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The Seriousness of Sin

October 21, 2012 Series: Gospel of Mark

Topic: Discipleship Passage: Mark 9:42–50

Open bibles to Mark 9:42-50. We are preaching through the Gospel of Mark and we’re in the middle of a section on discipleship. Jesus is teaching what it means to follow Him; what is required to be His disciple. Read.

A quick explanation to the observant who are wondering what happened to verses 44, 46. It appears that at some point in history a scribe took verse 48 (quoting Is 66:24) and decided to inserted that quote after verses 43 and 45, presumably to bring balance to the saying. But the repetition of verse 48 is not found in the earliest manuscripts and so the translators of the ESV and most other recent translations do not include this repetition. 

Today were going to see that Jesus calls His disciples to war. He’s calling us into a relentless battle against sin. This isn’t a teaching about mutilation; this is a teaching about mortification. Jesus is using hyperbole (intentional over exaggeration) to illustrate for us the danger and seriousness of sin. A disciple deals drastically with sin; doesn’t make peace with sin or flirt with sin; doesn’t use grace and Christian liberty to justify sipping around the edges of the pool of sin testing how close we can get before we fall in. The disciple is called to hate sin; to crush sin; to root it out and kill sin.

He’s not telling us to cutting off the parts of the body that we use to sin; He’s telling us to do whatever is necessary to fight sin. That’s how serious sin is! Jesus calls His disciples to a life of war against sin. It’s so serious that it requires a willingness to cut off and throw away and do without, what seems to be the most important things in life, in order to fight and defeat sin. Why is Jesus so serious about our war with sin?

1. All sin is rebellion against God.
All sin is rebellion against God. That’s the heart of the sinfulness of sin and that’s opposed to the heart of a disciple. A Christian has relinquished all personal rights and now calls Jesus, Lord; Master. And a disciple doesn’t rebel against his master; that’s not what we do. But every time we sin, no matter how big or how small, that is what we do.

Every time we sin, we buck against the authority of God and His rule; we try to rule our own lives and establish our own kingdom. When we sin, we dishonor and trash the holiness and glory of God; we question and disbelieve Gods goodness and wisdom; we despise His beauty and trample the grace of God. That’s serious! And so, if it means whacking off a limb or gouging out an eye and going through life crippled so that we can honor God with our lives-It’s worth it! He deserves glory and praise more than we deserve our hands, feet and eyes. The fight against sin is so serious because sin is rebellion against our Lord.

2. Our sin affects others
Our sin affects others and Jesus takes that serious. Verse 42: “Whoever causes one of these little ones [young, impressionable believers] who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” That’s serious! Our sin has consequences on those around us, inflicting pain and hurt, and distorting the testimony of Christ in our lives. The effect of our sin on others is serious.

Now we might feel somewhat safe about this point. We’re not out teaching heresy to new believers trying to stumble them. But we need to be careful not to breeze over this too quickly assuming that this only applies to the John Smith’s and the Jim Joneses. This applies to us too. I want to address a particular group of people; a group that I happen to be a part of, to help illustrate the severity and the subtlety of this point. This isn’t the only group that this verse might apply to; we should all examine our hearts by this.

Fathers and Husbands: We have a weighty responsibility to reflect the grace and sacrifice of Jesus. We are to love and lead our wives as Christ loved the Church and died for her. We are to raise our children in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that when they grow older they will not depart from it. We have a commission from God to preach, teach and display the gospel of grace and to see our children come to Christ and our wives grow and flourish in the grace of God.

But too often, instead of displaying the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus, we live for ourselves which has a damaging effect on the faith of our family. We may not be preaching heresy but if we talk about grace and forgiveness; and we require grace and forgiveness and we go to church and we show everyone grace and forgiveness but at home we don’t live grace and forgiveness, we’re leading them astray. This is hypocrisy. Eph. 4:30-32.

The call is to repent; to humble yourself; There is grace but we must kill the sin.

Jesus is serious about our war with sin because our sin affects others. And the fight against sin is serious because of what’s at stake.

3. Eternity is at stake
Jesus presents two outcomes in life: eternal life or eternal destruction. In this war against sin we have a dual motivation; there is life and the Kingdom of God to pursue and there is death and the fire of hell to flee.

