To Save or Lose

May 8, 2021

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 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? (Matthew 16:25-26).

The words ‘life’ and ‘soul’ in this passage come from the same Greek word, psuche. Some say the ‘life’ is the basic ‘spirit’ or ‘vitality’ of a person (the ‘lower’ self) whereas the ‘soul’ is the ‘rational’ or ‘immortal’ (the ‘higher’ self) that is eternal. Together they make up the ‘real’ you.

I remember as a boy in church there arose a sharp contention among Baptists as to whether a person was ‘dichotomous’ or ‘trichotomous’. ‘Dichotomy’ sees a person as two parts - body and soul. ‘Trichotomy’ sees a person as three parts - body, soul, and spirit. Sixty years later I look back on the damage such theological ‘straining the gnat and swallowing the camel’ had on the church and on those who left the church because of the argument.

The issue here is not the question of dichotomy vs. trichotomy. It is the question of what a person desires most in life and where that desire will lead him/her. The matter is put simply and straightforward by Jesus: Live for this life only and you will lose it and eternal life. Live for eternal life and you will have it even though you lose this life.

This is a commentary on v. 24, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. All of us make choices in life. Some choices are simple and relatively unimportant. Other choices are more complex and critical. Jesus reveals that all of us have one decision to make in life that surpasses all others - “Follow Me and you will have eternal life, reject Me and you will lose eternal life.” 

To follow Jesus a person must choose to deny self (to refuse to yield to the old, sinful, worldly, ego-centric lifestyle and desires), choose to die to self (to live for Jesus, in obedience, under His authority, according to His will and plan for your life), and to choose to follow Him (live as He lived in holiness and righteousness and obedience). This is the ‘losing his life for Jesus’ sake’. It leads to hardship here since the world is under the powerful influence of Satan, sin, and self. But it leads to glory hereafter in the Kingdom that will soon come.

To reject Jesus is to choose to approve one’s own desires and lifestyle, to choose to live according to one’s own purpose and plans, and to choose to follow one’s own course to a destiny he/she sets in life. This is the ‘saving his life and losing it’. Either way, it’s a choice each person makes based on the desire he/she is willing to embrace.

“Thank You, Lord, for giving me the desire to follow Jesus. I know I’m not perfect in my discipleship, but I long to be faithful and to serve You with a willing mind and heart. Thank You for eternal life that only comes as a result of Your grace, mercy, and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”


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