Stumbling Block or Building Stone

Bible Book: Romans  9 : 30-33
Subject: Cross; Jesus, The Solid Rock

How many people here want to go to heaven? Over the years, I have heard many stories about preachers asking that question.

One preacher stood before his congregation and asked, “If you are ready to go to heaven, please stand?” And the entire congregation rose to their feet except for OLD CANTANKEROUS JOE. Having everyone else sit, the preacher addressed Joe with, “So Joe you are planning on going to heaven?” To which Joe responded, “Oh yeah, preacher I’m going to heaven.” Well, why didn’t you stand?” asked the confused preacher. Dryly, old Joe said, “Well, I thought you were getting up a bus load today.”

One day a Priest went into a bar. He said: "All of you who want to go to heaven raise your hands!” Nearly everyone raised their hands. A cowboy standing nearby said, “They are all faking. Only I can point out those who really want to go to heaven!” The father said, “Go ahead my son! Do anything you want.” The cowboy took out his pistols and aimed at the crowd and said,” Whoever wants to go to heaven raise your hands!”

Truth be told, when this life is over everybody wants to go to that better place which we know as heaven but not everyone has discovered the right way to get there. And finding the right way is a discovery indeed!

We have just read the last four verse of Romans 9, which has the potential to stir up theological debate about a myriad of things which offer us little hope and help in our quest to become right (righteous) before God. But for us, let’s see how the truths found in these verses can assist us.

Look with me in verse 32 and let’s consider the last phrase of this verse. It says, “They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” Isn’t this interesting. There is a rock which, by design, is a stumbling stone? One paraphrase says it’s “.. a stone which was in the way.” Gene Peterson (The Message) words it, “Like a huge rock in the middle of the road.” However you care to say it, we have a picture of this in our minds. But let me carry it further;

This is a concrete block. Anyone who has ever worked with concrete blocks for very long have felt “led by God” to do something ELSE for a living. These things are heavy and strong. When we were on the Bahamas several years ago, it was common for the houses to be constructed with blocks and concrete so they could stand up against the hurricanes & such. This concrete block is designed for building and in the hands of an experienced brick mason; it can make a building almost impregnable. It is that strong. Let’s set this here, in plain sight and use it to help us. Allow me to offer you 5 truths which will help us understand this stone.

I. The Person Who is the Stone

The Person who is this Stone - From the very first, let’s be clear; this stone, this rock, or this block, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

It is this rock which is repeatedly spoken of in the Old Testament. 2 Samuel and Psalms says, “The Lord is my rock.” Isaiah tells us He will be a stone to stumble and trip over. The choruses of praise and worship and gospel ring out to remind us, “I go to the Rock”, “My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”, “Jesus is the rock in a weary land”, “The Rock of Faith is Jesus.” The praise could go on and on.

Just for argument’s sake, consider this; a rock, block, or stone, is not intrinsically good or bad. A rock left to its own, is neutral. However, this rock spoken of so frequently in God’s word is NOT one of those neutral stones. This stone is a good stone, it is more than a rock, it is literally a HE and that HE is an important block. Why? We find our answer in:

II. The Placer of the Stone

From verse 33 in this passage tells us that God placed this stone us. Peter thinks this is important enough to include it in his writings (1 Peter 2:6). It matters not what version (translation or paraphrase) of the Bible you read, the wording is the same. It reads, “I” lay in Zion. God gave this stone to us. He placed it and it is an important stone because it is a LIVING stone. We know it is a living stone (which is very unusual) because verse 4 tells us. And we know it’s important because God doesn’t waste His time on unimportant things.

God knows how weak mankind is and that we tend to build our lives on the “shifting” or “sinking” sand. Jesus painted a picture of mankind in the last part of the “Sermon on the Mount” recorded at the end of Matthew 7. The foolish man (that would be “the man without God”) builds his life on the sand while the wise man (that is the “Man with God”) builds his life on the rock, stone, or block. And the rock which God placed provides a firm foundation for every man who will build on that stone.

Down in New Orleans, pylons must be driven deep into the ground in order to find a solid rock bed in which to build a solid structure. If this is not done, the structure will literally collapse. Knowing our propensity to building our lives on the sand, God placed Jesus, this LIVING stone among us. He didn’t simply allow Jesus to come to earth, HE SENT Jesus to earth. He didn’t just permit Jesus to die, HE GAVE Jesus, the living stone for us. He placed this stone among us to become our cornerstone, our foundation.

