Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why Do People Stumble Over Jesus?

“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense” (1Peter 2:8 ESV)

We stumble over things that we do not see. People stumble over Jesus because they do not see him. People stumble because they do not see the beauty of Jesus.

Some people do not see him because they are distracted. In chapter 2, Peter quotes Isaiah 28, describing the northern kingdom, distracted by their prosperity. People today, prosperous as we are, find themselves generally distracted. In fact, the busier we are, the more healthy lives we think we are living.

Our lives are filled with beautiful and attractive things. They attract our attention to the degree that we cannot see the most beautiful thing ever presented to humanity, Jesus. If only we could stop and think, and answer the penetrating question – what is really important? What will last for eternity?

We need to learn to ask people questions that stop them in their tracks. What do you think God is like? Really? What do you think God thinks of you? Could you take the time to find out what He is really like, and what He really thinks?

Some people do not see him because they are misdirected. They are looking for something else. And so they miss Jesus. Two stories can help us with this.

Saul/Paul held a vision of religion that was pleasing to God that excluded Jesus. Keeping the Law was central, and faith in Christ was leading many Jews away from the “beauty” of Judaism. He hated Christians and their way of life. But on that road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul, and all of a sudden, God caused Paul to see the beauty of Christ (Acts 9). And his life was changed. He no longer stumbled over Jesus. He embraced him.

For years, even centuries, the Temple was the place where God’s people, Israel, could meet with their God. Never mind that Temple-worship was compromised by Roman government, Herod’s crooked benevolence, and priestly political compromise. The Temple was central. But the apostles, confronted by the risen Lord, realized the significance of Jesus’ words, that the Temple would be destroyed, and that they would be build around him, the Living Stone (1 Pet 2:4) as living stones (2:5).

Stories can help people see a reality that has been invisible to them to this point. The Bible is one, grand, dramatic story filled with many smaller stories. Jesus told stories, parables to help people see his beauty.

We need to listen to the stories of the Bible to have our own view of reality shaped and re-shaped. We need to be able to relate stories to people stumbling over Jesus, that they might see him for the first time.

Some people do not see him because they are disobedient. The testimony of the prophets, from whom Peter draws (Isaiah 8) is that God’s people consistently rejected light. It seems to be one of the ways of God that, when we choose our own way, he allows us to have what we say we want. Romans 1 shows this three times (24,26,28), that when man rejected God’s way, He “hands them over” to the consequences of their actions.

So if people reject the light of God’s beauty, why should God favor them with the beauty of Christ? If people prefer darkness, why not allow them to stay where they want to be?

And so, if the light of the beauty of Christ has become evident to you, do not be so wicked as to turn your back on him? And do not presume that, if that light is available to you today, that it will be tomorrow.

As we talk with people who are stumbling over Jesus out of disobedience, we must warn, and confront. God issues a summons through His witnesses: “Repent, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” And for believers, we also must pay full attention to the warnings. Do not allow sin to cloud the beauty of Christ in your life.

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