Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Amos 6 the problem of complacency

Sermon Amos 6 May 2012

Today we have met together to deal with God. To deal with what He says through His Word.

Some here today are not going to like what I have to say – but you know – it’s not me who is giving the warning in Amos 6 - it is God.

It’s easy to pick a passage to make people like you and speak only positive things, in fact psychologists would say don’t say negative things, but you know what – God says negative things and we should listen to Him.

Some in our congregation have at various times expressed to me their difficulty with understanding the Old Testament.

No doubt on first glance many today will feel exactly that having just had our Bible reading.

But let me assure you that sense can be made of it. God’s Word is able to be understood.

To do that, let’s first recap a bit on where we have come in studying Amos.

Where have back in Amos one and two seen that this preacher, this prophet of God who is speaking in a time of a divided nation, the northern and southern Kingdom, Judah worshipping in Jerusalem and Israel with its capital in Samaria worshipping mainly at Bethel. Amos starts off by pointing out that God will surely bring judgment upon Israel’s despicable neighbors. No doubt the cheering was immense at his words.

But then comes the crunch.

God will indeed deal with the sins of the nations with their wickedness, but this does not absolve God’s people of judgment for their own wickedness. They are special to Him, they are chosen by Him, but this does not mean a license to do as they please.

They cannot treat others badly, with disdain because that is what they were doing in ripping off the poor.

A bit of this comes out in the name and description of Amos the prophet.

In chapter 1:1 we are told he was a shepherd, specifically from Tekoa. He is also a “caretaker”, “a caretaker of Sycamore trees” 7:14, this for some might conjure up the idea he was a well off farmer, but the sycamore tree produced a very poor kind of fruit, which only the poorest people ate [ Boice pg 135 ] so we understand how he knows the lot of the poor! The oppressed, and he speaks out that God is not impressed how they are being treated by the middle class and well off.

A child can sit on their fathers knee but that privilege does not mean license to hit their father in the face. Sadly if we reflect upon it – we do this an aweful lot don’t we? We need to wake up to ourselves and listen to him and adore Him.

God holds his people accountable for their actions towards Him. He has laid out for them right from the start, back in Exodus and Deuteronomy what he expects of them and if they are to receive blessing then they ought to obey what he says.

Complacency and putting your trust in earthly securities is a folly and it has dire consequences.

Just recently they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

On that ship there was the crew, and also the affluent lounging on their ivory chairs and those who raised just enough money to pay for passage to a new land where they hoped they could make a new life for themselves.

But even though they were in dangerous waters, they were in the place which was known for icebergs, the crew were complacent. The Captain had his own agenda, and he and the crew were complacent about the danger. And the ship they said even God couldn’t sink, sank!

There is a difference between complacency and apathy and we do well to understand the difference.

Apathy is when you lack a feeling or emotion, you show indifference, a lack of interest or concern.

Complacency - a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.

Israel and Judah’s danger was more significant than we imagine – after all God had promised Abraham that his descendant s would be more numerous than the stars in heaven. Gen 15:5 and now here he declares that Israel will be like a virgin that died childless! Amos 5:2 This would be shocking to the Israelites to hear this.

So here in chapter 6 what does the Lord through the prophet accuse them of?

For both Zion, that is Jerusalem ( Southern kingdom ) and Samaria ( in the Northern kingdom )

The leadership are arrogant, some are spiritually arrogant,

they believe because God is present in His Temple in Jerusalem that they are secure, invincible.

They forget that God doesn’t stand sin. And very soon, after Israel, the northern Kingdom was taken off into exile, the prophet Ezekiel who is in exile with them has a vision of the glory departing from the Temple and from the city of Jerusalem. God leaves His people.

And those in the North are just as smug. They trust in their armies and defenses. It tells us there in vs 1, when it mentions not merely Samaria but Mount Samaria, where the city was set, up on a nice fortified mountain.

To undermine their confidence and make stark their foolishness Amos then mentions three cities, vs3

These are three city states on the borders of the promised land, and each of them succumbed to invasion.

Not only were the leaders arrogant, ignoring the ever present dangers around about, the wealthy, were lying around on ivory inlaid couches.

I prefer the word wealthy because it isn’t just the upper class by which we think for ourselves the Murdocks and Packers or more so even Gina Rhinehart, the wealthiest woman in the world. It is the well off.

They ate the choice meats,. the best meat of the calves, no 10 year old bull for them.

They had every sort of entertainment to sooth their ears vs 5 No doubt to block out the wails of the poor .

They were so well off they could wile away the hours on their musical instruments, even experimenting at writing songs. And by mentioning David it is likely it is referring to not only personal music but “religious music.” Self indulgent religious music! You know the kind of hymns – all about me and my feelings, not God!

Verse 6 tells us they abuse the good things God has given us. They drank their wines by the bottle. And the best wines at that, no the $20 bottle but the $130 bottles, and they had the best oils = perfumes, not the cheapo at K-Mart but Esta Lauder which Sarah sells at work! Again worth $100.

