The Danger of Distraction (Mark 9:43-50) Part 2
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The Danger of Distraction
Stay on target, because great danger demands drastic action
Mark 9:43 to 50–part 2
On a beautiful spring day in 2003, Aron Ralston was looking for a solo adventure. He decided to explore Blue John Canyon, a slot canyon in southern Utah. Following his map, he drove into the National Forest and hiked eight miles to find this famed canyon. He climbed into the canyon, which fell beneath his feet. As he climbed deeper into the crevasse, many boulders impeded his progress. Large rocks from the upper strata had fallen down and become wedged against the thin spaces between the walls.
As he descended toward the bottom, he hung from an 800-pound boulder that was pinched between the canyon walls. Unexpectedly, that rock slipped from its position and came falling toward him. In an instinctive move to distance himself from the falling mass, the stone pinned his arm against the canyon wall. At the bottom of a hole, in a hidden canyon 100 feet beneath the surface and 20 miles from the nearest paved road, Ralston was stuck in agonizing pain and in total solitude. Hundreds of miles of uninhabited desert surrounded him.
He had set out with provisions for an afternoon. He had 32 ounces of water, and defying the first law of outdoor adventuring, had told no one of his plans. No one would be looking for him, and even if they were looking, they wouldn’t know where. So at the bottom of the canyon, completely alone, isolated, he realized this beautiful canyon would become his tomb. Did he have options? Yes, but great danger demands drastic action.
Our Lord teaches us about grave danger and severe measures. And as dire as Ralston’s circumstances were, our Lord’s words in Mark 9 are much more severe–in fact, they are shocking. At the end of Mark 9, Jesus brings the most extreme challenge in the entire book of Mark. These verses are a gut-level wake-up call. Our Lord will shock us so we truly embrace the destructiveness of sin, and embrace the need to live holy, because great danger demands drastic action.
Open your Bibles to Mark 9:38 to 50, and follow along in the outline found in your bulletin. As we continue in our verse by verse exposition seeking only Mark’s intended meaning of this Gospel, we find ourselves today in one of the toughest sections of the New Testament. What makes it difficult?
ONE There’re two verses, 44 and 46, that don’t belong here cause they were added later by those who were making handwritten copies.
TWO There is one verse, 49, that’s incredibly difficult to interpret, because what that one verse describes is very obscure. But the entire passage is not vague, and Christ is very clear. Our Lord says, “Stay on target. Do not become distracted, aggressively love Christ, pursue sanctification, run your race to win, stay on mission to be transformed and to tell others about Christ.” And the Lord tells us how, by reminding us what to avoid, what to flee, and what not to neglect.
I know you trust your Bible, and you should. Even when it comes to ancient documents, nothing compares to the Bible. With Plato’s writings, we have today about seven older documents in order to determine what Plato actually said–that’s it, seven docs. Caesar—there are ten. With the New Testament, we have over 24,000 manuscripts to determine what the original actually said–24,000 very old docs.
Sometimes with the later manuscripts, the scribes who were meticulously making copies of the New Testament letter by letter and line by line, would occasionally, rarely add things for emphasis. Usually they’d still honor the meaning of the text, but out of a desire to increase the potency of a passage, they’d add something to it–not something different, but they’d double up on an emphasis. Or if they felt something was unclear, they might try to clarify it.
Well today in Mark 9, you are going to see what those scribes were trying to do. We now have access to all the earliest and best manuscripts of the gospel of Mark, and they do not include verses 44 and 46. Those two verses were added later by a scribe who was trying to ramp up the super intense message of Jesus in this section. The scribe took what was written in verse 48, which is in the oldest texts, and repeated that same truth in verses 44 and 46.
Because we have access to all those documents today, we can determine that 44 and 46 were not in the original autographs written by Mark. Your better study Bibles, like the NASB, bracket verses 44 and 46, showing you they don’t belong in the original written by Mark. And the ESV actually takes them completely out of your Bible, showing you they don’t belong in your Bible. So as we stand to read this section of Scripture, I will read it skipping verses 44 and 46, but I will read verse 48, which is in the original manuscript, because we are only interested in that which Mark wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and not what some scribe later thought he wanted to emphasize.
Starting in verse 43, where we left off last week, let’s read through verse 50, and as we do, see if you can feel the heat and the focus of Christ, who like a laser, wants us to stay on target, and not get distracted from our mission to show off Christ and make Him known. Let’s read this aloud together from your outline.
