The Apostles’ Teaching Sermon Manuscript

NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, please listen to the message on our YouTube channel to hear the whole sermon.
The Apostles’ Teaching

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

-Why do we spend so much of our weekly gathering listening to me talk? And what am I trying to do as I read, study, and pray each week for this?

-One time heard someone say imagine every week is finals week!

-But this is what God has called, equipped and gifted me to pursue, just like every one of you should have things that God has called, equipped, and gifted you to do.

-The very first NT sermon is in Acts 2, an exposition of Joel 2

-Early apostles in Acts 6 appoint the first deacons so they could be devoted to “prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Serving as a job description of pastors/elders moving forward

-What we try to do here every week is exposit the text in front of us. Walking through a passage of Scripture word by word and explaining what it means, how that relates to us today, and how we should live in response to that word.

-J.I. Packer defined preaching this way: “Christian preaching is the event of God himself bringing to an audience a Bible-based, Christ-related, life-impacting message of instruction and direction through the words of a spokesperson.” 

-John Stott similarly said “To preach is to open up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and God’s people obey Him.”

-What’s amazing is week after week of hearing God’s Word spoken and exposited (add details as to an account or idea; clarify the meaning of and discourse in a learned way) is we become changed people. We better learn how to ready and apply God’s Word to our lives! It is a common means of grace.

-The Bible is dripping through our whole service: the songs we sing, the verses read, the prayers prayed need to be so saturated in God’s Word that if they were a towel what you would wring out is the Bible

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PRAY

  1. The Gospel Is Central (1-7)

-We took a look at the gospel message in quite a bit of detail my first Sunday here, but if you haven’t figured out it’s a pretty big theme in the Bible, so let’s take a look at all the gospel entails.

-Transliteration of the Greek word euoneglion literally means good news.

-Also where we get the modern word “evangelical” so evangelicals are gospel people, people who believe in the Good News (not how newspapers define)

-Most helpful way I’ve found (and the way I talk) is using 4 words: God, man, Christ, response. 

God the righteous creator, man the sinner, Jesus Christ the Savior, Response – faith and repentance

-The Gospel in the NT

-proclamation (Matt. 4:23 – “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.)

-kingdom (Matt. 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.)

-Centers on Jesus (Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.)

-Demands response (Acts 15:7 “And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.)

-Powerful (Rom. 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.)

-Primary use of gospel in the NT is Paul, which is why we’ll be looking at a passage he wrote. 

  1. Past, Present, Future (1-2)

-One of my favorite quotes about the gospel from Tim Keller: “We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom.”

-Think of a wheel. The hub is connected to every other piece of that wheel. The gospel is meant to be the center point of our lives, from which we lead into every other area of our lives.

-Struggling in your marriage? Look to the gospel. Struggling at work? Look to the gospel. Struggling as a parent? Look to the gospel. I realize this sounds simplistic, so bear with me as we work this out here.

-This is exactly what Paul is saying in these first 2 vss. 

-First thing we see is how the gospel contradicts the primary cultural ideas.

-“I would remind you” is gnosis in the Greek. “I would bring to mind” Gnosticism was an early heresy that you needed “secret wisdom/knowledge” to be in the “inside”

-While the Corinthians claimed this secret knowledge, Paul reminds them what’s really true. 

-Our world today has competing cultural ideas. Evangelism in a Skeptical World pgs. 40-41

-Second thing is the need for this gospel to be received.

-Past tense. Sometime in the past you had to believe this. There is a moment in time where the Spirit awakens you, brings you from death into life.

-Third, this gospel IN WHICH you stand

-Present tense. It’s not enough to look back fondly on your conversion and get on with your life as if it doesn’t matter.

-Fourth, the gospel is the means by which you are BEING saved.

-In the future. Gospel is means of salvation, AND sanctification. (define)

-Lastly, is the conditional “if”

-You must hold fast. Seems to be a theme last week and this week! 

-We cling to the gospel message itself. That Jesus died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again.

-Unless you were believing in the wrong thing!

-This gospel message affects past, our present, and out future. 

-Martin Luther “It (the gospel) is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

-As we focus on the gospel we continually behold, set our gaze on, and become more like the risen Christ.

