************ Sermon on Matthew 16:26 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 8, 2007
"Gain the World, Lose the Soul"
Topic: FailureNo matter what you do in life, no matter what position you may obtain, no matter what you might come to own, if you leave God out the time will come when you realize it all is "Nothing! Nothing!"
Title: Failure in Success
Clarence Darrow, the great criminal lawyer of another day, had among his friends a young minister. This seems strange because Darrow was usually thought of as an atheist, infidel, agnostic, or what have you.
They were talking one day and Mr. Darrow began to reflect. He talked of his career and some of the famous trials in which he had been the lawyer for the defense. He said, "This has been an exciting life." He had made a fortune and he guessed he might be regarded as somewhat of a success.
Then Mr. Darrow asked, "Would you like to know my favorite Bible verse?" His minister friend said, "Indeed I would." Mr. Darrow said, "You will find it in Luke 5:5. 'We've toiled all the night and have taken nothing.'" He added, "In spite of my success that verse seems to sum up the way I feel about life."
Jesus asks, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Mt 16:26).
Most people do not reflect on this great question Jesus asked. However, many do know the feel of questions similar to it. For instance:
"I worked day and night to get ahead. But now my children are grown, and I barely know them. Was it really worth it?"
"I had to step on a lot of toes to get elected to office. Now that I am here it is lonely. If I could do it all over again, would I do the same thing?"
"I always put career ahead of anything else. Yet, I've done nothing for the Lord or His kingdom. All I am left with is regrets."
"I spent so much time on sports and recreation I had no time left for church."
My hope and prayer is that none of us fall into this trap; that none of us gain the world and forfeit our soul.
I Two Treasures
A "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" Jesus lays a choice before us this evening – a choice between two immense treasures. It is a choice similar to what He lays before us in His Sermon on the Mount:
(Mt 6:19-21) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Two immense treasures. The first is the prospect of literally owning the world – unimaginable wealth, absolute power, and uninhibited indulgence of every desire. Many in the world consider this to be a priceless treasure, something to go for. The second is the prospect of becoming a perfect human being, complete with flawless wisdom, unblemished character, healthy emotions, a completely clear conscience, and a perfectly loving will – at peace with God, with man, and with self. This treasure is priceless only to those in the church. The first treasure is external and tangible – something you can see, touch, measure, and weigh. The second treasure is inward and spiritual – not so easily seen, touched, measured, and weighed. But both are immense. And, depending on who you talk to, both are priceless.
B Now Jesus asks, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" The question is this: If expanding your wealth and power is shriveling your soul in the process, are you actually getting ahead at all? What is the net gain, what is the bottom line, if the accumulation of wealth and power is turning you into a small, cold, hard, lonely, fearful, anxious person? Is "getting ahead" worth it if it violates your soul?
The answer is clear. It does no good for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul. Getting ahead is not worth it if the cost is your soul. You see, there will come a day when Jesus will return. On that day power and wealth will not mean a thing. On that day position and glory will not count for anything. On that day the only thing that counts is the state of your soul. On that day the only thing that means something is faith working itself out in love. On that day, says Jesus, "the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done" (Mt 16:27). Listen to these quotes I came across this past week:
When they lay you in the grave, are people going to stand around reciting fancy titles you have earned, or are they going to stand around giving testimonies of the good things you did for others? If it ever comes down to a choice between a title or a testimony -- go for testimony.
-- Tony Campolo
The only people who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.
-- Albert Schweitzer
I am a pencil in the hand of God. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.
-- Mother Teresa
-- From The Gathering Bulletin, Vol. 10:1, Fall 1993, p. 2.
C The Parable of the rich fool speaks to this. You know the story:
(Lk 12:16-20) "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. (17) He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' (18) "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' (20) "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'Do you know what the rich fool's problem was: he gained the world at the expense of his soul. He had a choice: he could choose for heavenly riches or earthly riches; he could choose to be rich towards God or rich towards man. He chose earthly riches; he chose to be rich towards man. In making this choice – this wrong choice – he lost his soul. Jesus' conclusion: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Lk 12:21).
Today the richest man in America and in the world is Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. He is worth over $90 billion. I know he is not content with what he has because his company is busy buying the competition or trying to drive them out of the marketplace. I suspect he is not a Christian because nothing has ever been reported about his faith. I need to ask: Is all his money worth it? And, when he dies and appears before the throne of God will his $90 billion count for anything?
