God doesn’t want you to resume your old way of life but make changes that mirror His righteous character.
[Gary Petty] Wouldn't you love to return to the life you had before COVID-19? Well, maybe we need to look at what God has to say.
How many times during the COVID-19 crisis, social unrest, economic distress, and the political circus that we've all been experiencing, have you heard someone say "I can't wait to get back to normal?” What is the new normal? We'll be asking that question for a long time. Today, I specifically want to talk with Christians, no matter what your denomination, about your new normal. Is your new normal to return to church, get back to work, go to your favorite restaurant, and return to the old comfortable routine?
Listen, God doesn't want you to simply return to your old comfortable routine. Right now while the fear of disease, economic distress, social unrest is still fresh in your mind and part of our lives, before you just settle back into this new normal, it's time for you to understand the message from the Bible that's really important to your life right now at this moment. But this message is not going to allow you to be comfortable and it will not allow you to return to your old normal if you actually listen to it.
Today we're going to look at a mostly forgotten message given by a little known biblical prophet to people who said that they were the special people of God. And Christians, by definition, are the special people of God. So the message of this prophet is also God's message to you. God sent a prophet named Amos to the people of ancient Israel who were God's special people. Amos was a simple somewhat blunt man, a sheepherder, a farmer, and it was a prosperous time. Israel had a large wealthy class and a strong middle class and business was good. They had a powerful army that kept them safe. And they were very religious. They worshipped the God of the Bible and they believed that God was the source of their blessing.
And this crazy prophet comes along and tells them that God is displeased with their normal lives. So we're going to look at three indictments from God against the people of ancient Israel and see how this message is important to our nation today. We're also going to look at some solutions to these problems from the New Testament.
The first indictment was injustice. Let me read here what Amos said, what God's message was to these people. "Three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment." That's a Hebrew idiom. It's sort of like three strikes and you're out. In other words for three transgressions God kept warning them and warning them. And then He says, "You went over the top now and I'm not going to hold back punishment." So this is what God said to those people. He then said, "Because they sell the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals."
The meaning of the sentence is that their judicial system which had originally been given to them actually by God was no longer based on God's laws, but justice was defined by power and money. According to this verse there were two kinds of people who suffered. One was the righteous. In other words those who actually tried to live by God's ways, to live by the laws of God, those who tried to follow God suffered and the poor suffered. In fact the next verse gives us great description of what it was like to be poor. It says, "They" talking about these wealthy people, the people who lusted after land, and power, and wealth, "They pant after the dust of the earth, which is on the head of the poor and pervert the way of the humble." Think about that image. He said it's like they want the poor people to shake all the dust out of their hair, you know, so they can somehow scoop that up and sell it.
You see the motivation for this injustice was greed. Okay. That's an interesting little bible story. What does it have to do with your life, right? I mean you just want to get back to a feeling of security and normalcy. You know let's take a minute here and think about the reality of our society. Have you ever been watching television and became frustrated with commercial after commercial about class-action suits because of pharmaceutical companies that were accused of selling medicines, knowing about the terrible side effects? And then there are the manufacturers of pesticides who were accused of selling products with knowledge of the damage done to people who use them. And everyone knows that the tobacco industry, they knew of the harmful effects of smoking but they hid the truth from us, right?
Now many of you are agreeing with me because I'm going after the injustice of big business and they're sort of easy to go after, but let's break this down. How about every time a police officer abuses his power and hurts somebody needlessly? That's injustice but you know think about it. It's also injustice to destroy an innocent person's business or home in a violent riot. It is injustice any time a judge makes a judgment not in accordance with right and wrong but because someone has power. It's also wrong to make a judgment because well, I'm going to favor this person because they don't have power. Every time someone buys a judgment it’s injustice. Or any time a judge says, "Well, I know you're in the wrong but because you're poor, I'm going to favor you." Injustice is anytime a decision is made because of a social status of a person or the color of a person's skin, that's all injustice.
And God's message to ancient Israel was that real justice means fair laws that are applied to everyone in the same way. History tells us the more a society perverts justice, the more arbitrary judicial decisions become. The more decisions are based on class or influence, the more that society slides into lawlessness and anarchy. That was Amos's message to ancient Israel 2,700 years ago. And that message rings true right now, right now at this moment that you and I live in.
