19/5/05 Mark 9 : 41-50
Mark 9: 41 "I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. 42 "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where " `their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other."
There is a television programme which features young people who go through painful cosmetic surgery in order that they can look like one of their celebrity idols, like Pamela Anderson or Brad Pitt.
Jesus is saying that if anyone wants to follow him they will have to go through painful, spiritual surgery. He uses hyperbole, or exaggeration to make a point. Otherwise Christians would be known for their self-mutilation and their lack of limbs and eyes!
Jesus demands that his followers should not continue to sin. What does this mean?
Sin is going against the will of God. Adam and Eve were created without sin but chose to disobey God, letting sin into the world. It has been part of human existence since, everyone is predisposed to follow their own way rather than God's. Everyone sins, the only person never to sin is Jesus.
Sin results in separation from God. On the cross Jesus was separated from God the Father when he voluntarily took upon himself the punishment for the sins of the world. Christians have given their sins over to Jesus and are now perfect in God's sight. However, this is not a blank cheque for Christians to continue to sin. Rather Jesus death and the power of the Holy Spirit frees believers to do God's perfect will. Becoming a Christian involves dying to our old way of life, see Galatians 2:20. Therefore, if we continue to sin it is a denial of our very nature , see Romans 6:1.
Jesus taught that sin came from within, and was not about outward behaviour. Matthew 23:23ff.
How can we combat sin?
We need God's Holy Spirit working in our hearts and minds.
"O Wind of God, come, bend us, break us,
Till humbly we confess our need;
Then in Thy tenderness remake us,
Revive, restore; for this we plead."
We just need to ask God and He will help us by His Spirit.
We need to be aware of temptation and sin by knowing our Bibles. Jesus answered the temptations of the devil using the Scriptures.
We also need to be aware that our sinful human nature can be very devious and seek to justify what we are doing. When Adam sinned he blamed Eve and she blamed the snake! We can blame our situation, other people, the government or any number of things but, if we are sinning, it is our responsibility.
Salt was used to purify and produce a distinctive taste. The salt in Jesus' day was not 100% pure and could lose it's saltiness. Just as the salt in Jesus' day had to continue to be salty to purify and be distinctive so Jesus' followers should keep being combating moral decay and be different.
If we do sin, and everyone will, we should return to God in sorrow, asking for forgiveness and the grace and determination not to repeat that sin.
If people continue to live outside the rule of God the alternative is dire. Jesus spoke of being without God as 'hell'. The word translated "hell" is gehenna, a Greek form of the Hebrew words ge hinnom ("Valley of Hinnom"). This was used as a place where human excrement and rubbish, including animal carcasses, were disposed of and burned. The fire of gehenna never went out, and the worms never died. So it came to be used symbolically of the place of divine punishment.
Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship
The young people I mentioned would go through painful surgery to look like their celebrity heroes. We are to face the pain and inconvenience of putting our lives under the control of Jesus. This is one aspect of Jesus words, 49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
Believers are to continually give themselves completely over to God. We must be ruthless in our devotion to him and continue in our discipleshipCecil B. De Mille, 1881-1959, American Film Producer and Director. "The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication."
Jesus asks his followers to make living for God their goal.
"Breath in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. "