Suppressing Sin, Mark 9:42-51

…there is little else that can bring more joy to a disciple than knowing that their life has promoted Jesus and His righteousness.

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There is the famous phrase in Romans 1 “men who suppress the truth by their wickedness”.  The idea behind suppressing something means to keep it down, to conceal it, to obstruct it, keep it from being known, hide it, and so forth.  

Jesus teaches us today that Christians are to flip that around and suppress sin.  Each of us are to be people “who suppress sin by our righteousness”.  Just as the promotion of evil suppresses righteousness, so too the promotion of righteousness suppresses evil.  

Our sermon title is Suppressing Sin.  Now it’s not just a picture of holding sin down, it’s actually more of crowding sin out of our lives by increasing righteousness.  Think of a lawn – a lawn with weeds.  You have to kill the weeds, but, you have to also fill the lawn in with grass.  The best anti-weed strategy is to promote healthy grass.  Grass crowds out the weeds.  If our lives are like lawns then God wants us to have a healthy growing righteousness that crowds out sin.  So when God looks at your internet use, He sees there’s no room for pornography because purity is thriving there.  When He looks at your marriage He doesn’t see strife and bitterness because love and grace are flourishing there.  When He sees your work life He doesn’t see resentment and greed because contentment and integrity are prospering there.  No weeds because the grass is growing.  

This passage divides nicely into 3 Headings:  1) Don’t Cause Others To Sin, 2) Get Your Sin-Ectomy, 3) Be Salty

#1:  Do Not Cause Sin In Others (42)

First, we are not supposed to cause others to sin.  Read verse 42.  The Christian life is supposed to influence others towards righteousness, not sin.  Do not let your life cause others to sin.  

Someone might say, “Well, I’m not responsible for how other people live”.  But Jesus and the NT actually teach that we have an influence on others – which is not a radical thought – and that we are accountable for how we influence others.  “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come”, Jesus said in Luke 17,  “but woe to that person through whom they come”.  

  • Romans 1 speaks of people who take sin to the farthest lengths and says, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.  In other words, they are cheerleaders of sin in the lives of other people.  Their condemnation is deserved.  
  • In the OT the nation of Israel was split into the northern and southern kingdom.  Every king in the northern kingdom’s whole history was evil – there wasn’t one king who did what was right in the eyes of God.  As you read through the history you find this phrase again and again with each subsequent king, “And he practiced the sins of Jeroboam”, or “He clung to the sins of Jeroboam”, or “he walked in the evil ways of Jeroboam”.  Who was this Jeroboam that each new king imitated?  He was the guy involved in the split of Israelfirst king of the northern kingdom of Israel 
  • “the sins of Jeroboam” in Israel copied by everyone after Jeroboam until northern kingdom destroyed (1 Kings 12); 
  • Israel led Judah to sin against the Lord (Sisters in Ezk 16:47); 
  • Pharisees lead disciples to sin against God (Mt. 23:15)


  • Obligation to other believers:  Don’t lead Christians to sin (Rom 14:13, 15, 21)……..Don’t be a Christian living in license, which makes ignorant and unstable Christians around think that your sinful choices are perfectly okay.  
  • “I’m not responsible for how other people behave.”  Actually, yes you are.  You can live your whole life with that view but you will stand before Jesus and get a rude awakening that for your whole life He held you accountable for how you influenced other people.
  • Don’t be a teacher whose teachings encourage people to commit sin (2 pet 2:1-2)  and thereby increase God’s judgment on them.  His judgment of you will be many times worse for doing so
  • Disciples of Jesus love Jesus so much that they care about the effect their lives have on others.  The disciple of Jesus doesn’t want to ever be responsible for leading someone into something that displeases Jesus.  Quite contrary, there is little else that can bring more joy to a disciple than knowing that their life has promoted Jesus and His righteousness. (1 Thess 2:10-12)
  •  When their “old self passed away” and they became a Christian, so did that old sinful attitude that always said, “I’ll do what I want and I don’t care how it affects anyone else.”  That’s just childish, selfish, and sinful to think that way, it has no place in the life of a disciple.  It’s contrary to the mentality a disciple brings to each day.  

#2:  Get Your Sin-ectomy (43-48)

  • Matthew 5:27-30; 18:7-10a

Jesus is speaking graphically. He does this a lot in Scripture and a lot of passages are not rated PG (e.g., Ezekiel’s “Two Sisters” is very very graphic and not for children).  Why does God doe this though?  For the shock value?  To offend?  Yes, actually.  If we’re offended or shocked at how He’s describing something, it’s because He’s trying to make us see how offended and shocked He is by sin.  And to start taking serious the way He does.  Sin is graphically offensive to God.

