Radical Amputation

By John Telgren

This news story appeared locally on July 25th.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A mountain climber who had to cut his arm off to save his life visited Kansas City Friday.

Aron Ralston was hiking alone in a Utah canyon in April when his right arm became pinned beneath an 800-pound boulder.

He was named the first annual Shining Star of Perseverance by the Fortis Benefits Insurance Company, KCTV5's Robb Yagmin reported.

After being trapped for five and a half days, he used a dull pocket knife to cut off his arm. He then repelled nearly 70 feet and hiked three hours before he was rescued by a helicopter.

Incredible isn’t it? If you were in the same predicament with the same set of circumstances, would you be able to do what Mr. Ralston did? It would be a very difficult thing to lose a limb. But consider the alternative. Either lose a limb, or keep it and die. Which choice would you make? Have you ever considered what you would do if you were called to make the same sort of decision?

If you are a Christian, then you already have been called to make that sort of decision. There are things that Jesus calls us to give up when we become a follower of his. Consider Jesus’ words when he teaches about the cost of discipleship:

"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire … If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell … If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-48)."

In an extreme hyperbole, Jesus illustrates that there are things that we may need to give up that we used to prize and treasure. They are things which we used to rely on. They are things that we think are necessary in order to lead a normal life. These are also things that will cause you to stumble in your walk with Christ. These can amount to more than stumbling blocks. They could be giant boulders that trap you in such a way that you can no longer effectively walk with God.

So, if there is something that pins you down, it may be time to do an amputation. You may think you can’t live it without it, but the other option is to be pinned down and die. Since we are talking about spiritual death, you may not even be able to detect the boulder unless you slow down and take a good look at your spiritual condition. You can see an example of this in the letter to the angel of the church at Sardis in the book of Revelation.

"To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead ‘ (Rev 3:1)."

Here was a church that had a reputation for being a lively, robust church. They probably had all kinds of activity going on. However, the passage later indicates that they had "soiled their garments (Rev 3:4)." They did not give up what they should have given up. They were still trying to be of the world and in the kingdom of God at the same time. They were pinned down under a boulder and did not perform an amputation. The result? A dead church that looked lively.

Is there anything holding you down? Is there anything that prevents you from continuing on your Christian journey?

The Boulder of Friendship

Merely "hanging out" with those who do not call on Jesus as Lord can be an excellent opportunity to bring them to give up their life to him and become his servant for life. However, it can also be a danger if they influence you instead of you influencing them. Concerning partnerships with unbelievers, Paul writes,

"Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. ‘Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor 6:14-7:1)."

You can become pinned under the boulder of friendship. If so, it is time to do an amputation.

The Boulder of Ambition

You can also become pinned under the boulder of ambition. You may love your career. You may be the top achiever in your workplace. Diligence and hard work are commendable attributes. However, diligence in pursuits that do not take you closer to God can also be a trap. That is why Jesus said,

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul (Mk 8:34b-36)?"

You can gain everything this life has to offer, but in the end have nothing at all. As a matter in fact, James wrote that it is possible for your riches to condemn you.

"Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure (Jas 5:3)!"

So should there be any ambition in your life? Of course there should. Paul writes,

"Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him (2 Cor 5:9)."

So our ambition should always be to live for God. If you have become stuck under the boulder of ambition, you may need to do a radical amputation.

The Boulder of Entertainment

You could also become pinned under the boulder of entertainment. Most Americans have time for hobbies or leisure activities. These can also become traps that come between you and God. There was a man that called himself Qohelet, the son of David (Eccl 1:1) that tried to fill his life with meaning by not denying himself anything he desired. The problem with this experiment was that it was all meaningless. Instead of fulfillment, he found emptiness, bitterness and pessimism. The reason? His pursuit was the pursuit of self rather than the pursuit of God. If you are not involved in the pursuit of God, you will not gain Heaven, and may have an empty life while on this earth as well. So, if you are trapped under the boulder of entertainment, it is time to do an amputation.

The Boulder of Family

Anything can potentially come between you and God, even fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters. That is why Jesus said,

"...and a man's enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matt 10:36-37)."

Amputees mourn the loss of a limb while they are thankful for their life in Christ. In the same way, we may mourn the loss of family and friends when we come to Christ. Devotion to Christ often causes a rift in families. But we need family. That is why Jesus provides us a new family, his family. He made this clear in the following passage,

" Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother’ (Matt 12:48-50)."

The Choice & Reward

The sacrifice of amputation is part of the cost of discipleship. It is the only way in which we can be saved. The choice is clear. There are only two options:

1) Hold on to it all and die

2) Give it all up for Christ and live.

That is why Jesus said,

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself (Luk 9:24-25)?"

Indeed, what profit is there to hanging on to it all and staying pinned under your boulder only to die? Be assured that whatever you have had to give up, our Lord will make it up to us!

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life (Matt 19:29)."