“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and for the Gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:35–38

When you witness to a lost person you must always keep in mind that his objections are born out of unsanctified thinking and a lack of spiritual, healthy fear. An unsaved man will always think like an unregenerated man until the light of faith has flooded his soul. He will lack the urgency of authentic fear of God that will motivate him to fall upon God’s mercy as his only hope. His interaction with you will usually sound more like a fact finding mission than a heart cry.

The way to get to an unsaved man’s heart is through sharing the Word of God and depending upon the Holy Spirit to drive the words to the depth of his soul. Believers are helpless to convert anyone, but we are privileged to share the Living Word and give the Gospel a hearing.

An unsaved man has lived his adult life in suspicion of all people who are devout Christians. He has watched these Christians live by faith, by a set of boundaries, by a real sense of divine accountability, and this is a mystery to him. Even the way Christians talk is with a unique vocabulary and their confidence in God seems to border on irrationality because nothing can silence a believer and no event can crush a believer’s faith. In short, every real Christian he has ever known has yielded his life over to a sovereign God you cannot see and you must take at His Word. It all seems so irrational to the closed and benighted mind of a lost observer. Though he may have the merest admiration for the disciplined Christian life, the unsaved mind can only suspect there is a little bit of insanity lurking in a believer’s heart.

One of the best passages to apply to this objection is the passage quoted above. Though the context is certainly referring to discipleship, the fact remains that discipleship begins at salvation. The character of wholesale commitment is required of all Christians, both newborn saints and “senior” saints. Becoming a disciple is simply the gateway to being a disciple.

In verse 34, our Lord has assembled the crowd and His disciples around Him and He describes the behaviors of a disciple. He says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Desire is equivalent to will. A disciple is one who wills to follow the instructions of Jesus. He desires to enter into fellowship/partnership with Christ. His permanent attitude and practice of life is to give up his self-interest and take up his cross. In other words, he is willing to follow Christ along the same road as his Savior. This is the “fanaticism” that the unsaved individual is “afraid” of.

Then, in verses 35 to 38 our Lord explains the rationale behind making such a commitment. He answers the question, “Why would/should any sane person chose such a life?” It is precisely because he is sane!

First, because our life only has eternal meaning when we are in a right relationship with God. One who wants to hang on to his own “sovereignty” is destined to lose his life. God gave life to Adam and to every living soul. Our life is His and He owns us as His creation. To lose is to suffer destruction, sustain damage and injury. Every man desires to leave a legacy that supersedes his earthly life. Only disciples lay-up treasures in Heaven!

Second, what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Luke 9:25 further records our Lord as saying, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” Destroyed means death, to lay waste, and loss of life. Lost means to be cast away, to be fined, to punish by exacting forfeit, to forfeit his very self. Essentially, not submitting to the sovereignty of God as a disciple means a man is forfeiting his eternal life for the sake of grasping after fleeting happiness in this vain, ever-changing world.

The wisdom in the question our Lord next asks is priceless. “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” This is a question the saint must ask an unsaved man to ponder. What is your soul worth? Is it worth being thought well of by your fellow man but not by your Creator? Just what are you willing to exchange for your eternal soul? Why not give up what you cannot keep for the God who is able to keep you (2 Timothy 1:12)? There is absolutely no price to pay to get a wasted life back!

Third, Jesus drives home the lesson as He declares, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Trusting in Christ is the beginning of a discipleship that lasts for eternity, not just a lifetime. Trust and obey.