Jesus used the word life (Gk. psuche) in at least two ways. One was to refer to the human soul. This has caused some people mistakenly to conclude Jesus’ use of psuche warns only about the loss of salvation. A second look at the Lord’s use of psuche, however, forces us to realize that sometimes He also used this word when referring to human physical life. There is perhaps no better illustration of this than in Mark 8:35: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

What does all this have to do with preaching? The answer is that it has everything to do with preaching because it is, or at least should be, the backdrop behind every sermon we preach. Deep within each of us is a passion for life as it was designed to be at the beginning. This is our unquenchable desire for Eden. We all want paradise reinstated. Ultimately, this is our Lord’s message: “This is what you want,” He says. “Here is how you get hold of it.” However, we have to make a choice as to whether we will choose the temporary now or the eternal forever. You can have only one or the other.

Here is a fundamental and unavoidable law of life for every preacher: Integrity demands that we possess before we proclaim. Yesterday I went to buy a new cell phone. When I spotted the salesperson’s cell phone, I immediately said I would like to look at one like it. His reply stunned me. He said, “We don’t have this model here. I have my cell phone with one of our competitors.” Can you believe it? He is trying to sell one service when he has chosen another for himself! As you might imagine, I decided immediately to check out the other company. When I did not like what I saw there, I returned to my old provider; but I avoided dealing with the salesman I met earlier. Why? Because an old sales adage says that no one truly can sell what he or she would not buy. It is a matter of integrity and loyalty. The person in sales does best when he or she believes in the product he or she is selling. Similarly, it is a phony preacher who does not desire to make his life measure up to his message. Surely to lose that desire must be the end of the road in human lostness to say nothing of our passion for preaching the gospel Jesus preached. When a preacher understands life as no longer worth living, who wants to buy his or her gospel?

So, our message must begin with an examination of what truly counts with us. We all have to ask ourselves, “Why do I do this?” If only for present rewards, that becomes mighty shallow and leads nowhere good. Yet, sometimes when we hear some of what passes for preaching, we begin to suspect that many who call themselves preachers are living that way today.

What am I suggesting? Simply this: To be a true preacher, we must be prepared to cast our lives into the wind of God, the Holy Spirit. Here is another question that takes us to the core of truly great preaching: Would anything change about the message I preach if I knew that whatever it might bring to others does not benefit me?

You may think, “That is crazy!” Is it? Consider Abraham. He marched off his map, going to a place he did not know. Furthermore, he went without thought for personal benefit. His neighbors mocked him for not caring about his own well-being. Noah did the same thing in a different way despite the criticism of his neighbors. This is the way of life Jesus calls us to as preachers. We preach a message we cannot prove by the normally accepted manner of proof. We trust God, obey Him and put the responsibility for what happens on Him. I call this, “selling the ultimate intangible.”

To try to save your life is to lose it; to preach for present benefits is to end up with nothing. Lose your life for the gospel, says Jesus. Take up your cross and follow Me; and you will find contentment, satisfaction, inner peace and a sense of worth that will last forever. True preaching calls for death to self that we may find fulfillment and satisfaction in the only One who is life forevermore. The only way we can find it is by means of a cross—His and ours.

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