-Paul focuses on this idea in 2 Cor. 3:18 “We all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

-This past, present, and future aspect of the gospel means our image is supposed to day by day look more and more like Jesus.

-It’s like the beast from Beauty & The Beast. He was hideous to look at, refused to even look at his image in the mirror, God slowly softens our beast features to look more like Him.

-The gospel is therefore the primary thing we need to be fixated upon, individually and corporately.

  • First Importance (3-7)

“Although everything in the Bible is important, not everything is equally important. Some doctrines are more important than others. The gospel is most important.” (ESV Expositors Commentary)

-Theological triage (major on the majors, minor on the minors)

Originally coined by Dr. Al Mohler, picked up more recently by Gavin Ortlund Finding the Right Hills to Die On

-Hospital analogy

-Way of prioritizing the most important theological issues. 

-This is really important for us to understand, because generally where the disagreements comes with people is over the third order issues. Some examples:

First – Jesus being fully God and fully man, virgin birth, empty tomb

Second – baptism, complementarianism, spiritual gifts

Third – age of the earth, views about the end times, Calvinism/Arminianism 

         Evangelical Convictions “Though all Evangelical Christians are unity in the conviction that God is the Creator of all things, they have been divided over how God created – how long it took and what process he may have used.” (33)

-Some things aren’t even on this list that I’ve been told are reasons people left a church – style of music, what clothes should the pastor wear, translation of the Bible, politics 

-People will have different issues that they’ll put in different spheres of importance.

-For myself, I’ve come to some strong conclusions about baptism, but the EFCA has it as a third level issue. You may have issues that you’d put as a level 2 that I wouldn’t put there, that’s ok!

-Fundamentalism makes everything an essential, “progressive” or liberal leaning Christians put everything as optional.

-When you come into an area of disagreement with someone, it’s vital to (just like Paul did here) differentiate between that which is PRIMARY and that which is not.

-“In essentials unity; in non-essentials charity; in all things, Jesus Christ.” Rupertus Meldenius (17th Cent)

-As we have discussions/disagreements about theology, humility is crucial. “If maintaining the unity of the body of Christ is not costing you anything – if it doesn’t hurt – then you probably are not adjusting enough…The unity of the church was so valuable to Jesus that he died for it. If we care about sound theology, let us care about unity as well.” (Ortlund, Hills, 150)

-Gospel believers – the fact that there are “first importance” doctrines must lead us to humility. I don’t feel the need to defend every tiny piece of by theological beliefs, that which is true will stand the test of time! As a professor at seminary often said, we should attack ideas (ideas have consequences, bad ideas have victims) not people.

-“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” -Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Russian)

-The gospel then serves as the hub of the wheel, the primary way of viewing everything we see around us. 

-C.S. Lewis “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

-This section is thought to be an early church creed, with some of Paul’s comments thrown in.

-Attesting to the historical reliability of the risen Christ. Most scholars think this creed was written within months of Jesus’ resurrection. Even when Paul is writing this letter, most of the people who saw Jesus after his resurrection are still living.

-Brothers and sisters – we have a similar testimony. Jesus has appeared to us in some way through the testimony or witness of someone who loved us enough to tell us about Jesus, and then to live out the truth of what they were telling you.

-If we believe in the Apostles’ Teaching (the gospel) then we need to be intentional about sharing that truth with others, about living in such a way that others will see glimpses of Jesus in you.

-Glimpses. Not perfectly, we’re poor reflections of him, at least on this side of heaven. One author said we need to hold our mirrors at 45% – angled up to heaven!

-Last year Barna released a statistic that said 47% of Christian Millennials think evangelism is wrong. Statistics can be misleading, since Barna also says that 95-97% of all Christians believe that part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus, and the way questions are worded is always tricky because people project their own definitions.

-But what is implied by this list of people who had seen Jesus was Paul exhorting the church at Corinth to go talk to them if they didn’t believe! The single most important thing is getting Jesus right. 

-“If Christ is risen – then nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen – then nothing else matters.” (Jaroslav Pelikan – Yale professor) 

– I was reminded this week about an author named Randy Alcorn who knows the that nothing but Christ matters.

