What shall a man give in exchange for his soul…

In the mid 1980’s, while studying Mann’s Doctor Faustus with my AP English class, I found it interesting that I was the only one lacking pathos — neither the other teenagers, nor the teacher felt the same way I did about the bargain. Even before my conversion, I found it hard to feel compassion for a man who sells his soul to Satan. Though we all sin, Proverbs enlightens those interested in the difference between a just man who sins and a wicked man, For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief (Proverbs 24:16).

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Peter Jackson's rendition of Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Ring passed to Isildur, who had this one chance to destroy evil forever, but the hearts of men are easily corrupted. And the ring of power has a will of its own.” That corruption is a simple way to remember the difference between a just man who falls and a wicked man. The just man falls and rises up. Think King David. The wicked man is corrupted and does not turn back. Think King Saul.

This answers the age old question, “Why?" Though often ignored, God answers it over and over again in His word. It started in the garden and it has not changed since — men are drawn away by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). It is as old as Eve and technology doesn’t change the fundamentals. Here’s how James describes it in chapter 1 verses 14-15, But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

I fully understand the power of Satan — the lure of the prince of this world. I felt his pull, dallied with him, gave in to his whims, lived as his servant and, thankfully, turned away and took the Narrow Road. I decided to flee Satan and draw near to God. I was asked recently if I believed in demon possession today (partially a tongue in cheek question). Really, I believe that Satan does possess us. Not in the way he did in past times. Not in the horror movie manner. No, I believe Satan possesses us when we give in to our temptations. We choose Satan over God time and again when we sin. We allow him to possess us in a figurative sense.

We allow Satan to possess us when we ignore the way out of temptation. Temptation is not the sin. Jesus faced temptation and He was sinless. We all face temptation and we can turn away. Yet, God always provides a way out. We sin when we walk past the escape route God provides and make our own route — but, it’s not really our route after all. It’s Satan’s route.

So, when does Satan possess us? When our heart is not truly given to God — fully and completely — we’ve given Satan enough room to work. We practically invite him in. Proverbs 6:27 illustrates this, Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? We allow him in our heart, For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders (Mark 7:21). Satan possesses us when we do not watch. We cannot just avoid sin. We have to fight against it. We have to be proactive in dozens of ways. One of the last things Jesus told his followers to do was watch.

Satan is not a passive enemy. He is seeking us. To devour, to destroy, to annihilate — another soul separated from God. Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter? And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31).

We must not only hide God’s word in our hearts, we must heed it. We must be cautious in our dealings in ways that allow us to take the way out when we are faced with sin. We must avoid settings and circumstances that make way for sin. We must carefully consider our actions and our choices, we must flee Satan. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you (James 4:7).

Men give up their souls for money, for illicit passion, for knowledge. In the end, they are figuratively selling their souls to Satan. Don’t they realize that he doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain? They lose their souls and what they gained will never ever meet their expectations. No amount of money will make hell more comfortable. No illicit passion will be worth a soul separated from God. No knowledge will enlighten a soul in everlasting flame.

Men who take fire in their bosom will get more fire than they bargained for — every time. It has been said that sin will take you farther then you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.

God places amazing value on a soul. One soul is worth more than the whole world, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?(Matthew 16:26)

Doctor Faustus Book Cover Image~ (Alfred A. Knopf)

Category: Musings
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