Two Stumbling Blocks

June 21, 2020

David Sorn

Jesus tells us to beware of two different stumbling blocks. One is a block you put out for others and the other is a block that we often stumble on ourselves.

Two Stumbling Blocks

June 21, 2020

David Sorn

Jesus tells us to beware of two different stumbling blocks. One is a block you put out for others and the other is a block that we often stumble on ourselves.



Hey, before we get into the passage, I want to say how excited I am to meet in person with most of you next week!

With 10 acres of land to spread out on, it will be safe.

If you’re healthy, but you’re nervous about it, you can come, sit 100 feet away, and walk right back to your car without touching or talking.

But it’s important that we’re together.

Together as the Body of Christ

As the Family of God

To hear the WORD together…to sing and worship God…as a family

I know you may be out of the habit…but if you’re healthy and able, start your habit back up and get there next week.

The Bible tells us in the Book of Hebrews to “not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing”

So, again, not talking to those of you who aren’t healthy or are quite nervous about this, but just those of you that are thinking, “It’s kind of nice to sleep in on Sundays” ☺

Let’s come worship together and let God start to jump-start your faith again!

Okay, let’s get into the message…

There have been a number of times in this past week or two that, I’ve been thinking about the Doctrine of Total Depravity

That is the Biblical teaching that we are not able to do good on our own.

If we were, then we could, theoretically save ourselves.

But that’s impossible.

But in reality, because of Adam & Eve’s original sin, we have a sinful nature…what comes natural to us, is sin.

And I’ve been thinking about this because I think our society is quiet blind to this idea…which is not surprising given the average person in America doesn’t read much of the Bible nowadays.

In America, many like to think that we’re naturally good people.

And they usually build straw-man arguments like, “If you saw an old lady trying to cross the road, wouldn’t you help her?”

To which I think, “No, we’d probably say we’re too busy”

Or, if we did, “We’d do it so we could feel good about ourselves, and post on Facebook about it afterwards”

We’re not naturally good and noble and humble.

Think of a more challenging issue, and it’s easier to see this doctrine in action.

As hard as it may be, think of when someone has wronged you.

Think of when someone has hurt your feelings, or done something to betray your trust, or talked bad about you…

Now, let me ask you:

What’s more natural for you?

What comes easier?

To forgive them?

Or to not forgive them?

The answer is obvious.

Kindness and love is not in our nature…it’s not our gut reaction.

We need God.

As we come to yet another chapter in Luke, chapter 17, we come to an important teaching on sin and just how prevalent and detrimental it is…

…And therefore, how much forgiveness is needed as well.

If you haven’t already, grab your Bibles.

Press pause if you need to go get it.

(Luke 17:1-6) – NIV

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

In this passage, Jesus is teaching about Two Different Stumbling Blocks that make people fall into sin.

And so in verse 3, Jesus, very importantly, says, “So watch yourselves”

Let’s take a look at the first stumbling block:

The Two Stumbling Blocks

1. The One You Put Out In Front Of People


This comes from the first 2 verses (if you have it in front of you)

Jesus is saying, “Listen, people are going to sin, but woe to the one who causes them to stumble into sin.”

Woe to you.

And then, he begins to talk about a millstones around your neck and the sea…and it’s all pretty surprising to our sensitive modern ears…

But do you remember the passage from last week that came right before this?

The story of the poor man Lazarus who went to heaven, and the rich man who went to hell?

Jesus has made it abundantly clear that heaven and hell are real.

And so therefore leading someone into sin, to the point where it would harden their hearts towards accepting Christ (which would then lead them to hell)…would be THE worst thing you could do.

That’s WHY He speaks in such strong terms, “it would be better for them to just be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their neck”

When Jesus is talking about this same thing in Matthew 18, he says:

(Matthew 18:7-9) – NIV

7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! 8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Of course, there’s hyperbole involved here…otherwise we’d all be blind by now.

But Jesus doesn’t want you to miss how serious this is.

If you don’t fight hard (with the Help of the Holy Spirit) TODAY to throw off your sin, sin is like a magnet.

It will pull you closer to it.

And tomorrow, it’ll be even harder to throw it off

And then, as you become hardened to it, your sinful lifestyle will pull others away from Jesus and into sin…

And you, before you know it, will be putting out a stumbling block in front of others

When I was in college, I had a professor, who claimed to be a follower of Jesus, but clearly was not.

This is a strong statement, but I often think of him when I read this passage

He would tell these young 19 and 20 year olds that the Bible wasn’t true, and then would go through his list of reasons.

And then He would try and prove that Jesus wasn’t God or wasn’t the only way

And his reasons weren’t even all that compelling, but remember, these 19 and 20 year olds were looking for any philosophy they could find that would help them feel better about what they were doing on the weekends.

And so, many of them, latched on to his thinking, and left their faith behind.

I pray God has mercy on this professor, and that He finds Jesus.

But if He does not, He’ll have wished for a millstone.

That’s what JESUS is teaching.


But there are two stumbling blocks that Jesus is talking about in these 6 verses.

We should watch ourselves that our lives don’t become a stumbling block for others to trip over

But we should also be watching to make sure we’re not stumbling over other people.

The Two Stumbling Blocks

1. The One You Put Out In Front Of People

2. The People You Stumble Over

But notice something…Jesus doesn’t say what you might expect here.

We almost expect Him to say, “And likewise, don’t stumble into rebellious and sinful living of others…don’t succumb to their wild living”

But what does He warn us about?

“What does He warn you not to let become a stumbling block to the grow of your faith?

Bitterness. Unforgiveness.

Uh oh. ☺

You can’t hide from this one.

