Watch Your Step
Scripture: Luke 17:1-5
There is a story about a man who was a doctor of divinity, who lived with his son, who was a doctor of medicine. One day the telephone range and the D.D. answered it. “Is this Dr. Frank speaking?” “Yes” was the answer. “Are you the one who preaches or the one who practices?” Came the startling question. Near the close of the sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to his Disciples, “Ye are the light of the world.” That light was to be characterized by meekness, mercy, peacemaking, a forgiving spirit, and righteousness. “That men might see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.” He wanted Christians to practice what they preached.
I. Lest they become stumbling blocks to others.
Jesus said, “Then said He unto His disciples, it is impossible but that offenses will come, but woe unto him through whom they come. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”
A. The word “offense” may also be translated as an occasion to fall, occasion of stumbling, or stumbling block. We read in Romans 14:12-13, “So then shall everyone of us give an account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” We cause others to fall by not practicing what we preach.
B. The sin against which our Lord warns us was the sin of David. When he broke the seventh commandment and took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah to be his wife, the prophet Nathan said, “You have given great occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” (2nd Sam 12:14). IT was the sin which Paul charged to Christian Jews in Romans 2:24 when he said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” It is the sin of which Paul frequently begs Christians to beware (1st Cor 1) “Give none offense neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.”
The sin which or Lord brings before us is unhappily very common, yet nevertheless very deadly. This sin harms other souls. This sin injures the gospel of Christ, and this sin merits the wrath of God. Woes were pronounced against the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Woes were pronounced against cities for their unbelief and here, woes are pronounced against inconsistent Christian living, against not practicing what we preach.
C. In a striking figure Jesus showed His disciples what they were to be in the world, how they were to bless it by the influence of their lives. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” We are to be the salt of the earth, not merely in the words we speak but especially in the influence of our lives. Someone has said, “You may bring to your office and put in a frame a motto as fine as its paint, but if you’re dishonest when playing the game, that motto won’t make you a saint, you can stick up the placard all over the hall, but here is the word I announce, it is not the motto that hangs on the wall, but the motto you live that counts. If the motto says, “Smile” and you carry a frown, “Do it now” and you linger and wait, if the motto says “Help” and you trample men down, if the motto says “Love” and you hate–you won’t get away with the mottos that stall, for truth will come forth with a bounce, it’s not the motto that hangs on the wall but the motto you live that counts.”
We must take heed, therefore, that the salt we are does not lose its power to bless. We must make sure that the world is purified, sweetened, and made better in every way by our living in it. To do this we must practice what we preach. And practicing what we preach,
D. Takes plenty of consistent living.
A. A man was on his way downtown and his son was following him. The ground was covered by freshly fallen snow in which the man’s footprints showed plainly. Turning his head he saw the little fellow taking immense strides and putting his feet into the prints his father had made. The father had not lived consistently up to that time but what he saw that winter morning caused him to remark, “If any boy is going to follow in my footsteps I must be careful how I walk.”
B. In 1st Corinthians 9:27 Paul wrote, “But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection lest when I have preached to others I myself should be a castaway.” In Mark 9:42 Jesus said, “If thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off. If thine eye cause thee to stumble, pluck it out.” The things that are dear to us as eyes, foot, or hand are to be cast off and given up if they injure our souls or the souls of others, whatever pain the sacrifice may cost us. The eye, hand, foot are good servants when under the right direction, but they need daily watching. Let us habitually crucify our flesh with its affections and lusts. Let us deny ourselves those pleasures which may ruin our influence.
C. The children sing a song; “Be careful, little hands, what you do, for the Father up above is looking down in love, O be careful little hands, what you do. Be careful little feet, little eyes, little ears, little tongues.”
D. A man took his little boy for a walk. As they came to a melon patch the man carefully looked in all directions and then began to crawl through the fence to steal a melon. The boy said, “Dad, you forgot something!” “What?” “You forgot to look up!” In Romans 6:13 Paul wrote, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin but yield yourselves unto God and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” Practice what you preach by
E. Living a Christ-like life. Manifest the fruit of the spirit Gal 5:22, Love, joy, peace, longsuffering gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, or self control. Living out any one of these virtues is an assignment in itself, but God would make us bearers of the fruit of the spirit “if we will but crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts”.
Be patient in tribulation. Hold steady in the fire for a hand of love holds the temperature gauge.
Bear ye one another’s burdens. Edge your shoulder under the heavy load. Speak encouragement to the discouraged. Be understanding and sympathize with those whose hearts are crushed with frustration and failure. Let your light sine brightly that men may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven. The eyes of the many will always be upon us. Unless we practice what we preach, others will stumble over our profession. Let us seek daily to lay aside every weight and the sin which does easily beset us and let us remember the words of Paul in 1st Cor 3:23, “Ye are Christ’s. Ye have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s.” I am a Roman was of old a reason for integrity. Far more then, let this be your argument for avoiding the urge to backslide, and offend. Say “I am Christ’s.”
II. Verses 3-4 teach us the importance of a forgiving spirit.
“Take heed to yourselves, if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him, and if he repent, forgive him, and if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day repent, thou shalt forgive him.”
A. Forgiveness of injuries is strongly dwelt upon in the New Testament. It fills a prominent place in the Lord’s prayer. The only profession we make in all that prayer is that of forgiving those who trespass against us. It is the test of being forgiven ourselves. Willingness to forgive is one of the leading proofs of our Christianity. “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.”
B. In a certain town in PA, there was a young man who’d gotten tired of home and the farm, so he went to the city. He ran wild and plunged to the depths of sin. By and by he came to himself and wondered if he would be welcome home again. He bought a ticket for home but when he reached the home station he was so ashamed at his rags that he went on a few stations farther. Then he sat down and wrote a letter home. It was his first in years. He confessed how sinful he had been and asked his parents’ forgiveness. He told them that he would arrive the next day and if they would welcome him again, to hang a sheet on the clothesline as a token. What did that mother do? She got all the sheets she owned, 16 of them, and hung them on the line. That was the sign of abundant pardon. And that is just how God does things, and because He forgives (Eph 4:32) “We are to be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us.”
Let us leave these verses with jealous self-examination. How often we have given offense and caused others to stumble. How often we have been guilty of unkind, angry and vengeful attitudes. Like the Disciples we need to pray, “Lord, increase our faith.” The more carefully we attend to such practical lessons as this passage contains, the more shall we recommend our religion to others, and the more inward peace shall we find in our own souls. Let’s resolve today to watch our step and to practice what we preach.