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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings

Flashback Episode — The Sin Loop: Mark 9:38-50

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Flashback Episode: Year in Mark – Episode 25: In one of Jesus’ most challenging warnings, discover how this warning includes a promise for all of God’s people and how this promise is something we can claim when sin wants to take control of our lives.

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Read the transcript:

As we approach the half way point in our year looking at Mark’s gospel, we come to a passage where Jesus give a very strong warning and challenge to a specific group of people. While it might be easy to skip over this warning under different circumstances, this challenge is prompted after Jesus is told about something His followers did. Of all the warnings and challenges, this one stands out as being one of the most significant and serious in my own mind. However, this challenge, while it is very serious, also contains within it a promise that is easy to miss if we are not paying attention.

This passage and challenge are found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 9, and we will read from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 38:

38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is for us. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.

Let’s pause reading briefly because while Jesus has more to say, I want to emphasize some details in the first portion of this passage. First, it is worth paying attention to John’s opening and telling Jesus that he and some of the other disciples saw someone who wasn’t a part of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John says that they tried to prevent him. However, Jesus pushes back with a powerful counter-intuitive truth: Christianity was never meant to be an exclusive club for sinners saved by grace. Christianity is united by people following Jesus Christ and giving Him the glory, the praise, and the credit for everything.

Jesus emphasizes this truth by telling His disciples that anyone who is not against Jesus is for them, and those who are performing miracles in the name of Jesus have God’s approval to do so. If someone cannot perform a miracle in Jesus’ name, then they are likely misusing Jesus’ name and/or they are missing a relationship with Jesus in their lives. Miracles that succeed using Jesus’ name can only happen if the one doing the miracle has the Holy Spirit in his or her life. Whoever helps someone else in Jesus’ name will not lose the reward God has promised them.

However, Jesus isn’t finished sharing. Continuing the theme of helping others, Jesus turns the tables starting in verse 42, saying:

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 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, 44 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 45 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, 46 [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.] 47 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, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

In the last section of our passage, we come to a very challenging idea: It would be better for us to cut a part of our body off if it causes us to sin than to risk our salvation. This is a challenging part of our passage because it implies that God wants us to injure ourselves. The implication is that our body controls our head.

While some people may let their bodies and their impulses control their lives, when given the choice of hell or losing a part of your body, I would imagine most people would recoil and acknowledge that any part of their body could be brought into control. Choosing between facing hell or losing a part of your body is like choosing between two significantly bad options when a third option exists.

The third option is banishing the sin from your life and bringing whatever part of your body into control so it does not cause you to sin any more. It may be significant that Jesus uses the example of hand, foot, and eye in this graphic illustration. Our hands can symbolize what we do, our feet symbolize where we go, and our eyes symbolize what we focus on.

In each of these cases, we have the freedom to choose. We can choose to do something wrong, which some people might define using the word sin; we can choose to go somewhere that is not spiritually healthy; and we can choose to focus on things that are not beneficial for our lives. While looking at these three ideas, it’s amazing in my mind that these three ideas create a loop. However, the progression this loop takes is in reverse order of what Jesus shared. The loop looks like this: Focus leads to movement, and movement leads to action. However, action then also prompts us to focus more, leading to more movement, and more action, allowing the loop to continue.

If we are stuck in a loop of sinning, we may have to do something drastic to break this cycle. While I don’t suggest maiming yourself or cutting a part of your body off, I think that given the choice of hell or being crippled, you would look intentionally for a third option.

Our third option comes in Jesus, and in the Holy Spirit. Verse 49 tells us that “everyone will be salted with fire.” While I haven’t done much study on this verse, it is possible that one way to understand Jesus’ words here relate to experiencing the Holy Spirit. Everyone gets the option of receiving and feeling the Holy Spirit’s fire. However, depending upon who the person is, the Holy Spirit’s fire can harden their hearts against God, or it will soften their hearts to hear His message. Everyone is given the option to choose Jesus or not. It is a choice we are freely given, and one that we all must make.

While there is much more we could discuss on this angle of the subject, don’t let the skeptic inside you ask the questions about everyone who doesn’t know about Jesus, or who couldn’t have known. This passage and challenge isn’t about them. This passage and challenge is about you. “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

Let the Holy Spirit into your lives and let the Holy Spirit help you become who God created you to be!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and let the Holy Spirit fill your life. Choose to let God help you move away from sin and intentionally control your bodies and actions in a way that builds up your life towards God’s ideal and don’t let your lives drift into a loop that feeds sin. We can choose what we will focus on, where we will go, and what we will do, and while some people have more freedom in these areas than others, we all have enough freedom to choose to sin or not to sin in any given situation.

Also, continue praying and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. God wants a personal relationship with you, and He wants to help you break free from the sin that is holding you back in your life.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or let sin or temptation steal you away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

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