"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,Mark 9:43(NASB)
Jesus may have been the Son of God through Whom heaven and earth were created, but He also came into this world as the Son of Man – the suffering Servant of Jehovah Who would give His life as the ransom price for the sin of the whole world.
He had come to set up God's kingdom on earth, but His own people rejected Him, and He finally set His face as a flint towards Jerusalem and the Cross. It was at that time that the Lord Jesus began in earnest to prepare His little band of faithful followers for His shocking betrayal, false accusations, unjust trial, cruel death, and glorious Resurrection.
Over and again, His disciples failed to comprehend the serious nature of Christ's repeated prediction of His fast-approaching betrayal and death, and it became necessary for Jesus to speak plainly about the severe self-discipline His followers would require if they were to stand fast in the evil day and not be sifted as wheat by the enemy, nor emotionally tossed about by the terrible things they were soon to face.
A simple, immovable, childlike faith in Christ Who had come as God's anointed King, His promised Messiah, and Kinsman-Redeemer, was essential as the days grew darker: "Whoever receives Me," Jesus said, "receives Him Who sent Me."
Petty differences of colour or creed were to be laid aside, and a unity in the faith was to be established by those who acknowledged Jesus as Lord. He was the Son of the living God, and they were to acknowledge Him as the Word made flesh. When Jesus came the first time, the people were to believe on Him Whom the Father had sent.
Knowing the dangers of disunity among believing brethren, the serious consequences of unbelief and the necessity to be steadfast in the day of trouble, Jesus set out the relentless self-discipline His disciples needed if they were to be kept from falling - and so, He exaggerated His warnings with hyperbole.
"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." Jesus was not advocating for His followers to start amputating their arms and legs or gouging out their eyes or tongues, but emphasising the terrible effect of sin on an individual life.
Temptation to sin is not suppressed by self-mutilation, nor is it arrested by physical dismemberment – for the seat of sin is the heart and mind, not in the hand, foot, or body-member that perform a sinful act. Only a heart that has been made new by the Holy Spirit of God and a mind that is stayed on Christ, is able to resist the temptations of this world and stand fast through all the trials and tribulations of life.
God is a consuming fire Who will one day burn away the dross, and refine that which is good. For the unbeliever, the reality of the fires of hell, the Great White Throne Judgement-seat of God and the terrible Lake of eternal Fire, should never be ignored for it is the shocking reality for those who reject God's offer of salvation and do not believe on the name of the only begotten Son of God.
For the believer who has trusted Christ for their salvation, the fires of God's judgement are equally serious. The wrath of God's judgement has already been poured out on Christ in our stead – when He gave His life as the ransom price for our sin. And one day, His purifying fire will burn away all that is evil and refine that which is good.
Although our eternal life is secure in Him, the consuming fire of God's wrath is waiting to judge the works that we carry out in this life. When we live as unto the Lord and fulfil the good work that God has prepared for us to do, then the purifying fire of God's judgement will consume away all carnal dross and refine our good and godly works (producing gold, silver, and precious stones). However, the self-righteous works we carry out in our proud, fleshly strength (producing wood, hay, and stubble) will be consumed in His fiery judgement. Saved, yet as though by fire.
May we take to heart the serious consequences of sin and remove every element of it in our life which may cause us to fall into sinfulness, and may we also be ready and willing to share the good news of the gospel of grace with those who remain dead in their sins, and warn them of the terrible consequences of hell and God's unquenchable fire which awaits all who have not trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this warning to eschew all that is evil and sinful from my life. Lord, I know that in my own strength, my fleshly works will be burned up like filthy rags in Your holy presence. But I thank You that there are good works for me to do which will stand the test of Your purifying fires when carried out in the power of Your Holy Spirit and through Your sufficient grace. May I live and work to Your praise and only do those things that are righteous in Your sight, for the honour of Your holy name. In Jesus' name, AMEN.