So while they lavish it all upon themselves and show their self-indulgence,

they don’t care about anyone else,

they don’t care about the ruin of Joseph, which stands for the ruin of Israel,

see how already back in 5:15 Amos has mentioned only a remnant of Joseph will be left. Only a minuscule number will be spared and receive mercy.

But get this, this verse that “they don’t grieve over the ruin of Joseph” is a sin of omission, they are criticized by God for what they fail to do!

I can accept if I murder and cheat someone, they’re acts of commission, but acts of omission I push to the furthest recesses of my mind.

This is one of the serious consequences of people who are complacent – they fail to do what they should.

And then in verse 7 with a bit of irony Amos brings us back to verse 1 again because he says you will be among the first to go into exile, you guys who presume to be leaders of the foremost the number 1, the first nation, the nation chosen by God to be leader of the nations of the world. You – will go first into exile!

This is more significant than you probably think. Israel was meant to be a light to the nations, that’s what God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:3 told us. But here by their actions and inaction they were anything but.

They were exactly the opposite,

There was no justice, there was no righteousness, only self-indulgence!

The second half of the chapter refers to the certainty of the Judgment of God upon them he has sworn by himself,

it’s a done deal because of their wickedness.

And so in spite of their proud confidence judgment is certain so much so that not just cities but homes are decimated, if a home has 10 men then they too shall die, and it will be such a calamity that plague occurs and any survivors are forced to burn the dead.

This is a big thing because Israel never cremated people, they buried them, but this is so devastating and so quick and on such a scale that they have to burn the bodies to limit the plague.

The reason for that unusual statement in verse 10 about being told to not mention the name of the Lord is clarified by context! In verse 11 we are told it’s the Lord who is bringing about this judgment so don’t draw attention to yourself!

So in a sense it isn’t hard with a bit of study to see what the Lord is saying through Amos to Judah and Israel.

But have we felt its impact?

It’s dire warning?

They, the Israelites, have the warning given last week in the sermon by Sean on the day of the Lord, God’s wrath being poured out as revealed in chapter 5.

What is harder

is the application to us today,

hard in the sense that we don’t like our comfortableness ruffled.

We don’t like being challenged to repent or get our act together.

They were complacent. So the question is – Are we?

So where do we stand today?

Well --- do we understand the imminent danger Israel and Judah faced?

We would if we heard Sean’s sermon last week on chapter 5 on the day of the Lord. If we heard that sermon we’d see how chapter 6 makes perfect sense. They indeed were complacent. The danger was there and their self-satisfaction blinded them!

Are we likewise blinded?

Were we here last week to hear the sermon on chapter 5?

Or are we one of those that only make it to church every one in three Sundays?

Each one of us here in this predicament has to access our own reasons at this point, because I am not saying “well you should have been here even if you were sick…”

But such a warning as Amos gives convicts us when we weren’t here because we were self indulgent!

I have said it before – do we understand this great family God has called us into here at Bomaderry? Do we understand that we are a body here at Bomaderry?

What are we teaching our children at that level? Are we teaching them to love the church, to love his people?

I stand as much convicted of this as anyone else here today.

I have two grown children and had to discuss with them my failure to teach them by word and actions to love Jesus’ church!

The two eldest have left home and for two years it has been a struggle to find a church and commit to serving others there.

It’s easy to not think this through.

8am and 10 am

I had a warden a number of years ago who had children in Canberra who would frequently visit him and his wife on Sundays and on those occasions they would stay home to greet them. Of course they didn’t come on Saturdays because they had sport and so on, but Sundays suited them. But I talked with John and asked him had he thought about the example he was setting his children! What he was modeling them about his love of God and His people the church. So he thought about it, told his children to let themselves in and they’d be home after church. And you know what? They started arriving early and coming with their parents to church!

Each of us fail often to do as we should

- Sadly we are complacent.

The letters of Jesus to the 7 churches in Rev 2-3 apply to us.

They are a wake up call repent !

Don’t put up with error, with heresy.

Don’t have a form of religion turn up at church on Sundays sometimes when it suits. He the Lord has called you into a family, has made you a body to care and nurture each other to support, encourage, to serve one another here.

But instead of using the letters of the 7 churches in Revelation chapters 2 & 3 I want us to come back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33

“seek first the KOG and His righteousness.” Where is our passion for Jesus? Where is our passion for His people?

8am Harold and Murial Doyle couple in their 70’s – frail he dying with weak heart and emphysema .. he was housebound, yet a fervent prayer life for the churches, churches in Sydney, for the gospel, for individuals even beyond their own church. Yet she would try and did make it to evening service frequently to encourage the “young ones”.

10am Again, what are you passionate about? You will see it by what takes precedence what take up most of your time, your focus.

Look at your facebook page – what does it tell you your focus is?

I have a relative who puts up endless pictures of their child. It is something that consumes her! There’s practically nothing else she posts on.

Does your facebook reflect something like that?

I’m just as guilty – I got a new motorbike and was really quick to post a picture of it on my facebook page!

so when I reflected on it I began to talk about God and His Word and what it means to be a Christian! After all, that is really my passion but it is so easy to make it second to other things..

Are you complacent about church and meeting together as His people. You easily let other things distract you.

