Amos 5:21-22a, 24 - (The Lord says) "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. even though you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them ... But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
In this stern message of centuries ago, the prophet Amos paints a picture of God's judgment against all religious hypocrisy. It's a scathing rebuke against Israel's apostasy. Nevertheless, just as Amos speaks God's judgment, he also speaks God's mercy: "'Seek Me and live'" (Amos 5:4b).
Now perhaps we feel like Amos' words don't have much application in this day and age, or that they don't apply to us. Based on people around us, we may be convinced we're doing pretty well, thank you. At this hour, however, God isn't interested in our flimsy comparisons with those around us. Rather, He wants us to look at our own life and examine it—not by our standards—but by His (see Romans 3:23).
And that's a tough one, too, because by God's standards, we all fall. There's no measuring up; there's no checklist we can tick off and make things right. There's only God's mercy to see us through. If we are troubled today, we must look at what God has already done for us in Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament, Paul tells us, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight" (Ephesians 1:7-8). And again, the apostle writes, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
My friend, if your life is to be turned around, it is going to have to be on the basis of what God has completed for you in Jesus Christ—not on what you can do to please Him. The redeemed life is one that is baptized into the Name and into the power of Christ's resurrection. Then, each day, we can live in His resurrection power by receiving strength from God's Word and the Holy Spirit.
When by faith you are grafted into Christ (see John 15), you are also empowered to live in His forgiveness and in the power of His resurrection. Thankfully, God allows us to begin today—no matter who we are, no matter what we have done (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). He is not interested in our accomplishments, but our surrender. By trusting in what God has so graciously provided us all in the Savior's life, death, and resurrection, we become His own: children of the King and heirs of eternal life.
This is the thrust of Amos' message. Our only and best hope is in God. Turn to Him. He is our Victor. He is our Strength. He has sent His Son Jesus, the Lamb of God, to take away the sin of the world.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for the grace You offer us all in Jesus Christ. Amen.
From "Empty Religion," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Do you ever do things based on habit, but don't really have your heart in it?
2. Does God's words spoken through Amos have much bearing on us today?
3. How can we keep ourselves from falling into pits of habit and ritual in our faith life?
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