So what is the New Testament answer to injustice? I mean where would you go? How do we find that New Testament answer? Now being Christians, I'm speaking directly to Christians, I think most of you would say, "I know the answer to this. I know the answer to this. We need to love our neighbor." And you know that's absolutely true, but then why aren't we doing it? You know the majority of people in this country still claim to be Christian and yet we're not loving each other. There's all the strife and conflict and whatever the crisis is today, there'll be another crisis tomorrow.
You see actually you can't love your neighbor until you understand the fundamental teaching of the New Testament that is often ignored in Christianity. It's a fundamental thing that we don't think about, that every time we deal with injustice, problems that can't be solved, the angst that we have as people, we need to remember this. Paul is writing to a group of Christians at Ephesus. So these are Christians he's writing to. And he says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." He's telling these Christians, "Remember who you were before you became a Christian." He's telling them, "Remember the life you lived before you became a Christian."
Now if we're living the same lives we lived before we became Christians we have a real problem because that's not true Christianity. So he's telling them remember that, remember when this prince of the power of the air, which is Satan, affected your lives. But we seem to forget about him right? And yet he is, according to the Scripture, the God of this age. Now listen to this next verse. "Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the less of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were, by nature, the children of wrath, just as the others." Look at this, "by nature, the children of wrath," that's every human being. Every human being by nature is filled with a selfishness and wrath. That's me, that's you, that's everybody. Paul says that the problem with human beings is that inside us at the very core of our existence Satan has influenced all of us.
You know that's why we can't get out of these messes. That's why we always fix one mess with another mess. And this is why injustice is a core human problem that seems to have no real solution because in every human being at our core we are by nature children of wrath. And you know this is the basic difference between the beliefs of the secular humanist, which forms the concepts of education in our country, and Christians who understand Paul's message. Human beings are not by nature good. Now we're capable of doing good but in every person, part of each of us, we have to admit this is also, by nature, a child of wrath. And that means any real solution for justice must involve God or we'll never achieve it.
We'll discuss this idea a little bit more in the next segment. Before we move on and talk more about the message of Amos and how it applies to Christians today, I want to invite you to get today's free study guide, "The Church Jesus Built." If you read this study guide and you study the Bible passages that are mentioned, you will be challenged. You can't go back to your old Christian normalcy. There's a section of what it means to be God's special people, an explanation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ and how the law of God explains what justice really means for Christians. You can order your free copy of "The Church Jesus Built" by calling the number on your screen or going online to beyondtoday.tv. There you can read "The Church Jesus Built" online, download a copy or order a hard copy to be sent directly to you.
So the first indictment of the Prophet Amos is against the society that perverts justice. And the New Testament message is that there cannot be any real justice until human nature is changed through the power of God. That's it. Only by turning to God can we find the solutions to the human condition.
Now let's look at a second indictment here from Amos later in his book that he wrote. Here's what God says. This is in the first person. This isn't Amos speaking. He's actually writing down what he said God had told him. "And God says, 'I hate, I despise your feast days. I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings and your grain offering, I will not receive them, nor will I regard your fat and peace offerings. Take away from me the noise of your songs for I will not hear the melody of your string instruments, but let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Notice Amos tells ancient Israel that at the heart of their problem, God hates the religious gatherings and praise and worship services. And that's our second indictment. Our second indictment is false religion in the name of the true God. There are serious problems in Christianity today that are actually the same problems that ancient Israel had that Amos dealt with. And this is where Amos's message gets really uncomfortable if you're a Christian and you're listening.
To understand the message of this ancient prophet we have to go back and understand the religion of ancient Israel. You see Israel and Judah had been one nation and they divided into two kingdoms. In order to keep the people of Israel from wanting to return to worshiping God in Solomon's temple which was in Jerusalem, Jeroboam I created a new way to worship God. It included, if you go back and read in the scripture, ornate statues to enhance the worship experience, a health and wealth message that made the Israelites really appreciate their blessings. And plenty, as we just read, of praising music to make sure everybody felt good about their worshiping of God. And yet their worship was not acceptable to God.
