Summary: Jesus is either a Rock of Refuge or a Stumbling Stone. Sermon uses three "stumbling stones" -- Sinner, Savior and Simple.
Why People Stumble Over Christ
Rev. Brian Bill
Do you know what a caricature is? One definition says that it’s “a representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject’s distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.” Miriam-Webster offers a shorter description: “An exaggeration by means of often ludicrous distortion of parts or characteristics.”
Political figures are often depicted in this way (show John McCain and Barack Obama), movie stars (show Tom Cruise) and there are countless caricatures of Elvis available. I want to suggest this morning that many people today have created a false caricature of Christ. Let me list five that I heard on a podcast by James MacDonald (www.walkintheword.com).
* Jesus is my buddy. While it is true that Jesus calls believers his “friends,” He is not just a pal. If we saw Him as He really is, we would fall flat on our faces. When the Apostle John saw Jesus in the first chapter of Revelation, he says: “I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).
* Jesus is my good luck charm. People who have this image of Jesus think that just because they have Him around their neck or carry Him in their purse that they’ll be protected. Friends, Jesus is not lucky, He is Lord.
* Jesus is my religious artifact. Some people believe Jesus lives at church and they go there to kiss a picture or bow before a statue. We saw a lot of this in Mexico.
* Jesus is my meal ticket. In this picture, Jesus wants to give me His “favor” and will make me healthy and wealthy. Many people today believe that Jesus is the key that unlocks the door to every longing in the sinful heart. Remember this: Jesus doesn’t work for you; you work for Him.
* Jesus is my social conscience. In this caricature of Christ, Jesus is an example for us as we seek to be involved in horizontal goodness. Since Jesus was a nice man and a good teacher, I should be nice to others. Friends, Jesus is an example but He’s so much more.
What we need is a true picture of Jesus, with nothing avoided and nothing exaggerated. We must be careful to not overemphasize one aspect of Christ’s character at the exclusion of the totality of His being.
Can I draw your attention to the first part of Romans 9:30? Paul writes: “What then shall we say?” This is his common way of saying, “Here’s what I mean.” He uses this same phrase in Romans 3:5 and Romans 9:14. Since the verses that follow can either be considered a conclusion to Romans 9 or an introduction to Romans 10, here’s a brief review of where we’ve been the last three weeks (see www.pontiacbible.org for full manuscripts of these messages).
* In Romans 9:1-5, we learned that evangelism will have little effect if we don’t love the lost. Paul cried for the unconverted and so should we.
* In Romans 9:6-18, we were reminded that God’s Word cannot fail because He is faithful and He is fair…and He will never drop you.
* Then, last week while we focused on how to make sense of predestination in Romans 9:19-29, we uncovered this truth: God is supremely sovereign and we are responsible for our response to Him.
We need to see Jesus for who He really is. When we do, we will either stumble over Him or stand on Him. Unfortunately, some people today don’t stumble over Him because they’ve shrunk the Savior to a more manageable size.
There are different stumbling blocks for different people. It seems that those who follow religious ritual and rules may have the biggest struggle, while those who know they are sinners often embrace the Savior far easier. I have three stones up here on the stage with a different word on each one. These words summarize our passage for today in Romans 9:30-33. Before we get to them, let’s read it together: “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’ As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’”
Drop down to the end of verse 32: “They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’” The word, “stumbled,” literally means to strike, slam, or dash against and was used of a traveler bumping into an obstacle that makes him slip or trip. It carries with it the idea of suffering harm, taking offense, and being annoyed or enraged (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament). Most of the New Testament uses of this word describe a figurative or spiritual stumbling. Like stubbing your baby toe on the coffee table in the middle of the night, so is someone who stumbles over the stumbling stone. I’ll demonstrate by walking into each of these stones [look surprised, express pain, and finally become enraged]. Let’s look now at each of these stumbling stones.