--🡪Look at it again:

(Luke 17:3b-4) - NIV

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

When Jesus says this in the Gospel of Matthew, Peter says, “But how many times Jesus? 7 times? Really?”

And Jesus says, “Actually, 77 times”

7 means, complete, or perfection in the Bible..

So, in other words, there is no limit.

Now, some of you just went, “Oh, like let myself get walked on?”

No, that’s not what He said.

Look at the beginning of verse 3

He says, “If they sin, REBUKE them”

That’s not getting walked on.

You, as a Christian, say, “This is not right. What you’re doing is wrong in the eyes of the Lord!”

And if they repent, and they’re genuinely sorry and want to change, you should offer forgiveness

If they don’t repent, as taught in other passages, we should still forgive them in your heart…

..But suffice it to say, you might not be able to have any friendship or relationship with them anymore if they are unwilling to repent & reconcile

Jesus is saying this: “If your friend sins against you at 9:00, and repents at 9:05, forgive them.”

If they then do it again at 10:00, and repent at 10:05, forgive them.”

Now, by 11:05, personally, I’m inclined to not believe their repentance is genuine…

But Jesus commands me to forgive them anyway

Now, I might set up some boundaries in that friendship, so as not to be taken advantage of

But it’s still my responsibility to work on forgiving them in my heart.

And one of the reasons I do that is because of the Platinum Rule the Bible teaches

I should treat others like Jesus treated me

And don’t I come to Jesus every hour and say, “Lord, I screwed up again, please forgive me?”

And he does.

And listen, this teaching is as much for our sake as it is for those who’ve wronged us.

I was reading about a study this week, as I often like to do, because I love data so much

And I was reading about one study where doctors and psychologists would hook patients up to all sorts of monitoring devices, and then ask them to start talking about someone who had deeply upset them.

And for a lot of people, their blood pressure was already up…and they would say, “Where do you want me to start? How much time do you have??”

But the study said that for many of the emotionally healthier, or spiritually mature people, their blood pressure didn’t even go up with the question.

Some would even ask for more time because they couldn’t think of a good example.

Now, certainly some people have had less trauma than others.

But everyone has been hurt.

The difference is, those who are practicing the spiritual discipline of forgiveness are less tied down by bitterness.

And this is the connection to verses 5 & 6.

I didn’t even see this until I started studying the passage more

The disciples, understandably, think Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness will be incredibly difficult to apply in real life.

And so they say, “Increase our faith!”

In other words, “Yeah, there’s no way I can keep forgiving those who keep wronging me.”

“There’s no way I can forgive my parents after 2 decades of messing up my life”

“There’s no way I can forgive her after what she did….”

And so, like any of us, they say, “yeah, I’m going to need more faith here to pull this off”

And look closely at Jesus’ response

(Luke 17:6) – NIV

6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Now, most of us don’t know much about Mulberry Trees…so we just keep reading.

But here’s the thing about Mulberry Trees, they have extraordinarily deep roots.

Much like the deep roots of bitterness and unforgiveness inside of us.

If someone has hurt you, and you haven’t forgiven them…

You haven’t talked to the Lord about it, processed it out with trusted Christian friends, and told the person who hurt you, “I forgive you”

Those roots of unforgiveness are probably deep inside you

Like a root twisted around your heart

The Word of God has much to teach us here

(Hebrews 12:14-15) – NIV

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

If you can’t live at peace, if you can’t forgive, the bitter root will grow into your heart…and eventually out into your everyday life.

On Social Media this week, I saw one of our area churches post a similar verse to this

It was Romans 12:18,

(Romans 12:18) – NIV

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

And there were a number of comments that just said,

“Nope, not gonna happen.”

“No thanks.”

“too hard”

After I got over my shock at the disregard people have for God’s truth…my heart just broke for them.

The roots of unforgiveness are strangling their heart.

Others of us are somewhere in the middle.

Sure you agree with the concept of forgiveness, but you haven’t actually done the work to forgive those family members or old friends who’ve hurt you.

Christian Author Beth Moore once visited the African country of Angola when it was struggling with war and famine.

And she wrote that one of her strongest memories of being there was learning that aid workers were bringing seeds to the villages for the people to plant…

…but the people were so hungry, that they just ate the seeds rather than planting them.

And Beth Moore writes, that too often, that’s what we do with the Word of God…which is often called a seed in the Gospels.

We hear it, we agree with it (yes, forgiveness, good idea), and we just eat it and move on. “Thanks pastor!”

But we don’t sew it in our heart, and do the work of actually tending to it and letting it grow out in our lives

And so if you have people you’ve been thinking of, that you haven’t forgiven…it’s time to start letting God do the work in you.

If you don’t, that root of unforgiveness will just keep eating into your heart and weighing you down.

Friend, trust the teaching of Jesus today.

It will be so freeing to you.

Look, Jesus says, if you have faith as small of a mustard seed, you can uproot, even the mulberry tree, and it will go into the sea.

Some of you say, “But I can’t! It’s too hard”

I don’t have that kind of faith.

Listen, Jesus is actually correcting the disciples’ bad theology here.

They say, (like many of us do), “increase our faith!”

In other words, “if we just had more of it, or if we just exerted it more, than we could forgive”

But Jesus corrects them.

He’s saying, “no, faith as small as a mustard see (the tiniest of seeds) can rip the mulberry bush right out of the ground”

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, once explained it this way:

“You do not need a great faith, but faith in a great God” – Hudson Taylor

Bring your pain to Jesus.

Cry out to Him and ask Him to move in you to forgive.

See His grace.

See how He loved you, the sinner.

How He went to the cross and died to forgive you, even though you didn’t deserve it, and have sinned against Him again and again and again

And ask Him for that same love and forgiveness, to flow through you

Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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