And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them,Whosoever 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; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels ( Mark 8:34-38)
In this challenge to would be disciples, Jesus stresses the importance of the soul. A conflict exists of cosmic dimensions, sides are being taken and a non decision is a decision, against the side of God, and righteousness. Neutrality is impossible.
The stakes are high, for this conflict vies for nothing less than the loss or salvation of the souls of men. But these days, too few of us even think in terms of the soul. How many consider the state of their soul, or care for the soul of another?
The soul, or inner man, the so-called “hidden man of the heart” is the real you. Every man has a soul. It is given by to him by his maker, that we might know and worship our God. The soul consists of self-awareness, intelligence, the conscience, the will and emotions and affections.
But the soul can be damaged; Jesus warned that it could be exchanged, sold, defiled, and lost forever. The conscience can be killed, affections can be misplaced, even perverted. Intelligence is often put to evil ends. Emotion can rule as a tyrant over a soul, instead of as the servant God made them to be.
People mistakenly believe that because all sin can be forgiven by a merciful God, therefore to them the only issue is the acceptance of that gracious forgiveness. But sin mars the soul, it can change you in fundamental ways, therefore its influence on the soul should be feared.
Remember that the Lord’s prayer indeed includes a petition, calling upon God to “forgive us our sins, as we forgive our debtors”. But the prayer ends with a desperate cry for deliverance from evil itself, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. Sin not only incurs guilt, it attacks and defaces the soul.
Paul warned us that there can be “defilement of flesh and spirit”,
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.( 2 Corinthians 7:1)
Sins such as bitterness, the refusal to forgive, envy, covetousness, jealousy and malice, are defiling, they render one unable to fellowship with God.
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.(Titus 1:15)
To get to the point where even the conscience is defiled, thus no longer the moral guide it was intended to be, is to be in serious trouble.
Jesus warned that a soul can be rendered incapable of faith…
How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (John 5;44)
The problem of unbelief is within their soul, their affections have been misplaced, they love the praise of men, the honors among their peers, more than God. But this is the last thing they would ever dream could be said of themselves. But Jesus said because of this, they cannot believe.
On the other hand , These same people would have to believe in a false messiah. Their soul is oriented towards lies, they have to follow them. I have often said that if there were no Kenneth Copeland or Benny Hinn on the scene, someone would have to invent one, for there is such a constituency for these charlatans, they are an inevitability.
The Soul is the seat of your affections, therefore it is very important that we set our love on that which is true and Holy. We are created to follow after that which is lovely to us, but what happens if we love the wrong thing? Many people have learned to love the false vision of the false prophets, they have to follow people like Todd Bentley and Rick Joyner, for people always follow what they love.
The Words of the Prophet Jeremiah are apt here,
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)
Belief is not just an intellectual exercise, it has a moral and spiritual component. One cannot turn it on and off at will , the ability to believe in Christ, and to confess him as Lord is a gift of love from God. It is a cure for the soul to be able to see in Christ crucified the wisdom and power of God.
To be able to ‘repent’, that is to rethink the course of one’s life, is a gracious gift from God! To be given ‘contrition’, ie sorrow for sin is an amazing grace, a Holy Spirit intervention. How many ever think about their sins at all, let alone thinking about who they have sinned against. These are precious gifts, rare opportunities.
Can a person be the same as before if they continually spurn them?
One of the most precious titles of the Saviour, is given by Peter, who called him, “the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls”.
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.( I Peter 2:23-24)
Truly He restores our souls. The good news is that He takes up the badly crushed, and damaged, the stained and spotted, tarnished and malformed souls ho come to Him, and applies the cure we so desperately need. His light is good for the soul, confession of sin also, the assurance of his love and forgivness and believing God, also, are the medicine of heaven.
Come to Him while there is yet time, seek him while he can be found and call upon him while He is near…
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Very encouraging words, Pastor Bill. We are so blessed to even be able to repent and believe. I pray I never take that for granted! God is so good and so merciful!