by Mike Ratliff
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matthew 21:42-44 ESV)
The message to the Christian throughout the New Testament is to deny self, to view with contempt the temporal or world system, to understand that love of the temporal and genuine discipleship are mutually exclusive because it is from the former which all genuine believers are being delivered. This deliverance is progressive mortification of all carnal affections and impediments. This must be so in order for the Christian to attain more speedily the heavenly Kingdom of Christ. It is to Christ’s Kingdom that all believers are called by the grace of God and it is revealed to them in His Son. All believers have received this by faith, possessed it by hope, and are therein confirmed it by Holiness of life.
This process of sanctification can make the narrow path we are called to travel to the Celestial City to be bewildering at time. The travail of the journey can distract us from our devotion to our Saviour and cause us to focus on the fires of tribulation instead. We are exhorted in God’s Word to walk by faith, not by sight. If we walk by sight then we will eventually tire in our frustration and become faint in our pilgrimage. The exhortation is to examine Christ. If we do then we will see that He was treated with contempt and rejected almost by the whole world. He tells us that this rejection was actually the fulfillment of Scripture, which testifies that He should be the stumbling stone to the reprobate, but the sure foundation of salvation to the faithful. Because of this, we should not become discouraged and full of doubt. If this message finds you imprisoned in Doubting Castle by the Giant Despair then I encourage you my brethren to remember the promises given to us when we met our Saviour at the Cross. These promises will open any lock in Doubting Castle and will enable us to flee Giant Despair. The reason this is so is that our Saviour is not a helpless bystander in our pilgrimage. He is the foundation stone or cornerstone of our faith.
Some reading this may be not only despairing in their walk, but also are struggling in their personal relationships because of that. You are walking according to the flesh and are reacting to your circumstances via carnal policy. This is not good my brethren. We must not remain in this state of spiritual darkness, but, instead, we must lay aside these things and refocus on who Christ is and who we are in Him.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. (1 Peter 2:1-8 ESV)
We lose our focus and our walk of faith suffers when we operate according to the ways of this world. Remember, we cannot walk according to the Spirit and according to the flesh at the same time. We will either be self-focused or Christ-focused. If we are consuming large quantities of television, movies, entertainment, or any other thing the world has to offer in the place of consuming the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word the will be carnal in our walk. However, if we lay aside these things and pursue the Lord instead then we are back in the race that God has set before us. We have our eyes on Christ and are making actual progress on our pilgrimage to the Celestial City (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Christ is a living stone, rejected by the unregenerate. However, in the eyes of God the Father, He is chosen and precious. All in Him are living stones as well and are being laid on the foundation unto a spiritual house. Genuine believers are a holy priesthood whose self-denial and devotion to their Lord are the only spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Those who fall on the stone rejected by men will be broken, but they will not be put to shame. These believe in Him. However, those who reject Him will find that this stone will fall on and crush them. He is to them a stumbling stone and a rock of offense. They stumble because they disobey the Word, as they were destined to do. This ‘destiny’ does not deny human responsibility. Those who stumble and are crushed do so because they disobey.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9-12 ESV)
I doubt if most Christians see themselves this way. That is a shame. I receive more than my share of comments and emails from those who are continually telling me that what I teach here is in error. I find it very telling, however, that the posts that receive the most attention from them are almost all expositions of Sacred Scripture. The telling part is that they offer no scriptural based rebuttal. It is always based on some form of human philosophy, which has taken over vast portions of the visible Church. They demand to be counted as Christians, but they refuse to fall on the living stone in submission to His Word. They disobey His Word by elevating their ‘beliefs’ over and above the authority of Sacred Scripture. Let us not do this my brethren. No, let us understand who we are in Christ. We are His possession unto His glory.
All in Christ are exhorted to view themselves as merely sojourners and exiles in this lost and dying world. Therefore, if we do this then we must also abstain from the passions of the flesh. Why? These things wage war against our Souls. We are called to be separate from this world and its ways. We are only passing through on our way to the Celestial City where our Lord awaits the faithful. As we journey let us live blamelessly in the midst of the unregenerate. Perhaps God will use our witness to draw others to join us.
Soli Deo Gloria!