Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
March 27, 2016
Central Passage
Romans 9:30-33
Easter Sunday

March 27, 2016


Romans 9:30-33

Unfortunately, many people see Jesus as a caricature.  Some see Him as a buddy and pal…and He does call believers “friends.”  But, if we saw Him for who He really is…like the apostle John did…we would fall flat on our faces.  In fact, in Revelation 1:17 John said, “I fell at his feet as though dead.”

Jesus isn’t a good luck charm, either.  An image of Jesus around your neck or in your purse won’t protect you.  He isn’t a lucky charm…He’s the Lord.

Some people also try to make Jesus a religious artifact who lives in a church building.  So they go to the building, kiss a picture or bow before a statue…and in so doing make a mockery of Christ…make Him nothing more than a caricature of their imagination.

And, then there’s the group that sees Jesus as their meal ticket…that He wants to give them His favor and make them healthy and wealthy.  In other words, they believe that Jesus is the key that unlocks the door to every longing in their sinful hearts.

They tend to forget that Jesus doesn’t work for us…we work for Him.  He is Lord and King…and the highest rank we can achieve in His kingdom is that of being His servant.

We don’t need to avoid or exaggerate anything in getting a true picture of Jesus.  In fact, we must be careful to not overemphasize one aspect of Christ’s character while excluding the totality of His being.

Romans 9:1-5 tells us that evangelism will have little effect if we don’t love the lost.  Paul cried for the unconverted and so should we.  But, our witness should not stop with simply crying.  We have to present Christ to them.

Romans 9:6-18 reminds us that God’s Word cannot fail because He is faithful and fair…and that His Spirit will never leave us.  That’s something we often forget…depending on ourselves instead of on God.

Romans 9:19-29 tells us God is supremely sovereign…and that we’re responsible for how we respond to Him.  That’s why we should be very discerning in our worship of Him.

We need to see Jesus for who He really is.  When we do that…we will either stumble over Him and His Resurrection…or stand for Him.  Unfortunately, some people don’t stumble over Jesus today because they’ve shrunk Him to such small size that He’s no larger than a grain of sand in their lives.

And, there are different stumbling blocks for different people.  Those who follow religious rituals and rules may have the biggest struggle with who Jesus is…whereas people who know they’re sinners may embrace who He is more readily.

Look, for example, at our Scripture verses: “…the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not?  Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.  They stumbled over the ‘stumbling stone.’  As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’.”

The word “stumbled” literally means to strike, slam, or dash against.  It carries with it the idea of suffering harm, taking offense…even being annoyed or enraged.  But, most New Testament usage of the word describes a figurative or spiritual stumbling.

The first stone on which many people stumble is the struggle to admit that they’re a sinner.  Paul tells us that Gentiles did not pursue righteousness but obtained it by faith.”  The word “pursue” means to run swiftly after something…or earnestly seek a goal.

In the early chapters of Romans Paul tells us that most people are sliding into sin…not running after righteousness or earnestly seeking a right relationship with God.  Romans 1:29-32 says: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

The one thing every person seeking God has to figure out is that they’re a sinner.  They have to come to grips with the fact that their behavior will never qualify them as righteous…that the only way they can be righteous is by faith…by surrendering to the truth of Jesus Christ and accepting the salvation that is offered in Him.

It is a gift of God’s grace…not a reward for hard work.  Listen to these words about Jesus from Isaiah 65:1: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.”

If you know that you’re a sinner…that’s a good thing.  In Matthew 9:13, Jesus said: “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

But, just remember that because of its potential to hold us in bondage…sin can also cause us to miss the message of God’s grace.  In 1 Peter 2:8, the apostle wrote: “They stumble because they disobey the message…”

And, be very aware of what we’re told in Genesis 4:7: “…But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Another stumbling stone for people is the reluctance to actually admit that they need a Savior…and especially one like Jesus.  When you won’t admit you’re sinful…you’re not concerned about a Savior…so the majority of Jewish people during Jesus’ time on earth were not all that concerned about their salvation.

