PREVIEW: In Mark 9, the disciples see Moses and Elijah as Jesus is transfigured on the mountain. As they come down from the mountain, they encounter a demon who they cannot cast out. When they enter the house, they dispute with one another about who is the greatest, and Jesus teaches them lessons on humility, serving, and hell.
The Transfiguration - Read Mark 9:1-13
1. The transfiguration was a fulfillment of Jesus' statement in verse 1. What did Jesus say “some standing here” would see?
2. The transfiguration prefigures the kingdom reign of Jesus Christ, when we will see Him in all of His glory and will also be transfigured to be like Him, just as Moses and Elijah were like Him. What will our glorified bodies be like? (See Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:49, Romans 8:29-30, and 2 Corinthians 3:18.)
3. The word transfigured is the Greek word metemorphothe, from which we get our English word metamorphosis. It means to be changed into another form—not merely a change in outward appearance. We, too, will one day be transfigured to be like Him. Until that day, what should we be doing? (See Matthew 6:19-21, 28:18-20, and 1 John 3:2-3.)
4. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus to Peter, James, and John on a high mountain, probably Mount Hermon. What were Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about (v. 4)? (See Luke 9:30-31.)
5. Peter, James, and John were greatly afraid at seeing the transfiguration of Jesus. Out of this fear, what did Peter suggest (vv. 5-6)?
6. While Peter was still speaking (see Matthew 17:5), what overshadowed James, John, and him? What came out of it? Why do you think this object overshadowed them? (See Exodus 13:21, 40:34, 1 Kings 8:10, and Acts 1:9.)
7. Moses and Elijah appearing at the transfiguration represented the law and the prophets. Although obeying the law and applying the messages of the prophets is important, what did the voice of the Father say we should hear (v. 7)? (See also Deuteronomy 18:15,19, and Acts 3:22-23.)
8. What comes from hearing Jesus? (See Romans 10:17.)
9. What else must we do? (See Matthew 7:24-27 and James 1:22-25.)
Apologetic Points from the Transfiguration:
• Some cults don’t believe in the Trinity. They say that any references to the Trinity are actually references to one god who takes on the characteristics of Father, Son, or Holy Spirit at different times in Scripture. The transfiguration proves that the Father and Son are two separate Persons (as does the baptism of Christ, when all three members of the Trinity are manifested.)
• Some cults believe that Christ lost His deity when He became a man. The transfiguration proves this to be false.
• Roman Catholics believe that the appearance of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration supports their belief that we should pray to the dead (saints).
• The Seventh Day Adventists believe in "soul sleep" when we die. The appearance of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration disproves this concept.
• Some groups say that Mark 9:12-13 proves reincarnation. They claim that Jesus was saying that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated: “But I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.”
10. Although Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses to the astonishing transfiguration of Jesus and saw Moses and Elijah speaking with Him, what did Jesus command them not to do (v. 9)? Why do you think He commanded them not to do this (See Mark 8:29-33)?
11. As Peter, James, and John were coming down the mountain with Jesus, they asked Him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (v. 11). What is meant by “first” (before what)? (See Malachi 4:5-6.)
12. Jesus answered the disciples' inquiry by informing them that Elijah is coming first (Malachi 4:5-6) and that he (Elijah) has come. He is referring to two different events and two different people. In His second reference, who was He referring to (v.13)? (See also Matthew 11:13-14; 17:12-13, and Luke 1:11-17.)
13. Jesus was pointing out that they didn’t understand that the Messiah would appear in two separate advents. He also pointed out something else they didn’t seem to understand about the Messiah. What was it (v. 12b)?
14. We may think we understand the ways of the Lord. Why is it important that we, like the disciples (v.11), ask Him to clarify the meaning of His Word? (See Isaiah 55:9, Jeremiah 29:13, Luke 11:9-10, and James 1:5.)
