If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “ ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:43-48 NIV)
There are many people who struggle with the same sins over and over again. I’ve encountered lots of people who want to be free from these things, but struggle to overcome. What’s the answer?
Jesus gives us the clear answer here in the book of Mark.
I want to express the importance of overcoming sin. Christ has come to save us from sin. If we are still found to be sinners after seeking to be right with God, is that Christ’s fault? (Gal 2:17) Of course not. If we are found to still be sinners, it’s our own fault. Now, God wants to help us and he will, but we need to be ready to do exactly what He tells us to do. If we don’t do what He tells us to do then Jesus warns us that we will be cast into hell, where “the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”
Overcoming sin is not an option. We must do it. And yes, it can be hard, especially if this sin has had a firm grasp upon you for some time, but you must understand that God never commands you to do something that it impossible to do. So the first thing you need to understand is that it is NOT impossible to overcome your sin. You can do it and you must do it.
The second thing we must understand is that there are ways to make it easier to overcome sin.
In the passage above, Jesus explains what a person must do who is struggling with a sin or sins that continually trip them up. He uses three examples: your eyes, your hands, and your feet. He tells us that if one of them causes you to STUMBLE, then it is best to cut it off or pluck it out rather than to be cast into hell.
The word STUMBLE here in the original language carries the idea of a stumbling block. A stumbling block, when thought of literally, is an actual block of wood or stone that is placed in the path of someone in order to cause them to trip and fall. When it is thought of in a figurative sense (as Jesus intends it), it represents anything that may cause someone to fall in to sin. The stumbling block might not be sinfully, per se, but it is an instrument that makes it easier for you to fall into sin. Eyes aren’t sinful in and of themselves, neither are hands nor feet, but if your hand seems to always reach for something it shouldn’t, or your feet take you to a place they shouldn’t, or your eyes are looking at something that they shouldn’t, then they have become your stumbling block. Jesus said to cut them off.
Jesus takes this to the extreme by talking about cutting off hands and feet, but the extreme nature of His words help to make an important point. The point is that, if we are to overcome sin and escape the judgment of God, we must get rid the things that cause us to stumble. And if Jesus takes it to the extreme of plucking out eyes, then we know that there is no other thing that need be spared in this battle to overcome sin.
What are some examples of this? An obvious example would be the temptation to look at pornography. Pornography is so easily accessed via the internet that it has become a huge snare in the lives of countless people. I, personally, am able to use the internet without any problem with pornography. However, if I began to have a problem with it, I know exactly what I would do.
I would cut it off.
I would first seek a way to block porn sites from my computers. If that didn’t work then I’d remove every computer from any private place and only use it when others were around. If I still gave into temptations to look at porn, then I would get rid of any mobile device that had the capability of viewing porn. I would go back to a regular old phone that only made phone calls if I had to! All this, of course, while seeking God through His word and through prayer.
You see, phones and computers aren’t sinful, per se, but if they become a stumbling block then they must be cut off, or else you damn your soul.
There are different ways to remove stumbling blocks from your life depending on varying circumstances. For example, if you are tempted with an elicit relationship, then cut off communication with that person. Delete your facebook, get a new cell number, walk a different way to work or school, get your classes changed, get a new job; whatever you have to do, do it.
“Get a new job!? But that’s extreme!” Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. Is a job worth the price of your soul? Is the inconvenience of changing your number worth going to hell for? Jesus said that your soul is worth going eye-less, hand-less, and foot-less. There is nothing too extreme if it saves your soul from the eternal fires of God’s judgment. God has commanded you to forsake sin. Your feeble excuses will get you nowhere on the day of judgment.
In the book of proverbs we read a story about a young man who falls victim to the seductions of an adulterous woman. King Solomon continually warns his son (and us all) of the danger of such sin and how her house is the way to hell (proverbs 7:27). His wise advice is found in Proverbs 5:
Remove your way FAR from her, and do not go near the door of her house – Proverbs 5:8
Do you see this wise advice? Solomon warns us to stay away from her door. Why? Is her door sin? No, but it is the stumbling block. The closer your proximity to her, the greater your temptation to fall. STAY AWAY from her. Refuse to walk down the road where she lives. Refuse to go to a place where you know she will be.
Hopefully you can see how this can apply to any sin and any circumstance.
Remember this: There is NEVER any reason to fall into sin. There is never a legitimate excuse. God will always provide a way of escape from every sin and promises that no temptation will be too much for you that you are not able to bear it:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
If you combine this tactic with a continual and fresh relationship with God, you will find that there is no sin that can defeat you. But if you refuse to seek God and refuse to remove stumbling blocks, you will find it impossible to live the life that Jesus has called you to live. You will live in the misery of sin for the rest of your life, and then you will die and depart for the regions of the damned. There you will have eternity to dwell on your foolish decision to do things your own way.
But if you take the advice of Jesus, and the advice of Solomon; if you listen to the commandments of God and begin to cut away the stumbling blocks in your life, you will soon experience the freedom that God has for you. You will have struggles and challenges, no doubt, but in the end you will depart for a glorious place, and you will meet the Savior, who will say to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”