Evaluating your Soul

“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Matthew 16:26

This is the one of the questions being asked of people throughout the ages. For the most part people put the question out of their minds thinking perhaps that they will worry about it at another time or that it doesn’t matter. By His words and actions Jesus always provoked people to consider eternity and the question as to who He is. He even asked His disciples who they believed Him to be just before making the above statement (16:15).

What could be of such value that it was of more value than our eternal soul? Jesus gives two possible answers in Matthew chapter nineteen.

A wealthy young man in a place of authority came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16). He wanted to exchange something for eternal life. He claimed to have kept all the commandments that relate to human relationships (v 20) but then Jesus asked him to abide by the commandments that relate to his relationship with God. To obtain eternal life the young man would need to forsake all that he currently valued, earthly treasure, and follow Jesus, heavenly treasure.

At the time the young man regarded his temporal wealth and position of more value than his relationship with God (v 22). Though he wanted eternal life he was not willing to exchange his wealth for it. There are many who want heaven but not Jesus and neither will they surrender control of their lives and possessions to Jesus. Jesus gave His life for us. Can we give less to Him (Romans 12:1-2)? Others may not wish to exchange human relationships for their soul. I have heard people say they would rather be in hell with friends than in heaven with Jesus. They have no idea of the enormity of what they are saying. There is nothing wrong with love for family and a desire to be with them. We should be very thankful when that is possible; but will we give family priority ahead of Jesus? He says, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms [employment] for My names sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life” (19:29). Anything we put ahead of Jesus is an idol which will control our life. We must exchange that idol for Jesus in order to obtain eternal life. Eternal life is only found in Him (1 John 5:11-12).

Given Over

“So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.”

Psalm 81:12

What could possibly provoke the Shepherd of Israel to say such a thing to the people He loves? The answer is in the earlier verses of the Psalm. Psalm 78 gives much more detail. The Lord had spoken to Israel through Moses and the prophets. They had His word but they would not hear or heed. Instead they preferred their own counsel.

Israel’s determination to do what was right in their own eyes led the Lord to cry out. “O Israel, if you will listen to Me!” (v 8). In the next verse we read that Israel had forsaken the first commandment which implies they had forsaken all Ten. Whenever we place our wisdom ahead of God’s word it reveals that we think ourselves wiser than our Creator. What an absurdity!

Sadly, we all too often hear that some in the professing church are doing the same as Israel. They take the counsel of men that is contrary to the Bible and, in so doing, they are claiming to be wiser and a greater authority than their Creator (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17). The Bible is to be the measure of our lives. It is the height of arrogance for any created being to think that he knows better than his Creator. If people persist on this course Paul writes, “As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God give them over to a debased mind” (Romans 1:28).

What would have been if Israel had listened to and heeded the word of the Lord? “He would have fed them with the finest of wheat; and with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you” (v 16). Instead of receiving all the good things the Lord desired to give, their stubbornness to hear and heed the Lord meant that He gave them over to their own counsel and they reaped accordingly.

Christians are in a similar situation. The world is trying to coerce us into its mould and we must decide: will we hear and heed God’s word or will we arrogantly think we know better and accept the world’s counsel? Consider what would have been for Israel had they obeyed the Lord and what they suffered because of their arrogance. The church is also suffering because so many have replaced God’s word with their own wisdom and rejected the wisdom and authority of the Lord. “Oh, that My people would listen to Me” (v 13).

A Tormented Soul

“For that righteous man [Lot], dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:8)

It would appear that Lot was not wise in a number of his decisions, especially concerning where to live. Unlike Lot most of us have little choice about the kind of society we live in. However, we can learn a little from Lot’s experience that may help us to live righteously in our lawless society.

I have no reservations in characterising our society as lawless. Yes, we have more laws than ever before, and new ones being added regularly – but having laws does not make us lawful people. Quite the contrary, it points out that we are not lawful by nature.

It seems that the only law people attempt to keep is, “Thou shalt not get caught” – but this is not one of the Ten Commandments.

Just one example of our lawless society: A neighbour asked if we minded if he let off fireworks on Australia Day. This was surprising since he was often critical of young people who disregarded laws, made a nuisance of themselves and damaged property in the street while passing through. There were a number of laws broken with regard to the fireworks and he expected his neighbours to condone that lawlessness. Our neighbour did not see the irony in celebrating Australia Day by deliberately and knowingly acting contrary to the laws of Australia – something all new Australians vow on Australia Day that they will observe.

We may not have chosen to live in this society as Lot did his, but we are in it. Jesus wants us to be in it, but not as a sponge; rather, as light and salt. We are not to be influenced by it, but to influence it for Him.

Lot’s “righteous soul” was “tormented” day by day because of the lawlessness of his society. It is reasonable to expect that our souls will likewise be tormented day by day. The problem can be that we get so used to the wickedness and lawlessness that we don’t even notice it. That would be an indication of spiritual insensitivity or spiritual death.

If we are spiritual at all and allowing Jesus Christ to live out His righteousness in us, we will feel tormented day by day. Paul puts it this way, “we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).

No one will inherit the kingdom of God by keeping laws – only by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. However, the one who has been made righteous by Jesus Christ will feel his righteous soul being tormented day by day.