Demon-Possessed Son is Delivered - Read Mark 9:14-29
15. As Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down the mountain to rejoin the other disciples, they saw scribes disputing with the disciples (v. 14). What did Jesus ask the scribes (v. 16)? Although the scribes’ answer is not recorded, given the context, what do you think the answer might have been?
16. Describe in detail the condition of the man’s son who is demon-possessed (vv. 17-18). (See also Matthew 17:15 and Luke 9:38-39.)
17. The father had brought his son to the disciples, but they couldn’t help him. Now, Jesus offered a compassionate invitation to the father to “bring him here to Me.” How is this compassionate invitation extended to us, especially when we have an impossible situation like this man did? (See Matthew 11:28 and 1 Peter 5:7.)
18. What happened when the mute spirit saw Jesus (v. 20)?
19. Jesus offered the man a solution to his son's impossible situation. What was that solution (v. 23)?
20. The father was humble and honest and cried out to Jesus, asking for help with his unbelief (v. 24). How is this a prayer we, too, can make in the midst of impossible situations? (See Luke 17:5.)
21. When Jesus saw the crowds running to see what was going on, He commanded the deaf and dumb spirit to come out of the boy and enter him no more (v. 25). Why did Jesus command the spirit to enter him no more? (See Luke 11:24–26.)
22. The disciples asked Jesus privately why they couldn’t cast out the demon (v. 28). Why couldn’t the disciples cast out the demon from the man’s son (vv. 19, 29)? (See also Matthew 17:20.)
23. In Matthew’s account of this situation, Jesus said that having faith as a mustard seed could move mountains—or change the landscape in your life’s impossible situations. What did Jesus say would be impossible to you if you have faith as a mustard seed? (See Matthew 17:20.)
24. Since a mustard seed amount of faith can move mountains—the impossible situations in our lives—we should know what faith is and how we can use it in our impossible situations. What is faith? (See Hebrews 11:1-2.)
25. How are we to live? (See Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:16-17, Galatians 2:16; 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38.)
26. Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (v. 29) Why are prayer and fasting important? (See James 5:16.)
Jesus Foretells His Death - Read Mark 9:30-32
27. Jesus seems to have been avoiding Bethsaida (Mark 8:23) and Galilee (v. 30) because they had rejected Him (Matthew 11:20-21), and His public ministry in Galilee had ended. As He passed through Galilee what did He try to make clear to His disciples (v. 31)?
28. The disciples didn’t understand this teaching and they were afraid to ask Him about what He was teaching them (v. 32). Why might they have been afraid to ask Him?
Attitude of Servanthood - Read Mark 9:33-41
29. The disciples were disputing with one another on the way to the house in Capernaum (probably Peter’s house; see Mark 1:29). What were the disciples disputing about (v. 34)?
30. Jesus sat down in the house and called the 12 disciples to Himself (v. 35). When Jesus sat, what did He intend to do? (See Matthew 5:1-2, Luke 5:3, and John 8:2.)
31. What illustration did Jesus use to address the disciples’ dispute among one another (vv. 36-37)?
32. What was the specific answer Jesus gave to the disciples’ dispute (v. 35)? (See Matthew 18:4 and Luke 9:48b.)
33. What are the lessons to be learned from what Jesus taught the 12 disciples(v. 35)?
34. Sectarianism can be defined as conflict between groups. John and the other disciples had seen someone casting demons out in Jesus’ name and forbade him (v. 38). What did Jesus tell John about those in different sects (groups) doing miracles in His name (vv. 39-40)?
35. Jesus said that a person who gives one of His children a cup of cold water to drink in His Name would be rewarded. Given the context of the disciples’ dispute and the illustration of the little child, why did He say this? (See Matthew 10:42 , Luke 14:12-14, Galatians 6:10, and 1 Corinthians 3:14.)
Warning About Hell - Read Mark 9:42-48
36. A millstone was a very large stone weighing hundreds of pounds; it was used to grind grain into flour. Jesus used a graphic illustration containing a millstone. What did he say having a millstone hung around your neck and being drowned in the depths of the sea would be better than doing (v. 42)?
