Summary: If I can't "buy" my way into heaven, why would Jesus ask "What shall a man give in return for his soul?"
(This sermon is part of series is loosely based on a book by Randy Alcorn – “The Treasure Principle”)
OPEN: King Tutankhamen (King Tut) was only 17 years old when he died. Thousands of years later, in 1922, his tomb was discovered and became one of the most famous and wealthy burial places in history. According to one source, the contents of his Tomb have been insured for one BILLION dollars. And that makes sense, because when he was buried with a lot of stuff. His tomb was filled with solid gold chariots and 1000s of golden artifacts.
His body was buried in a stone sarcophagus which contained three coffins nested -- one within another. And the final coffin (which held his body) was made of solid gold and weighed 238 lbs. That final golden casket preserved the body of this king for more than 3,000 years. He was buried with a billion dollars-worth of riches, and yet his life was tragic because, in spite of all he had, he couldn’t take it with him.
“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26
I don’t want to forfeit my soul… I want to go to heaven. And the Bible goes to great lengths to describe how exciting Heaven will be. One scholar said heaven would be “a place of rest and a relief from the burdens of sin and suffering. But it will also be a place of great learning, activity, artistic expression, exploration, discovery, friendship and service. (Randy Alcorn, “The Treasure Principle” p. 38)
Whatever you can imagine heaven being like (pause) it’s that and more. I have my bags packed and I’m ready to go, and I want to make sure I get there. But now… there are a couple of questions here:
1st - Can I buy my way into heaven? Can I be wealthy enough to insure I get in? I mean, Jesus did ask “what shall a man GIVE in return for his soul?” How much does it cost to get into heaven?
There were people – in the days of Jesus – who thought only the rich were assured of heaven. I mean it made sense that if you were rich God was blessing you. And if He was blessing you with riches that must meant you were special to God… that God loved you. And you were a shoe-in for heaven!
But Jesus said: “That’s NOT TRUE!” Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25) You could be the wealthiest person on earth and STILL, you would never be able buy your way in, because salvation is free.
So then, the next question… is puzzling. What does Jesus mean by saying “what shall a man give in return for his soul?” I mean, if I can’t buy my way into heaven why ask if a man can give ANYTHING for his soul?
The answer to that question… lies at the very heart of matter. Notice what Jesus says next: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25
DENY YOURSELF; TAKE UP YOUR CROSS; FOLLOW Jesus. Now, what’s that all about?
Well you see - Salvation IS free, and you could NEVER do anything to BUY God’s love because He’s always loved you. But FOLLOWING Jesus takes everything we’ve got. Aldous Huxley, the great English novelist, put it this way, “It doesn't take much of a man to be a Christian. It just takes ALL of him.”
That’s what Jesus meant when He said “Take up your cross.” People died on crosses… the cross was an instrument of death. And Jesus was calling us to die to ourselves. To die to our personal control of our own lives. And now Jesus expects us to FOLLOW Him - to give Him total control of… ME! When I became a Christian, I surrendered everything to Jesus. I died to controlling my life and was buried with Christ in waters of baptism. And now I want to live for Him.
There’s an old Gospel hymn that says “Jesus paid it all; all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” Jesus bought me at a price, He died to save me. And now (well) He owns me, and I owe Him more than I could ever repay. As the hymn says: “ALL TO HIM I OWE!”