The Promise of Salvation

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 3 June 2011


“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” (Mark 8:35).

The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the 4 Gospels. Many commentators believe that it was the first of the Gospel accounts to be written, and that Matthew and Luke relied heavily on it. But that is not to say that the other accounts did not contain original materials. In fact, it is believed that Matthew probably kept some kind of a journal and it was in limited circulation before any of the inspired accounts were published.

Nevertheless, Mark appears to be the most strictly chronological of all the other accounts. Thus, if you want to do a time-line of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, you will probably find the account of Mark to be most helpful for clarifying the actual sequence of events.

In any case, in our text, the Lord Jesus was ministering in the towns of Caesarea Philippi. It was during the last 6 months of His ministry on earth.

For more than 3 years our Lord had been showing His disciples who He was. But now He is beginning to make sure that His disciples understand clearly who He was and what would happen shortly after. He asked His disciples who they thought He was. When He was sure that they understood who He was, that He was the Messiah, He began to remind them that He must suffer many things in the hands of the scribes and chief priests, and then die on the Cross.

But as soon as He said that, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. It appears that Peter had not fully understood the mission of the Lord. The Lord admonished Him. Then He called together the crowd and His disciples and began to instruct them on how they should respond to what He was about to do at the cross of Calvary.

He did not tell them to believe that He was dying for their sin. Those for whom He would die would believe. But the Christian life is more than believing that Christ died for your sin. One whose life remains unaffected by the Cross is simply not a Christian even if he claims to believe that Christ died for his sins.

Thus the Lord says:

“Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 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. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mk 8:34-36).

In this study, the Lord helping us, we want to focus on our Lord’s promise: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (v. 35).

This, you will realise, is a very profound and ironical statement of promise. But let’s consider this statement under two heads.

·         First, we must ask ourselves: What does it mean to lose our life when we seek to save it.

·         Secondly, we must ask ourselves: What it means to save our life while losing it for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.


1. Losing Life by Saving It

The Lord says: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.

Now, it is quite obvious that in the context, the Lord is referring to life in this world. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” He says (v. 36).

When a worldly man thinks about his life, he is not simply thinking about the fact that he is breathing and his heart is beating. He is thinking rather of his wealth, his status, and his enjoyment of the things of this world. The wealthier he is, the more he will congratulate himself on the greatness of his life. This is why the Lord Jesus warns that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk 12:15).

But the sad fact is that actually many people, including professing Christians, seem to think that this is what life is. Well, they may not say so, but they spend most of their energy and time for the cultivation of their life in this sense of the word.

There is nothing wrong with working hard, but they work hard for the cultivation of their material wealth at the expense of their spiritual life.

And likewise, the majority of their decisions and directions that they take in life are motivated by economic considerations, in addition to pleasures and convenience for themselves. Their life centres on their own happiness in this world. And their happiness is determined by their wealth, health and pleasure in this world.

The Lord is saying that anyone who tries to preserve and promote his life in this way will lose it. Indeed, he will lose his life in two senses of the word.

In the first place, he can bring nothing of his wealth and reputation into the grave with him. When his life on earth ends, it will be the end of all that he accumulated for himself.

And not only so, but in the second place, he will lose his life in the sense that he will continue to remain spiritually dead in sin and trespasses and will suffer eternal death. His life is a vanity and has no meaning, and it will continue for all eternity with much regret, pain and sorrow.

The fact is: all men whose life consists in the abundance of the things he possess are already dead in sin whether they profess to be believers or not. But they do not realise nor do they admit that they are dead even as they try to stoke life into their soul by pumping it materially. But the day will come when they can no longer deny the reality and the truth of our Lord’s statement: “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.

Beloved brethren and children, take heed. Examine your life and attitude to see how you are living it. If you have been trying to build your life in the way of the world, cease to do so. There is great danger on the broad way that leads to damnation. “Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it” (Lk 17:32-33a).

But thank God there is hope. There is hope of…


2. Saving Life by Losing It

For the Lord has promised: “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (v. 35).

What does it mean to lose one’s life for the sake of Christ and the Gospel? Well, to save one’s life for the sake of oneself is to cultivate material wealth and comfort for one’s own pleasure. Therefore, to lose one’s life in the context must be to do the opposite.

