Summary: When we're truly saved, we will always belong to Jesus. So what does he mean when he says to lose an arm or a leg or gouge out an eye of it's keeping you from heaven? Jesus calls us to radical obedience.
What kind of dedication does it take to be a terrorist? Seriously, think about this for a minute. How dedicated would you have to be to fly an airplane into a skyscraper? Or to strap explosives to your body and walk into a market? We certainly don’t condone these hate-filled activities from the devil. Yet, let’s at least admire the terrorists’ ill-founded dedication.
Today we’ll consider the more appropriate dedication required to follow Jesus. Once we’re his children, we’re always his children. Yet, we don’t want to presume on his grace and forgiveness. What does it mean to live with heaven or hell in mind? To consider that our actions have consequences? And that if we’re truly saved, we will live like it?
Please follow along in your outline as I share three truths from today’s passage:
1. Heaven is priceless.
Remember those MasterCard commercials that used the word “priceless”? For two decades, Billy Crudup leant his voice to those ads: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.”
Well, the main thing that money can’t buy is heaven. It literally is priceless, and because of that, it is our motivation for obedience. Since we are going to heaven, let’s act like it. Let’s be people of God right now, not just in the by-and-by.
In today’s passage, Jesus uses a couple of synonyms for heaven. First, in verses 43 and 45 he simply calls it “life.” We can relate. Sometimes we get in a rut: day after day, no change, same ol’ same ol’. And finally, you ask yourself, “Is this really living? Is this what life is all about?”
When Jesus contrasted his work with the devil’s, in John 10:10, he said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Heaven is life, and life to the full. If you are a believer, you will never be as fully alive as the moment you die. In that moment, you will awaken to the very fullness of life...in a place called heaven.
The other synonym Jesus uses for heaven, in verse 47, is “the kingdom of God.” Elsewhere he uses a similar term, “the kingdom of heaven.” Think about the kingdom of God like this: the kingdom of God is wherever God’s will is done. When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” we are asking for God’s will to advance here on earth. While Jesus walked the earth, he talked a lot about the kingdom of God being “close” and also “already here,” “at hand.” Wherever God is at work, heaven is breaking through.
John MacArthur once said, “Heaven will never be boring or monotonous, precisely because God’s glory will be on full display.” Heaven is going to be a wonderful place. Heaven is priceless. On the other hand,
2. Hell is hellacious
I know, I’m not supposed to use a form of the word in the definition. But I couldn’t think of a better word to describe hell than hellacious. It’s going to be bad, really bad, so bad that you wouldn’t want your worst enemy to go there. That’s how bad hell is going to be. Someone once said, “If you think this life on earth is heaven, you’re aiming way too low. And if you think this life on earth is hell, you’re in for a brutal shock if you head for the real place.”
Jesus used a geographical location—Gehenna—to describe hell. Gehenna, Greek for the Valley of Hinnom, was the area just outside the western and southern walls of Jerusalem where the evil kings Ahaz and Manasseh made human sacrifices to the Ammonite god Molek. Later, the good king Josiah desecrated the valley, and it became a trash heap. But not just a trash heap by today’s standards. The carcasses of animals and the human remains of criminals were left there to rot. Controlled fires were used to burn the trash. Jesus quoted from the last verse of the book of Isaiah — “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched”—to describe this place of condemnation and suffering. Jesus took the words the prophet reserved for those who rebel against God, and applied them to a visual description of the hellaciousness of hell.
Knowing how good heaven truly is and how bad hell truly is should motivate us to radical obedience. And that is our last thought, and the point of the passage. Jesus calls us to:
3. Obey at all costs
We need to follow God no matter what. Jesus uses hyperbole: “Cut off your hand if it’s keeping you back. Cut off your feet. Gouge out your eye.” And some throughout history have taken his words literally. Origen, a 3rd century church leader, got castrated to help with sexual temptation. Later, he reportedly regretted that decision. This past spring, a 20-year-old in South Carolina, Kaylee Muthart, while high on meth, gouged out both her eyes. As a passionate Christian, she was deceived by the evil one to take these verses literally in order to “save the world.” She is now totally blind, but grateful to be off drugs.