Do I realize the seriousness of sin, and am I doing whatever it takes to get it out of my life?
8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
In the very early days of my ministry, I primarily helped hurting people I met at Starbucks, by sharing my story. Over several months I had brief interactions with a single Christian woman who was very successful in business. She looked all put together on the outside, but I could sense her injured soul. I felt compassion for her and wanted to help. I was intrigued because she was so gentle and kind, but very aloof. A door finally opened for me to befriend her. She was attractive but because of the enormous emotional distance she kept, and because I was waiting for God’s best as my wife, I felt very safe trying to help her. However, like an un-expecting fly meandering around the edge of a Venus fly trap, all of a sudden when the moment was right, she attacked me. I fought back with words and gentle pushing, but to no avail. She had power over me, because in that moment I cared more about hurting her feelings, by jumping up and running like Joseph, than I did about hurting God by sinning against Him. Satan had just flipped me over like a turtle on my back and I cried on and off for three days begging God to forgive me. He forgave me immediately, but weeks later I was still not forgiving myself. Some wondered why I didn’t just continue in a relationship. A godly relationship is not founded on sin like that, and I was already committed to waiting for God’s best for my life.
She continued to pursue me, and sometimes the temptation to continue was enormous, so against my compassionate side, I blocked all communication and completely shut her out of my life. I was so hurt by my sin against God, that I was willing to take drastic measures to keep it, and her, out of my life. This is what Jesus is telling us to do in this teaching. He is not teaching self-mutilation, because just like it says in my NIV Study Bible, even a blind man is still capable of lusting in his heart. So Jesus is using hyperbole to show us the urgency of getting sin out of our life. The first message Jesus preached is “repent” or turn from your sin (Mk 1:15). He did not say, “just believe in me and continue in sin if you can’t stop.” We may still stumble on occasion, yielding to a temptation, but if we are true Spirit-filled Christians, we will not be able to continue in our sin (1 Jn 3:9). It will be too painful, and if we continue to walk in sin, we cannot expect to go to heaven (Rom 8:13). I’m sure you’ll agree; there is no sex, or any kind of sin on the planet, that is worth missing eternity in heaven for. Note: If you are struggling with sexual sin or temptation, start focusing on the guilt, shame, and violated conscience you feel afterwards, before you commit the act, rather than focusing on the temporary pleasure the act may bring you.
Two other things God showed me from this experience, is that it is never ok to love someone else at the expense of loving God (reversing the greatest commandments). Secondly, just like Peter’s denial of Christ, God allowed me to stumble into this sin, to break my self-confidence and pride.