Radical Amputation

  • Jeff Crotts

Last Sunday’s sermon addressed the issue of lust and how to stop.  Jesus’ answer is surprisingly simple in that he taught that those who do not stop lusting for others place their eternal status in jeopardy.  Bottomline, people who refuse to repent of lusting, leave God no other recourse but to deal it through the severest of punishments.  Eternal hell (cf. Matt. 5:27-30).

Lusting for someone in your heart is extremely serious, violating two of God’s holy laws: not to covet and not to commit adultery.  Two of God’s chief character traits are his holiness and justice, so we (as his creation) sin against him, we take away from his glory.

Let me boil down what this means for you.  Refusing to repent of the secret sin of lust, puts you are in one of three categories: either you are a guilty Christian in need of an intervention or someone who is self-deceived, convinced you are Christian while completely impassive over your secret sins, or you are someone who is an outright unbeliever who does not care about your secret sins.

As an unbeliever trapped in your lust, you are to be most pitied as you so far in your lifetime outside of God’s grace. Unreconciled in your relationship to God, living as an affront to God’s holy character, a grief to God’s spirit, and someone literally declaring war against God as his enemy.  If you are a believer trapped in your lust, you know you need to come back and in fact you want to come back.

The good news is that the answer to breaking free from lust is the same for a believer and unbeliever.  No matter how you may classify your spiritual condition, whether are dead spiritually or gasping for air, your path back to God is the path of repentance.  Repent of your sin and place your trust in Christ alone for grace and forgiveness.  The solution is simple but you may find that your repentance will be hard.

Jesus says as much:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

Repentance is pictured as ripping your eye out or cutting your arm off, so what does this mean?  I recall hearing a story of a hiker named Aron Ralston who while on an expedition out in the wilderness had to cut his arm off to save his life.  Here is a summary someone posted regarding his horrible incident:

Outdoor adventurist Aron Ralston believes he’s invincible and can do it all alone while on his outdoor adventures. He considers the great outdoors his second home. On Saturday, April 26, 2003, Aron has gone for an adventure trek alone through the generally secluded Blue John Canyon, and like he has done on many of his other treks, he has not told anyone where he is going. But on this day, he and a small boulder fall down a crevice, he landing near the bottom of the crevice virtually unharmed, but with his right hand wedged between the boulder and the crevice wall. He has access to his gear and his small supply of rations as he tries to move the boulder or chip away at it so that he can get his wedged hand free. As either task seems impossible, he hopes for someone to rescue him. Those most likely candidates are Kristi and Megan, two women he met earlier that day who are the only two who know that he is in the canyon, or his boss Brian, who may list him as missing if he doesn’t show up for his scheduled work time on Tuesday (three days away). As time goes on and he deals not only with the boulder and lack of rations but also with the extreme weather conditions, he begins to think about his mortality, his mind often going toward his loving but somewhat distant relationship with his family, or his last broken love with a woman named Rana. As he films himself (as a goodbye message to his family) often with his mind wandering, he, during his more lucid moments, also thinks about the possibility of trying to sever his arm as he will lose it anyway if he survives this ordeal.

Suffice it to say, Ralston having fallen into a deep crevasse, with his arm wedged behind an immovable bolder, came to realize he would either stay trapped die or cut his arm off and live.  What saved Ralston’s life was him coming to terms with how dire his situation truly was.  He had to literally talk himself through it, saying out loud that he did not want to take his own life, and neither did he want to stay where he was and die.

Instead, Ralston took out his dull pocketknife and began to puncture his own flesh.  This is Jesus’ analogy but the circumstances for someone who’s heart is wedged behind the immovable bolder called “lustful intent” or “adultery…in [someone’s] heart” are far more serious.  If you are unwilling to severe yourself from your secret sin, you will die in hell forever (cf. Matt. 5:29-30).  While you are down in this ravine, you likewise have a choice to make.  Either stay in your sins and die in forever, hell or cut yourself free and live in forever, heaven.

Though the details of Ralston’s amputation are gruesome, listing a few are apropos.  Having made the decision to finally cut off his arm, when he punctured his skin he found both his arm and hand were decomposed.  Gases released a putrid smell.  His hand was jellified.  In other words, Ralston’s arm and hand were already irrecoverable.

Tying this back to repenting of lust.  When you truly repent of secret sins, you will find that what you thought exciting and fun was already dead decomposed inside.  Cheap thrills are just that, cheap!  And, cheapening, meaning empty.  Cutting lust out of your heart not only keeps you from hell but frees you to start enjoying life now!

One final detail on Ralston’s amputation is that after cutting away his initial flesh, he hit bone.  His dull pocketknife was no match for his arm bones, so what did he have to do?  Ralston had to go all the way by throwing his whole body against his arm and rock to break his arm in half.  I probably should have warned anyone squeamish that I was going to write that, but I think it makes the point. Truly repenting of sin means that you are turning all the way away from doing it anymore.  Repentance is making the commitment to stop and not start up again.

Repenting is severing yourself from your sin.  You say, “What about grace?”  There is grace in the path Jesus lays before us.  Grace is warning us what happens if we do not repent.  Grace tells us what we have to do and to what extent.  Grace is when the Holy Spirit confirms both the warning and solution inside of someone’s heart.  Grace is God giving someone the faith and strength to both recognize secret sins and then to turn away from them.  Grace is Jesus receiving you, when you repent, and with open arms affirming that you are forgiven based on his Cross-work alone (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).  Grace is Jesus giving you his Spirit and Truth to fortify your new direction.