Reader take warning! The contents in this article are extreme. Sin is unsafe and promises to offend (even if you are a Christian), so brace yourself for what you are about to read.
It was a long week. Long commutes to school, long classes, long papers to complete, and long days at the office for my bride. By Friday, our eyes were heavy, but excitement was alive (TGIF). We anticipated the weekend together, but what would we do for relaxation? To date myself, this is the time when Biggest Loser was a real hit and 24 was even bigger! On this particular weekend we had decided to try out a season of 24 together to see what everyone was raving about. After watching a couple of episodes of Jack Bauer saving the world from the bad guys, I remember a sickened feeling come over me. I couldn’t get the universal flood out of my mind (Gen 6–8). What do Jack Bauer and the thousands who perished in the flood have in common? Violence.
Who remembers why God destroyed the earth with a flood? Do you recall Genesis 6:11–13? Violence. God’s grief-levels had exhausted their limits and what was the trigger? Violence. Thousands of fathers and mothers, boys and girls were drowned beneath the keel of Noah’s boat, and for what? Violence. Genesis 6:5 was true of Noah’s generation! They didn’t just play at violence on DVDs or video games (or in sports). It was “real life.” And here I was in modern time filling my heart (Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 22:37) with what broke God’s.
So I got into a fight with Jack Bauer. I wrestled with him in my conscience for weeks. I remember that I continued to watch for a few more weekends but with ever increasing unrest. How could I fill my mind with the kind of thing that exhausted God’s patience — arousing His wrath? What was I to do? Other Christians seemed to have no problems with 24. Was I being legalistic? Was I overly self-righteous? Was there something wrong with me? The problem continued to plague me until finally I let it all out on the phone with a good brother. After a two-hour phone call with my friend (a film major) about the naggings of my conscience, he confirmed for me what I was already beginning to understand.
“Everything that is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). If I could not watch this kind of bloody gory violence in faith that I was in the will of God — obeying, honoring, loving, and pleasing God — I could not watch it at all! When this finally clicked for me, it was as if the windows of heaven opened over me once again! I ejected the DVD and it hasn’t been in since. Had my eyes led me into sin? Would it have been better for me to gouge out my eye with a screwdriver and cast it from me than to press play on that DVD again?
Have you ever been there? Has it taken you weeks, months, or even years to kill off something that you now see had been killing you? Have you learned yet that God hates violence except when it comes to maiming personal sin? From the lips of Jesus in Mark 9:43–48, the violence we should be most actively engaged in is against ourselves — slaying our sin! This is extreme.
Are you as extreme as Jesus commands in your sin–mutilation (9:43, 45, 47)? Or does slaughtering your personal sin offend you? How much more offensive to entertain yourself with gory violence than to fight violently the impulses which crave violence? Are you making the connection?
May I ask you some more personal questions? Are you comfortable with your heart? Do you think your heart is good? Do you realize what lives in every human heart? Brace yourself. Things like “evil thoughts … murders … [malicious] wickedness” (see Mark 7:20–21) are the seeds that live in the soil of your heart. Has your heart been deceiving you (Jeremiah 17:9–10)?
Rightly then, Jesus commands you to slay sinful passions, to slay the violence within you. This is serious! There is wonderful irony in Jesus’ words. He made all the parts of our body and he made them very good (Genesis 1:31). Yet, it is His pleasure to glorify Himself and bring you joy, not through the systematic mutilation of your body parts, but instead through the mortification (fancy word for killing a living thing) of your willful sin! It is the sin that flows through the eye, through the hand and through the feet that Jesus wants slain! The body parts are symbolic for the sinful things they are capable of doing. The slaying of the body parts, then, is gruesome symbolic language for the slaying of sinful hell–deserving actions!
Hendriksen sums it up for us, “The lesson is this: sin, being a very destructive force, must not be pampered. It must be “put to death” (Colossians 3:5). Temptation should be flung aside immediately and decisively. Dillydallying is deadly. Halfway measures work havoc. The surgery must be radical. Right at this very moment and without any vacillation the obscene book should be burned, the scandalous picture destroyed, the soul-destroying film condemned, the sinister yet very intimate social tie broken, and the baneful habit discarded. In the struggle against sin the believer must fight hard. Shadow-boxing will never do (1 Corinthians 9:27).”
And if you are not yet offended, there is more. Is talking about hell too harsh in a discussion about killing sin? Not to Jesus. Our loving Jesus spoke directly to the subject at hand. Keep in mind, the godless unbelieving do not fight their sin, they surrender to it like the slave–master it is! They are under its power (Romans 3:18) and they “love it” (John 3:19)! The disciple of Jesus, in sharp contrast, declares war on his sin! Is this war against sin not an indication that heaven (not hell) awaits the sin–slayer?
In Mark 9, Jesus teaches this clearly. He does not motivate the twelve with more power, deeper fellowship with God, or eternal crowns for sin–killing. Quite the contrary. He assures them only that the one–handed, one–eyed, hobbler — because of severe slaying to the dragon of sin within — is far better off than the tortured non–disciple who for eternity will be able–bodied and enjoying 20/20 vision from the fires of hell! Make no mistake, Jesus is teaching His disciples, then and now, that one of the ways to be sure you belong to Him is found in the fact that you rage ruthlessly against the powers of indwelling sin in your life.
You see friend, because of what is in you (Mark 7:21), you must continually be putting sin to death. Slaughtering your personal sin is worth all your effort and pain! R. Kent Hughes said wisely, “It is better to clean up your fleeting life here through some healthy self-denial, than go bearing your sins to an unending Gehenna [or hell], an eternal, smoking rubbish heap where the worms eternally gorge themselves on the refuse of your life. Any sacrifice, any discipline, any self-denial is worth it!”
 R. Kent Hughes, Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior, vol. 2, Preaching the Word (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 40.