There’s about 41,000 denominations across the world today in Christianity; with the extremism separating family and friends, and yet somehow people find hope in Christ, it is not hard to see why people find this faith so troubling. But have we brought it on ourselves? Or have we allowed Satan to get the better of us? Should cast him out all the time? Or is it possibly that God has set something up that we are blind to in his Church that is separating and defining us by this stumbling block? After all, God sending someone to a person or upon a group of people to cause a transformation is not new.
So what is this stumbling block? It can be an object that becomes an object of worship or terror, a perception that can became a teaching that we do not question or maybe a way of life that we do not see we are living. Maybe quite frighteningly enough, a stumbling block that can be a test from God not just in personal life but in Christianity as a whole. This stumbling block can be a repercussion of the sins that we have done or unconfessed sins.
The stumbling block is an object that we see throughout the Bible. It is an aspect of the Bible we do not hear much about. It is placed by God, by others, and by ourselves from our own sins.
In the way it is placed by God: (Ezekiel 3:16-21; Romans 11:1-10)
Romans 11 is about the relationship between Israel and the Gentile nation and through Christ the Gentiles are grafted in with Israel through that same faith that Abraham had. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:25b-26a). This chapter not only reveals God’s plan and mercy upon the Israelites, but it also encompasses the mercy of God upon the human race who not only believe, but also chooses to abide in his grace. To stay we must abide, or live in that faith We see this reminder to believers not just in Ezekiel, but see it as a rebuke and reminder in other portions of Scripture (John 15:1-17; 1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 1 John 2:24-29).
A very important fact to remember is that the New Testament letters (Romans-Revelation) are not written for non-believers, but for believers. There is encouragement but also warnings that we have to abide and turn from our old ways to the new ways given to us by God to live through the power of the Holy Spirit. So when there are reminders, (such as Galatians 5:16-26, Ephesians 4:1-5:21) these are told to us as reminders that if we truly believe after hearing, we will follow his commands to do what Jesus has told us to do. It so happens that there were believers in the early church that still lived that sinful life style, and Paul, but more importantly Jesus in Revelation through John, told the churches to turn back, to make up their minds what they really wanted to do. We should not use our freedom as a license to sin.
Ezekiel 3:16-21 reveals more about how God holds not just the sinner, but also the person who is under God’s command to tell someone about their sin. Now I am not saying that we should protest or go around and point out “flaws” in others, this is jumping the gun, not to mention arrogant and forgetful of which Christ rescued the believer from. Just carefully read Romans 3. Fact is Christians have forgotten what Jesus has brought them out of. If we remember, not in the sense of remembering our past and living in it, but know what God has brought us from to keep ourselves humble. As Christians we are a part of the body of Christ, and we have a responsibility not just to the world, but more so to our fellow believers to guide and help each other in our walk with Christ.
So what is this stumbling block from God? It is interesting to find in Ezekiel 3 that the wicked man’s blood will be on the one who was told to warn but did not, and if you do warn, you saved yourself by telling him. But here we have the righteous man who turns away from his righteousness and does evil, the Lord places a stumbling block before him and he will die. If we do not warn him and he dies, we are held accountable for his blood. Either way we are accountable. Even looking at Ezekiel 18 we find that those who sin die for their own sin. No one else is held accountable for it.
Could this stumbling block in today’s Christian world be that we have not confessed our sins to God as a whole? Have we allowed certain teachings or doctrines from other religions to come into the faith and become a part of us? Have we allowed certain perspectives upon certain types of people to influence us more than God’s grace in our lives? What are your thoughts?
In the way it is placed by others: (Leviticus 19:14; Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:1-13)
In today’s American culture, there really is no issue with meat being sacrificed to idols or a huge debate about which, or even if there should be holy days that are to be celebrated. We all pretty much decide to respect others in this sense, although there are those out there who think Saturday is the day of worship, or that Christians should be celebrating Jewish festivals, or God’s festivals. But as the writer of Romans helps us to understand, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters… Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand… Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind… For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone… Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living… Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way… Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit… So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves…”
As believers we are to help those who are weak, we are to bear one another’s burdens. Why don’t we do this? “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” What is happening more and more in the world are people who have difficulty in today’s society that have emotional problems, financial problems, etc. We see this everywhere and it affects everyone. Society is not a respecter of person. There are those who do get left behind, unfortunately we see this even in the Church.