  • The closer we are to God the more serious we take sin
  • Peter refusing to eat defiled food, Acts 10
  • Jesus refusing to give in to Devil’s temptations Mt. 4
  • Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted, 3rd verse
  • Hand, foot, eye….looking with sin, walking in sin, and handling sin
  • Jesus is not commanding Christians to amputate their body parts.  It doesn’t take an abundance of common sense to get that Jesus is talking metaphorically here.  He is saying look around in your life and identify those things or people that cause you to sin against God and cut those them out of your life.
    • Pornography:  quit computers and smart phones
    • Boyfriend or girlfriend
    • Job
    • That “friend” of the opposite sex
    • Revealing clothing
  • This is not easy!  Once we get into a sin it is so hard to get out of it.  It becomes so much a part of us that cutting it out of our lives is like cutting off a hand, or gouging out an eye, or lopping off a foot.
    • I remember before I was a Christian I was angry.  I remember saying how important my anger was to my identity.  I hated my anger but I loved it.  I didn’t know how to get rid of it, and, I didn’t know what life would be like without all that anger.  It was, oddly, scary.  
  • If you’re not willing to suffer inconvenience, emotional pain, unmet gratification in order to avoid sin then you are not taking sin seriously enough.  
  • One thing Jesus is not speaking metaphorically about is the afterlife.  He mentions Hell and Heaven.  Both are real places and they are the only two options awaiting people when they die.  
  • Is Jesus teaching that a person can lose their salvation if they commit sin?

#3:  Be Salty (49-50)

Around here everyone likes to wear shirts and hats that say “unsalted”, showing their pride in our freshwater Great Lakes.  In the Christian life, though, its not good to be “unsalted”.  The Christian should be salty.  Christians should have shirts and hats that say “The Salt Life”.

Honestly this is a strange way of speaking, so lets see if we can get what our Lord is saying here.

I think first off we should see that being salted is something good, having salt is positive and desirable in the Christian life, “Salt is good” Jesus says, and, “Have salt in yourselves”.  So we want to be salty.  

But what does it mean to be salty?  And how do we “get salty”?  

It’s a lot of connecting of different passages but basically it means to be made more holy through trials.  “Salt” is useful for flavor and preserving foods.  The Christian life is to be flavored with holiness; holiness is to be preserved in the Chrisian life consistently.  We are to taste holy to the Lord.  The improvement of holiness in our lives comes through the “fires” of suffering and trials.  Understanding this puts us squarely on universal NT teaching.  Over and over we see that suffering is used by God to further us in our Christian character and faith.  

  • 1 Peter 1:6:  “For a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These [trials] have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  Peter explains that the sufferings in this life are a “fire”that refines us.  That fire melts away spiritual impurities and brings out the purity of our faith.  
  • God says to Israel in Isaiah 48:10, “See I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”  See again how refining happens by affliction?  
  • James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.  The testing of your faith develops perseverence.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Again the formula:  suffering develops our Christian character and faith.
  • Hebrews 12 has the same formula:  everyone of us Christains will undergo suffering in order to bring about greater character and faith.  Verse 7-8, 10-11…..The author says every Christian will be disciplined by hardships.  This is not punishment discipline for wrongdoing, this is formative discipline to form Christian character and faith.  God does this for our good, to share in His holiness which means that we act in holy ways like He acts, and after the painful season of suffering the result will be righteousness.  

In the Old Testament salt was used in offerings (Lev. 2:13; Ez. 43:24)

  • As Christians, we don’t offer Levitical sacrifices like the Jews did in the OT.  We don’t offer grain offerings or the dead bodies of animals.  But we do offer sacrifices.  Ours, however, are “living sacrifices”, according to Romans 12:1-2. We are to live holy lives in these bodies as we dedicate the bodies we have and the life we live in them all to His holy purposes.  Now if living a holy life is the Christian sacrifice, how does “salt” get added to that sacrifice?  Well, through persecution and hardship.  The suffering of my body, or, suffering while in my body of some kind.

Is this meant to be abstract?  Not at all.  This is very very practical to each of us.  “If anyone wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus”, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “he will be persecuted”

A Word on the word Children

Is Jesus referring to young kids?  Yes and no.  In the previous verse he had a little child stand in the middle of the group and taught some things related to children.  But he’s switched and now He’s referring to believers by calling them little children.  He does this a lot:  he refers to believers as his children and he uses a word in two different ways:  a physical way and a spiritual way in the next breath.  “He who believes in me will never die, whoever believes in me will live even though He dies.”  Physical death and spiritual death are referred to in that same sentence by Jesus:  a believer will die physically but not spiritually is His point.  Little children, or little ones, is a term He uses often to refer to His disciples.  “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk. 10:24).  There is supposed to be a childlike quality to believers.  That childlike quality is in our faith, that we trust unhesitatingly our Father in heaven.  It is also theological in that we are as Christians the children of God.  

We are not, however, to be childlike in our thinking or speaking, “When I was a child,” 1 Corinthians 13 says, “I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”  In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul rebukes them again and says, “Brothers stop thinking like children…in your thinking be adults.”  The idea of an infant is that of someone who is under-developed.  Becoming an adult in spiritual things means you are more fully developed.  For instance, Hebrews 5 admonishes Christians not to remain infantile in the faith, “You need milk and can’t handle solid food.  Anyone who still lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”  

Since our development is lifelong, and, it is the fatherly work of our Heavenly Father to train us up into adults, we ar

Previous verses the reward of treating little children well.  Now the consequences of mistreating them – particularly leading them to sin against God.

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