[In case you missed Kim Feld’s post at the beginning of the week, do yourself a favor by reading it – challenging and encouraging at the same time!]
One of the benefits of being an adult is having freedom over many of our choices – when to get up, what to wear, what to eat, what to do for work, hobbies and all kinds of things. Of course, we don’t have unlimited freedom, but there are a lot things we get to choose and generally we are fiercely protective of our freedom. A reality of having such freedom is that we aren’t free to choose the results. For instance, I can exercise my freedom to eat a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but I cannot prevent the 2,280 calories from becoming part of my physical landscape. The doughnuts and calories go together. Similarly, there are things I can choose to do in exercising my freedom that can cause me to slide into sinful territory. Jesus speaks to this in chapter 9:
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ Mark 9:43-48 (NLT)
Jesus pulls no punches here, saying that we need to look seriously at how we use our freedom, so that we don’t find ourselves in an unintended mess. Followers of Jesus need to be ready to eliminate anything that could lead us into sin. If greed and desire for “things” has a grip on me, then I may need to cut up my credit cards and enroll in Financial Peace University. If I am drawn to websites that lead me into sexual temptation, then I may need to install accountability software like Covenant Eyes. You get the idea here. Jesus is saying that there are serious consequences to our choices, so we need to take appropriate, and at times, radical steps to stay spiritually strong and healthy.
Another time Jesus put it like this, 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” Luke 9:23-25 (NLT)