37. Jesus uses the hand, foot, and eye as illustrations for things that cause you to sin. What does He imply you should do with those things that cause you to sin (vv. 8-9)?
38. Why should a person deal with sin in such a radical way? (See Deuteronomy 31:17-18, Isaiah 59:2, and Micah 3:4.)
39. Isaiah 59:2 says that sin separates mankind from God. As New Testament, Spirit-filled believers, in what way does sin separate us from God?
40. The word for hell (v. 43) is not the usual word referring to the geocentric abode of the dead, Hades. It is the word Gehenna, which refers to the final place of eternal separation from God. Who is cast into Gehenna? (See Matthew 25:41, Revelation 19:20, and 20:14-15.)
41. In two of the three illustrations, Jesus said it is better to enter life maimed (v. 34) or lame (v. 45). What is the “life” He is referring to? See the third illustration (v. 47). (See also John 14:6 and John 17:3.)
Tasteless Salt is Worthless - Read Mark 9:49-50
42. Sacrifices in the Levitical law were to be seasoned with salt (Leviticus 2:13). Here Jesus said, “Everyone will be seasoned with fire.” What do you suppose He meant by that statement?
43. Jesus said that salt is good if it has flavor and then He told His disciples to have salt in themselves. How can we have salt in ourselves? (See Ephesians 4:29 and Colossians 4:6.)
Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 9; Mark, chapter 9. It's the chapter that last time we were together, before I went to Lebanon, I purposed in my heart to finish with you. And I didn't get to finish it, because I wanted to just go all through chapter 10. But because we're taking the Lord's Supper tonight, it just seemed appropriate to slow down, finish chapter 9, and then take chapter 10 as a chunk next week when we're together. Why don't we pray.
Father, for us to hear how you have moved in the lives of rebellious people, and how patient you are, and how your love extends to the depths, we take heart. Because right now in our minds, though maybe that's not our experience, we know somebody that is their experience. I pray, Father, that we would be prompted, emboldened, that you would set up the opportunity for us to share the hope that can be people's by trusting in Jesus.
And now, Lord, for this time together rid our minds and our hearts of distractions of thoughts, Lord, that are not edifying, that take us away from what we're here to be about. And I pray we would be consumed with your story and the celebration of your love, in Jesus' name, amen.
I've been waxing a bit nostalgic the last couple of weeks and here's the reason why: for my birthday I was given a book by one of our assistant pastors on the Jesus Movement. It's one of the most academic books put out by—I think it's Oxford Press. And it's filled with research about how the Jesus Movement started in the San Francisco Bay area, worked its way down into Southern California, swept across different parts of the nation.
And it's very interesting to me because I lived through part of that. And so my mind went back and I started thinking. And one of my fond memories is soon after I came to know the Lord in the San Francisco Bay area, and I went back down to my home in Southern California, I did one motorcycle trip on one day in the blazing sun from north to south, came back with a sunburn, and went to a Bible study in a Christian commune.
And I remember this Bible study and how filled with love it was, and how I was received by people even though I only knew one or two people in that Bible study, but how refreshing it was and compelling it was. And all of those kinds of memories had been filling my mind the last week, the last couple of weeks.
One of the memories I have of those earlier days is when we took communion in a commune. And being raised in a formal church, a formalized church where communion was done by somebody with robes and a collar, with incense and candles, to be now in a Christian commune in a more informal, relaxed, and yet a very reverent setting made a great impact on my life. I really, really enjoyed getting together and taking the Lord's Supper.
So, when we moved here and we had a group of people together at a local apartment complex, and it started growing, and I announced that we were going to be having communion in a couple of weeks, I went out the following week to buy our first communion tray. All we needed was one because there weren't that many people. I don't know, seventy-five people, fifty people. So, I got a communion tray and I just thought, "Man, we've arrived. We're a bona fide, real church now that we have one of these babies."