They couldn’t see Jesus because their stone of manmade law was in the way.  It was a stumbling stone that was so big that it completely obstructed any view of Jesus.  They thought following that law was a passport to heaven.  They thought that what they could do was more important than anything God could do.

But, in Galatians 3:10-14 Paul wrote: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

You can offer gallons upon gallons of animal blood on an altar…follow every Jewish dietary law…tithe and participate in all Jewish holy days and feasts…and it still won’t save you.  There’s absolutely nothing you can do to save yourself…and that includes partaking of the Lord’s Supper and baptism.  In fact, all these things can become stumbling stones.  Righteousness is attained only by faith in Jesus…by His sacrifice for us on the Cross.

 In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul wrote: “…we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews…”  The Jews looked for a mighty Messiah who would wipe out the Roman Empire…not a bleeding Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  Jesus didn’t meet their expectations…and He doesn’t meet the expectations of most people today.

Many people acknowledge that Jesus was a good teacher…but they don’t want to acknowledge that He is the only way to the Father.  The Cross causes them to stumble because they prefer pomp and ceremony…not a crucifixion that demands that they begin their lives all over again in a radical new way.  They stumble because their hearts tell them that they owe an infinite debt to God…one that they can never repay…no matter what they do.

In Matthew 21, Jesus uses some strong language to convey that no one who comes in contact with Him will ever be the same.  In verse 43 he tells Jewish religious leaders: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

Jesus, of course, was talking about people like you and me…but, unfortunately, we’re failing Him in the same way those Jewish religious leaders did.  Verse 44 speaks directly to us when Jesus declares: “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

In other words, we will either be humbled, broken and believe in Him…or we will be hardened and end up being crushed by Him.  Where Jesus is concerned…no one can stay the same.  You stumble and fall because of Him…or you become humble and call on Him.

So people stumble over the stone of admitting that they’re sinners…they stumble over the stone of accepting Jesus as Lord…and they stumble over the stone about the simplicity of salvation.  In Romans 9:33, Paul tells us that God spoke through Isaiah about Jesus saying, “…I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”

Paul makes it clear to people that Jesus is either a Rock of Refuge or a Stumbling Stone.  A free salvation from God is an offense to some people because of their pride…their desire to do something to merit their salvation.  But, God’s requirement is simple…and it’s called trust.

Once we settle our sinfulness and see Jesus as Savior…then we’re called to a simple trust in Him.  In John 6:28-29, Jesus was asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”  Jesus responded, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Remember what happened in Acts 16:30-31 when Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi?  When the doors of the prison were miraculously opened, the jailer fell down before them and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Paul gave a simple answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.”

Most people tend to think salvation is complicated.  It isn’t.  We want to complicate what God has made simple for us.  Because we’re incapable of thinking as God does…simple is too difficult for us to comprehend.

Salvation is simple because Jesus did everything for us.  It’s free because He paid the price for our sins.  And, it’s a gift because all you need to do is receive it.

There’s one more practical and very personal application we can draw from the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.  Since God is in complete control and has ultimate authority…you and I can trust Him with all the horrible headlines and the uneasy uncertainty that is swirling around us every day.  The end of verse 33 says: “And the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”

That word “trusts” is in the present tense…meaning that we can always trust Him…every day and every moment of every day.  When we do that…we will never be put to shame.  That may seem difficult…but it’s also simple.  In fact, we need those words “Trust Him” branded into our minds and hearts.

For each of us Jesus is either a Rock of Refuge or a Stumbling Stone.  And, we alone make that decision.  He doesn’t make it for us.  So the choice is yours.  You can stumble over the stone because you’re unwilling to admit to being a sinner…you can refuse to accept Jesus as Lord…or you can disbelieve that salvation is as simple as trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Scripture tells us that those who trust in Jesus will never be put to shame.  In other words, you’ll never be sorry if you give your life to Him…but those who stumble over Him in the here and now will be ashamed that they’ve wasted their lives in the pursuit of possessions and other pleasures when they see Him face to face.

Jesus is not a caricature…not a statue…not a picture…or something to hang around your neck.  He is the living Lord…risen from the grave and seated at the right hand of God…there to make intercession for each and every one called of the Holy Spirit to be a part of His kingdom.

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