Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are We Just STUPID?!

I swear this verse from the Bible is going to haunt me. Mark 9:43, 45, 47;

"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 ... 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 ... 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".

I was sitting on the bus going into work yesterday and was sitting behind what was obviously a very zealous Christian woman. From what I overheard she was a mother and was speaking on the phone to her son/daughter (I guessed son). The mother was extremely upset because it sounded like she had discovered pornography on the history section of the internet at their home. She was speaking very angrily and upset and used the above verse and said something like;

"I am NOT going to lose my child to hell! You must do this! The Bible says if your eye causes you to sin then PLUCK it out! You are SINNING by looking at this stuff and God is ANGRY! PLUCK it out!!".

Although I could appreciate the mother's sincere love for her (what sounds like) a quite normal teenage son, I felt like tapping her on the shoulder and saying;

"Excuse me madam. I couldn't help but overhearing you. How would you feel if you got home from work today and found your son slumped in the chair with two empty eyeball sockets with blood streaming from them? And the two gouged eyeballs lying on your dining room table? Do you think that action would STOP your son lusting with his mind? And how about you madam? Have you ever looked at another person's possessions and envied them? Have you ever got so angry with someone you love that you felt like you could hit them? Why have you not gouged out your eyes or cut off your hands? That rather makes you a hypocrite does it not?".

I didn't do that and I wouldn't have. But WHEN is the church going to start thinking LOGICALLY about this statement that Jesus said? When are we going to stop being so STUPID? Do we really believe that bodily mutilation is a sufficient enough sacrifice to save us from HELL? Is that how little we think of our sin? That our body parts are an acceptable sacrifice to God to buy us a pass into heaven? Do we really think that by losing our hands and eyes and feet then we will lose the "sinning" parts of our body?

What about our MINDS? Jesus Himself said if we look at a woman and lust after her then we have already committed adultery! Why did the Lord Jesus not instruct us to perform a lobotomy?

Don't get me wrong.

This verse IS showing how radically God thinks and hates sin.

This verse IS showing the radical nature of the Law.

But the only, only, only, ONLY acceptable answer to the demands of the Law in this verse could and were met 2,000 years ago at Calvary on a hill called Golgotha. It's done already! So the radical demands of the Law have already been met! God's wrath is satisfied! And He does not want, demand or require the mutilation of our body parts to try and "stop" sinning! Because even if we did perform those drastic actions then it still would not stop sinning! And even if we did perform those drastic actions then the Law is STILL not satisfied.

Do I sound angry? I am angry. I'm angry because in MY lifetime I have heard a church pastor who boasts about being a "man of the Word" use this verse against myself and my behaviour. And I have heard this woman on the bus use this verse to condemn her son. I have heard Terry Virgo use this verse in a sermon to wrongly (I believe) illustrate something he was saying. I am angry because I think about the (possibly) secretly afraid teenager on the other end of that phone. I am angry thinking about the many thousands who could be plunged into clinical depression and guilt because they know that they are not brave enough to mutilate their bodies in this way.

I'm angry that I am 31 and I have only JUST heard true grace teaching from Hong Kong that has made it so abundantly clear that Jesus is talking about the extreme demands of the Law here - but thereby demonstrating that the demands and requirements of the Law have been met and have been met in ONLY one way! Because only ONE way could meet them!

To those who have read this and still persist in believing that this verse applies to Christians today - then I say only this. Stop being such a hypocrite. Stop talking the talk. Get a scalpel out and start walking the walk. If you really believe Jesus Christ is setting a precident for your behaviour today then send me pictures of your hewn body parts and send an accompanying testimony telling me if you are now sin-free.

To those - like me - who have secretly trembled when you have heard this verse preached or used in a condemning manner, then have hope! Jesus was talking to the worse form of legalists around and He was showing them that even this extreme behaviour was NOT sufficient enough to stop sin completely in their lives. But He did provide the answer. When He said "It is finished!" - He meant it. Put your scalpel away! Jesus loves you with all His heart! He loves you so much that He was mutilated so that you would not have to be. He had His side pierced and His hands and feet pierced so you would not even have to contemplate this.

Hallelujah! What a Saviour! (P.S: If the picture offends you then I don't apologise. If you believe that Christians should be complying with this verse literally then you are going to have to get used to sights like this).

15 comments:

Jon Sidnell said...

