Christianity as Jesus’ way of life is different from all other religions of the world in one vitally missional theology. The theology is that God reached out to man and woman to save us because we are helpless to save ourselves. In the Old Testament, the theology of salvation is rooted in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. In the New Testament, Jesus is revealed as the inclusively exclusive source of salvation. In order to overcome Adam and Eve rebellion in the Garden of Eden, God’s holiness required punishment and payment (atonement) for sin (Jn 3:16). Jesus Christ, the Perfect God-man and the ONLY spotless pure sacrifice paid for our sins. In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus points us to the increasing intensity for His followers in our call to discipleship to embrace the Cross.
One major challenge for Jesus’ followers is that, Jesus’ ministry and Christianity in general make a series of things happen including ‘copycats.’ A copycat in this context is one who imitates or adopts the behaviour or practices of another. Copycat displays a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (2 Tim 3:5-7). Jesus’ ministry generates copycats just as Christianity today generates cheap imitations of culture, theology, leadership and ministries. History reminds us that any attempt to create or generate cheap imitations of culture, theology, leadership and ministries has reliably led to tyranny and sin. There has never been a human culture that is anything but flawed and rooted in the personal desires of the individuals who inhabit them.
All lasting cultures in history have been rooted by timeless and everlasting God’s Word, something bigger and wiser than us, across both space and time. We neglect, just imitate or underestimate God’s Word at our peril. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus’ method was seized on and imitated by other when confronted with demons. Beyond the temptation to single out this passage as an example of friendly relationship between Christ’s followers and those who want the same things that they want, Jesus’ warning is that we must not to cause “one of this little ones who believe in me to sin.” Copycats who shares half-knowledge for their own ego and pleasure damages and declines nations, churches, families, and peoples lives.
Religious cheap copycats promotes identity theft, sin, death, decline, divisions, and unbelief, hence there is punishment of hell for anyone who lead the small, weak and ignorant astray. Religious copycats adulterates the purity of faith, watered it down, and pure “salt” slowly slip away to become a “tasteless” faith, ‘a form of religion without power.’ The church and the world are living today in a time of cheap copycat consequences and God is calling us to look up, repent and begin searching for what we have lost.
The original hearers of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:41-48 were the disciples. Just as it was a very important topic to be communicated to the disciples first, it is important for us today as well. The Gospel calls us to see ourselves in those who do good in Christ’s name, the cheap copycats, without the appropriate credentials and repent. This is inclusive of those asking Jesus to be given authority as “the greatest” and are in positions of power. Jesus warns of offenses. Sin sends one to hell. One of the highest priorities for Christ’s followers is to set an example for children (spiritual and physical) by how we live, what we say and what we do. Beloved, every influence of sin, which separates people from God and destines them to hell must be opposed and rejected. Sins that block our salvation in Jesus must be put to death in our lives through radical ‘spiritual surgery.’ Jesus speaks with bluntness, about cutting off one’s hand and foot and the plucking out of one’s own eye. God designed us to seek after and look for Him. Enough of using our hands, souls and feet living and looking in wrong places, beguiled by the beauties and enticements of this temporary world. God is calling us to spiritually puck out our eye from every carnal preoccupations in order to reach out and use our energies grasping at infinite things. God is speaking to our foot as ‘the organ by which we set ourselves on a definite path.’
Beloved, hell is one of the many basic truths that Scripture reveals. Jesus describes it as a place “…where the worms that eat them do not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). Beloved, hell is real, John Wesley’s sermon on hell is a timely truth and we should not be unaware and ignorant of this scriptural truth. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and acceptance of Christ’s gracious gift of salvation with true repentance. Wesley’s exposition on the Mark 9 challenges us to immediate response. According to Wesley, hell, as a place of judgement is a place of never-ending, excruciating pain and agony. Wesley reminds us that the fear of God “is one excellent means of preserving” believers from this horrible destiny of hell. Charles Wesley’s hymn, ‘Jesus, the Name high over all, in hell or earth or sky’ rightly calls us to taste and see the riches of Jesus’ grace.
1 Jesus, the Name high over
in hell or earth or sky;
angels and mortals prostrate fall,
and devils fear and fly.
Jesus, the Name to sinners dear,
the Name to sinners giv’n;
it scatters all their guilty fear,
it turns their hell to heav’n.
2 O that the world might taste and
the riches of His grace!
The arms of love that compass me
would all the world embrace.
Thee I shall constantly proclaim,
though earth and hell oppose;
bold to confess Thy glorious Name
before a world of foes.
3 His only righteousness I
His saving truth proclaim;
’tis all my business here below
to cry, “Behold the Lamb!”
Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His Name,
preach Him to all, and cry in death,
“Behold, behold the Lamb!”