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TRIPPING OVER BIBLICAL STUMBLING BLOCKS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

25 AUGUST 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Ezekiel 18:30
Ephesians 5:22-33
Jude 24-25

Preparation Verse: (Ezekiel 18:30)

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord God. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you.”

Sometimes as we look through our Bibles, we come upon a passage that troubles us because we don't understand it, or because it says something against our inner feelings of what we believe.

There is nothing wrong with this kind of reaction.

All it shows us is that we are interested enough in what we are reading to be concerned with our own interpretation.

Or, on the other hand, we are so convicted in our heart that what we are doing is wrong, we don't want to accept the truth.

And sometimes we find ourselves stumbling over the differences between God intent, and the concessions He allowed sinful humans in the hope of bring us back to His intent.

We are to take such matters to the Lord in prayer, and to study about them.

I believe that our Lord puts such things in our pathway to test us: to see if we will trip over them, if we will work on them to remove their obstruction, or if we will just walk around them.

He does this so that we might grow in knowledge and wisdom – much in the same manner as we are tested in school.

Removing such things as obstructions, by taking them to the Lord in prayer and study, will strengthen us.

To walk around them, as if to pretend that they don't exist, limits our growth.

Yes; one day the Lord will reveal all such answers to us, and we can be at peace with that understanding now; but we can still be at peace with such stumbling blocks and still seek to have insight into the truth of the matter.

The third option is to trip over these stumbling blocks by fighting with God, or others, over the meaning.

These are the things that cause the formation of denominations and cults, and I don't believe this is what God wants.

Some people get all hung up over Paul's writings because they think he's a woman hater or, at best, that he puts women down.

When we interpret his words in this manner, they become stumbling blocks to us, instead of the helps they should be.

Let's take a look at one such passage, Ephesians 5:22-33.

22. Wives, be subject, to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

Other translations say, "submit to your husbands, as to the Lord."

Last week we talked about our true fulfillment coming only when we submit ourselves completely to the Lord.

Could there be a similar condition being expressed here: that a wife can never achieve true fulfillment in her marriage unless she submits herself whole-heartedly to her husband?

And as we're considering this, also remember that the rest of the passage says, "as to the Lord."

Note Paul's further explanation, as we look at the next two verses:

23. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

If we stumbled over the first verse of our study passage, we could fall flat on our faces over these two.

There's no question about it; the husband is lord of his wife.

Now stop falling for a minute, and consider this: What kind of lord are husbands to be?

Husbands have the responsibility – yes, responsibility – in their marriage relationship to be very much like Jesus Christ in everything they do and say.

Oh! say the husbands, as they begin to trip again.

I want us to note that while Paul took three verses to tell wives how they should behave, he takes the next nine to remind husbands of their responsibility.

Who do you think has the greater stumbling block set before them, husbands or wives?

Note the next three verses:

25. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her;

26. that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

27. that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.

Wives, if you have a husband who is Christ-like, or really tries to be Christ-like, you could never find a better husband, no matter how much money he has.

If you have such a husband, never think you could have done better, or look at someone else's husband and wish he were yours.

Now husbands, what about you? Do you really treat your wife as Christ treats the church?

Do you respect her – really respect her?

Are you truly ready and willing to lay down your own life for her, as Christ did for us?

Are you willing to sanctify her and keep her clean by not looking around to see what else is out there to satisfy your lusts?

And, husbands are we doing everything in our power to show our wives that we really do love them, so that they would not be provoked to look elsewhere for their fulfillment?

Or are we taking our wives for granted?

Christ's love is unwavering, and so should ours be.

Are we still tripping over this stumbling block?

For if we are, things could get worse.

As our awakening to the ways of Christ increase, so also do our responsibilities and commitment increase to our families.

Without our commitment to Jesus Christ, we soon find ourselves, as it were, walking on two pathways of wood planks, with one foot walking on one plank leading to our families and the other leading to the things of the world.

The further along we go, the greater the gap becomes between these two planks; until one day we find ourselves falling down into the gap, without family or the things we thought were so important.

The pathway that leads to Christ includes our families, and the love we are to share with one another.

28. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;

29. for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,

30. because we are members of His body.

Remember that Paul is speaking to believers, and when he says that no one ever hated his own flesh, he is really saying no one in Christ has ever hated his own flesh.

For we know that without Christ in our lives, it is not uncommon to hate ones self.

Think about it: Aren’t many of our diseases and illnesses caused by our degrading our own bodies with practices that are counter to God's ways (intent)?

So husbands, Paul is reminding us to not do anything that would pass these diseases on to our wives.

This is why Paul calls upon an Old Testament Scripture (Genesis 2:24) to further remind us how it was to be from the beginning.

31. For this cause a man shall leave His father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.

32. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

33. Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

We most often become frustrated with our marriages when we fail to forgive our spouses, as Christ has forgiven us.

We build upon our problems until they become such large stumbling blocks that we can't help but fall over them, and in the process, we ruin many marriages.

And we only stumble over these Biblical truths after we have fallen over other stumbling blocks.

For it is Jesus Himself who will keep us from falling, as we are told by Jude in verses 24-25.

24. Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,

25. to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

For if God can keep us from stumbling and able to stand in His presence, then we must be capable of being worthy enough to be there.

And since His glory, majesty, dominion and authority is from time past, and is now, and will be forever; then if we stand in His glory, He is also able to keep us from stumbling both now and in the future.

But we must be willing to accept His help.

Therefore, if we rely on Him to keep us from stumbling, then we won't stumble over our marriage problems, or even worse, stumble out of our marriages.

To God, our marriage relationships are as sacred as our relationships in and through the church.

If we defile our marriages, we defile His church.

Let us here and now commit in our hearts and minds to defile neither, but to hold fast to the Lord our God, both now and forever.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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