Outstanding post, Dan! I can hear all kinds of echos of Paul in Galatians here. What was it now.... "These people so concerned about circumcision. They make me so mad, I wish they'd go the whole way and not just nip-the-tip!"

I think we're supposed to get angry with legalists and religious teachers. Looking at Jesus, you see that they're the only people he got angry with. He wouldn't snap a bruised reed, nor snuff out a smouldering wick, but He would unleash the fury of His anger on those who created new laws, failed to live up to them but still demand that everyone else fall into line. Those hypocrites and scholars who had the form but the denied the power of godliness.

So all of this just to say, I reckon you had a little bit more of Jesus manifested in your flesh when you overheard that conversation. Long may it continue!

Jamie said...

Well, aren't you just the bomb diggety today!! JUST what I needed to hear!! :)

Maybe, just, MAYBE, our co-crucifixion with Christ CUT OUT our OLD, SIN NATURE leaving us FREE to live as new, righteous creations! Huh. Imagine that. That God accomplished something we couldn't. Whoduh thunk it?!?

Instead of preaching BEHAVIOR modification, why aren't we teaching Christ identification??

Great post! :D

janelle said...

Dan,

Great post. We shouldn't misrepresent Christ's teaching or his radical way of viewing sin.

However, I also think it is perfectly contextual to use this verse to counsel people to stop sinning. Jesus did. Of course no one ever would suggest you actually cut off your hand or eye or whatever. The bigger issue is the heart, and the reason why Christ was so radical in suggesting this was that he WAS revealing the consequences of unrepentant sin, which is hell. It would be BETTER for you to pluck out your eye than suffer eternally. I don't know any Christian who would disagree!

What I do hear you saying is that we can't use this as an excuse to get people to behave how we want. "The Bible says cut out your eyes, so you should because pornography will get you sent to hell." That's a wrong way of viewing the verse. But, on the other hand, a mother who is admonishing her son about the consequences of pornography can contextualize this verse, because the consequences are so severe if he doesn't repent and turn to Christ. Sin is serious, and Christ was telling us this through this illustration.

I'm curious how you would use this passage. Do you think people who do are literally referring to cutting off body parts? I've never met someone who actually thinks that is what Christ was saying, have you? Just curious!

jul said...

Great great post Dan!!!!! LOVE it when you preach!

Janelle, if we don't view Jesus' teaching in proper context, we'll be very confused, not to mention condemned. Condemnation, or in any way shaming a person in their sin, or trying to 'put the fear of God' into someone to stop them from sinning will never never never work. The mother Dan mentions probably had very good intentions, as did I when I used to try all those kinds of tactics on my own husband when he struggled with lust. Do you know when he began to experience true freedom like never before? When my first response to his sin became "don't you DARE give into condemnation for one second!". The law provokes sin and keeps us in bondage to it.

Jesus preached law during much of his ministry, he preached old covenant. He also preached the new in veiled ways, and offered a foretaste to people of the grace and mercy that would be available through his death and resurection. But if we don't rightly divide the word, understanding that much of Jesus' teaching was law and therefore not applicable to those under the new covenant, we will be confused and remain in bondage unnecessarily. We do not continue to live in bondage to sin as believers because we are NOT under law, but under grace. If we do continue to live under law or in any way under law, we will still feel like sin has power over us. The answer to that problem is to abandon any hope in our obedience to the law either for salvation or sanctification and embrace the righteousness that is a gift from God by grace through faith!

Lori said...

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit, are we not? Somehow I don't believe Christ was condoning self mutulation here...I think this was simply an illistration that shows us the extremeness of the law and how impossible it is for us to fleshly "fix" our sin.

You know what else bothers me about the conversation you mentioned here is when she said "God was mad". Not only was the law abolished but so was Gods wrath on Calvary...

Your 31 and I'm 48 and I just now am finding out about what Grace really means myself. This summer I read Grace, the ability to change by James Richards, it is the best book besides the Bible I have ever read, seriously, it CHANGED my walk and outlook FOREVER, I'll never be the same...I highly recommend it....I see you have Joseph Prince on your page...is he not the bes!, I am a total fan. You might also like Andrew Wommack who also has a ministry based on Grace and love as well, I honestly think Joseph gets much of his teaching from Andrew...Andrews website is www.awmi.net and he has one of the best web sites ever with hundreds of MP3 files as FREE downloads. He puts all his webseminars online to view...everything is freeeee ;) I have every one of his teachings on my computer and have listend to them all...about 4-5 times...It took me 9 months to listen to them and that is about 20 hours of church at an hour a week or so...He has fabulous life for today resources that no one else can touch...so I highly suggest his teachings....

