Where We Stumble

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I have seen it far too many times. I’ve seen it expressed brazenly from hot heads. I’ve witnessed it subtly from leaders and volunteers in the church. I’ve  tried to cover and defend it in my own heart and life. I’ve seen it destroy relationships. I’ve seen it make otherwise sane people act crazy. I’ve seen it harm the church. Here’s how it happens. We start with a great heart. We want to serve God, and God blesses our efforts. We have a little small group, or a singing group, or a team and we’re excited to be serving and leading in the church. Then Satan whispers in our ear, “You’re really something. What would they do without you? You better defend this kingdom you’ve built.”  Yep, kingdom building.  Little ‘k’ kingdom building. It is the antithesis of big ‘K’ Kingdom building.

Jesus’ Kingdom is wherever he is honored and served in the hearts and lives of people. Building his Kingdom means always handing over the rule and reign to him. When we lay claim to a portion of his Kingdom as our kingdom, it is only a matter of time before we fall.

In Luke 20, Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a vineyard. The man appointed servants over that vineyard to care for it and keep it. It would seem these servants did well. They cared for the vineyard and it produced fruit.  The trouble came when the owner sent another servant to bring him some fruit from the vineyard. The servants who had kept the vineyard had built a kingdom. They forgot they were apart of a larger Kingdom. They were so defensive of their kingdom, they killed the servant the master sent. This happened two more times. Finally, the master sent his son. Surely these servants will see the son and remember their loyalty to their master, right? No, at this point, the servants have reached insanity. They kill even the master’s son in an effort to protect their kingdom.

Jesus tells this story to the religious leaders of his day. His point is about Israel’s continual rejection of God’s prophets by the religious leaders of the day who had laid hold of God’s Kingdom as their kingdom.  Yet I wonder if we are any different. Jesus finishes his conversation with this words:

But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?

[18] Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

– Luke 20:17-18 (ESV)

Jesus is the corner stone. He is the one who has sole right to God’s Kingdom. We don’t stumble over his love, mercy, and grace. We don’t stumble over his kindness and compassion. We stumble over the reality that we are simply servants in his Kingdom. We stumble over the reality that we have no claim over the portion of the Kingdom he has called us to. We stumble at his authority.

You know, the funny thing is, the servants in Jesus parable got to live in and enjoy the fruits of a garden they didn’t plant or own. They had a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a life they never could have earned. Yet instead of being thankful, they became possessive. In the same way, in Christ, we enjoy the benefits of his Kingdom that he freely gives us in the gospel.  It’s when we lose our heart of thankfulness that we begin to resent his ownership.

Consider this morning where you may have built a little ‘k’ kingdom. Maybe it’s in your heart with something you won’t hand over to God. Maybe it’s in the church, where you’ve become a bit too possessive of God’s work. Whatever it is, hand it over the the Master. He has sole rule over it. He has appointed his servants and leaders within the church. Beware your defensiveness against other servants. You may end up fighting the Son.

Grace & Peace.

Daily Reading: Today’s bible reading is Luke 20.  

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