in its broadest sense.
“Deny himself,” such a hard teaching, such a difficult lesson; because you almost can’t help but ask, “What about me?”
But friends there is no where in scripture where it tells you to watch out for your own interests only.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
The greatest commands are: love God, love your neighbor… “no love thyself” squeezed in there…
But we’re still worried about me!
, “…seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
I had a soldier once who lived to be 102, Her secret to a long life? She said, seeking first the Kingdom of God.
The Apostle Paul is incredulous that we struggle with this! He can’t believe it, he says in “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
Or in essence:
Come on, do you really think that God is holding out on you? Do you really think that you could ever give more to God than He will give to you?!!
I’ve been a pastor for over 30 years now. In all of those years I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard people counsel and been counseled and…truthfully probably even counseled others…take care of yourself first.
Jesus says, “If you’re going to be My disciple, I have a different counsel, Love God, love one another, love your neighbor, never mind yourself—don’t worry about yourself—I’ve got that covered.”
I know it goes against every grain of our physical being—but Jesus says if you want to save your life…lose it… lose it for His sake.
For My Sake
Just about ten years ago on December 9, 2007, a young man named Matthew Murray shot and killed Tiffany Johnson, and Philip Crouse, at a Youth with a Mission (YWAM) training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada. He later killed two at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs…
The Director of the Arvada YWAM, Peter Warren spoke with Christianity Today about the shooting…here’s the news you didn’t hear.
The shooter was in the building for half an hour talking with students, and then he asked to spend the night. Tiffany was called to the front because she handles hospitality. She told him that they didn’t allow someone spend the night without knowing them or arranging ahead of time. After that, Matthew said, "Then this is what I've got for you," pulled out a gun and began shooting.
After firing a few shots, he had his foot in the door, and at some point, his foot slipped and he fell back. The door slammed shut on him and automatically locked, so he couldn’t get back in again. Right then, other staff and students were driving up and saw Matthew banging on the door, trying to get back in. When Matthew saw them, he ran away.
After a student performed CPR on Tiffany, she regained consciousness and asked another trainee named Holly, "Is it bad?" Holly said, "Yes, it's bad." Tiffany looked at Holly and her boyfriend, Dan, who was also shot, and said, "We do this for Jesus, right guys? We do this for Jesus."
There are a lot of do-gooding people in this world. People who spend their lives on others—not because of their religion—but because they choose to do good. People who lose themselves in doing good.
The only reward they want, the only reward they expect is the good feeling within and an occasional pat on the back. And that’s good—because that’s all the reward they will likely ever get.
I don’t mean to seem harsh—but doing good—even doing the most good; won’t get you into heaven. Jesus said, “…whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
"We do this for Jesus, right guys?”
The world says, “Me first!” “What I want first!” “My family first!” Then if there’s anything left…I’ll give it a thought.
Jesus says they have it perfectly backwards—perfectly upside-down.
I guess when you sort through it all, it comes down to trust….do we trust God enough to believe Him when He says, Love Him and your neighbor before you love yourself and He’ll take care of you?
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” NASU
John Wesley would call that perfect love—because it can only happen in a life surrendered to God.
, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” NASU
Sing - I surrender all…