I grew up knowing Dereck Prince, Bob Mumford, etc out of the shepharding movement in the 70's- early 80's...Ern Baxter was one of Dereck's men he held himself accountable to...What wonderful men of God...

Alright, this is plenty long enough but God bless and if you try those resources, let me know what you think...In Him, Lori

Dan Bowen said...

Hi all, wonderful comments!!

Janelle, you noted;

"I also think it is perfectly contextual to use this verse to counsel people to stop sinning. Jesus did. Of course no one ever would suggest you actually cut off your hand or eye or whatever".

I think the proof is surely then in the result. Out of the many preachers who do use this verse to counsel people to stop sinning, do you know if it has worked or not? I don't. I certainly can testify to almost 29 years of legalistic preaching where this verse WAS used in that context - and all that happened was that sin went underground and became secret and unconfessed or unshared with the church.

"Of course no one ever would suggest you actually cut off your hand or eye or whatever".

But the thing is ... they are suggesting it. And if they are preaching it and don't mean it literally, then I can assure you that people are listening and taking it literally - and becoming condemned because they do not have the bravery to go through with what they feel they should do.

"I'm curious how you would use this passage. Do you think people who do are literally referring to cutting off body parts?".

I think if preachers are not literally referring to it, then they shouldn't be using it in this context. And if they ARE literally referring to it, then they are in danger of hypocrisy because I have yet to see a preacher who is practicing what he preaches and becoming that radical in view to sin. Either that - or preachers are sinless! Or their sin does not involve body parts!

How would I use this verse? As Julie and others have already referred. I think Jesus was preaching to legalists who were proud of how much they were adhering to the law. And He was raising the standard and showing them that they were not even CLOSE to meeting the demands of the Law.

They thought that because they had the Old Testament strapped to their wrists and their forehead, that they somehow had the right to be proud.

Jesus was saying to them, that they should be raising the standard far, FAR higher. Should their hands be sinning? Cut them off. Are their eyes leading them to sin? Then pluck them out. The Law demands the highest, most radical standard ever.

And I say again - I don't think this verse should be used ever to counsel people to stop sinning. Because it's clearly not working. Legalism has had it's day (or century!). There is an alternative Jesus brought.

And thank God for it!!

Anonymous said...

He that is without sin cast the first stone.

I think the first preacher or pastor/teacher who is without sin, he has the right to stand in the pulpit and instruct his congregation to follow this verse.

Until that day, they should keep mute on this point.

Dan Bowen said...

Well I think that's a good point - but surely we have to strike a balance here. You are absolutely correct in that Jesus DID say to the legalists "He that is without sin cast the first stone". So what exactly IS forbidden?

I believe;

1. Judgement and condemning of other believers IS forbidden.

2. Causing other believers to fall into condemnation through pride pointing of the finger IS forbidden.

3. Specific condemning of sins from the pulpit IS also not helpful and legalistic.

The job of pastor/teachers is to surely teach and preach and teach and preach the gospel again and again and again and again.

I heard that Glenda Rufus said something in South Africa that sounded unhelpful to gay guys and women. I haven't heard the direct quote yet so can't comment - but that is the kind of thing I am talking about.

To have a leader in the church stand up, select a particular sin, draw attention to it, and attach judgement to it produces condemnation, law and it DOESN'T CHANGE ANYTHING.

Preaching the gospel of grace on the other hand DOES.

lydia said...

Great post again Dan!!

Jesus spoke those words under the Old Covenant to bring despair not hope. To show the height of the law, as Dan mentioned. Just like when he said in the Old 'to be perfect as I am perfect' and when he told the rich young ruler (who remember thought he had kept all these things Jesus was teaching) to go and sell everything he owned, and just like in the Lord's prayer he taught us to pray God forgive us as we forgive others. All those things were bleak, impossible to attain. Why would Jesus say such things? To shoot the self righteous biggots right in the heart. Can you imagine if you thought you had it all going for you, you were doing pretty well and Jesus said anyone of these things.
Jesus was illuminating the futility of their efforts to get right, or be right with God. The best way to 'redeem' those who think they are doing well or measuring up is to bury them with standards that are too much for them to attain. To show them it's futile and give them the chance to give up and accept God's gift of grace. When people realize that the system they are under demands more than they can give, then they're ready for something new. And Jesus is more than ready to provide that freedom!!!

janelle said...