-1990 was peacefully protesting outside an abortion clinic, was arrested, placed in prison, then sued by the abortion clinic for 8.2 million dollars. He resigned from the church he was working at, was already giving away the royalties from his book, and spent 20 years making minimum wage. In that time, he gave away over $8.2 million from his royalties to various charities, ministries and organizations that are continuing to have gospel impact throughout the world. Don’t underestimate what God can do through you being faithful! 

-We need to keep Christ as the most important thing in all our lives! 

  • The Gospel Is Personal (8-11)

-After exhorting the church to keep the focus on the gospel, Paul then talks about how the gospel transformed him personally.

  1. The Last Apostle (8-9)

-One of those fun theological debates people have – does the office of “apostle” continue today?

-Because of this text, I say no. Vs. 8 says this is the “last of all” and apostles are those who were eyewitnesses to the risen Christ. Gifted to begin the early church, write down God’s truth, and usher in the new era of history.

-Crazy that the “least” of the apostles wrote half the NT. God has a tendency to use “the least of these”

-Paul acknowledges his past, his persecution against Jesus’ bride, yet still realizes God has uniquely called and gifted him to carry out the gospel message.

-That’s where all of us are. If you do the math, none of us are good enough to measure up to God’s holy, perfect, righteous standard. Remember the plumbline illustration from Amos? 

-The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Because the tomb is empty there is no least or greatest, we’re all one, we’re all together in Christ. What other religion offers a way for everyone to be in the same place??

  • God’s Grace (10-11)

-Even though Paul was the least of the apostles, he realized that God’s grace changed everything. 

-But is one of the most important words in the Bible!

-I’ll be honest, this used to be one of my favorite verses, the Popeye verse! I yam what I yam and dats what I yam! 

-God’s grace is enough to change even the most ardent persecutor of the church to the most ardent discipler in the church.

-God’s grace is never wasted, as God’s grace was extended to Paul he was then able to work harder than any other apostle to share the gospel message with the world. 

-Just as you might be tempted to think he’s pounding his chest, Paul quickly jumps back to remind that it wasn’t him working, it was God’s grace working itself out in him.

-This is true of us too! God’s grace affects us too. God’s grace saves us and then begins to transform us. So just as Paul was placed at a specific time and place (even though he considers himself “untimely born”) you and me are here for this time and place for a reason. 

-The last sentence tells us the reason. We preach, you believe. 

1 Cor. 3:4-7 “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

-By keeping the Apostles’ Teaching (the gospel) the first importance, it will allow us to see God getting the growth.

-Doesn’t mean we let go and let God, “I planted, Apollos watered.” We still have a job to do! That is being the church! We need to be committed, we need to be here to support and encourage each other, we need to be praying for each other, we need to love each other, and we need to do all those things because the gospel is of first importance. The gospel transforms us day by day into the image of God.

-They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers.

We’re Commanded To – Sermon Manuscript

We’re Commanded To

Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:19-25

NOTE: These are the notes I use to preach from on Sunday morning. If you want to listen to the sermon to get a better context, please visit our YouTube page.

-Coming out of a unique season of life for many of us. COVID interrupted our routines, our jobs, our churches, our friendships. In short, the past year has taught a completely new way of life for many of us!

-While I’m super thankful for the online technology that has allowed us to “meet” it’s not quite the same

-Time at TGC a few weeks ago

-The past 14 months have brought up a bunch of questions about the church, the purpose of meeting, what we emphasize, what we focus on, HOW we go about our corporate worship gatherings, what is important/essential

-This is really getting to the question of: what is the purpose of the church? Why are we here? Everyone’s got thoughts/opinions/ideas, but doesn’t the Bible tell us some things we should be doing/participating in?

-Add in that almost all of us have previous experience at churches, here, growing up, college. We all walk in the doors every week with a certain list of expectations, and those expectations aren’t always met.

-Church hunters “We’re more looking for the humor of Andy Stanley with the body of Stephen Furtick”

“it was like we left there feeling convicted, like ugh” “We’re looking for more of a Tony Robins type sermon” “Like inspirational, like a TED talk with a Bible verse”

-There’s a tendency to treat church like consumers, and let’s be honest, many of us are conditioned to think that way! If we don’t like the coffee at one coffee shop, don’t worry, there’s a different one just down the street! 

