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Matthew 16:25

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.

Jim Elliot:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

Question: [Disclaimer: This is purely intellectual. I don't want to set off red flags.]

If I truly believe 16:25, then why would I not purchase a one way ticket to the most anti-Christian country in the world, preach there, get thrown in jail, die after a few decades, and have my ticket to heaven?

If I believe 16:25, then it seems it's impossible to live a lifestyle similar to those who believe in the prosperity "gospel." Therefore, if I live in a life style of prosperity "gospel", it seems like either:

  1. I doubt the words of Christ or
  2. I love the world more than I love God

Theologically / logically, is there any other way to explain this?

In fact, what greater act of faith is there than the willingness to sacrifice all in this life on an utterance of Christ?

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1  
John Piper is one teacher who has a very clear stance against the "prosperity gospel" -- video link. Here's a text summary, and many more Desiring God resources on the subject. –  Philip Schaff Aug 5 '12 at 18:17
    
See also: Will suicide keep me out of heaven? –  Bruce Alderman Aug 6 '12 at 19:40
    
Living for Christ seems to be more difficult than dying for him. (Matthew 16:24) –  Martin.kv Sep 2 '13 at 9:45

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes, there is another way to explain this that. Assuming that "losing ones life" means getting this body of flesh killed off is to ignore the testimony of the rest of scripture. As it turns out there is a much harder and more sacrificial way to lose your life than just dying.

Romans 12:1 (ESV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Losing your life, in the context of Scripture, means turning all of it—including how ever many years of it you have left—over to God for His use.

This idea is also expressed in the imagery of dying to ourselves and that of taking up our cross or being crucified with Christ (not referring to dying on a tree).

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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Just keep in mind, that magical thinking is contrary to Christian doctrine. There is no "easy ticket" by misusing a technicality, and you cannot "force God" to do something because you performed certain acts or rituals or whatever.

Simplified: it's the intention what counts. It's not what you do, but how you do it. Remember the story when a poor widow sincerely donated a small amount of money, and a guy donated a large sum just to show off to others? Jesus said about them, that God values the smaller donation of the widow much more, because of the intention of those two people.

Similarly, if you really devote your life to preach in a dangerous location because you care for those people, and get persecuted is (I think) valued much more than just going there to "trick God" to give you a "free ticket".

This above was written from a kind of "sola fide" point of view, so there might be people who disagree, but I doubt that there is any serious Christian denomination which teaches that you can trick God to reward you, by performing some acts or some rituals without doing it "from you heart" (it might sound cheesy, but I can't find a better formulation)

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Suppose a roman empire announced: "I will throw into the lion's den anyone that claims to be Christian." In that case, is it wrong to turn one self in? If not, what is the difference in preaching Christianity in the most anti-Christian country in the world? –  user1694 Aug 6 '12 at 4:07
    
@user1311390 I fully subscribe to the concept of "don't be stupid." Don't deny Christ if asked in a situation that you describe, but I wouldn't go turn myself in either. –  wax eagle Aug 6 '12 at 16:24
    
@wax eagle: In en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty_Martyrs_of_Sebaste what do you make of the Roman solider who later changed his mind and ran out to the lake? :-) –  user1694 Aug 14 '12 at 5:00
    
@Matthew7.7 from the account that soldier was making, in essence, a confession of faith by doing that. No problem here. –  wax eagle Aug 14 '12 at 12:47

This is an interesting place to bring up calling.

Living out a prosperous life as a Christian is not the prosperity gospel. The "Prosperity Gospel" is a teaching that those who "truly follow Christ" will become wealthy (or healthy, or some other beneficial state). The Gospel only promises to meet our needs and that really only spiritually, there are plenty of examples of people who are very devout Christians who have struggled to just get their "daily bread." I see the traditional meaning of "Prosperity Gospel" to be a misread.

However, the way it's used here seems to be more of a "is it wrong to be prosperous and a Christian." To this I must say Absolutely not, but be careful. Wealth can be an impediment to faith, but it does not have to be.

Many people are called to a life of ministry, or to put themselves in danger in order to spread the gospel. However, not all are called to this. Many are called to live more ordinary lives as programmers, doctors, teachers, garbage men, or any other vocation. We can serve Christ just as well in our mundane ordinary jobs and lives as missionaries and pastors and other "vocational ministry" type positions.

Again: not everyone is called to vocational ministry. This does not mean we should not be ready to lay down our lives for Christ if the need arises, but it also means we shouldn't foolishly throw ourselves into bad situations unprepared (there are times when this is called for, but those times are rare). Missionaries who go to closed or otherwise dangerous countries should be properly trained for the dangers they may face (there are groups here in the US that help train you on how to deal with being a hostage or other dangerous situation, not sure about other countries).

Caleb covers the more spiritual side of "laying down your life." But I think we really should be reminded that we aren't all called to go do something dangerous outside our daily lives. We need Christians who are teachers, doctors, programmers and in every other walk of life. We need these for many reasons here are a few:

  • There are people in those professions who need to hear the gospel
  • Most jobs provide a valuable service to their company or the public at large
  • Churches and missions ventures need funding, one way we can all participate is by giving to our churches and other missionaries.
  • If we were all called to be martyrs there would be no one left to carry on Christ's work.
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