Reading the NASB together, verse 43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
Let’s pray. Father, change our lives today, and make us more like your Son. Help us to be impacted by Your Word, and to see your heart. Move us to stop being distracted, and transform us to stay on mission. Cause us to take sin seriously–to offer ourselves to You completely, and to live attractively in order to point to Your Gospel. And today, possibly in this service, would You draw some to Yourself so that they might have eternal life with You. Amen.
Jesus has revealed Himself as the Messiah who would suffer, die, then rise from the dead. In chapter 8, He called us to the mission of denying ourselves, following Him and showing and sharing His Gospel–that God can save you. Then the Father proved Jesus is God in chapter 9, through the Transfiguration. Jesus Christ is God’s only solution to our sin problem now and our only hope of Heaven later. We must respond to Christ in faith, and find true greatness in serving others, especially serving the lowliest among us.
And now in verses 43 to 50, as Jesus continues to wrap up the final months of His earthly ministry before His coming death on a cross, Christ warns us not to get distracted five different ways. Last week we exposed two distractions to avoid—let’s recall them. Do not get distracted . . .
#1 By an unnecessary RIVALRY: a failure of PRIORITY Verses 38 to 41
Verse 38, “John said to Him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.’” When out and about, the disciples run into a guy who was actually casting out demons in Jesus’ name. But even though this servant was not a phony, the terrific twelve told him to stop. Why? Because he wasn’t a part of their group. Their pride manifested itself in exclusivity. Us four, no more, bar the door.
Verse 39, “But Jesus said, ‘Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name,” and here Jesus affirms he actually was doing genuine miracles in Christ’s name. So Jesus says in the rest of verse 39, “and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.” Verse 40, “For he who is not against us is for us.” Just because somebody doesn’t do everything the way we do it doesn’t mean God can’t use them. If they’re truly for Christ, meaning genuinely saved, preaching a true Gospel and displaying authentic spiritual fruit, we should be for them.
So the Lord says, “Stop competing with other genuine believers–that’s distracting.” We must stand for truth and correct error, but we’re not here on Earth to correct everyone outside our church. We need to grow deep in doctrine inside our church, and proclaim the Gospel outside our church. Jesus says that kind of focus brings reward in verse 41, “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”
Humility is shown when there is sacrifice given towards those who bear the name of Christ. Whoever gives a cup of cold water for the sake of Christ will not lose your reward. Do not get distracted–don’t stop other true believers. Secondly, Mark says don’t get off-center . . .
#2 By not protecting God’s PEOPLE: a failure of LOVE Verse 42
Verse 42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” Never mess with God’s sheep–they are His children. Mess with me, and I can handle it. Mess with my kids and Papa Bear shows up, and He’s supersize trouble.
The point–do not mess with our heavenly Father’s children. Christ died for the people all around you, and He does not want you harming them, leading them into sin, or causing them to sin. This is so serious to Christ that He says it’s better for you to tie a 2,000-pound grinding stone around your neck and be tossed into the ocean, than to cause another believer to stumble into sin.
Students, do not cross the line and steal the purity from another believer, who is not yet your spouse–be warned! Parents, do not provoke your children to anger–that’s serious. Spouses, guard your mouth from words that lead to sin–watch out. And Christians, beware of what you say about other Christians–do not gossip, complain, tear down, rip on, or undermine believers. Don’t encourage other believers to watch evil entertainment, or to participate in liberties when their conscience is not free to. Do not get so focused on fun, or freedoms, or things, that you fail to love God’s people and preserve the unity of the Church. God intends every single one of you here to influence each other to be like Christ, and not cause each other to sin.
That was all last week—but Christ is not done. Great danger demands drastic action. Do not take sin lightly. Jesus is so serious–He warns us not to get distracted.
#3 By not taking your SIN seriously: a failure of HOLINESS
God intends every single one of you here to influence each other to be like Christ, but you can’t influence someone else toward righteousness if you are not righteous yourself. You and I will never be a purifying influence on others unless our own hearts are pure. And the reverse is true as well–if your own heart is impure, you will lead others into sin. You will be the one who causes others to stumble.
