Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, July 16, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/22/15 Sermon - Stumbling Blocks to Building Blocks

Stumbling Blocks to Building Blocks

Mark 9:38-50

 

Today’s Scripture doesn’t hold anything back does it. I mean it sounds fairly gruesome for Jesus to be telling his disciples to be cutting off their hands, feet and eyes. I would like to start out with stating that Jesus was using hyperbole although we must agree he was utilizing a very graphic hyperbole, in hopes to get the disciples’ attention.

 

Well, what do you think? Did it work? Do you think he was graphic enough to get the disciples thinking?

 

What about us today? What do we think?

 

Let’s take a moment and ask ourselves, What do other Christians do or say that drives us crazy?  Let’s brainstorm for just a minute. Are there things that you have seen or heard that other Christians have done or said that bugs you and you wonder, what are they thinking?

 

BRAINSTORM

 

What do you think? Could these be seen as “stumbling blocks” for other Christian’s?

 

Today’s Scripture is where Jesus addresses the stumbling blocks humans create. We have come up with some interesting thoughts, let me add some of my own.

 

Today’s Scripture started with the disciples being bent out of shape because someone else was successfully casting out demons in Jesus name, and the disciples were not part of their particular group.

 

Jesus responds by telling them that with God, it doesn’t matter if you are associated with the “in group” or not. If you are doing something in the name of Christ, that is enough.

 

We are all in the “in group”.

 

There is no line in the sand, that demonstrates being in or out, or part of one group or another. With Jesus, if you are doing good, you are part of him.

 

Then Jesus goes on to explain, that not only are we not to get bent out of shape if,

 

 

 

someone is doing something better than we are,

or before we do,

or for Jesus and we didn’t get asked

or a part of the process,

Jesus is telling us,

we are not supposed to hinder them in any way.

And if we do, it would be better for us have a millstone around our neck and be thrown into the sea. 

 

According to this passage, drowning is preferable over the likes of let’s say, this scenario:

 

A parishioner who is sitting in the pew and gives an off-hand comment to a friend about how so-and-so had made a fool of herself at the Sunday School meeting. She thought no one else was listening. She didn’t realize that the target of her comment was around the corner hearing every word.

 

A classic example of how we trip others up and

create obstacles along their faith journey.

 

Jesus wasn’t just concerned over how we would lead

other believer’s astray.

He was also concerned as to how we cause ourselves to stumble.

 

He talks about how our hand, foot and eye may cause us to misstep. I think it goes deeper than the hand, foot and eye.

 

I think stumbling is a condition of the heart.

 

When we trust more in the things

we touch,

the places we walk

and the things we see,

than we trust God and his will for us…

we misstep,

we stumble.

 

In this passage Jesus makes it clear….

 

When we trust in and indulge in the flesh,

            Whether the hand, foot, eye or any other part of the body,

Our journey leads to one end:  hell

 

The sober fact is…

 

 

 

When the desires of our bodies and our hearts are so strong..

And the temptation to participate in putting stumbling blocks, whether for another person’s path, or in our own path –

We find ourselves walking through the wider gate –

Rather than the narrow gate.

 

Matthew 7:13-14

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

 

That is a sobering thought. For you see, there is no one who is exempt from the possibility of ending up in hell.

 

Because of sin…. And we are all guilty.

 

The reality is, even if we were to follow Jesus’ suggestion and amputate our hand, or foot or tear out our eye, with sin,

Hell is still the outcome.

 

And did you notice Jesus’ description of hell…..

 

The place where “their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.”

 

Another description of hell I have heard is the complete absence of God.

 

Take time to let that sink in for a minute.

 

Hell is the complete absence of God – grace is not present.

 

And with sin….. we have no chance of surviving that eternal separation.

 

However, the book of Mark began with Jesus saying,

“The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 

And if we look carefully, we find throughout Jesus’ hyperbole, he offers hope.

Hope from hell.

If you look in verse 41, Jesus points out a promise, he calls it “the reward”.

 

There is only one way to be saved from the punishment of hell and it not by trying to live a stumble free life. Because that is impossible. We receive the reward, we are freed from hell, and given the gift of the eternal presence of God, because Jesus paid the price for our sin, on the cross.

You see, Jesus gave more than a hand, foot or eye, he gave up everything, even life itself, so that we could have life. We are walking through the time of lent now, preparing ourselves and remembering the crucifixion and praise God, the resurrection.   Jesus alludes to this in verses 43 & 45 and reveals that despite the actions and the conditions of their hearts, sinners who stumble are able to “enter life” and “enter the kingdom of God”, thanks to Christ alone.

 

Jesus doesn’t leave them maimed

but offers them a remedy.

Jesus tells them that if their heart trusts in God

and what he has done through Jesus’ cross,

the heart no longer stumbles.

The heart that follows Jesus is not tripped up by its own motives and desires, but the motives and desires of God. Jesus describes it by saying the heart becomes “salty”. When your heart has salt, people can’t help but notice. Instead of throwing up stumbling blocks in other’s paths, the saltiness becomes an invitation. The saltiness attracts others to the richness and fulfillment of life that comes from trusting Jesus and not yourself.

 

This is how I see it, basically, we have a choice.

We can look toward Jesus,

 embrace the reward

and ask God to assist us in using

our hands, feet and eyes for his purpose.

 

Instead of wrecking relationships,

we can use the parts of our bodies for God’s glory.

 

We can extend our hands, our feet and our eyes

in service to help others out

instead of putting stumbling blocks in their way,

We can place building blocks before others and encourage them to journey with us toward the Lord of life.

 

The choice is ours.

 

Let’s pray.