Is this the same comfortable religious normalcy you want to happen in your life? You know when you go through today's study guide, when you actually study "The Church, Jesus Built" and look at the Scriptures and go through them, you're going to be forced to ask yourself a whole list of questions. Just a few of them: how many churches are adorned with statues of Jesus and saints that are used to enhance the worship of the invisible God? This is a teaching that disobeys the second commandment. How many pulpits promote a health and wealth gospel claiming that if you have enough faith you will receive unlimited blessings from God? Just read the gospels and you will see that Jesus clearly taught against that. That wasn't his message. How many people leave their praise and worship service inspired, but to return home to dishonest business as usual acceptance of lifestyles God says are important to Him and basically ignoring God well until the next praise and worship service?
What is Jesus's answer to this indictment? Here's what Jesus said, He said, "But a time is coming, indeed it is here now, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth." And then He said, "The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way." Now let's look at three words here Jesus uses. Worship. How do you define worship? In New Testament Greek a number of words have translated worship in English. They have similar meanings. To show reverence, to show great respect for God. In the Old Testament worship means to throw yourself flat out onto the ground in absolute humility before God. You have all this confusion and anger and anxiety, what does God want from you? What does God want from you? He wants you to be humble before Him. He wants you to recognize that He's the only solution to these problems in your life in society. He's it. He wants you to bow down before Him in all and admiration of His brilliance, and goodness, and love. He wants you to obey Him beginning with simply with the 10 commandments.
Now before you say, "Oh, I know I love the 10 commandments. Yay. Amen. I want to keep the 10 commandments." I want you to do something when the program's over. I really want you to do this. If you're serious go to your Bible, look up the 10 commandments and read the second commandment and the fourth commandment. Do you obey them? Go find out. Jesus said that we must worship God in spirit. See, worship, spirit. It's time to get rid of your religious life of statues and rituals and humbly on your knees in prayer and an intense Bible study, seek God's direction in every thought, every emotion, every action. This is what the Christianity is that we're supposed to go to here.
The third point He said was truth. The Bible is the source of spiritual truth. Jesus Christ died for our sins because sin is abhorrent to God. We don't hear much about sin anymore. And either He supplies a substitute for us, or we have to suffer eternal death for our sins and that's a judgment from God. And any Christian message that says because of God's love He doesn't really condemn sin. It's anti-gospel and Antichrist. How often do you hear that message? You know if you're feeling a bit uncomfortable that's really good. When confronted by the words of the Almighty God we should feel uncomfortable.
Please get a copy of our free study guide, "The Church Jesus Built." There's an important chapter titled "The Rise of a Counterfeit Christianity." Jesus said, "Take heed that no one deceives you for many will come in my name and deceive many." How can you make sure your Christianity is acceptable to God? It will cost you nothing to read the study guide, just call the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.tv and download your free copy.
So we've looked at two indictments that Amos made against ancient Israel, a people who were proud because they were the people of God, and God makes these same indictments against our society and churches today. The first indictment was injustice. They were a society where law was perverted by greed and influence peddling. The second indictment is false religion in the name of the true God. Ancient Israel had lots of statues and rituals to enhance their worship. They saw their physical wealth as proof of God's acceptance. And they had great praise and worship music, but God was unhappy with them. And Jesus said that God is seeking true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth.
Now let's look at Amos's third indictment, okay? The verse I'm going to read here is going to sound a little strange. We have to understand the context in which he says it. He says "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are of the mountain of Samaria," Samaria was the capital of Israel, "who oppress the poor and crushed the needy. Who say to your husbands, 'Bring wine, let us drink.'" The cows of Bashan are not bovines in the field. Amos, and remember I said he was a rather blunt man, is referring to the party spirit lifestyle of Israel's well-to-do women. This is the third point, the third indictment, a party spirit lifestyle.
I mean do you imagine a minister calling members of his congregation who had an easy life and wanted to party all the time a bunch of cows? It's what Amos did. Now let's take an honest look at our lives, okay? We live in a party society. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is rooted in a deep spiritual need for God. We fill our minds with entertainment and video games and still the need for God is unfulfilled. One night stands, living for the weekend and still we're spiritually empty. And is this the new normal you're seeking? Well what's the answer? Amos tells us what to do. Amos says, "For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, 'Seek me and live.'" You see the solution isn't to join the choir or say the magic prayer. The only solution we have is to seek God.