But the danger of leading others into sin is eliminated when you deal with sin in your own heart, so Jesus says these dramatic words in verse 43 to 48, “’If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
I value my hands, my feet and my eyes—I do. But Jesus says it is better to get rid of any one of them than to have two hands, two feet or two eyes and end up in Hell forever. In other words, “Get serious about dealing with your sin!” The Lord is so intense, it’s shocking. Come on! “Be honest,” you are saying to yourself, “He really doesn’t mean that,” does He? “He doesn’t want you to literally cut off your hand, or gouge out your eye.” No, but He’s definitely saying, “Get serious about your sin.”
The severity of the language is eye-bugging. Using a metaphoric hyperbole, Jesus says, “Mortify sin—kill sin.” You must crush sin in order to survive. Hate sin because of its devilish destruction. Kill sin, or it will kill you. This is grim. The Lord is visualizing amputation of body parts–hands, feet and eyes, symbolically picturing everything you do. Hands are for everything you do, feet are for everywhere you go, and eyes are for everything you see. This covers everything that relates to your life–all behavior.
These three body parts are symbolic of your entire life. And the tenses of the verbs are all present tense, meaning you’ll face this type of temptation not once, but you’ll deal with them continually in an ongoing struggle with sin. Notice verse 47 and the phrase “Kingdom of God” that is describing salvation, Heaven, God’s eternal rule, which you want to enter. In verses 43 and 45 it’s called “life”, here describing eternal life, since it’s in contrast to eternal Hell. You want an eternity with God in Heaven forever?
So the point is gaining salvation on the positive side, and escaping Hell on the negative side is so important that you need to get rid of anything that’s a distraction–that’s the point. And Jesus says it’s so serious, it’s like an amputation. Jesus wants you to take severe action against anything that stands in the way of the pursuit of holiness, righteousness and purity.
All these gory metaphors are speaking to you, saying this—half measures are not enough. Dillydallying with sin is deadly. With sin, the surgery must be radical. You must gouge out sin. Right now, without delay, without facilitating the computer filter must be added so no more porn is viewed. That social relationship that’s turned flirtatious with someone other than your spouse must be cut off. The fantasy imaginings about someone else who is not yours must be refused. The stealing from work is done. The secret evil habit is over. The cheating on homework is stopped—no more!
Stop feeling guilty and act. Repent now–no more shadowboxing. Knock this sin out now and kill it dead! The language here is telling you to act upon your will–you must do this. Notice the second word in verses 43, 45 and 47–it is YOUR hand, YOUR foot, and YOUR eye which must be cast away. No one else can do this for you. Depend on the Spirit–you can’t do this in your own strength, but YOU must act!
Now you know the Lord is not calling for physical mutilation. A person with one eye, or with one hand, or with one leg, or for that matter a person with no hands, no legs, and no eyes does not conquer sin in this life. Sadly, there have been those throughout Church history who’ve tried to conquer sin through amputations, but it doesn’t work, because the problem isn’t a body part, it is your heart! It is not the outside that’s responsible, but your heart. The issue is sin on the inside. You are the problem, not what you do–you are seriously sick and decaying with sin.
Do you remember what Jesus said in Mark 7:15, 21, 22? “’There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.’”
Jesus also made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount, right? Matthew 5:27 to 28, “’You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery”; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ‘” The problem is the heart, and our Lord wants us to get serious about the sins you’re battling within your heart! Are you memorizing Scripture, applying the Word, going to prayer, getting accountable, seeking advice and attacking sin? I get it–I’m older. This is not hip or trendy. This doesn’t fit into today’s expectation for Church to be fun, and the sermon to be funny. This is not flip-flop casual. What Jesus says here is painful. Why?
Sin is so dangerous and damnable, we must separate from it. We cannot allow our own sin to become a distraction. Our sin is not to keep us from turning to Christ and becoming like Christ. And our sin is not to distract us from influencing others to turn to Christ and become like Christ. A few of you may be thinking, “Hey, no big deal–I’m under grace. I haven’t attacked my sin, and it hasn’t hurt me–much.”
You’re not listening to Christ–to not get serious about sin doesn’t make you a carnal Christian, or a second class believer. To not get serious about sin means you end up in Hell. Did you hear that? In Hell–and that’s why Hell is mentioned in verses 43, 45 and 47, because Hell is at stake here. Hell is the disastrous alternative to not seriously attacking sin in your life. The Lord is describing the initial repentance and faith that accompanies true salvation.
You know this–faith is dependence, repentance is a change of direction. And just like faith continues after you are saved, true repentance continues in the life of a genuine believer. So repentance is one of the evidences you’re truly delivered from eternal Hell. Repentance implies you hate sin and want to turn away from it.