In Leviticus 19:14, we see a law that is a warning and a rebuke: “ ‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD.”
In Christianity we are taught that how we treat others, even in our speech, is how we act in our faith, our belief in how God loves us. I know I have said this before, but it is very powerful. So here’s a series of questions for us: How do we see others, even those who might be attention seeking, or always speaking negative? How do we see those who are homeless, or even a different skin color, or a different nationality? How do we treat them? Are we fault finders in others without realizing it? Do we believe we are speaking truth when we are finding faults and judging them? What if God is working in them, and all we’re doing is speaking the same lies others have spoken against them, which they battle not to say themselves? These can be some hard questions to ask ourselves because it means finding within our own hearts our secret sins.
In the way it is placed by our self by sinning: (Ezekiel 7:20, 14:1-11)
As too often spoken time and time again, sin, or offense to God, or even others, can harm our relationships; with Christ as Savior, if we really forgive others than we believe that God has truly forgiven us. It also creates within us, unknowingly at times, a narrowed path in our thinking about ourselves and others. This way of thinking can harm us and impair our relationships. Although not all negative thinking or personal problems come from this act against others and God; due to emotional trauma or some type of psychological disorder these issues come forth through that, yet it is a place to start. For example if there is unforgiveness in the heart of the person, this causes bitterness and resentment toward others. (Personally, it can cause distrust and some paranoia, yet to have a healthier mind, or to decrease this way of thought, it is not just enough to forgive the person or group of people and move on, this is too much of a blanketed statement, or “healing”. Forgiveness is only part of it, the rest is having to change one’s thinking, or changing the way the brain has become hardwired when encountering situations where our trust is challenged. From personal experience this takes time, but it is possible.)
Sin in the Torah is an offense (H2403) against another, either it be God or another human being. In the letters of the New Testament, it is an offence (G266) or missing the mark (G264). Offence against God or another person is essentially missing the mark on something. Instead of helping, we hurt, instead of loving, we maim. What is difficult is at times we can be blind to this. That’s why we must know we are not perfect, but growing children of God through Christ. Learning is a sign of growth, even when we stumble over our own, or another’s stumbling block.
Repentance is an essential element in the Christian walk, for when we not just believe, but choose to have Christ as Lord of our lives, we must do what he has commanded.
Repentance (G3340) is “to think differently or afterwards, that is, reconsider (morally to feel compunction.” (Strong’s). It is a changing of the heart and mind to a different way of thinking. When we commit and offence against someone, are we trying to justify ourselves in how we feel and think about the person or group of people, or do we just plain despise them? This is even a difficult question to ask myself, but as a Christian, it is essential to change. Do we dare ask these as the body of Christ?
Earlier today I was considering that pivotal sentence in 1 Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (NIV) Why is love the greatest? From beginning to end the writer expressed that without love, no matter the amount of faith or other gifts of the Spirit, love fulfills them. It slowly dawned on me that even though faith and hope are essential, love can restore hope in people, love can restore faith in God. 1 John 4:8 states that he that does not love does not know God, because God is love. If we take the word love in the small portion about love in 1 Corinthians, and replace it with God, it surprised me how different it sounded. God is patient, God is kind, God does not envy…
Love came to man in Christ Jesus, and through his blood “we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5: 9-11)
There is more to Christ than just believing, there is a purposeful living. Isn’t this what God has called us to? Isn’t this what the world wants to see? Isn’t this what those in need for love and truth desire? We should stop and ask ourselves, “why did we first believe?” Let’s not forget our first love. Through this the world can see the power of Christ and God reconciling the world to himself through Christ, for this is the power that God uses to call people to repentance.
There is a call to repentance today, for today is the day of salvation before it is gone and the night has come.