I don’t work in the medical field, although I’ve spent a fair amount of time around hospitals and dealing with various chronic and serious illnesses of family members and friends. While some of my medical knowledge comes from those experiences, far too much of my “knowledge” probably comes from watching episodes of House or looking something up on WebMD. My knowledge is, therefore, pretty limited but when it comes to amputations, I do know that doctors will make great effort to save the limb and restore it to the usefulness of the patient. At some point, however, it may become necessary to amputate an injured or diseased limb in order to save the life of the patient. If the doctor delays too long in the attempt to keep the limb it could result in the patient’s death.
I’ve been using this phrase “radical amputation” recently with several of the ladies I have been counseling. I believe Dr. Jay Adams coined the expression in describing the sobriety with which we are to approach our fight with sin.
(Matthew 18:7-9 ESV)
Clearly Jesus is not actually teaching us to cut off our hand or tear out an eye. If we took the passage so literally we would be assuming that it is actually our hand or eye that causes us to sin, and we know from Scripture than sin is an issue of our heart. So what is Jesus teaching? In the context of Matthew 18 Jesus is teaching us to deal seriously and soberly with our own sin. As I have said to the women I counsel: these sinful patterns and habits we form are serious business and we can’t simply hope they will go away, we need to put effort into replacing ungodly thoughts, desires and actions with those that honor the Lord and often we need to be willing to make significant changes and sacrifices in order to make straight paths for our feet (Hebrews 12:13). Of course, this must be done by the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God (Romans 8:13).
In the midst of teaching this concept to others I was convicted regarding how I was applying this truth to my own life. In my personal Bible reading I came to Colossians 3:5-10:
The Spirit prompted me and I had to consider: What am I doing to put to death what is earthly in me? Am I striving to practice this radical amputation in my own life? I had to confess that all too often I get lazy in this regard and go about my Christian life without really asking God to search my heart and reveal areas of sin that I need to deal with; in fact, all too often I ignore the issues which are glaring me in the face.
We’re continuing a series in our Equipping Hour at church based upon Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment; I referenced it back in August when I read the book. Today’s lesson provided more food for thought on this topic of dealing seriously, radically, with sin.
Barcley talks about the mathematics of contentment and identifies that contentment is cultivated through addition when we recognize our sin as our greatest burden. His point is that when we view our sin rightly then we recognize that it is the greatest possible hindrance to our peace, joy and contentment—nothing is a greater danger to our souls than our sin. If that truth is firmly fixed in our minds and our hearts then it will put every other trial or unwelcomed circumstance in perspective. If our sin is truly our biggest problem, then in Christ we have already overcome the worst thing that could ever happen. Truly this should gird our souls with great hope, even in the midst of difficult trials. Further, Barcley (who, by the way, is relying heavily on Thomas Watson and Jeremiah Burroughs) instructs that to see this sin clearly the Christian must examine himself.
(1 Peter 5:5-9 ESV)
In teaching this passage Russell drove home the illustration of the devil as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. If there was a lion roaming around in the parking lot how might that change our approach to getting into our car? What if we had a friend about to walk outside, oblivious to the lion outside the door? Do we really live like we believe sin is crouching at our door, seeking to destroy us? Are we alert and sober, ready to fight this adversary who is seeking to destroy us?
Let’s encourage one another to be ever more faithful to be sober and alert; to take a radical approach in fighting sin.
(1 John 5:4-5 ESV)