You know the communion trays, they kind of look like hubcaps on an old Mustang. That's how I viewed it. [laughter] And I just thought, "Look it, this is awesome. We're for real." And I've always enjoyed gathering together for the Lord's Supper. So, what we're going to do is look at some verses where we left off in chapter 9 and examine these things before we take the Lord's Supper, because I think there's some nuggets in.
Now, let me just begin by saying before we start reading these verses, I'm amazed that our Savior spoke these words to a general audience, children included, because there's some pretty tough things that he had to say. There's some things that he had to share, and people had to hear. But it was a general audience: there was men, there were women, and there were children.
In fact, if you look at verse 36, it says, "He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when he had taken him in his arms he said to them, 'Whoever receives one of these little children in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.' "
Now, let me just give you the quick background of this occasion. Jesus' own disciples had been arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. So, Jesus said, "Whoever's the greatest among you has to act like he's the lowest among you, and to be your servant." Then he picked up a child in his arms and he used this little child as an example.
Now, it's curious to just ask who this child might be, or who this child may be related to, because back in verse 33 it said, "When they had come into the house." If you have your Bible you can look at it in that verse. They're back in Capernaum and they got back "in the house." Now, typically, this refers to Peter's house where Peter lived with his wife, his family, his mother-in-law, and Jesus stayed so often. When they are back in Capernaum and in the house, Jesus picked up a child.
It could have been Peter's own child. It's just an interesting thought. Now, I have no idea what Peter's child would look like. I just sort of picture a little three-year-old with a beard. Kind of a little hefty guy, you know. [laughter] And I know that's probably—well, I know that's not what it looked like, but it's what comes to my weird mind when I think these things.
The word for "child" is the Greek word paidion, which means a little child, a toddler. And I love it, I love watching children relate to the Lord, don't you? Don't you love the simplicity of a child when it's time to pray? I love watching my grandson pray. He just knows, he folds his little hands, and he bows his little head, and he'll mumble a few things, and he'll say, "Amen!" Sometimes he'll say it before the prayer's even done, just—"Amen!" But I love the heart of a child, so simple, so open, so totally and utterly dependent.
And Jesus took a child and used the child as an example. And he says, "Whoever receives one of these little children in my name receives me," verse 37, "Whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." In that verse it's like a metaphor of faith that you become humble enough like a child to receive Jesus, because you have to do that to enter the kingdom of God. You have to be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven. Okay, that's really our background. Verse 42 to the end of the chapter is what we want to look at before we take the Lord's Supper.
Jesus speaking here, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his next, and he were thrown into the sea." Now, keep in mind this is a general audience. And I am sure that little child in the house or the other little children—maybe Jesus was still holding on—were just kind of like, mouth was open, like, "Whoa, that was heavy." If you're a parent, there's somehow, some way you can relate to this.
As a dad, when my son Nate was growing up, whenever anyone took a special liking to him, or showed attention to him, displayed love to him, it warmed my heart. But on the other hand, I was always annoyed with anyone who wouldn't love my son, because to love my son is to show respect and love to me. And that's how it is with parents; that's how it is with God. God loves it when we show respect to his children. "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."
Do you remember that Scripture, I'm sure you do, in Zechariah, chapter 2, where the prophet says about Israel, "Whoever touches you, touches the apple of God's eye"? Remember that Scripture? Have you ever thought about what that means? The apple of one's eye, it's the cornea; it's that clear covering on the front of your eye. That's the apple of your eye. So, if you mess with God's kids, it's like poking God in the eye. How does that make you feel when you attack another Christian? It's like poking God in the eye. "Whoever touches you, touches the apple of my eye."
You remember when Saul of Tarsus was coming down on the Damascus road and he was entering Damascus, and he was knocked off his beast, or he fell to the ground, or whatever it was. Some people make a big deal about that. Either way, the Lord got his attention. And Jesus spoke to him. And do you remember the question he asked? "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
Now, here's Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians, to hassle Christians, to persecute Christians, but, evidently, Jesus takes that very personally, and says, "Hey, dude, you're persecuting me. Why are you persecuting me?" That arrested him when he heard those words. You mess with God's kids, and you are messing with him. And notice what he says, "Whoever causes him to stumble"—skandalisthēsomai, skandalizó. It means: to bait a trap, to cause somebody to be enticed, or to fall into sin, to influence a person into sin.