-Introduction from The Church, An Introduction by Gregg Allison 

-The Bible even uses various metaphors to describe the church. The church is a: family, the bride of Christ, branches on a vine, an olive tree, a field of crops, a building, a new temple, a harvest, God’s house, a pillar and buttress of truth, and the body of Christ.

-We’re getting to that idea of what the church is. Wayne Grudem defines the church as “the community of all true believers for all time.” Gregg Allison defines the church as “the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.”

-Now we’re getting to the difference between the catholic (universal) church, and the local church!

-Reformers said there is a church anytime the sacraments are faithfully performed

-People today often refer to church as just a building. 

-And if you’re not confused yet, we haven’t even gotten to what a church does

-Here’s the reality – Jesus himself established the church.

Matt. 16:16-19 “Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

-Church’s primary mission is to hold fast and proclaim this reality, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

-On the rock of Peter’s confession (who is Jesus himself) the church will be built. This is one of those areas where we would disagree with Roman Catholics, they built a whole papal order out of this 1 verse!

-There is a heavenly authority that comes with the church. The church today serves as an outpost of Jesus’ kingdom. Us gathering is meant to give everyone watching a little picture of what heaven will look like! Does our church give that glimpse? 

-This series will be based on the early church, as demonstrated in Acts 2.

-I’ve talked to a number of people who say “If only we could get back to the New Testament church” Don’t forget it wasn’t all daisies and roses back then either! In fact, until Jesus comes back, the church is guaranteed to have issues! And if you ever find a church that doesn’t have issues, the moment you (as a sinner) walk in the door, you’re bringing issues with you.

-We need to distinguish between that which is DEscriptive and that which is PREscriptive.

-Descriptive: describes events taking place, not necessarily applicable to every time & place

-Prescriptive: things that should be true in every time & place

-quick example, Rom. 16:16 “greet one another with a holy kiss.” 

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PRAY

  1. The First Church (Acts 2)

-There’s a lot for us to unpack in these few verses! So much so that we’ll take a week on each characteristic in turn. Today is just a broad overview of what characterized the early church.

-Always difficult to drop into a book (like we’ll be doing in this series) because we miss the bigger context and picture the author is painting.

-Acts is the 2 of a 2 part series (beginning with Luke’s Gospel) written by the same guy, this would be considered the sequel (The Empire Strikes Back)

1:1 “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,”

-This book picks up where Luke left off. After Jesus rose from the grave, what happened? How did his message spread? How did his disciples respond?

-Quick synopsis of the first 2 chapters: Jesus ascends into heaven, disciples select a new “12th” disciple

-Worth mentioning, more than 12 people had been following Jesus during his earthly life, I tend to forget that because the 12 received most of his attention, but men & women were a part of this rag tag group of people. Actually 10x the 12, Acts 1:15 says there were 120 disciples.

-Then in Acts 2 everything changes. Pentecost comes and the disciples are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. (Don’t have time to dig into this, but if you want to see what Jesus said about the coming of the HS read John 16-17)

-In response to this, the early church is given a new confidence to begin sharing what Jesus meant with everyone they could. Peter preaches the most impactful sermon in recorded history. Look at vs. 41. “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” 

-I’m still waiting for my 3,000 soul sermon! Actually, every Pastor I know is!

-So what characterized this early church? How did they manage adding 3,000 new converts to this fledgling faith?

-Honestly, not super well, because just 4 chapters later there’s a pretty big disagreement that comes up because racism is rampant in this early church (again, don’t have time for that one)

-There are 4 primary things that this early church devoted themselves to in vs. 42: the apostles teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. Let’s walk through those 4 things:

  1. Apostles’ Teaching

-Here’s the fascinating thing. What you’re holding in your hand (or reading on your device) didn’t exist at the time. They didn’t have the 4 Gospel accounts, didn’t have Paul’s, Peter’s, James’ letters. They had their experience and time with Jesus, and the OT. 

-And that was enough! The word “devoted” connotes the idea of continually, constantly. They were continually devoted to these 4 primary things, so they were constantly listening to the apostles teaching.

-Kent Hughes “Where the Spirit reigns, a love for God’s Word reigns.” This is why sermons take up the bulk of our weekly worship.