So Jesus says, “Take sin seriously or go to Hell.” This is a call to salvation. Choose holiness or Hell. Choose the eternal Kingdom of salvation, or the eternal punishment of Hell. No real salvation comes unless there is a heart that seeks after righteousness, right? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what? for righteousness.
This is the initial commitment of a believer to purity that becomes the pattern of a believer’s entire life, pursuing purity. Just like faith starts at salvation, it continues in sanctification. The pursuit of holiness starts at salvation, and continues as we grow. All true Christians want to crush sin in their life. Why? The motive for us to get serious about sin in this text is the fear of spending all eternity in the horrible torments of Hell. Yes, you can turn to Christ because of His love for you, but you can also turn to Christ because you fear Hell, and know Christ is your only hope.
The word Hell is Gehenna. That’s the Greek term that specifically refers to the Lake of Fire, not just the place of the dead, like Hades, but the actual burning “Lake of Fire”. That is why verse 43 describes Hell as the place of unquenchable fire. And verse 48 says, “Where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” Jesus wants us to “own” the reality of Hell–it’s a real place, and the vast majority of the human race will go there because of their rebellion to God with sin.
The Greek word Gehenna draws from the Valley of Hinnom—Gehenna or ge-hinnom. This valley is along the southeastern rim of Jerusalem. Our first trip to Israel, Jean and I daily walked across a bridge that crossed over the Hinnom Valley to get to Jerusalem–I crossed Hell. The Hinnom Valley has a sordid past and a sick history, which explains its use as the description for the Lake of Fire, or Hell.
Back in the Old Testament, wicked King Ahaz and wicked King Manasseh conducted child sacrifices to the pagan god Molech in this valley. This also gave the valley the nickname, the Valley of the Drum, because drums were beaten regularly near the valley in order to drown out the sound of burning babies. Good King Josiah stopped this evil practice, and in his reforms turned the valley into the city dump, and I mean real garbage–not paper and plastic, but rancid food, sewage, maggots, dead animals, dead criminals, with a 24/7 fire consuming it. As a result, the place was a constant source of rancid smells, flies, worms, decay, death, and a constant fire with acrid smoke.
This is the picture Jesus gives of Hell. Verse 43, “to go into Hell,” into the unquenchable fire, and verse 48, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” This is why the word came to be used as a picture of eternal hell. The Greek word for Lake of Fire, or Gehenna, is used twelve times in the New Testament, but get this–out of the twelve times, Jesus uses it eleven times, and James only once.
From the beginning of Matthew, to the end of Revelation, Hell is a reality about which you and I are warned. And in Hell, Jesus warns us in verse 48, “the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies.” This is a direct quote from the very last verse in the book of Isaiah, a verse of judgment. Isaiah 66:24 says, “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
Don’t get distracted. In order to be saved, you had to hate your sin. If you are saved now, you still hate your sin. So Jesus says, don’t grow comfortable with your sin. Don’t presume on grace. Don’t stop pursuing holiness, and take sin seriously. There are two great realities that prove the severity of sin. That’s . . .
#1 The Cross of Christ–God had to die to deal with sin, and . . .
#2 Eternal Hell–that most people will go there because they didn’t turn to Christ to take their punishment for their sin.
Sin is serious. Yes, as a true believer you are forgiven, cleansed, washed, ready for heaven. But take your sin seriously–flee lust, confess sin, and hate sin. Crush sin or sin will crush you. Kill sin or sin will kill you. Do not merely feel bad about your sin–you must hate your sin and turn from it. Are you willing to endure pain to deal with your sin? The metaphors the Lord uses here in verses 43 to 48 recommend we should be willing to endure pain to conquer our sinful habits.
It hurts to sever your foot or gouge out your eye, and it hurts to give up sin in our lives–it can be a painful process. But better your blood on the ground and agony endured, than your life on the rubbish heap of eternity. If God is speaking to you right now, do it–act today. Are your feet taking you places you should not go? Are your hands doing things you should not do? Are your eyes looking at things you should not look at? Repent! If someone was trying to kill you, you wouldn’t wink at them. Hey–sin is trying to destroy you. Do NOT wink at sin.
Jesus Christ’s plan for our lives includes our separation from sin. Jesus Christ is not teaching us to mutilate our bodies. Jesus Christ is not suggesting that a one-handed, one-footed, one-eyed person will sin less, since sin actually comes from our hearts. But take sin seriously—it’s poison, and can lead to Hell. You can also be distracted . . .