Jesus said, "It would be better to tie a stone around his neck, throw him into the sea and drown him." That's very Mafia sounding. [laughter] That's like saying, "Case the guy in cement and throw him into the—throw him into the drink." [laughter] When he said that, those who were listening to him knew exactly what he meant, because the Romans had actually done that from time to time as a means of capital punishment. They would tie a stone around people, throw them in the water, in the Sea of Galilee, or in the ocean, and kill a person.
And the word that is used here for "millstone" is the upper millstone; literally the millstone of a donkey. It weighs a hundred pounds; it's the upper stone that takes an animal to turn to grind the grain underneath it; pretty heavy-duty. You go, "What does this have to do with communion?" Hold onto that thought.
Verse 43, it gets worse. Remember, general audience, kids included. "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off." Now, about that time Mrs. Peter's going, "Honey, run along to your room. It's getting pretty hot and heavy in here." "It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall not be quench—where," quoting Isaiah, " 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'
"And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life lame, rather than to have two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—where 'Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' "
Any normal person reading this, or in the case of the disciples and the original audience hearing this, would immediately think, "That's gross! That's gross!" That was the intended effect. Just as it grosses you out to think of somebody cutting off their hand or feet or gouging out an eye, sin should gross you out. It is such an offense to God that the only remedy was to send his spotless Son out of heaven to bleed and die a painful death. And when you look at the cross, you see: "That's the extent to which God was willing to go to save me, to put all of that punishment upon him so that I wouldn't have to face it."
I'll give you a little historical note: one of our early church fathers named Origen from Alexandria, Northern Africa, Egypt; Alexandria, Egypt, in reading this verse had himself emasculated so that he wouldn't face what he thought he wouldn't face—lustful temptation in his flesh. Because he thought that was the only means to do it, though he took this literally, and had himself castrated, emasculated. But listen, you can be minus a hand, minus a foot, minus an eye, and be totally neutered, and still be the most libidinous, materialistic, selfish, and prideful person in town, because it's a matter of the heart.
And because Deuteronomy 14 prohibits the removing of an appendage, that's not what Jesus is speaking about. He's not saying go out and actually cut off your hand, or actually cut off your foot, or actually gouge an eye out. The right hand or the right eye or the right foot in Judaism always represented the best. I'm sorry for you left-handed folks, but those are just the stats: between 75 and 90 percent of the world is right handed. So, because of that fact, the right hand or the right eye or the right foot is considered the best. It's the arm of strength. It's the foot of strength. It's the dominate eye. That's just metaphorically how it's used.
So, here's the idea: the eye represents what you see; the hand represents what you do; the foot represents where you go. There are places you have no business going as a believer. There are activities you have no business doing as a believer. There are pictures you have no business seeing as a believer. Even if it's painful, even if it hurts, you must get—even if it inconveniences you, you must get rid of those things in your life.
Nothing is worth any kind of separation between you and God, and certainly nothing is worth the absence of God using you as his instrument. Get rid of it. Gouge it out. Lose it. In First Corinthians 9, Paul said, "I discipline my body, lest having preached to others, I myself would become disqualified." So, what do you do when you're tempted? What do you do when it's right here? Why not just turn the other way and walk away or run away? "Oh, but that's so rude."
Well, imagine Joseph when Mrs. Potiphar grabbed him and was very bold, and said, "Come to bed with me." The Bible says he turned around and ran, and she was still holding his clothes. So, he literally streaked out of the house, I imagine. [laughter] But he got out of there. He could have thought, "Well, this is an opportunity for me to witness to her." [laughter] Or, "I don't want to be impolite. For me just to turn away from my boss' wife may not be a good thing." He immediately instinctually, spiritually thought, "I'm out of here. Nothing is worth this kind of temptation," so he cut it off.
