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When It Pays to Be Forgetful

Updated on March 18, 2020
Ewen Lin profile image

Ewen trains evangelists by teaching the Bible to students at Edith Cowan University.

So here’s the question: why are people buying toilet paper when things like food and water are actually more important? Even though you’re more likely to die from starvation than lack of toilet paper. It’s not rational behaviour.

Just like someone running back into a burning house to save their dvd collection. Why would you do that? But people do that. There’s been many air crashes where they found that people were still trying to take their bags with them. It’s irrational.

But that’s what we do and would you be surprised if I said we do the same thing when it comes to our faith? As Christians, we actually do the same thing and that’s what our passage today is about.

Our passage is simple today. Forget yourself and follow Jesus. That’s what Jesus is calling people to do. Have a look.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Jesus stands in front of everyone and says anyone who wants to follow me, who wants to be a Christian, you’ll have to deny yourself. It doesn’t just mean put Jesus above ourselves. It’s not a reordering of priorities, as if we’re just placing Jesus as first in a list.

I think Jesus is stronger than that. When he says take up your cross, you have to let go of whatever it is you’re holding in your hands. You can’t balance your life and the cross at the same time. We’ll talk more about how that works but look at the passage. Forget yourself and follow Jesus, that’s verse 34. What follows is a series of points each starting with “for.” Verse 35, 36, 37, 38 all start with For. They argue the case. Forget yourself and follow Jesus. Why? 3 things.

1. You can protect the body but still lose your life

2. You can gain the world but still lose your soul

3. You can follow the crowd but still lose your way

You can protect the body but lose your life.

35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

What does Jesus mean when he says whoever would save his life will lose it? I think he’s talking about the fact that everyone dies. Death is unavoidable. Whatever you do, however hard you try, whoever would save his life will lose it. It’s guaranteed. But if you lose your life for Jesus sake and the gospel, you will save it.

So if you’re going to die anyway, die for a reason. Die for a cause. Die for Jesus who can reach beyond death and save us. Everyone on this campus and around the world thinks that you get 1 life – you live and then you die. Jesus says no. You die and then you live. The world says in the midst of life there is death. Jesus says in the midst of death, there is life. So forget yourself and follow Jesus.

You can gain the world but lose your soul

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?

What’s a soul? For argument's sake, I take it as our inner spiritual life. It’s what makes you you. They say all the money in the world can’t buy happiness, but you know what, I rather be rich and sad than broke and sad. Because then I’m doubly sad. So what does Jesus mean?

I think this passage is telling us that our inner spiritual life is distinct from our outer physical life. What do I mean? Look at what Jesus says. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

You see, our soul and our possessions are not interchangeable. But more than that, they are not inter-dependant. It’s not just that money can’t buy happiness. It’s that our physical possessions have no bearing on our spiritual status. We can forfeit our soul no matter how rich or poor we are. For what can a man give in return for his soul? In other words, you can’t put a monetary value on it.

If you say money can’t buy happiness, then why do people still work hard for it?

If you say money can buy happiness, then why are there so many sad rich people around?

You see whichever side you’re on, you’re doing the same thing. You’re tying the value of your inner life with your physical possessions. Jesus says, you can gain the world but lose your soul. He’s not saying that if we give up the world, we’ll keep our soul. Or that we better make sure we don’t lose our soul in the midst of gaining the world. I think he’s saying those two things are separate and your soul is more important. Because what can you give in return for your soul? So forget yourself and follow Jesus.

You can follow the crowd but lose your way

38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Now here’s a question: why would we be ashamed of Jesus? Because the world and Jesus don’t get along. See how Jesus describes the world as adulterous and sinful. That’s how Jesus sees the world and the world likewise sees Jesus as irrelevant, hateful, intolerant. So people, we have to make a choice. We can’t have it both ways. Nobody who really stands up for Jesus will ever be popular accepted by everyone.

I’m not saying we go on twitter and say people are going to hell. That’s just insensitive and stupid even for rugby players. But as Christians, our core convictions are fundamentally different, and they set us at odds with the world. Whether it’s refraining from porn, refusing to be sexually active until marriage, whatever it is, you can follow the crowd but lose your way.

So forget yourself and follow Jesus.

3 reasons why.

1. You can protect the body but lose your life

2. You can gain the world but lose your soul

3. You can follow the crowd but lose your way


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