A Springboard for You

For a better life and a better eternity

Amputation (an excerpt)

The Gospel of the Kingdom: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

 

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Check out the book today!

 

from Chapter 13, “Morality and Marriage: Matthew 5:27-32”

 

Amputation

On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Hiking and rock climbing alone in Easter Utah, his right hand was crushed between a shifting boulder and the rock wall o the gorge he was navigating. Over a period of five days he made various attempts to free himself. He chipped away at the boulder. He tried to construct a pulley with his ropes to move the boulder. Nothing worked. When he ran out of his water supply, he was certain of death. Since no one knew where he was and they would not find him any time soon, he tried one final desperate plan. He broke both bones in his forearm. Then, using what was left of his dulled cutting tool, he amputated his own right arm. He repelled into the canyon and hiked out to meet searchers. Nobody wants to lose an arm. However, when the choice is lose an arm or lose a life, the arm is not so bad.

If we would take such drastic measures to extend our temporal life a few years, how much more ought we do them to preserve our eternal life? Jesus said if our eye or hand makes us stumble, we should amputate and throw them from us. It is better to lose a body part than our soul. Many who struggle day to day to lead pure lives would find immense success in spiritual growth if we would employ spiritual amputation.

To be sure, this is about spiritual amputation and not physical. Hands and eyes do not really make us stumble. The part of our body with the biggest problem regarding purity is the brain. If we take Matthew 5:29-30 at its most literal regarding the body part with the biggest problem, well…you see where that leads.

Consider what these verses teach us to do. When we sin, we must not simply confess our sin, but consider what led to it. How did the fall begin? Do we see a pattern? Because jesus made this statement in the context of sexual morality, I will keep my illustrations there; but the point applies to all sin–from outbursts of anger to lying to gossip to stealing.

When you have fallen into sexual immorality, whether physically or mentally, ask how you got there? Where did it begin? Did it begin with a magazine ad? did it begin with a song on the radio? did it begin with unlimited access to the internet? did it begin with a character on a tv show? did it begin with an emotional relationship at work? What led to the sin?

How many Christians have returned again and again to an affair with a co-worker after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to sexual purity? What needs to happen? A spiritual amputation. They need to quit the job. “But Edwin,” someone will say, “I need the money. I won’t be able to find another job that pays as well. And I have to eat. I have to have a roof over my head. If I give up this job, I will lose my house.” This job is your hand caught between a boulder and a rock wall. It is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose your house and even miss a few meals than to be thrown into hell.

How many Christian men, even preachers, have returned again and again to the sinful world of internet pornography after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. At the very least they need to limit their internet access with strict filters and accountability parameters. They might even need to get rid of internet access entirely. “But Edwin,” some will say, “there is a lot of good stuff on the internet. Plus, when I use those filters, there are some good sites I can’t access. After all, Biblical research and finding pictures for my PowerPoint presentations are so much easier with full internet access.” But the internet is killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to lose access to the decent stuff, it is better for you to have to research the old fashioned way, it is better for you to have boring PowerPoint presentations than for you to be thrown into hell. 

How many Christians have returned to lustful passions because of magazines, movies, tv shows or particular songs on the radio after repeatedly repenting, mourning and committing themselves to mental purity? What is needed here? A spiritual amputation. They need to discontinue their subscription to the magazine. They need to avoid those kinds of movies or stop watching that show. They need to quit listening to that song (perhaps even the entire cd or radio station). “But Edwin,” some will say, “this is just entertainment. I can’t live in a box. I have to live a little and have some fun. Aside from that, everybody is reading, watching and listening to these things. If I quit, I will be behind the times and look like an oddball.” These things are killing you and destroying your eternal life. It is better for you to look like a behind-the-times oddball who can’t join in on the conversations about the latest music, movies or magazines than for you be thrown into hell.

Please notice the little word beginning both of the verses under consideration. jesus began both statements with “IF.” IF your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out. IF your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. Jesus did not command everyone to tear out their eyes or cut off their hands. Aron Ralston cut off his right arm to survive. That doesn’t mean all rock climbers must.

In our efforts to lead morally pure lives, we all have different struggles. I may have to spiritually amputate something you don’t and vice versa. Just because my eye causes me to stumble doesn’t mean everyone has to tear out their eye, nor should I try to make them.

Allow me to illustrate. When I first watched CSI, I became addicted. I loved the mystery. I loved the detective work. I loved watching how they figured out who was guilty. It was great. Then came CSI: Miami. It was awesome too. However, at some point I realized the repeated sexual themes were impacting my mind. Many times, i was no longer entertained by the detective work but defiled by the immodestly dressed characters  and caused to stumble in my mind because of the sexual scenes. Eventually, I had to excise CSI and CSI: Miami from my life. Does CSI cause everyone to stumble? Probably not. Can I say that because it made me stumble everyone has to amputate it? Of course not. However, if it causes you to stumble, get rid of it.

We must be honest. It would have been pointless for Ralston to say, “I don’t think the problem is my arm caught between these rocks. I’m not going to amputate.” In the same way, it is eternally pointless for us to hang on to the very things that make us stumble.

When we think about Ralston’s story, most of us wonder if we could do what he did. “I just don’t think I could cut off my own right arm,” many of us say. Sadly, there are too many Christians saying the same thing when faced with Jesus’ words. Let’s buck up. Jesus will give us strength. Let’s amputate what will destroy our eternal life.

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October 13, 2008 - Posted by | A Springboard for Your Spiritual Life, Christian living, Overcoming Sin, Spiritual Growth, Success | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I’ve often struggled myself with this spiritual amputation. In my mind I justify not amputating by thinking that I should be strong enough to ignore the temptations figuring that after a period of time the temptation would simply not be there. Yeah right! That’s satan working at his best. Thanks for the article.

    Comment by Brad | October 13, 2008

  2. Hey Brad, been there and done that.

    What I have found is the only way the temptation settles down is if I do amputate. But it is a tough step.

    Comment by edwincrozier | October 16, 2008


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