Ever heard of Uzzah before?
Uzzah was your everyday, ordinary Israelite. He might have worked as a farmer. He may have worked as a merchant. But one thing we know for sure that he did. When King David asked for his help, he answered.
And on this particular day, David asked Uzzah to help bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Now this was a very honored task. The ark was a special item to the Israelites. Inside were precious and divine items from their past as a nomadic desert nation: the budded staff of Aaron, the tablets of stone for the commandments, even a jar of manna that had fallen from heaven.
Because it was filled with such holy artifacts, God had given specific instructions for transporting the Ark. God had said that it must be done with two long poles woven through the four hooks in each corner of the chest. This way they wouldn't disrespect the ark and the Lord by touching the ark with bare hands.
For whatever the reason, Uzzah and his friends didn't do this. Instead, they placed it on a cart. They attached the cart to some oxen. They let the oxen do the work.
While the cart was travelling over some rough terrain, it hit a bump. The ark began to tumble off of the back corner.
Enter Uzzah. He was following the cart in that corner and he reached out his hand to stop the ark. (Makes sense right?)
Do you know what happened next?
And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. (2 Samuel 6:7)
At first glance, doesn't that seem a bit intense? Uzzah was just trying to help. Sure, he could have shown more reverence by not touching it -- and even more respect than that if he had gone to the Law for instructions on how to carry it in the first place.
There was sin, sure. But was it really that serious?
Today we are continuing our series called DEEP by taking a look at DEEP SERIOUSNESS. We want to see just how deeply serious sin is and also how deeply serious God is in saving us from sin. This is from Mark 9:42-50.
Do you know what a millstone is? It’ a large circular stone. It’s hundreds of pounds. It’s heavy and it’s job is to roll on top of the grain at the mill and grind it into fine flour. It’s heavy. It’s solid. It’s hard.
You probably aren’t going to find one of these in the swimwear section of Dick’s Sports. That’s because a millstone around your neck will cause you to sink to the bottom. You’ll drown. You’ll die. It’s like the mob wives tale of getting concrete shoes on and sleeping with the fishes.
But notice what Jesus says. He doesn’t say, “Be careful to never jump into the deep end while strapped to one of these.” Nope. He says, “I’d rather you do that than…to cause one of these littles ones who believe in me, to stumble.”
I would imagine there isn’t a single one of you who would say, “After church, I’m going to take my kids sinning.” Probably not.
But it’s amazing how kids learn from adults. They are tiny little human beings who depend on you for all of their knowledge. They are learning from you all…the…time.
What are you teaching them?
So cut it out! We don’t have enough lifeguard’s in the congregation to fish you out of the Neuse River. Let’s make it simpler. Take sin seriously and STOP TEACHING YOUR KIDS how to sin!
That’s not the only way Jesus stresses the seriousness of sin. Sin doesn’t just threaten our children. It also threatens our souls. Take a look at what he says next, “43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out." After all, you’ll be raising the roof and praising God with that one hand in heaven. In hell, both of those hands will be trying to put the fire out.
Suddenly grabbing a pen when no one is looking or typing an XXX term into my internet search, doesn’t sound so worth it.
But the hands aren’t the only part to be concerned about. Jesus continues, "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell." Again you can just chill in a heavenly lawn chair and listen to the angelic music in heaven. In hell, each step only deepens the burn.
But that’s not it. Jesus continues again, “47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Because, sure, you’ll only have one eye – but that one eye will see things we’ve never seen before. Heavenly, incredible, divine – God things! Two eyes in hell? They’ll be consumed with atrocities we are only too familiar with – hatred, suffering, evil and pain.
Jesus is serious here. His language doesn't stutter. It is better to lose your body parts than to sin.
But honestly, we are all far from considering actual amputation. In fact, we struggle to consider amputating things, stuff, inanimate objects that repeatedly cause us to sin.
Anyone know what gangrene is? Gangrene is a horrible infection. It happened a lot during the civil war. There are many accounts of soldiers being infected in their extremities – in their hands or in their feet. The gangrene would keep spreading until it reached the heart. The result would be death.
They didn’t have antibiotics to stop it. So do you know what they did?
Cut it off.
Sin is like that. It will cause you spiritual death.
If you are following along in the text, did you notice something? In our Scriptures, there are a few verses missing. The NIV (New International Version) did not include verse 44 or 46. That means some ancient manuscripts do not include verses 44 or 46. Others do. But because a few reliable manuscripts don’t have it, both of those verses have become footnotes.
