“Jesus Christ: Cornerstone or Stumbling-Stone?” (I Peter 2:4-8 sermon)

When Cheryl & I were on vacation a couple of weeks ago, the church we attended had a report from a mission trip. One of their goals on the trip was to put new tile down in a room of the mission church building. But they reported that it was so difficult, because none of the walls, or floors were square with each other! It’s hard to make improvements to any place, when its very foundation was not put in straight.

But as important as it is to have a good foundation in a physical building, it is even MORE important to have the right foundation in your spiritual life, and in the church. Paul says in I Corinthians 3 that there is only ONE foundation that can be laid, spiritually, that will last, and that is Jesus Christ. You must make sure that HE is the foundation of your life. (As we have the baby/parent dedication today, what we are really committing to is that we will have Jesus Christ as the “foundation” or “Cornerstone” for each of these homes.) Our passage for today talks about how Jesus is the “Cornerstone” for a successful life, or family, or for a spiritual church. And yet, many reject Jesus as the Cornerstone. He must be one or the other for each of us: either “Cornerstone,” or “Stumbling Stone,” as I Peter 2 shows us:

“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God though Jesus Christ.
For this is contained in scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’
This precious value, then, is for you who believe, but for those who disbelieve, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,’ and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense;’
For they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.”

I. JESUS IS THE CORNERSTONE for those who believe

Last week we saw that one of God’s purposes for us is to be a part of the “living, spiritual Temple” He is building, to offer up spiritual sacrifices to Him. In this passage, God shows us that there is ONE CORNERSTONE for this “spiritual building,” and that Cornerstone is Jesus Christ.

Now, these words about the stone that was rejected by men, but is precious to God, are actually a reference to Psalm 118:22-23, where it says: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” 
So hundreds of years before the time of Christ, these words were spoken, of One who would be rejected by men, but who would be God’s “cornerstone.” And of course this prophecy was referring to Jesus Christ, who, when He came, was indeed rejected by “the builders” — the Jewish religious leaders, but God raised Him up from the dead after His death on the cross to be the “chief cornerstone” of His living Temple.

Other scriptures in the New Testament confirm that this “cornerstone” refers to Jesus:

— Ephesians 2:19-21 “You … are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the Cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord …”.

— Jesus Himself said He was the Cornerstone …
When He was confronted by the Jewish religious leaders who were rejecting Him, He quoted this same passage from Psalm 118:22 in Matthew 21:42, where He said to those leaders: “‘Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief cornerstone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’”
Jesus was talking about Himself there. He was saying, HE is the Cornerstone that Psalm 118 is talking about: rejected by those Jewish leaders, and the chosen people of God, the Jews. Just like John 1 says; “He came unto His own, but His own did not receive Him.” They crucified Him and put Him to death on the cross. Just like Psalm 118 says, they “rejected” Him. But GOD raised Him up from the dead, proving that He was indeed God’s Son, and that He had died on the cross for our sins, and would save whoever would repent of their sins and follow Him.

But the point is, Jesus said HE is that “Cornerstone.” HE is the One upon whom God’s new, living temple is built.
As we talked about last week, you become a part of God’s Living Temple, when you realize that you have sinned against God, and deserve His wrath, but you trust that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and you repent of your sins and turn to follow Him — then He sends His Holy Spirit into your heart to make you “alive again” spiritually, and you become a part of the lIving Temple of God, of which Jesus Christ is the cornerstone.

And this idea of having Jesus as your “Cornerstone” is a great picture of what it really means to be a Christian.

The definition of a “Cornerstone” is:
“The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” (Wikipedia)

Did you catch that? The definition says that the Cornerstone is important because “all other stones will be set in reference to this stone.” And that makes sense. When you put down that cornerstone, every stone that goes out from it in that building, in all directions, is determined by where that stone is. That Cornerstone determines the direction of everything else in that building.

And what a great picture that is of Jesus as the Christian’s “Cornerstone.” Because He is our “cornerstone,” the direction for everything else in our life is determined by Him. This is what it really means to be a Christian: that Jesus is directing your life. Being a Christian doesn’t just mean you go to church once a week. Listen: there are thousands, perhaps millions of people who go to church every week who aren’t really Christians — because the direction of their life is not determined by Jesus Christ. They may “go to church” on Sunday — but then all week long they live however they want. THAT IS NOT BEING A CHRISTIAN! A real Christian is one for whom Jesus Christ is the “Cornerstone” of their life. HE determines the decisions of your life. HE determines the direction for your life. HE determines what you believe, and what you do, in every area of your life. That is what it means for Jesus to be your Cornerstone:

— What are you going to believe and practice about marriage? If Jesus is your Cornerstone, then you are going to believe what HE believes about marriage. He said “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘for this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ And what God has joined together, let no man separate.” If Jesus is your Cornerstone, you are going to believe what He believed about marriage.