Julie,

Jesus preached Old Covenant? What do you mean by that? What are you specifically referring to? And how was the New Covenant veiled? I don't understand where you are getting this. It's probably me being blonde, and not your fault:-)

Dan,

I think I understand what you are communicating now:-) And I think you perhaps have changed my mind. I had always thought that Jesus was referring to the severity of sin, and the consequences of it (hell.) All of that is, in fact, contained in the passage but I now see that it isn't the MAIN point of the passage. I think he is talking to unbelievers, not believers, and I had not ever made that connection. I will re-evaluate and study some more on the passage and let you know what conclusion I come to.

Dan Bowen said...

Excellent questions Janelle ... cripes, I am SO grateful to God for you! I think your questions make me think harder about the Gospel than any preaching I've ever heard! :) You are a true gift!

I can't speak for Julie obviously but I think she is referring to 2 Corinthians 3:13-14;

" ...and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ".

In terms of Jesus - yep I do believe He preached Old Covenant law! Why? Well to understand that I think we have to look in context at the situation He came into.

There had been 400 years of SILENCE for the Jews. God had said nothing since Malachi. So when Jesus came to the Jews, they were deep in Old Covenant law - following it legalistically.

What would have happened if He had come preaching the Gospel of grace purely saying; "I am going to DIE for YOUR sins"? The Jews didn't think they were sinful! And if they did, they thought they knew what to do about it.

So Jesus came and preached law to them - something they understood! BUT - He raised the stakes. That's why He said again and again;

"You have heard it said ... but I say ....".

He used and preached Old Covenant law to show them that their actions were NOT okay and their righteous deeds were (as Paul called it) "dung". Or as Rob Rufus calls it; "poo". He HAD to use the law to show them that! Because they were of the mindset that they were "okay" with God.

EVEN though God hadn't spoken for 400 years! In other words, they didn't miss God speaking .... scary .... but that's another issue.

The whole object of the Law is to make people realise - I am NOT okay with God, God HATES my sin, God is ANGRY with my sin! And THEN and only then when we are truly realising how lost we are and how radical the law is - does the gospel of grace become clear in all it's glory and fullness.

Then Jesus says; "I am the WAY ... NO ONE comes to the Father but by ME".

In other words - our behaviour is irrelevant and has no use whatsoever - good or bad, in reconciling us to God. And once we ARE reconciled to God through the gospel of grace - then STILL our behaviour - good or bad, is of no use in achieving any greater standing with God!

Only His behaviour .... only His actions. Only Him! Yes!

Well I woke up feeling a bit cranky but I've talked myself happy :) - thanks again Janelle for asking those questions! Keep asking and making me think!! ;)

And PS: it's nothing to do with your hair colour, I get confused too rather regularly and I've got black hair! ;)

jul said...

Hi Janelle, sorry to be unclear! I don't have a lot of time to answer at the moment but I simply meant that most of Jesus' teaching was to those still under law as Dan also talks about, making the true demands of the law clear so that no one could claim to be righteous by obedience to the law. When I said he often taught the New Covenant in veiled ways, I just meant that most of the parables were New Covenant teachings which were almost like riddles which he later explained to a select few. Even then, the select few didn't really understand the New Covenant teachings until after the death and resurrection and then arrival of the Holy Spirit. I would argue that many of the Jewish christians always struggled with leaving the Old Covenant ways of thinking completely behind, which is why Hebrews was written, why Peter says Paul's writing were very difficult to understand, and why Paul himself had so many opponents in the church. Which is also why it was so important for the gospel to go out to the Gentiles who would be less likely to distort it with Law... It is mainly through Paul's writing that we have the Gospel so clearly laid out that we can truly treasure and guard it against legalism, and this due in large part to the fact that he was already having to fight so hard against it in the early church.

janelle said...

Thanks for the clarification Julie. That helps me understand what you were saying better:-)

jul said...

Really? Usually I just confuse you even more! LOL, you're a great sport! You're always welcome to come visit our crazy bunch in the great North...

janelle said...

Aw yay! Thanks for the invite:-)