#4 By not offering yourself TOTALLY: a failure of WORSHIP
Verse 49 is very cryptic–this is the verse that boggles interpreters. “For everyone will be salted with fire.” The best and simplest method to find the interpretive answer is to ask this question–where in the Scripture do fire and salt come together? Ezra 6 says salt was to be stored up to be used in sacrifices. And Ezekiel 43 says salt is used with sacrifices. And that’s the answer to the question, “where do salt and fire come together?” Because sacrifices are burned with fire.
Salt was added to sacrifices as a symbol of God’s enduring promise. As a preservative, salt represented enduring faithfulness. And as a spice, salt brought flavor to life–it was sought and attractive. But one particular sacrifice fits the Mark 9:49 image perfectly–it’s found in Leviticus 2. In the opening five chapters of Leviticus, you have instruction on the five main offerings. Then in chapter 2, you have the description of the grain offering. So look at Leviticus 2:13, “Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”
Salt symbolizes God’s promise. Salt is a picture of God’s enduring faithfulness as you make the offering. And what is the grain offering? Well, there were five offerings. Four of them were animal sacrifices–burnt offering, peace offering, sin offering, guilt offering. You see them in the first five chapters–the four animal sacrifices, and they all represent the need for atonement for sin. But the grain offering is not an animal offering. It’s not a sin offering–it’s an offering of devotion and dedication. It symbolizes total devotion to the Lord.
Your life is totally His–nothing held back, no “Yea, but”s. You gather up your best grain, and you make a sacrifice of that grain on the altar. It’s then covered with salt, which speaks of the faithfulness and the permanence of this offering to God. God will keep His promise, and by sprinkling salt on it, God is saying He’s faithful. His promise to you, His faithfulness to you is symbolized in the salt.
And so our faithfulness is to be the same. “For everyone will be salted with fire” means we’re an offering–our lives are an offering to God, and we are to be faithful to our God. Every day we are making a total sacrifice, an enduring, permanent offering of our lives. We are all in–a living sacrifice to Christ. So “for everyone will be salted with fire” is offering your life, everyday, all day long, in every task, faithfully to the Lord. Jesus is calling you to commit your life to Christ as a sacrifice.
The New Testament states it this way in Romans 12:1, “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” That’s what we see in the grain offering–all me, faithfully for you. This is denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Christ. This is giving yourself wholly, totally, to Christ in the language of an enduring sacrifice. Fire is sacrifice, and salt is faithfulness. You’re not going to crawl off the altar at the first whim. You’re salting that, making your life a permanent sacrifice of faithfulness.
This is consecration, which means to be set apart for a relationship with and service to Jesus Christ. This verse is calling you to give yourself to Christ in an enduring faithful way. You are saying, “I no longer live for me, but for Christ in all things. I’m His servant and am at His call, to be used in any way He wants.” I believe that’s the best explanation of verse 49, bringing both truths together. What Jesus is calling you to do is cast your lot, choose your side, pick your team and make your loyalties known. You are all in, no more fence-sitting allowed. Is it clear?
When you get married, you say, “Yes,” to your spouse, and at the same moment you’re saying, “No,” to every other relationship forever. When you know Christ, you are saying, “Yes,” to Him, and you are saying, “No,” to every other option forever. Do not get distracted by anything other than being a living sacrifice for Christ–24/7. Are you His, no matter what? Finally, don’t get distracted . . .
#5 By living MIXED: a failure of OBEDIENCE
Jesus now challenges the fencesitters with this last verse. Read verse 50, “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” The Lord is telling us to commit to obedience no matter what. There are too many people who vacillate about obeying Christ. “Sin is so fun, I’ll become a believer later.” Or as a make-believer, “I’ll claim Christ, but continue in sin.” Or as a believer, “I will get as close to sin as I can, without sinning.” Or, “Hey, I am under grace, so what’s the big deal about sin?”
Look what Jesus says in verse 50—“Salt is good.” You understand that halos, salt is useful and beneficial. In a world with no refrigeration and no ice, salt was required for preserving food. And friends, salt is tasty, like today, to flavor food. God intends for us to be salt, like salt brings taste and is desired on food, we’re to be salt and bring a desire for Christ. So the Lord adds, “Salt is good,” unless it “becomes unsalty.” “But if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?”
Another way to say that, “When the salt isn’t salty, what do you salt the salt with?” Salt is good unless it loses its saltiness.