1st - Life to Pursue
Jesus says in verses 43 and 45, “it is better that you enter life” and then in verse 47 He says, “It is better that you enter the Kingdom of God.” True life will not be experienced by anyone until it’s lived under the rule of God and sin keeps us from that. We all want to be satisfied. We want to be fulfilled. We want to know that our life means something. We want these things because that’s how God made us. But it’s not to be done on our own, apart from God-that’s what sin does and it keeps us from the very thing that we want most; true life.

We think that we know best, that our kingdom is better, that pursuing our desires is the greatest good and following our own rules (which we make up as we go along) is better than living in Christ’s Kingdom under His rule. But we’re wrong. We’ll never find life, peace, rest and satisfaction outside of God’s Kingdom; because, that’s what we were made for. We were created in His image to know Him and to be known by Him and we will only thrive in His Kingdom.

I’m no mechanic but I do know that if take my truck, which takes unleaded gasoline, to the gas station and I fill it up with diesel gas, it’s not going to run well at all-actually t wouldn’t run at all. It wasn’t made for diesel. Now how foolish would it be for me to look at the sticker on my gas cap that says UNLEADED ONLY and then say, “don’t tell me what to do, I know better. I’m going to do this the way I want to.” It doesn’t matter what I want to believe or how I feel or why I don’t want to believe the truth. If I put diesel in my truck it will break down because it was made for unleaded.

We were made by God, like God, for God and unless we live for God our life will not be right. Sin keeps us from being what we were made for. And nothing we can do with our hands, go with our feet or see with our eyes compares with what Christ offers us in His Kingdom because it’s Him and there’s nothing better than Him. The result of a life of war against sin now is a never ending life of joy and eternal pleasures. It’s all found in Christ and we get Him. That’s worth the fight!

2nd – Flee Hell
In our battle against sin, we not only pursue life in God’s Kingdom, we also flee Hell. The war with sin is serious because if we don’t fight it, hell is where we go. Hell is for people who don’t take sin seriously. John Owen: “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you”. Now I know that hell isn’t a popular topic. We don’t like to think about hell because it makes us uncomfortable and it challenges our sense of fairness. But we can’t ignore it because Jesus is serious about it. Hell is a real place where God pours out His righteous wrath on sin forever.

Jesus taught about it more than anyone else in the bible; He taught that it’s a place of unquenchable fire and where the worm does not die. I don’t think these are literal images but they are intended to teach us about the reality of the torment and pain and suffering that will not end; eternal thirst that will never be quenched. There is no satisfaction. It’s the price that is owed for rebelling against God.

How could such a good God punish people so severely? Well, one of the things that makes Him so good is His holiness, righteousness and justice. In His holiness He does not overlook sin. We expect this of other people. If a judge was to let a convicted criminal go free, our sense of justice would rise up and demand justice. But we tend to have a different standard in dealing with ourselves. But God doesn’t. And because I know I’m a sinner, I know that I deserve eternal punishment in hell. But here’s what else I know.

A short time after Jesus taught these things to His disciples He went willingly to be nailed to a cross. And on that that cross, as He hung suspended between heaven and earth, the Father poured out on Him the full brunt of His wrath against sin. Our sin was placed on Him (the innocent) and Jesus became the substitute for the sinner. He experienced the eternal punishment of hell so that we wouldn’t have to. Why, because of my sin; because of your sin.

And now, even though I deserve hell, I will never experience it because of His great love and mercy. If you have not trusted in Jesus, you can also be saved from hell. Your sin must be punished-either in you or in Jesus through faith in Him. All He wants in return is your everything which is what you were made for and where you will find satisfaction. Come to the cross, don’t wait.

Jesus takes sin seriously and he calls us to be at war with sin. So how do we fight and kill sin? Well, the reason we sin is because we believe the lie that sinning is more satisfying than obedience to God. That drinking out of broken cisterns is better than quenching our thirst at the fountain of living water. We kill sin by reversing the lie. And we reverse the lie by looking at Jesus. Let’s close by turning to Hebrews 12.