So I’ve noticed (for a long time now) that the lifestyles of many of those within the Christian community are very often hard to discern from those outside said community. I’ve actually even seen atheists who are more loving and hold to higher moral standards than many Christians. Why is this? We, as Christians, are a “new creation” and we should “walk in newness of life.” There should be an obvious change that occurs when we decide to follow Christ. One of those changes, and the topic I would like to focus on here, is removing stumbling blocks in our lives that cause us to remain in a life of sin.
When Jesus was teaching others during the Sermon on the Mount, He said:
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if you right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29–30)
And again when He was speaking to His disciples:
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. (Matthew 18:8–9)
Now the first time Christ says this He was speaking to the crowd about adultery, and in the second He is speaking to the disciples about creating stumbling blocks for believers. But regardless of the specific topic at the time He was speaking, it is a lesson we should be applying to all areas of our lives. And, of course, He isn’t specifically saying mutilate ourselves by chopping off our hands our gouging out our eyes, but they are metaphors for those things in our lives that cause us to sin, or stumble.
For each person it will be different. For some, it could be the television, which could be drawing too much attention and time, becoming an idol. For others, a computer which feeds a porn or gambling addiction, or even social media sites that take up too much of our time. It could be specific people in your life who are holding you back from becoming the Christian you need to be. And I want to step a bit farther on this point, because even fellow “Christians” in our life can be stumbling blocks.
Think about the first example above, Christ specifically speaks of losing “one of your members” rather than “your whole body” perish. Then think about Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians: “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” This body, of course, is the Church in which we each make up specific parts according to the abilities God has given us. If there is a part in this body that isn’t complying with the teachings of Christ and the apostles, then that part needs to be removed. Otherwise, that one part can endanger the rest of the body. (See Excommunicating Those Who Claim to be Christians but Are Not)
I’ll be the first to say that it isn’t easy getting rid of some of these issues, especially people. But when it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself, “What is more important? For me to serve God, or for me to serve myself and others?”
In Matthew Christ tells us:
Do not think that I come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a ‘man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:34–38)
That’s pretty specific. Because of our faith and following of Christ, we will be divided even among our families; they will become our enemies. And we will also be divided against our own carnal desires. If we decide that we want to hold on to those enemies, because they are our family (or close friends, or even our own desires) then we are not worthy of Christ. We place them before Him. But they are stumbling blocks that will only inhibit our Christian walk, not allowing us to live our full potential in the life of Christ.
So I ask you today, are there stumbling blocks in your life that you need to remove? They may seem innocent and harmless, but they could be preventing you from fully serving Christ the way He wants you to. Honestly assess your life and see what it is that is hindering your progress in maturing into the person God wants you to be. Once you find them, I pray that God will give you the strength to slowly (or quickly) start removing them, so you can live the life God is calling you to live.