— If Jesus is the Cornerstone of your home, then how are you going to bring up your kids? You’re going to do it following His words: “Let the little children come unto Me,” and do not put a stumbling block in front of them. It means you are going to take them to church, and teach them about Him, and live a live that will point them TO Him, and not away from Him.

— If Jesus is your Cornerstone, then you’ll respond to your enemies the way Jesus told you to: He said DO NOT pay back “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth” and seek your own revenge. He said “LOVE your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

— If Jesus is your Cornerstone, then you will take seriously His words: “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her in his heart” and you will never be content using pornography or engaging in lustful thoughts.

— If Jesus is your Cornerstone, then you will seek to do what He did on earth: to reach and teach and care for people. Over and over the Gospels tell us that Jesus SAW someone in need, FELT COMPASSION for them, and then DID something about it. Look through Matthew, Mark, & Luke, and you will see this expression over and over. He “saw … felt compassion” … and then DID something. If Jesus is your Cornerstone, then you will not be content with your life unless you are reaching and teaching and caring for people like He did.

The bottom line is, if Jesus is your Cornerstone, then you are going to be continually asking “What would Jesus do?” — and do that — with every issue, and in every area of your life:
— You’re going to treat people on the job differently because Jesus is your Cornerstone.
— You’re going to treat people at school this year differently because Jesus is your Cornerstone.
— You’re going to treat people in your neighborhood differently because Jesus is your Cornerstone.
— You’re going to treat people at WAL-MART differently — because Jesus is your Cornerstone!

If Jesus is truly your Cornerstone, then as your Cornerstone He will determine the direction for EVERYTHING else in your life!

In light of that, every one of us here today should ask ourselves: “Have I really made Jesus the Cornerstone of my life? Have I truly accepted His grace and forgiveness through His death on the cross? And am I showing that He really IS my Cornerstone by seeking to have everything else in my life line up with Him, because HE is my “Cornerstone”?

And this is true not only for us as individuals, but also for our church corporately. JESUS is the Cornerstone of this church. What we believe and practice in our church is to be based on HIM — what He taught us in His word — NOT popular opinion or what other churches are doing. Those other churches or groups are not our Cornerstone; JESUS is! He is the Cornerstone for every church and individual who believes in Him.

II. JESUS IS THE STUMBLING STONE to those who reject Him.

Jesus is NOT the Cornerstone for everyone. He is also the Stumbling Stone for those who will not believe in Him, and follow Him.

We see this in that original quote in Psalm 118, where it says “the stone which the builders REJECTED has become the chief cornerstone.” It specifically says that this Cornerstone (whom we have seen is clearly Jesus) was REJECTED by the “builders” — as we talked about, He was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders who should have accepted Him, and by many others when He walked here on earth — and still to this day He is rejected by many. Not everyone believes the good news of salvation through Jesus or accepts Him as their Cornerstone. To them, Jesus is not the “Cornerstone,” but the Stumbling Stone.

Romans 9:31-33 talks about this. It says: “… but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, Just as it is written: ‘Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’” This is quoting Isaiah 8:14, where God says “It is the Lord your God whom you should regard as holy … but to both houses of Israel a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over … many will stumble over them, then they will fall and be broken.”

God says this “Cornerstone” He gave us, Jesus, would not only be a Cornerstone for those who would receive Him, but that He would also be a “rock to stumble over” for many who would reject Him.

That Romans 9 passage says that one of the things that makes people stumble over Jesus, is that they are “pursuing a Law of righteousness.” In other words, they think they are good enough to face God without Jesus. They don’t think they need Him. This is the kind of person who says, “I am a pretty good person. I do the best I can. I try to keep the 10 Commandments. I don’t need Jesus.” Romans calls this “stumbling over the stumbling stone” — being “self-righteous”, and thinking they don’t need Jesus. For these people, Jesus is not the “Cornerstone,” but a “Stumbling Stone.”

There are others who “stumble” over Jesus, who just can’t believe He is the Son of God, or believe in His miracles, or resurrection from the dead. When the Apostle Paul was preaching to the philosophers who had gathered on Mars Hill in Athens Greece in Acts 17, the Bible says they were all listening to him carefully until he came to the part in his message where he said that God “has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” And the Bible says in :32 that when Paul mentioned “the resurrection of the dead; some began to sneer.” To them, the resurrection of Jesus was a “Stumbling Stone.”

Jesus is the Cornerstone for those who will believe and receive Him, but He is also the Stumbling Stone for those who reject Him.