And the fact that God wanted Jesus to be our foundation reminds us of:

III. The Placement for this Stone

God placed this stone in Zion. Let’s consider the term “Zion” for a few minutes. Zion means different things to different people. For some, it means Jerusalem while for others, it means the temple area, and for still others it means “the royal seat of the Anointed One.” For us today, we think of Zion to be Heaven. So it is safe to say that Zion is the place which we think of as home, holy, and safe. It is a place where we are welcomed as children of God. It is a reminder of Revelation 22.

Just as surely as God WILL be with HIS people and will be THEIR GOD in Revelation, HE DESIRES to have that same relationship with us here and now. That is why God placed this all important stone within reach of people. This was a divine strategy. He didn’t place the stone (Jesus) in some faraway place or remote location, but rather He placed it in the midst of the land and people in which HE wanted to do HIS work. God placed this stone in the very location in which this stone was needed.

Let’s do a “what would you think?” Here is this block that I pointed your attention to at the beginning of the message. What if the church was building a block building out back and for some reason we ran out of blocks. We thought we had enough, but we were ONE BLOCK short. And what if I had this block in my possession and received a call that we NEEDED this block. Now, I said OKAY, but then took the block to my dad’s house in Mississippi left it there. First, you would think it confirmed, “The preacher has lost his mind.” But secondly you would wonder why I did not place the stone where it was needed.

While you might think that is a trite and silly example here’s the point, “just as surely as I would have brought the block here to be of help, God sent Jesus HERE to offer His help.” And what was the help which Jesus gave? He gave HIS LIFE for YOURS (and mine). God placed Jesus, the living stone, where you and I can find, know, and use Him. He desires to be used as our foundational block of our lives because apart from Him, life on this earth will end one way, as an enemy of God.

Now let’s put some perspective on what we learn about this “stumbling stone.” First, the Bible teaches us that Jesus is the stone who was sent by God and strategically placed to transform our lives into full, meaningful, rich, purposeful, and God-filled lives.

IV. The Problems with this Stone

As far as I can tell, there are two problems we see with this stone.

First is that He, Jesus-this living stone, exposes our natural desires, wants, and tendencies. See we want to be like the Jews and believe we can earn our way into a right standing with God. We desire to be in control of our lives, our days, and our destination. In our arrogance, humankind seems to think we must be wiser and more knowledgeable than any other in this universe. Jesus reveals the bondage of deception in which we find ourselves. If you look at our Romans passage, you discover that those Jews who “thought they had arrived” and had made themselves righteous before God, we sadly mistaken. In fact, Jesus issued more rebukes to the Jewish Pharisees than to anyone else.

He pointed out that in our natural state; we are corrupt being who are easily deceived by society and the culture. You might ask, “Why is this a problem?” Because we don’t care to hear it.

In this room and/or in this setting, we might think we are okay with it, because in here, we feel pretty good and right before God. However, when we are faced with a choice tomorrow in the grocery store or work or some other situation, how will we feel then. You know, when YOUR way is to berate or belittle and Jesus’ is to forgive and release? That’s the problem; Jesus doesn’t let us off the hook— ever. He is there exposing who we really are. When we think we are so good, He is there to remind us better.

The second problem we have with Him is; that He stands in our way of rejecting God’s offer of Grace. Here is where the stumbling block comes in. There is only one way to gain eternal life, not two, three, or many, according to the Bible and the words of Jesus; there is only one way. (For this important decision, we better listen to Jesus and not Oprah). At the entrance of the door to God’s grace is this living stone. If I am to make it through this door into abundant and eternal life, I MUST embrace and employ this stone and all it has to offer. I cannot ignore it, step over it, go around it, or under it. (You remember that old song — “I must come in at the door?”)

V. The Purpose in this stone

My desire is to make this as simple as possible for us. Look in the last part of verse 33. “The one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” Sadly, this culture has almost lost its ability to feel shame. I submit to you that it is because we live in the day of 1 Timothy 4. It would seem that the conscience of the day is so seared that we have lost our ability to embarrassed or ashamed. The huge “self-defense” mechanism is to “blame someone else.” We get caught stealing and it’s not our fault, dad used to take pencils from his office. We become sexually immoral and the excuse is that “it must be alright because everyone else is doing it” or “my daddy spanked me when I was little so I’m warped.” The list could and does go on as does the excuses, but little shame.

A time is coming when there will be no one available to blame. You and I will have to give an account for every mean-spirited word we’ve spoken, every evil act we’ve committed, and every thought we have entertained. In that day, I suspect, there will be a great deal of shame. This living stone, Jesus Christ, offers us relief from your shame. And there is only one way to accomplish this, and that is by releasing us from guilt. And how can we be “unguilty?” By being forgiven of our sins.

This is the purpose of the stone, the living stone, Jesus-the loving savior. He is either the stone which you stumble over or He is the building block of your life. Which is it?