These are the words of Jesus, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” – Mark 8:36 (ESV). Simple explanation, Jesus says you have a soul and it’s the kind of thing that can get lost. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but your whole life is under the direction of your soul. Not your bank account, not your buddies, not your religious system – but your soul.
See today, based on our knowledge about anatomy & psychology we know a ton about our bodies’ physical makeup, but the issue of personhood we truly know very little about. Ironically this is a central theme in the teachings of Jesus.
Let me break it down for you, here are 3 quick things your soul is not:
- Your soul isn’t your BODY. In this little territory we get to have control over it, for the most part. You can say to your mouth “chew” and it does. You can say to your feet “walk” and they do. You can go, “Do these things, accomplish these tasks” and they will respond. Sometimes our parts argue back with us the older we get, but for the majority of the time they’re still compliant.
- Your soul isn’t your WILL. At the plainest level this is the ability you have to make a choice. You can say, “Yes” just as easily as you can say, “No”. In the Bible our will is sometimes described as our “spirit” or our “heart”; it’s used as “heart” because the ability to make choices is really central to who we are. This is what helps make you a person and not just a place, thing or idea. I like to believe that my will is running the show….but from my diet, to my anger, to my mouth it’s just not. I can tell myself over and over that I’m not going to eat that whole pack of cosmic brownies from the grocery, but I usually eat them anyway and all of sudden my will is defied.
- Our soul isn’t our MIND. In the ancient world, a person’s mind was typically associated with their feelings or even thoughts. For example, my wife asks me, “Adam, why did you give the dog a Mohawk?” and I respond, “Not sure, thought it would be cool. Felt right.” We’ve all been there on some level. The experiences we endure, of guilt, or humor, or joy, or pain all of that stuff is the mind; and it too can definitely be violated.
So what the heck is your soul? Your soul is the ability of your body, will and mind all integrating the different functions into a single being, a single person. It’s what separates Carolyn from Karen, Maggie from Alison, etc., So how is it something that can become lost?
Every time I used to read that verse in Mark 8 I thought that Jesus was saying that it doesn’t do us any good to have a lot of sex, or money, or pleasure, or stuff if we end up going to hell. That might happen, but it’s not the point of His message.
Instead Jesus is pointing to a specific human condition where our soul has become broken. He’s hitting up on when our body, will, and mind aren’t syncing with one another, where they’re disconnected from God and it feels like they’re playing for different teams. And it happens ALL of the time.
This isn’t some superficial spiritual dogma verse that relates to the afterlife, but instead it’s about the depth of what makes you, well you. The great theologian Dr. Suess said it pretty well, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
So let me put some options in front of YOU, there are two basic life systems you can live within.
[option 1] You can live like Atlas (greek mythology), remember that dude? This is where you do life trying to bear the weight of the entire world on your shoulders. This system is chaotic and impossible to live under.
[option 2] When you come to something that is outside of your control, do your best in the moment, ask God for some help, and then just let it go. This is the way our souls were created to live.
I may not know anything about you except this – sooner or later you will begin to fall apart. You will fall apart either physically, or mentally, or emotionally, or spiritually, or all of the above. And the thing that really matters in those moments is how your soul has been constructed.
I’ll leave you with some words from a real interesting fella name Horatio Spafford who wrote these words (I encourage you to look up his story, pretty stinking cool).
Mr. Spafford one day penned, “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul”.
May it be well in the deepest place of your soul this month, in Jesus name Amen.
Because He Lives, Pastor AB