You remember in the first segment I read where the Apostle Paul wrote that we are all by nature children of wrath. I said I would come back to that. Here's a reality, here's a reality that if you're truly going to be a Christian, you're going to have to focus in on. No political party, no social program, no educational system, no amount of money can fundamentally change society because every human being is fundamentally flawed.
Satan has influenced all of us. And until we humbly bow ourselves before God we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. God must change your nature for any real change to happen in your life. And this is the Christian message that I said at the beginning of the program should make you uncomfortable. You know what? It should also make you - it should put a fire in your spirit. Okay? This should also put a fire in your spirit.
Here's Jesus's answer to this, we want to know what Jesus's answer is. He says in the sermon on the Mount, "Therefore do not worry saying, 'What shall I eat?' Or 'What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear?' for after these things, all the nations seek.'" This is what everybody seeks. He says, "For your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things." That has to be the core faith. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and these things shall be added to you." Seek first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
You see the goal of the Christian life is to live by the standards of justice in your life, the religious values and laws in your life, and the lifestyles in your life of the Kingdom of God. That's what Christianity is. You can't change the world, but you can change yourself. No you can let God change yourself and then God can change the world because we're living in a world where Satan is actually the God of this age. Jesus said we have to seek it. This isn't just reading a few Bible verses to seek His intense activity. The problem with your Christianity? It’s become too easy. The old normal is too easy. Jesus Christ is returning to establish God's Kingdom on this earth. Are you preparing for that event? Because this is the hope, the purpose, and the mission of the church Jesus built.
And once again I want to encourage you, get your free copy of "The Church Jesus Built." There are two chapters that are really important for you to study. One is "A Spiritual Transformed People," which is about how God deals with our wrathful nature that's natural to us. The other is "The Mission and Responsibility of the Church." This will help you understand the authentic Christian message. To receive your free copy of "The Church Jesus Built," call the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.tv.
So let's review the three indictments of Amos. The first is injustice. We see that Israel was a society where law was perverted by greed and influence peddling. That happens way too much in the nation you and I live in. And the problem is there's human nature. Only by turning to God and having Him change you, one person at a time, can our human nature actually be changed. The second indictment is false religion in the name of the true God. All the ancient Israelites worship the God of the Bible, but they're condemned because of their idols, and health and wealth message, and because their praise and worship is not acceptable to God because of their lifestyles. Jesus said the answer to that is to worship God in spirit and truth. And then Israel was a party lifestyle society, and that's who we are. Jesus said that the solution is to seek first the kingdom of God and this has to be your life's absolute priority.
God has a message for you about your new normal. To really be His special people you can't return to the old way that you were before. You have to become something new. You know if nothing else, this COVID-19 crisis, economic stress, social unrest reminded all of us that life is fragile. I mean let's face it, an unknown, unseen virus, you can't smell it, you can't feel it, you can't hear it, yet it brought the entire world to its knees.
Before you try and get totally back to life the way it was, God wants you to see stay on your knees just a little long and hear His message to all people who say they are His special people, a message from a forgotten prophet whose words still ring, still ring true to Christians today.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today's program, "The Church Jesus Built." Jesus Christ promised to build His church. Churches today have a wide variety of approaches, doctrines, and teachings. How do they compare to those of the original church, the one Jesus founded, the one carried on by those who knew Him? How do you recognize that church? This free study aid, "The Church Jesus Built," will give you biblical keys to discerning the church Jesus calls His own. Jesus told His followers to follow His example, so did the Apostle Paul. Yet many of today's churches teach and practice ideas that would shock Jesus's first followers.
Learn the fascinating story of "The Church Jesus Built." Order now. Call 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. God's Word speaks of a true church and a false church. Your Bible tells you which one is which. You can find those who are among "The Church Jesus Built" today. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to "Beyond Today Magazine." "Beyond Today Magazine" brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, "The Church Jesus Built" and your free one-year subscription to "Beyond Today Magazine." Call 1-888-886-8632, or go online to beyondtoday.tv.
[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with United Church of God. If you're looking for a church that encourages living what the Word of God really teaches, you've found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.