Now all you chemists know NaCl sodium chloride is stable. Just sitting around, salt doesn’t lose its saltiness. So the question is, What does it mean for salt to lose its saltiness? Did Jesus make a mistake in His chemistry? No—read your Bible. Jesus created the world, and that includes salt. Jesus knows about salt–He created it. Historians tell us there were several kinds of salts in Israel, and many of them were mixed with things like gypsum that made the salt worthless and useless and tasteless.
So our Lord says, while we’re talking about salt and dedication, let Me just expand My salt illustration and make another point. Salt is good, but it’s only good if its unmixed. We are not to desire Christ and desire this world. We are to serve Christ and give this world a desire for Christ–which explains the next statement, a command in verse 50. “Have salt in yourselves.” Be salt, but don’t be salt mixed with gypsum or anything else. Be undiluted, unmixed, uncorrupted. Christ commands His men to obey, to live unmixed. Why do I say that? Because at the end of verse 50, He immediately gives them a direct, practical application, “and be at peace with one another.”
Why does He say that? Because that’s what they needed to hear. Remember back in verse 33, Jesus asks, “What were you discussing on the way” down here to Capernaum? They kept silent. On the way, they’d discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Wow–they were proud, self-serving and competitive. They were guilty of leading each other into sin. They had made each other angry. It was anything but humility. They were not at peace with one another.
I believe Jesus says, “You need to be unmixed in your obedience, and here’s your command for today. Stop fighting. Stop elevating yourselves. Stop competing.” These verses are simply pointing a finger at us to stop. Stop being the cause of temptation . . . love each other extremely . . . deal with sin severely . . . sacrifice your life wholly . . . and obey the Word of God fanatically. Why should we not be distracted? Why are we to pursue this kind of radical commitment Jesus has just described?
Jesus said it before in Matthew 5:13 to 16–you know it. “You are the salt of the earth”–remain tasty and not tossed out. “You are the light of the world”–what are we supposed to do? “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
The goal of our lives is for God to be glorified in everything, right? What attracts others to glorify God will be the witness you give because you are salt and light by virtue of your commitment to follow God’s Word, get along, deal with sin, and obey Christ. Are you distracted, or are you devoted? Are you ready to live radically so Christ is seen through you? Is Christ worthy enough for you to pay any price to make Him known? Are you attacking sin–a living sacrifice and obedient?
Aron was willing to actually do the radical to survive. He worked for days to chip away at the rock to free his arm, but nothing worked–nothing. He needed another plan. On the fifth day, he was severely dehydrated and preparing for the worst. He had carved his name in the rock, took a couple of selfies and filmed a final goodbye video for his parents. He had considered cutting his arm off, but realized he would be unable to cut through the bone. Then it dawned on him–he could break the bone and then cut his arm off. This was the only way to save his life.
To break both bones, he pried and pushed until both his radius and ulna succumbed to the pressure, cracking one at a time. Now all that remained for his freedom was cutting through his arm. After days of stabbing at the rock, the knife was very dull–but the skin, muscle, tendons, nerves all gave way through unimaginable pain. He made the final cut after an hour of frontier surgery, and he was free. He crafted a tourniquet out of the lining of his backpack, and this is what he said, “It was the happiest moment in my life. It was absolutely the greatest feeling to know that I was getting out of here. I did what I needed to do.”
He couldn’t climb back up, so he had to hike out of the canyon, forcing him at one point to rappel down a 65-foot “difficult” cliff. Then he faced an 8-mile hike, which ended with an 800-foot vertical climb. He finally encountered some hikers on vacation who gave him aid. He was emaciated, starving, dehydrated, and exhausted. He lost 25% of his blood supply, but finally a medical helicopter came to his rescue. And when rescued, he described his situation in spiritual terms: “Reborn, salvation, rebirth.”
Great danger demands drastic actions. Have you faced the danger to your soul? Will you take the spiritual steps to respond to the danger? Not amputation, but mortifying sin, turning away from anything that distracts you from Christ, seeking to be attractive to the lost for Christ? And for a few of you today, turn to Christ in repentance and faith in order to be saved.
God is pointing out something to me. With the current book I’m reading (Living in the newness of Life by Bishop David Oyedepo), scriptures that have been constantly in my mind ( 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:19-22 & Hebrews 12:14), and now this article… All revealing that there’s something in me I need to deal with it or rather it make me a victim.