Verse 49, then we'll tie it together. "For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another." Now, I want you to notice a contrast between two things, between two verses: verse 48 and 49. Look at verse 48 where it says, "And the fire is not quenched," and then compare that with verse 49, "For everyone will be seasoned with fire." In verse 48, it's the fire of punishment; in verse 49 it's a different kind of fire, this is the fire of purification.
Now, these two verses are enigmatic. They're difficult to understand. They're difficult to interpret. And that's why I've noticed that most commentaries, commentators that give comments on the Scripture just tend to bypass these verses, and say some little lame thing and then move on. But here it is, and we're left with what it means. Well, the Jews had a saying, they said, "The world cannot survive without salt." That was their quote. Here's what they meant; salt was important to them for two reasons: it was a preservative, number one; number two, it was used in the sacrifice in the temple.
Number one, a preservative. In those days, there was no refrigeration, no icehouses, no freezers. The only way to preserve meat was to take salt and rub it into the meat. Rubbing salt into the meat would stop, retard, slow down the putrefaction process and allow you to keep it for a while. That's why all the meats back then were very, very salty, because you had to rub salt in to preserve it. So, it was used as a preservative, a cleansing agent.
Number two, this was especially important to the Jews, it was used in one of the sacrifices in the temple, and before that the tabernacle. In the Leviticus, chapter 1, we're told about a burnt offering. You remember when we went through Leviticus we discussed that. The burnt offering was an unblemished bull or a ram or a bird that was holy consumed on the fire, and salt was sprinkled on the fire of the altar of sacrifice as that animal was totally consumed for the Lord.
So, salt was a preservative and was also used for sacrifices. Let's apply this. Paul says to us in Romans, chapter 12, "I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your body as a living sacrifice, holy," or totally, "holy and acceptable, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." I think the idea behind these two verses is that of the life of discipleship and the sanctification or purifying process as we walk through this world consecrated to God.
You and I are to be, as believers, totally surrendered and consecrated to God and to God's purposes on this earth. Once you get saved, once "you've been brought with a price," the blood of Jesus Christ—I got a news flash—"you're not your own," the Bible says, "you've been bought with a price." Remember when Paul wrote that? "You're not your own. You've been bought with a price."
When you surrendered your life to Christ, when you invited Christ in, you gave him the pink slip, the owner certificate. "You own me, Lord. You're the boss. You're the Master." What that means for you and I is that when Jesus tells you to jump, you don't go, "I'll think about it." Or you'll go, "Well, it depends how high." No, you just say, "Yes, Sir. How high?" He's the Lord; you're bought with a price.
Now, "If salt loses its [savor or] its flavor," it says, "How will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another." As your life is lived being consumed for God's purposes, as it says in Romans 12, as hard and painful and purifying as that is, you're going to find that as you become a preservative in this rotted world that you live in. I think one of the only things that's holding back the absolute, undiminished judgment of God in this world and in this country is the presence of God's people.
That's where his mercy comes in, toward us. We are preserving the evil onslaught that is all around us. If we're not doing that, we're really worthless as far as God's purposes on earth are concerned. If we're not consumed with his glory, surrendered to his purpose, and doing our job, and staying back that course of evil, what good are we? So, that's the end of chapter 9. That's the end of the narrative as Jesus gave these hard words to a general audience, including kids.
Now, I want to close by giving you three overarching principles to apply as we take the Lord's Supper. Number one: be purposeful about entering heaven. That's overarching principle number one: Be purposeful about entering heaven. Notice that three times Jesus said, "It's so important that you enter into life, even if you enter in maimed, rather than go to hell." Getting to heaven in any condition is better than going to hell in your best condition. Be purposeful about entering heaven. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but he loses his own soul."