The Lord Jesus Christ gave us the ultimate example. He laid His life down for us. He became poor so that we might be rich. He suffered intensely so that we might be freed of pain. He was forsaken so that we might know God’s reconciliation. He was inundated with sorrow so that we might be filled with joy.

The Lord Jesus is teaching us to imitate His example. He is not calling us to be martyrs, though we should be ready to be martyred for His sake and the sake of the Gospel if need be. He is calling us, rather, to lay down our lives for His sake and the sake of the Gospel.

The apostle John understood this call when he says in 1st John 3:16—

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

This is the Christian life and walk. The Christian life is not merely about attending church and giving thanks at meals. The Christian walk is not merely about having daily devotions.

Rather, it is a life that constantly overflows from a heart of faith, love and gratitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ. It is based on what the Lord has done for us in His suffering and death for us at the Cross. It manifests itself in our taking up our cross, and living for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

It is about magnifying Christ and furthering the Gospel in our lives. This means, in the first place, giving priority in our thoughts, words and deeds to the glory of Christ, the furtherance of His kingdom and the good of those for whom He laid his life down for. This means, in the second place, considering others as more important than ourselves in our decisions, proclamations and actions. 

These things must become automatic in the life of the true believer. This is what the Lord is teaching in the parable of the sheep and goats, for the sheep did not even realise that they have served the Lord when they visited the poor, helped the sick, relieved the thirsty, etc.

But sanctification is a process. Therefore, the Lord is actually encouraging us to practice that kind of life of giving. And practice we must according to the numerous opportunities that life presents us.

They present themselves in big decisions that we have to make: jobs, education, relationship, church, marriage etc. But they also present themselves in our day to day struggles. What do you when a child irritates you by childishly repeating something over and over again? For the sake of peace you can tell the child to stop. But there is a Christian way and there is an anti-Christian way.

The anti-Christian way is a display of anger and selfishness: Shut up! You are irritating me! You are disturbing my peace! If you don’t keep quiet I will kick you!

This is the way of I-dolatry: I am god, do my bidding. My pleasure is most important. Don’t you dare to spoil my peace and pleasure!

Almost every time we yell at someone, we are allowing the flesh to rule us and practising I-dolatry.

Beloved brothers and sisters and children, when the Lord teaches us to lose our life, He is teaching us to imitate His love and meekness. We must consciously seek to be a witness for Christ and His Gospel not only by our decisions and use of our time, but by our behaviour.

Unless we are Christian in the way we conduct ourselves towards others, we will bring disrepute to Christ and tarnish the Gospel. Our children and unbelieving friends will not come to believe and love the Lord until they see the love and meekness of Christ in us.

Unless we lose our life, Christ will not increase in our life. And we will also lose our life.

But if we lose our life by way of ceasing to worship ourselves, we will gain our life. This is our Lord’s promise. “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (v. 35). What does Christ mean by saving our life? No doubt, He is referring to eternal life or a life of knowing and enjoying God, a life of blessing and love that will extend to all eternity. This is eternal life. The Lord Jesus makes it clear that He is referring to eternal life in our text, for He says in John 12:25—“ He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”

No, no; the Lord is not teaching us salvation by works nor by stoicism. He is teaching us, rather, that the true Christian will find it in his heart to imitate Him. And moreover, He is teaching us that they will find true blessedness in losing their life. It is more blessed to give than to receive. This is the Christian paradox. This is also the promise in our text.


Conclusion

Beloved brethren and children, “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Some of us find our lives rather draggy and meaningless. We are at a loss what to do with our life. We feel guilty and empty at the same time. We have lost confidence and at the same time we are too proud to talk about it. What is the solution? It is right here in our text: “whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.

The question is: Have you been losing your life. Have you been seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Have you been seeking to imitate Christ in your relationships? Have you been seeking to lay down your life for Christ and for your brothers and sisters in Christ?

If you have, then blessed are you. You are enjoying eternal life, even a life abundant and free.

But if you have not, may I invite you to seek the Lord’s grace to begin this day to lose your life by faith that you may gain it by grace. Amen.