2000-05-13 - Scandalon
Luke 12:50-53 "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 "They will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (NAS)
A scandalon is a stumbling stone - something that causes people who encounter it to trip over it like a large, uneven crack in a sidewalk. This can be a mental stumbling block, or a physical stone stuck fast in the ground. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news for mankind, is a stumbling block to men. The thing that should set men and women free offends them because they, in their pride, can not participate in their salvation.
Rom 6:6-7 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. (NAS)
The truth is that our souls are wrecked beyond redemption. God does not revive the old man and rebuild him. The old man is put to death - literally crucified. Crucifixion is a devastating and demoralizing thing. God gives us a new spirit to replace the old one that is dying as we live on. Christ gives us His own life, imputing to us His perfection and likeness. When we stand before the Father, it is His Son that He sees instead of us.
Rom 1:20-23 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (NAS)
So why is this a problem to mankind? We are proud. We like to think we know better, or we have figured out a better way. We might even help God out with our good ideas. Like Sarah who helped God and gave Hagar to Abraham to fulfill the promise God had given to them for a son. Like Adam and Eve knew better when they decided the fruit of the tree looked good enough to eat. It's not unlike you and me a dozen times when we put ourselves into situations that we honestly knew we should not be getting into beforehand. But we decided in our pride that we could handle the situation. Like little children we want to help or to do it ourselves. We proclaim our wisdom and explain how we have figured out the hidden something that God really has planned. He has made His plans known in His Word. He is faithful and true and will not deviate from His stated path in spite of our stunning insights.
Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (NAS)
The amazing fact is that we are so helpless that God provides the grace through faith. But He even provides the faith to believe so that we have done absolutely nothing to help in our salvation. At the same time we are told in Isaiah 55 to come so that we will be given the blessings of God. It seems there is some fight that we must surrender. Matthew 18:3 says that unless we are converted and become like little children, we will not see the kingdom of God. We must learn to believe again like toddlers, trusting for awhile until we become more mature in our faith. Paul speaks of those who can only drink the milk of the Word, as opposed to those who eat the meat of the Word. How difficult this is, especially for adults who are used to being in control of their circumstances and having a more complete understanding of things. To start all over again is not easy. It is frustrating and in some ways humbling. It tugs at our pride to fight for our honor. Little children are not upset by not knowing things. They simply ask, "Why?" and "How?" often repeatedly.
Prov 3:5-8 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones. (NAS)
The gospel is as much a stumbling block to the world today as Jesus was to Israel looking for a conquering Messiah to throw off the Roman yoke two millenia ago. Jesus warned us that He had not come to bring peace, but that families would be divided over issues of faith in Him. That is why two will be working in a field and only one will be taken when Jesus returns. Our understanding would say that if we live good lives, if we do more good things than bad things, God will allow us into Heaven. The correct path is explained in knowing that there is no other name in all creation that saves but Jesus' name. But knowing you have been set free from sin is freedom and refreshment to body and soul. That freedom is available without cost for the asking, if we will not stumble over our pride.
Rev 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (NAS)
Lord Jesus - give men and women everywhere the courage to stop struggling for the comfort and control of their own understanding. Help them to let go of their pride so they will not stumble over the simple truth that You love them, and came to die for them so they could be set free to live forever in glory with You. You have promised not to turn anyone away who comes with a sincere heart. Remind us to point the way home to those who are seeking. Amen.
Grace & Peace,