Last time we considered Jesus demand on those who would follow Him to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him Luke 9:23. We examined that teaching and found that it requires the relinquishing of personal rights and the willingness to suffer for Him. As we look further at discipleship in Mark 9:38-50 we see also that it involves the removal of sin from our lives.
Mark 9:42-44 “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched– 44 where ‘THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.’
As Jesus says these words, He is speaking to the disciples. It is motivated by John’s declaration, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” (Mark 9:38) Jesus seems to be concerned that John’s attitude of superiority has a potential to damage or destroy the faith of the man who is following Him and casting out demons, though he is not among the twelve. As you continue to read (Mark 9:45-48) you will see that Jesus threatens such action with the flames of Hell a total of three times. He is not telling John that he will lose his salvation through this sin, rather that he (and we) will demonstrate our lack of saving faith if we continue to live in sin or prove its reality as we put it to death.
This idea is taught frequently in the New Testament:
Romans 8:13-14 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
Galatians 5:24-25 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
1 John 3:1-3 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
And so as Christians we have the command and the power to “take sin out” in our lives. The evidence that we have truly embraced the Gospel is that we have an attitude of “killing” sin in our lives. Jesus did not save us from the penalty of sin so that we could live comfortably in it! Romans 8:29 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” His intention is to restore the image of God which we were created in and which is marred greatly by the sin. Colossians 3:9-10 “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,”
Though we are given new life and sanctified positionally when we receive Christ through His Gospel, we are yet commanded to take on sin in a true “death match” as recipients of that new life and the grace that accompanies it. This is practical sanctification. It is the active restoration of the image of God in the lives of those who truly know Him. It is done through the will of the Believer but by the power of the Spirit. It is the reality of the faith that we profess, worked out in our lives.
As John, the disciple to whom Jesus originally directed these words, says, “Everyone who has this hope purifies himself.” Are you a disciple? It is easy to determine. What is your attitude toward your own sin? Are you comfortable in it? Are you wallowing in it miserably? Are you putting it to death by the power of the Holy Spirit? Only if the last is true can you be sure that you have embraced Jesus and His Gospel.
You can listen to audio of this message as well as a message from a new series we began on Sunday evening based on John Owen’s Book, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, by clicking on the links below.
Following Jesus Pt. 2 (Mortifying Sin)