Here is an interesting thought: If Jesus Christ came to give life more abundantly (John 10:10), why is His gospel called an offense (Galatians 5:11) and His life referred to as a stumblingblock (1 Peter 2:8) and why did Jesus say He came to “bring a sword”? (Matthew 10:34) The answer is that He came to bring the option of life more abundantly to those who choose to accept Him as their Savior and Lord. But to those in the world who would not choose, and to those even in the faith who chose Him, but will not change, the gospel is absolutely an offense, a sword and a stumblingblock.
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23) There are plenty of aspects of the life of faith that we all have the option to reject or accept and those choices come with their own consequences, for better or for worse. In the body of Christ, Pharisees still exist, operating under the law and oppressing people with the fear of punishment. In Romans 9:31-33 Paul wrote this about God’s own people: “…but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, did not attain the law of righteousness. Why not? Because they did not seek it by faith, but by the works of the law. For they stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “Look! I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes in Him will not be ashamed.”
The inward lifestyle of worship is reflected in the outward life of the worshipper.
One of the worst things that can happen to a Christian, other than a return to sin, is a slide back into the trap of the law, yet it happens all the time. Whether because of traditions or old mindsets or pressure from others, God’s own people can return to the power of the curse instead of walking in the freedom Jesus Christ paid for. The “righteous” Pharisees wanted to see the “sinners” punished. It’s not any different today! Plenty of Christians reject or shun or gossip about or point fingers at those whose sin or issues are too different or more hideous or odious than their own and the result is that we accuse in others what we excuse in ourselves!
These issues keep the body of Christ fractured, disjointed and disconnected from each other and from truly being able to stay connected to the Lord. Why? Because the inward lifestyle of worship is reflected in the outward life of the worshipper. A Christian whose life centers around true worship exists in a mindset that is God-focused, not self-focused. Of course, in our humanity, we all tend toward being me-focused, but worship is the antidote to the poison of “self”. Most Christians don’t lapse into this purposefully, but if your life isn’t actively involved in the worship of God, it’ll show in how you relate to other people! Jesus Christ was (and still is!) a “stumblingstone” and “a rock of offense” to those trapped in religion because religion elevates self, while worship elevates the Savior.
Thought for today
The understanding of just how far the love of Christ extends to us all is incomprehensible. Because we can’t fully understand it, we tend to try and define it or quantify or qualify it and then we apply those terms to ourselves and to others and that’s what causes us to slip once again under judgement. Not God’s judgement – that was settled at Calvary. No, our own judgement – and that of others. If Jesus Christ is a “stumblingstone” to you, it’ll show in how you interact with other Christians who speak into your life with authority or discipline. It’ll show in how you speak about others when they offend you, or in your ability to forgive and move forward. Luke wrote this about Jesus: “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken. But he on whom it falls will be crushed to powder.” (Luke 20:18) The “stumblingblock” that is Jesus Christ will trip up people who prefer their own mindsets, opinions and perspectives, emotions and experiences and interpretations over anything that challenges them to change. Worship is God-focused, so forget all the haters and their hate (even within the body of Christ!). Fall on the rock that is Jesus and cling to Him there. He cannot be moved and if you’re with Him, you won’t be either. (Psalm 62:6)