In places with long and snowy winters, roads are often salted to melt ice. One result is that cars have a tendency to rust from the salt. Some try to deal with this problem by painting over the rust. Instead of solving the problem, it only delays the inevitable. The paint will temporarily cover the rust but fails to deal with the underlying problem. The rust has to be removed or the panel on the car replaced.
In the same way, many people simply “cover up” their sin by ensuring that no one sees it. They often try to ignore it themselves. In Mark 9:42-50, Jesus explains that A Christ-follower takes sin seriously. A true disciple avoids sin at all costs.
This is one of those passages that should come with a warning, “Danger: Hard hat and steel toed boots required in this area.” Rather than avoid sin, our culture tells us to feed our desires. We are entitled to do whatever we want. Rather than risk offending people, the church and the Christian community buys into the philosophy and avoids calling anything, “sin.”
If we are serious about discipleship and following Christ, we have to deal with sin. A true follower of Jesus will not cause others to sin (42), they will not allow themselves to fall into sin (43-48), and they will purify their lives through sacrifice and obedience (49-50).
Jesus makes a shocking statement when he says that it would be better to drown in the deepest part of the sea with no hope of escape that to face God’s judgment for leading an immature believer into sin (42). We can lead someone into sin through direct temptation, indirect temptation, setting a poor example, or failing to stimulate others to righteousness. Pastors and teachers need to pay attention to this warning (James 3:1), but so do parents (Ephesians 6:4), and all believers (Hebrews 3:13; 6:24). We all have the responsibility to build up others.
Jesus says that sin is so serious and the consequences so high that we are to take drastic measures to avoid falling into sin (43-48). In the same way that a doctor surgically removes a cancerous limb to prevent the disease from spreading throughout our body, so we should remove sin from our lives. A true disciple doesn’t allow themselves to fall into sin.
While Christ doesn’t advocate literal dismemberment, he does encourage removing anything we do (our hand), anywhere we go (our feet), and anything we see (our eyes) that might lead us into sin. It would be better to enter heaven maimed, than to go to hell with two hands, two feet, and 20/20 vision.
This is one of those passages where we want to press the mute button. We don’t like the idea of hell being real. We’re uncomfortable with hell being a place of eternal torment. We resist the idea of denying ourselves any of the pleasures of life. And yet, that is exactly what Jesus says.
Are there any activities you participate in that would embarrass you if they came to light? Are you crossing the line by going to some establishments where you don’t belong? Is there anything in your Netflix queue or your Internet browsing history that leads you away from Christ? If the answer is “Yes,” then stop doing, stop going, stop watching, and stop reading!
Avoiding leading others into sin is commendable. Preventing yourself from sinning is wise. Both are only possible if we commit to staying pure through sacrifice and obedience (49-50). When Jesus says that we will be “salted with fire,” he is referring to the Old Testament sacrifices that were accompanied by salt. To salt a sacrifice meant to purify it. As disciples, we are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). Our lives are to be seasoned with salt.
Rather than competing for positions of prominence (9:33-34) and criticizing those outside our camp (9:38-39), we are to live in peace with one another. This is only possible if we get rid of the sin in our lives.
When it comes to sin, a Christ follower avoids sin at all costs. We don’t cause others to sin. We don’t give into sin ourselves. Instead, we keep our lives pure. There can be no halfway measures. The price is much too high.
(I concluded the message by showing the music video, “Slow Fade,” by Casting Crowns, challenging people to recommit themselves to holiness and personal purity.)
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 26, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.