Some of you have seen the movie "Driving Miss Daisy". On the one hand is Miss Daisy, an aging, wealthy, Southern, aristocratic white lady. The years of striving for the top have turned Miss Daisy into a tiny tyrant. She's touchy, tight, rigid, demanding, aloof, vain, ungrateful ... and afraid. Visible through her character is a soul so shrunken it looks like a small, dry, wrinkled pea.
On the other hand, and in stark contrast, is her poor, aging, illiterate, black chauffeur. He is patient, gentle, forgiving, long-suffering, tender, kind, and wise. His immense soul, overflowing with grace and humor, reveals what true wealth looks like.
Those who claim to be God's children choose for treasure in heaven rather than treasure on earth. Those who are Christian would rather lose the world and its riches than the soul and its eternal destiny.
II Forfeit Your Soul
A How is it that some souls shrivel up so tragically? Jesus uses the word "forfeit." "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" We use that word in sports. Your baseball team, for instance, shows up with only five players; the other team has all nine and two on the bench. So rather than getting clobbered, you choose to surrender without a fight. The weak capitulate to the strong ... without a fight. That's forfeiture.
B Now, look at the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan, through Peter, is tempting Jesus to forfeit His mission in order to save His life. The loud voice of the Evil One shouts out, "You are going to get clobbered! Save your skin! Abort the Mission! Forfeit!"
Jesus faces a weighty choice: Will He surrender obedience for survival? Will He forfeit His soul for His life, His person for His body? Will He choose the things of the world rather than the well-being of His soul?
This is the ultimate question of life. This is the ultimate question faced by Jesus. This is the ultimate question faced by you and me.
And Jesus says, "Never!" Jesus says, "Get behind me, Satan!" You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men" (Mt 16:23). Jesus chose to give up the whole world rather than His soul.
C The Rich Fool forfeited his soul. Miss Daisy forfeited her soul. To all appearances, unless he makes changes, Bill Gates is forfeiting his soul. They all forfeit their souls because they let other things, worldly things, become more important than their soul.
When we choose to let our soul lose out to anything – anything at all – we are forfeiting it. When we let our soul lose out to anything that hinders its growth, we are forfeiting it.
Are you selling your soul or the soul of your children in order to gain the world? When you choose to do recreation instead of church, or sports instead of church, or vacation instead of church, you may gain the world but what is happening to your soul? When you work day and night but don't have time for Bible Study, you may gain the world but what is happening to your soul? When you choose to spend all your money on yourself but don't support the church and kingdom, you may gain the world but what is happening to your soul? When you conform to the ways of the world, you may gain the world but what is happening to your soul?
Topic: WorldlinessWe Christians are like that, aren't we? We get into the world and it's oh so pleasant at first. And then it gets a little warmer and it's even more pleasant. And one day it becomes too late. We have gained the world but have lost our soul.
Title: How to Boil a Frog
You know the old story of how to boil a frog. You don't put him in a pot of boiling water. You drop him in the boiling water and he'll jump out before he's injured. So you put him in a pot of cold water, and he's perfectly comfortable. Then you put him on the stove, and little by little the water gets warm. It's very pleasant at first. Then it gets to Jacuzzi level, and he begins to be a little alarmed. Finally, when it's boiling, it's too late.
It is big news when someone we know loses a part of his or her body. We speak in hushed and somber tones when someone loses their mind, their kidney, part of a lung, one of their limbs. How do we feel, however, when we see someone losing their soul? Do we speak out? Do we warn?
Upon His return, our Lord's question will be, "Have you kept your soul?" Have you kept your integrity, copied Christ's character, kept a clear conscience, and walked in obedience? It's not what you have that counts, it's not what you have accomplished that is important; what counts, what is important, is the state of your soul.
Let me conclude with a poem that I found. It speaks to this matter:
Subtopic: Examples of
I had walked life's way with an easy tread,
I had traveled where pleasures and comfort lead
until one day in a quiet place,
I met the Master face to face.
With station and rank and wealth for my goal,
Much thought for my body but none for my soul,
I'd entered to win this life's mad race,
when I met the Master face to face.
I built my towers and reared them high,
'til they had pierced the blue of the sky.
I'd sworn to rule with an iron mace,
when I met my Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see,
that His eyes, full of sorrow, were fixed upon me. I faltered and fell at his feet that day,
while my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished and in their place,
nothing else could I see but the Master's face.
My thoughts are now for the souls of men,
I had lost my life to find it again.
Since that day in a quiet place,
when I met the Master face to face.
-- Insight for Living 7/30/90
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page