I went out sat night and was tired.

My kids have sport so we couldn’t make it.

My family came over for lunch so we couldn’t make it.

There’s lots more

I know the excuses I have either had them said to me or I have used them myself.

Sadly we don’t even let the thought creep into our mind that there’s church at night we could fellowship here with.

Perhaps we feel this idea begin to arise in our thinking and we quickly push it down.

Tough words. Well Jesus said tough words in the letters to the 7 churches.

Don’t get shirty with me, we are all challenged by the Words of God in the Scriptures.

If we don’t talk plainly about these things we are educating each other and our children to be passengers on the titanic.

Listen then carefully to Amos last words in this chapter.

In verse 12 Amos says you lot – you’re not foolish when it comes to where you ride your horses, or where you plow your fields for grain,

It’s a bit like you’re not foolish to drive your car down the wrong side of the pacific highway,

and you don’t let your milk go curdled and cheese moldy and then gulf it down anyway.

So why be foolish when there’s danger now!

Wake up and face the sin that brings God’s judgment.

“Seek First and foremost, as the crowning aim of your everyday life, the KOG and His righteousness.”


Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Kingdom of God Pt1

The Kingdom of God has been a subject of great interest over the past 15-20 years or so, and a good thing too as it was a subject heard relatively infrequently in the pulpit of many and also lacking in thoughtful discussion amongst many Christians.
That it is so lacking in discussion by Christians is a very sad state of affairs given that the Gospels begin by stating that John the baptist came preaching the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven Matt 3, and Jesus likewise Matt 4:17.
If this Kingdom figures so strongly why is it that we fail so miserably to understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of Heaven / God ? Context must be considered in getting the correct perspective on this Kingdom for He was preaching to Jews whom he expected to understand what it was he was preaching about. One thing for sure, to start with we need to repent of our present day glib comments and preaching from the pulpit about preaching the gospel, or using phraseology such as "let's be on about the Gospel" or "let's be Gospel people" when we refuse to expound the passage of Scripture in front of us that clearly mentions the Kingdom of God.
I notice that one of my favorite preachers Alistair Begg has just done a series on the Kingdom of God, at Truth for Life, however although he says many wonderful things I am afraid his perspective on the Kingdom is definitionally warping the Bibles teaching at that point and neutering the breadth of the Kingdom the Bible puts forth and that Jesus preached. Strong words and I will be held to account for saying them and I will indeed need to justify them. I do so not to malign a great man but to hope that in seeking to understand God's Word iron might sharpen iron. So let me attempt that here.
Alistair is quite correct in saying that
God rules over all areas of life, both spatially and geographically
but when he adds that
He even rules over even the disobedience of rebellious men and women
he moves from speaking of the spatial and geographical to the spiritual and moral realms. In this sense I believe he has then evacuated his definition of the Kingdom of God as
representative of the sphere in which God's rule is gladly accepted.
Is that not the spiritual realm or the moral realm? Let's leave aside whether biblically man ever gladly accepts God's rule since although positionally he is in Christ and so he has true legal standing before God, but practically he is in need of sanctification, becoming more like Christ being transformed in his mind Romans 12 etc. What Alistair has done is speak correctly of God's Sovereign rule and yet somehow wanted to distinguish from this the realm of the Kingdom of God which is where his rule is gladly accepted. This is in my mind confusing the issue.
Again he repeats that
the Kingdom of God is expressive of the sphere in which men and women submit to His rule.
Alistair then goes on to ask whether
your heart is a sphere in which God's Kingly rule is gladly accepted.
This then suggests that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual realm, and it automatically rules out any suggestion as to whether the bible teaches it could have broader application as well. It's to build our theology along the lines of the old children's song "I serve a risen Saviour He's in the world today ... He rules within my heart". The only question is whether the bible means a lot more than that when speaking of the Kingdom of God.
As I see it the bible first of all declares that God is Sovereign there is no area in which He does not rule. secondly that there is a clear teaching of Scripture concerning the Kingdom of God. How one holds these together is indeed the issue. I just don't see the bible advancing the concept that the Kingdom of God is the expression of the sphere of where His rule is gladly accepted.
The answer to understand the Kingdom must begin in Genesis. It is at Creation that man is made by God vice regent over the earth. He is to rule the earth as God's Vice Regent. This pronouncement is made despite God being Divine Personal Sovereign Creator. Man is Created in God's image and given rule over the earth and animals and fishes etc as God's ViceRegent. At the fall we see Adam handing over this realm to Satan, something that Satan still rules over post resurrection and Ascension of Jesus as Paul teaches in Ephesians 6. What is being taught is that Adam has rejected this Vice Regency and it awaits the Messiah to take it back fully.
Theologically this is why the old Protestant Theology used to teach the three offices of Christ, that of Prophet Priest and King. As Prophet he is the True Word of God. As Priest he is the full final Sacrifice for Sin that the Old Testament sacrifices were but a shadow of, and as King He will retake the ViceRegency over Creation that that the first Adam surrendered and the second Adam, Christ himself will restore.
Is this not what the Scriptures are teaching?

Yours in Christ