I can understand scribes might have dropped it. They could have been convinced they were repeating themselves. Because verse 44 and 46 say the exact same thing as verse 48 “Hell…is where the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
In other words – there is no worse place to be. There’s no worse place to talk about. (This may quite possibly be the most uncomfortable minute of a sermon I’ve ever felt up here as a pastor. ) We’re talking invincible tapeworms and unending third degree burns!
Yet, Jesus stresses it repeatedly. Hell isn’t some made up place. It isn’t just "non existence.” It isn’t just ‘not quite as nice as heaven.’ He should know – he came from heaven. Sadly, hell is real. It’s awful.
Sin causes hell. Therefore, sin (get this clear) is seriously awful.
II. The Seriousness of our Savior
As you read these verse, you can almost feel the soul of Jesus. You can hear the tremble in his voice. The stress he puts into his warning. The tears in his eyes as he looks at his dear friends. The fluttering breath as he warns them of the awful place that he wants them to have no part in.
Words that whisper beyond the disciples. Beyond the Holy Land. Beyond the first century. “Dear soul, I love you. I love you so much. You have no idea the atrocities that await you if you continue on your path. Please…listen to me.. Please turn from sin, and live! Please heed my warning!”
I was doing a Karate lesson a while back. For some reason, my sensei decided that I was ready to spar with him. He was a big dude. At least 275, 6’4” and beefed with muscle.
So I wanted to show off my moves. Which at that time consisted of a right fake followed by a left hook. I did it repeatedly. He warned me. “You’ve got to follow up with more. You can’t do the same move. You can't’ stop at one move.” I didn’t really listen.
Until finally, I went to deliver my patented left hook and I was met with his giant foot centimeters from my face. WHOA!
Thankfully it was a warning. A last one. But a warning.
Did you notice that about this section of Scripture? It’s all warnings. Thank the LORD! Warnings are a good thing! Warnings keep you from driving off a bridge. They keep you from getting caught in a hurricane.
Jesus’ warnings – are meant to keep us from hell! That’s how much he loves you. He warns you and me, even when we have done nothing to deserve of it! He warns us out of his mercy!
And He isn’t afraid if you think his warning is too far fetched. He doesn’t care if unbelievers mock him for his archaic thoughts. He doesn’t care if you label him a ‘weirdo’ or a ‘religious freak.’ He just wants you to listen!
But warnings aren’t enough. Not if you are like me and…well…you’ve already let your hand cause you to sin. Your eyes have looked at what you should. Your feet have led you places you shouldn’t be. And inadvertently – you’ve been leading little ones in that same direction.
What do you do?
Turn to Jesus. Because throughout our lesson today, he’s mentioned “entering life.” He’s talked about “entering the kingdom of God.” It is possible.
Back up just a bit. Back up with me to the portion of Scripture right before this. Peter declared, “Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of God!” You are the chosen One! You are the Savior.
Jesus responded by explaining what he needed to do. “The Son of man must be handed over to the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, he will be crucified.”
In other words – Jesus was so serious about saving you – that He gave up his hands, his feet, his eyes, his torso, his thighs, his cheekbones, his earlobes, his head, even his heart for you!
Jesus is so serious about you that he thought, “It’s is better for me to give up my whole life, than for you to be lost in hell.”
This means that your offenses have been forgiven. Your hands sins? Forgiven. Your feet sins? Forgiven. Your eye sins? Forgiven. Your leading kids into sin – sins? Forgiven. Your any other body part in any other way sins? They are forgiven. They were taken to the cross. They were punished. They were buried in the tomb. They were left there apart from God’s vision.
It means you will live! By believing in Jesus your Savior, you will not enter hell with your whole body. Nor will you enter heaven with a bunch of missing body parts.
You…all of you…your whole being…with be with your Father in bliss for all eternity.
That’s then. It’s wonderful, but that’s then. What about now?
Now God has given us one more gift to show how serious his love is for us. Check out the last verse, “Salt is good. But if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with each other.”
Take it from a connoisseur. Salt makes things better. Have you ever ordered fries from McDonalds? They are really good. Maybe this has happened to you. You smell them. Your mouth starts to water. You get excited for the greasy, salty goodness. Then you take a bite! YUCK! No salt. It’s bland.
God has made you into salt. This world is so bland to him. Evil here. Evil there. Sin here. Sin there. Sin, sin, evil, evil, sin, evil, sin, sin, more evil, and some more sin. It's disgusting.
Be different. Live a life of salt. Cut out the things that cause you to sin. Cut out the alcohol that leads to drunkenness. Cut out the internet connection that leads to porn. Cut out the TV shows that lead to bad language. Cut off the relationship that leads to sexual immorality. Cut out the work obsession that leads to greed. Cut out the lazy approach to God’s Word that leads your kids down the same path.
Live your life different.
Be serious about God.
Be serious about living for him.