I hope that for you, Jesus will be your Cornerstone, and not your Stumbling Stone. Don’t begin to think that you are good enough to stand before God without the need of a Savior. If you think you’ve kept all the 10 Commandments and that you deserve to go to heaven, you need to read the 10 Commandments again! If you think your life is righteous enough to earn a place in heaven, you need to see what Jesus says about what it takes to enter heaven. He said “You must be perfect, as Your Father in Heaven in perfect.” You can’t do that! You can’t get to heaven on your own.

I was talking to a senior adult man in our community a few days ago, and the conversation worked around to the point where I asked him, “If you were to stand before God and He were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven,’ what would you say?” The man stopped for a moment, and then he said, “I suppose there would be a lot of begging going on.” He knew he had sinned; that he didn’t earn or deserve heaven. He needed a Savior.

And the truth is, we all do. That is why God sent Jesus; to be our Savior; our “Cornerstone.” Be sure that you have made Him your Cornerstone – if you haven’t yet; we’ll give you an opportunity to do that here in just a minute.

But there is also an application for those of us who ARE Christians already, and who know Jesus as our Cornerstone. As we deal with people in our community and seek to be witnesses to them, LET JESUS BE THE ONLY STUMBLING STONE. We’ve seen in His word several times where God says that Jesus will either be the Cornerstone or the Stumbling Stone. Make sure that the choice they make is based solely on Jesus HIMSELF, and not any other “stumbling block” that YOU might put in front of them.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the greatest evangelist, and I miss opportunities to share all the time — but I did get another chance to share the gospel recently with a contractor who came by our house the other day. He said something about all the “hypocrites” in religion. This is common, isn’t it? You hear that from people a lot. Honestly, I think for many of them, it’s just an excuse; but at the same time, we as God’s people need to make sure that our behavior and practice is not hypocritical, and that we do not become a “stumbling block” to other people who ARE watching our lives.

Let’s make sure that it is only JESUS who is the “Stumbling Block” for the people we know — not us, or anything about us.
Let them hear about Jesus dying on the cross, and rising from the dead, and decide for themselves if they will believe that or not; whether He will be their “Cornerstone” or their “Stumbling Stone.” But we should make it our goal not to put any other obstacle in the way, as a stumbling block:
— don’t make your politics or your lifestyle or anything else be somebody’s stumbling block. Do your best to let Jesus Himself be the issue: if they stumble, let them stumble over HIM — not anything else about your life.

But the fact is, we must all choose about Jesus Christ. Will He be the “Cornerstone” or the “Stumbling Stone” for you? C.S. Lewis is one of my very favorite writers, and in one of his best books, Mere Christianity, he wrote about the decision that each of us have to make about Jesus Christ:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity, Chapter 3, p. 56)

What Lewis was saying is, you have to make a choice about Jesus. Is He the Son of God and the Savior of the world, or is He not? There is no “comfortable in between.” You can’t have just “a little bit of Jesus.” You can’t just bring Him in like a little decorative “cross necklace” you hang around your neck while you go and do whatever you want to with your life. He will not come that way. If He comes into your life, He comes in as “Cornerstone,” as LORD, who will determine the direction of everything else in your life. THE biggest question of your life is, which will you do with Him. Your eternal destiny is all about what you do with JESUS CHRIST. He HIMSELF is the Stumbling Stone.

Let me make it as clear as I can:
— You don’t have to go to this church. I love this church, but I know it’s not perfect. If you look around, you will find things wrong with it, because there’s not a perfect person in this building, I can promise you — starting with the Senior Pastor! So I’m not telling you that you have to go to this church. Don’t stumble over this church.
— And I hate to say this in a Baptist church, but you don’t even have to be a Baptist to be saved. Don’t stumble over us Baptists. There’s plenty of Baptists who have hypocrisies and compromises and inconsistencies. I know it. You don’t have to be a Baptist. Don’t stumble over Baptists.
— I’m not telling you you have to be a “Middle Class American.” There’s plenty of inconsistencies in Middle Class America. You don’t have to pursue the “American Dream” and settle into a brick house and have 2.3 children in order to follow Jesus Christ! Don’t stumble over that.

None of these other things is the real point. But I am telling you: you must make a choice about Jesus Christ. He will either be the Cornerstone or the Stumbling Stone for you. He is either who He said He is: 100% God who became 100% Man, who died on the cross to pay for your sins, and rose again from the dead on the 3rd day, to be the only way of salvation, whom you must give your life to and follow as your Lord and God or be lost forever — or He is not.

That is the truth. Believe that or not; receive it, or stumble over it! Make your decision based on Jesus Christ. Not on me, not this church, not “middle class America”, not anything else. Look at what the Bible tells us about Jesus Christ, and either choose Him or reject Him.
What you choose to do with Him will be single most important thing, that defines your life, and determines your eternity.

Jesus Christ WILL BE either the Cornerstone, or the Stumbling Stone of your life. The only question is, for YOU; for YOU — which one will He be?

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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