“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Jesus, Mark 8:36, 37
To understand his question, we need to go back to the beginning of the ministry of Jesus before he called his apostles before he gave the Sermon on the Mount before he even performed a miracle. The setting is the terrible wilderness south of the Jordan. Jesus hasn’t had anything to eat in over a month. There he meets the Tempter. Have you ever thought about Satan’s third temptation, according to Matthew?
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8 – 9)
First, we need to think about what this temptation is about. It’s pretty easy for me to resist heroin (I hate needles!), but chocolate is a very different matter. This temptation appears to appeal to human greed or the thirst for power, but were those temptations that appealed to Jesus? I think not, so let’s examine this temptation again.
The message of both Jesus and John the Baptist was “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” How daunting and difficult it must have been to get that message out to the whole world! Satan often tempts us with short-cuts. Taking the easy way still is a powerful temptation just browse the book titles in the self-help section of Barnes and Noble: “Ten Easy Steps to Fame and Fortune.” “Marital Bliss Made Simple.” “Understanding Women for Dummies.” How easy would it have been to spread the Gospel if Jesus was in charge of all the kingdoms of the earth? “Move over, Nero!” “Step aside, Herod!”
Satan is still tempting us to take short-cuts – to find the easy way out. We are saved by grace. That means God freely forgives us because of the sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t have to do anything. Our salvation is not contingent on completing a dangerous pilgrimage or living the life of a saint. Grace. Simple. But beware Satan’s temptation: “After you dry off after baptism, you don’t need to do anything else.”
We are not called to merit salvation. We are called to reflect salvation. God’s love changes us. The power of the Holy Spirit causes us to grow in holiness. How has the Lord changed you?