19th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Micropsia and macropsia. Ever heard of those before? They are both visual problems that people can have with their eyes. Micropsia causes people to see things as smaller than they actually are – so like looking the opposite way through a pair of binoculars. Macropsia causes people to see things as much larger than they actually are. Similarly there’s a cognitive behavioral theory about the problem people can have called magnification and minimization. Magnification means blowing something way out of proportion or making a mountain out of a molehill. Minimization is lessening the importance of something that is really significant.
Well, to a certain degree, each of us has problems in losing our perspective in things in life. What is normal is seeing things as they really are. That’s the reality and that’s the proper perspective. Well, the ultimate reality about life is found in God. In incredible love, God has chosen to fill us in on ultimate reality in the form of words in a book, the Bible. So, if we want to have a proper perspective on life we need to hear and take to heart the words God has given His book. Satan and every evil thing wants to distort our perspectives, to cause us to see things in wrong proportions, to make molehills into mountains and mountains into molehills.
The disciples were having this trouble. Just before our text Jesus had been transfigured and Peter, James, and John had seen it. Then the disciples were unable to drive out an evil spirit from a boy, but Jesus did. Then the disciples were traveling to Capernaum and were arguing about who was the greatest. And apparently there had been an incident where the disciples saw someone driving out demons in Jesus’ name. Let’s think about that for a bit. He was driving out demons- that’s a good thing! And he’s doing it in Jesus’ name. What does that tell us? That means he loved the name of Jesus, honored Jesus’ name, and must have been a believer. However, he wasn’t one of the 12 disciples, he didn’t have the credentials and the associations that they had. So the disciples tried to get him to stop. Had they done the right thing? They didn’t have the right perspective.
Jesus’ response was, “No, do not stop him.” Instead of trying to stop this man, they should rejoice in the success that Jesus was doing through him. And here’s a little test: even a cup of water given to someone because he or she is a follower of Jesus is a display of faith and love. Faith is made evident by actions. Driving out demons was an act of faith.
Do you see what Jesus is doing? He’s refocusing their and our perspective on true greatness. It’s so easy for us to magnify our own greatness and look down on others. The disciples here seemed to think that only they were the ones authorized to do great things for the Lord. That leads us to ask: Are we ready to rejoice at the success of others? How do we feel when another Christian church is growing? “Oh, they’re probably just watering down the Bible, they’re telling people what they want to hear and not what they need to hear.” Perhaps. Certainly we want God’s Word to be taught accurately everywhere. But can we harbor jealousy in our hearts over the success of others? Actually, we can even become jealous about the faith of others! With negative remarks, comments, gossip we can be guilty of getting in the way and trying to stop what God is doing through others. Let’s ask ourselves: Do I have a negative attitude about God’s kingdom? Does my negative or divisive attitude get in the way of God’s work? Do I have bloated idea of my importance in God’s kingdom? Do I look down on others? We all need to examine our hearts: Am I getting in the way of God’s ministry? We’re guilty.
We need God to give us a proper perspective. Jesus didn’t have a negative attitude about God’s kingdom or a bloated view of His greatness, rather, He came to serve and to die on a cross not just for the sins of the 12 disciples but for the negativity, jealousy, and bloated ideas of us all. Jesus came in order to die to win eternal life for John, for Peter, for the disciples, for you and for me. God gives us an eternal perspective. When we have that perspective the goal of encouraging the faith of others becomes more and more important and the ambition to prove our own greatness becomes less and less.
Not only are we guilty of magnifying our own greatness, but it’s just as easy to minimize the danger of our own sin. Jesus also puts sin into a proper perspective. “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Wow! If someone causes a “little one” -could be a child, could be some young in faith regardless of age – if anyone causes someone to sin, literally the word is for the stick in a dead-fall trap. So it is to be caught or destroyed. In other words, if anyone destroys the faith of a child or a childlike believer, it would be better for that person to die a horribly violent death than to face the wrath of Jesus. If our words or our actions harm the faith of someone else? Not good. Why not? Because eternity is at stake!
Sin is serious! Not only can we destroy the faith of others, we can also destroy our own faith! So, if your hand causes you to sin…cut it off! If your foot causes you to sin…cut it off! If your eye causes you to sin…pluck it out! I recently met a man. He’s 90 years old and had a blood clot in his leg and for whatever reason they thought they couldn’t get rid of it, so they said they might have to amputate his leg in order to save his life. That’s what surgeons will do – they will cut off limbs if necessary to spare a person’s life. Likewise, if any part of your body is causing you to sin, get rid of it! Falling away from faith must be avoided at all costs! Anything that’s leading us away from God must be dealt with before it destroys our faith- radical change is needed! Turn off the TV, get rid of the computer, throw away the book or magazine, break the friendship, pour out the alcohol. In the movie “Fireproof” which is about someone losing his marriage because of internet pornography, the one scene that I can vividly picture is him smashing his computer with a baseball bat.
But think about it a bit deeper. Does your hand move all by itself, or your leg move all by itself? Isn’t there really a heart behind those body parts that directs them? The real issue is the heart, the will. A radical change of heart is needed. And if we think it’s too radical to cut off a hand or pluck out an eye, let’s consider the alternative. God gives us a proper perspective on hell. Hell is fire that is never, never put out, worms, maggots eating the flesh of decaying corpses and never, ever finishing. We have no fire on earth that isn’t quenchable, we can’t relate to how horrible hell really is. Why do we need to know this? Because sin isn’t something to play around with. Sin’s endgame is absolutely horrible! Why would we want that? What sin is troubling you? Listen to Jesus: Cut it off!! Pluck it out!!
Hell isn’t for you and me. You see, Jesus already suffered a world’s eternity of hells. He did so on the cross as God the Father forsook Him. He suffered hell for you and for me. Why? So that we never would, so that we would never know what unquenchable fire is. Hell isn’t for you. Jesus won you heaven! He did so with His death and His resurrection. Your sins are forgiven, your slate has been wiped free, sins shackles have been removed from your wrists, Jesus has set you free, free from sin’s slavery. Free to cut sin out and leave it behind.
And how do you know that? You know that from one place: God’s Word. “Everyone will be salted with fire.” That’s a strange statement. But think about it: what was salt used for back then? Salt was a preservative. What is it that preserves our souls? Really it’s God’s Word. When God’s powerful Word is working in our hearts and minds we’re full of salt. But there’s no salt for salt. If we lose our saltiness how can we make it salty again? If we stop using God’s Word to preserve us in faith and guide us in life, we become saltless salt, we can become worldly and unbelieving.
“Have salt in yourselves.” Keep the Word dear to you. Be full of the salt of God’s Word. Let it burn away the germs of sin, of pride, of jealousy, of bitterness, of envy. Be full of the salt of God’s Word because by it God puts your life in proper perspective. Eternity is what matters most of all – remember that as you deal with fellow believers and God blesses their efforts or their faith. Eternity is what matters most of all – remember that as you watch your words and actions so they don’t lead someone into sin and destroy their faith. Eternity is what matters most of all – remember that when you’re tempted to commit sin- any sin. Eternity is what matters most of all so keep the salt of God’s Word close to your hearing, your heart, and your home and you will put your life– all of it- in a proper, eternal perspective.