See, that's what the cross is all about. The cross of Jesus Christ, that very event that we celebrate here tonight taking the Lord's Supper is about this truth. No matter how maimed you are, no matter how broken up you are by this world, no matter how chewed up and spit out you feel—you come just as you are. He's been looking for you, as we heard in the testimony. He will receive you. And by his grace and mercy he will use you. Come as you are. Be purposeful. Make sure that is your priority: "Am I right with God?" Be purposeful about entering heaven.
Principle number two, overarching principle number two: be careful how you treat the fragile faith of young believers. Jesus said, "You know what? Get a millstone for some of these folks. It'd be better." Because there's few things that disturbed Jesus more than somebody hindering the impressionable faith of a young believer. I think of all those college professors, some of whom I sat under, who made it their aim to undermine my faith, to undermine your faith, or false teachers that try to hinder or lead people astray.
The principle is that we must be very careful how we treat the fragile faith of young believers. Which means, on a practical note, that though I'm a believer and I have freedom in Christ— and we love to tout the fact that we have liberty, and we can sort of do whatever we want. And—"That's how who I am before the Lord. That's just who I am, man." "Don't judge me." You know, we love that kind of personal liberty. Paul said, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things build up or edify other people."
So, there's certain things I won't do simply because if some young believer sees me doing it, it might entice them to do something against their conscience before God. Let's just imagine that every now and then I get a hankering for a good ol' Scotch whiskey and a cigarette at the local bar. Now, I'll just say right off the bat, I never do. [laughter] People ask me, "Do you drink?" I drink as much as I want; I don't want to. So, that's over.
But let's just say I have a hankering to do it. And I say, "Well, I'm free, I can do whatever I want." Yes, but then let's say you're walking by and you struggled in that area of alcoholism. And you take a double look as you look inside, and you go, "Hey, that's Pastor Skip up there at the bar having that drink, and smoking that cigarette, and getting sort of a little loose around the edges." "Honey, you wouldn't believe who I saw tonight at the local bar as I walked by; it was our pastor."
Now, maybe deep inside you felt this was wrong, but suddenly by seeing my example, I've emboldened you to sin against your conscience. In the name of liberty and freedom, I haven't considered you. That's not very loving to you. I should think through my actions as how that would be displayed, what that would cause others to think. So be purposeful about entering heaven; be careful how you treat the fragile faith of young believers.
And overarching principle number three from this section: be influential without being hostile. Be influential without being hostile. The end of verse 50 says, "Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another." The reason Jesus would say, "Have peace with one another," is because the disciples just had an argument about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. That's why he had to bring the child up, use the child in his example, then launch into this diatribe and share what we've just read. "Have peace with one another."
These disciples were getting salty with each other in their speech. "I'm the greatest." "No, I'm the greatest." "No, I'm the greatest." Jesus said, "Have salt in yourselves, but have peace with one another." In other words, be separate from the world, but don't be separated from one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Yeah, be holy, be separate, be individual, be bold, be holy—all that stuff, but don't puffed up with pride so as be separated from one another.
"Be at peace with one another." Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, they will be called children of God." We have to try even though it's not received. And I can just tell you from personal experience, there are some people you try to be at peace with, no matter what you do, not gonna happen, not gonna happen. You can try, and the Bible says, that you should try, but the Bible also says, it's not always going to happen.
Romans, chapter 12, says, "If it's possible, be at peace with all men, as much as lies in you." I'm glad it said, "if it's possible." Because I've tried to do it with some people, they'll have none of it. They make their own stories, their own narrative, it spins out of control, but do your best. Do your utmost to bring peace between brother and sister.
So, to sum it all up with this whole thing about cutting off, and cutting your hand, your foot, gouging, etcetera: be tough on yourself, but be tender with others. Be tender with others. You're going to have to set up regulations and restrictions to honor God in this world; parameters of what you'll see, and what you'll do, and where you'll go, and what you won't see or do, and where you won't go. In that case, be tough on yourself, but with others be tender. And "as much as lies in you, be at peace with all men."