Vigilance and Stumbling Blocks

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 4

Today we’re gonna be looking at the topic of vigilance and focusing on a key passage in Matthew 5:29.

What is vigilance? A simple definition is: the action or state of keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.

This is a challenging passage, because the imagery is so intense. But I believe that intensity is exactly what Yeshua intended, because it is so critical to our spiritual lives.

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.

Matthew 5:29-30

All stumbling-blocks to righteousness must be removed from your life with extreme diligence. This is an act of personal vigilance in remaining undistracted from the things of God and his kingdom.

One of the things I’ve come to notice about the Sermon on the Mount is that most of what Yeshua explains is aimed at the individual about their own conduct. Yeshua also adds commentary on how to react to those around us who may be acting out of insincere motives, whether it was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, or the wolves in sheep clothing who were the false prophets.

But the majority of the thrust of this teaching is on individual conduct. It is also helpful for us to understand what the term stumbling block represents.

The Greek noun and verb that used here for stumbling block or something that causes one to stumble are: skandalon which refers to the thing itself – a stumbling block and skandalizo the action of putting a stumbling block in one’s path. When you hear those words what modern word does it sound like? Yes, the modern English words “scandal” and “scandalize” can be traced back to these words. Now while it is translated in a myriad of ways in the Bible, skandalizo is not usually translated as scandal in the Bible because of its modern meaning which denotes an offense that outrages the public conscience. But stumbling blocks take many forms and an affront to the public conscience is most definitely one of them. So too, are the beliefs, ideas, and mindsets that we ourselves may hold.

Ruth Anne Garcia

This idea of scandal or scandalizing can be helpful in recognizing the effects that these attributes can pose on others.

Most significantly, what is represented by this concept is the fact that when we don’t act in the correct ways, we are scandalizing God. We scandalize God when we don’t remove our personal vices, and also when we cause someone else to stumble.

So I find it interesting when I do a search on the topic of stumbling blocks, one of the first things that came up was the topic of removing stumbling blocks in our own life so we can receive more from God.

4 Ways to Remove Stumbling Blocks to Receiving From God. Become a ‘Receiving Receiver’ and lay hold of God’s Promises for your life

The premise of this article is that most believers are not receiving everything they can get from God because there are stumbling blocks in the way. That is such an incorrect way to use this concept of stumbling blocks; it is never used that way in the Bible.

One of the key aspects of practicing vigilance in our lives is making sure that we have a correct biblically based doctrine in all these different areas of our lives, so that we can act with integrity and within the purpose and will of God for his glory in his kingdom.

This is why we have to be so cautious when we are seeking information in regards to our spiritual standing before God. This includes this podcast and the website and anything else where you would be drawing direction and inspiration for your spiritual journey.

If what is being taught does not fit in with the overall theme of the entire Bible, then it is not something that should be pursued.

This whole idea of doing some thing to get something else from God is turning a legitimate doctrine in the Bible on its head for personal gain. The concept of doing things to get God to do stuff for you is totally contrary to every principle in the Bible. We must do everything we can to expel this type of teaching from among our ranks as believers.

There are two types of stumbling blocks mentioned in the Bible: those with which we scandalize ourselves, and those with which we scandalize others. And both of these are a scandal against God.

This is the real meaning of the third commandment from Sinai which says you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. To take his name in vain means to attach ourselves to his culture and seek his character while not exhibiting it in our own lives. If we do this then we have taken his name in vain, or for no reason.

This is true scandal.

So while we have looked briefly at those things which we need to personally remove from our lives, we must also be aware of not laying stumbling blocks or scandalizing others.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. … “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. [“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.]

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-11

So, as important as it is for us to be aware that we are not causing others to stumble, before we can focus our attention outward to those around us, it is essential that we focus on our own internal struggles. We need to remove those things that would scandalize us before God, or bring dishonor to his name.

“Woe to the world because of [its] stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Matthew 18:7

There is an ancient proverb surrounding the biblical culture that says:

“He that washes himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again, what avails his washing? So is it with a man that fasts for his sins, and goes again, and does the same: who will hear his prayer?”

Sir 34:25-26:

This speaks to the fact that we may claim to believe that we are cleansed or that we are righteous in gods sight somehow, only to go and do the very things again that brings scandal to ourselves and to his name.

If you desire to be righteous and holy in God’s sight, then you must be relentlessly severe in removing those things from your life that stand between you and him. There are no other options. It is a matter of life or death, not just a self-improvement program.

Yeshua describes the circumstances or consequences that can result from a life that is not disciplined where these attributes are not dealt with in a committed way.

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”

Matthew 18:8-9

So, as important as it is for us to be aware that we are not causing others to stumble, before we can focus our attention outward to those around us, it is essential that we focus on our own internal struggles. We need to remove those things that would scandalize us before God, or bring dishonor to his name.

“Woe to the world because of [its] stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

So is Yeshua actually asking us to cut parts of our body off? Reference any commentary and you will see that Yeshua’s use of hyperbole here in this passage is for emphasis, not as a directive.

What is here called the eternal fire or the fiery hell is really the fires of Gehenna. Gehenna was a real place; the valley of Hinnom which ran or runs in a ravine right along side the city of Jerusalem. Gehenna was a place where all of the trash in the refuse and the dead bodies would be placed because there was a fire there that was constantly burning.This was a great metaphor used time and time again in the biblical writings denoting the fiery judgment that was about to come on Jerusalem because of there in ability to live righteous lives according to God‘s word.

““Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.”

Mt 3:10

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.””

Mt 3:12

“Every tree that doesn’t grow good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. “

Mt 7:19

“If a man doesn’t remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “

Jn 15:6

“I will show wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath;blood, and fire, and billows of smoke.”

Acts 2:19

“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.”

Heb 10:26-27

There could be no greater contrast that Yeshua could bring forth to illustrate the necessity and the urgency with which we must deal with in these scandalous stumbling blocks in our personal lives.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is hostile towards God; for it is not subject to God’s law, neither indeed can it be. Those who are in the flesh can’t please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his. If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Rom 8:5-13:

You MUST die to yourself and your own selfish ways if you are to live for him. This is abundantly clear throughout the teachings of Yeshua and the New Testament that we need to not only  take to heart, but to put into practice every single day in the manner of vigilance required to remain a faithful disciple.

This is the true challenge of living in walking in the kingdom of God. We have been challenged to be shining examples of purity and holiness to the world around us every day; every day. This is how God‘s kingdom continues to grow with every faithful generation.

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