-Look at this in more detail next week.

  • Breaking of Bread

-2 aspects to this one: regular table time together at people’s homes, and the penultimate breaking of bread in communion. One of John Calvin’s requirements for a true church was anywhere the sacraments were truly practiced. 

-Communion is 1 of 2 sacraments Christ commanded his church to practice, the other being baptism. Look at this more in 2 weeks!

  • Fellowship

-This is one of the most misunderstood words used in the church today!

-Sitting in a deacon meeting, someone talking about making some meals for shut-ins and then “we’ll have a little fellowship”

-This is the first time this word appears in the NT, denotes something in common, which didn’t happen before the HS indwelt them.

  • Prayers

-THE prayers. While this was still a Jewish sect, they were still following a lot of the customs/traditions they had been following. 

-But also regularly praying for each other.

-What was the implication of these 4 things? Look at vs. 43-47

-The common aspect of fellowship was lived out in the lives of the believers. No one had any needs, and if they did other’s helped take care of them. Doesn’t that sound awesome? This is the radical generosity piece we saw in our Amos series on justice! Willingly disadvantaging yourself for the advantage of others.

-There’s a “day by day” aspect to this. There’s large gathering in the temple, small gathering in the homes (church gathered vs church scattered)

-Having favor with all the people. Do you think the world looks at the church favorably today? Headlines: “Here’s why a New Bedford church is suing Gov. Charlie Baker” “Former New Orleans Church Official Sentenced for Wire Fraud” “Congregation or Cult? Former members accuse Kansas City church of abuse.”

-Yes, I realize we should expect persecution, but is “favor” because of our good deeds an honest marker of our church, or not?

-What do you think people who aren’t believers, who have never set foot inside a church expect when they walk into a church building? There was a movie that came out a few years ago Resurrection of Gavin Stone about a Hollywood actor who’s forced to do community service at a local church (you can probably guess the rest of the movie) But 1 scene stood out to me when I first watched it where he gets ready to go to church.

-If you want to watch it, it’s on Netflix!

-Lastly, the Lord added to their number day by day. The early church was intentional about evangelism. They were always looking for ways to share the good news of what Jesus had done with any/everyone they came into contact with. And their living matched their preaching! They legitimately loved one another.

-Let’s jump ahead now a few decades to look at Hebrews.

-Hebrews is thought to be a manuscript of a sermon.

  • Encouraging (Hebrews 10)

-Again, we’re dropping right in the middle of the book here! Really easy to summarize the entire argument leading up to here with 1 phrase: Jesus is better. Better than what? Yes. 

-First 2 chapters are Jesus is better than angels

3-10:18 Jesus is better than the Mosaic Law

-Then after this rich, deep theology of the supremacy of Jesus, the author turns to the application. All theology is practical and meant to be lived out. Because Jesus is the superior high priest and at the same time the superior sacrifice, we then haver confidence.

  1. Through Jesus

-I love the way this book starts “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our father by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Jesus even has the final word!

-Just as theology is applicable, we begin with the theology of the cross and Jesus’ atoning death.

-Used to only enter the holy place 1 a year, and only 1 person with fear and trepidation because Heb. 12:29 “Our God is a consuming fire.” 

-Church, because Jesus has died on our behalf we can have confidence, or boldness to enter into the very presence of God.

-There used to be a curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. That curtain was torn in 2 when Jesus died. That means through Jesus blood covering us, we can draw near to God. 

-One way of putting the whole Bible together is God dwelling with His people. Gen. 1-2 is God perfectly dwelling with Adam & Eve, Gen 3 is so devastating because that dwelling is broken, rest of the Bible is how we can try dwelling again with God. Then God takes on flesh and dwells with us bodily, allowing us sinful people to dwell eternally with God. According to Eph. 2:6 we are already seated with Christ in heaven.

-Because Jesus has sanctified us, we then move on to holding fast.

  • Holding Fast

-what do we hold fast to? “the confession of our hope.”

-This is the same idea we saw earlier where Jesus promises to build His church on Peter’s confession. We have to do the exact same thing as Peter and confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We can’t waver, we can’t look to the right or left, we need to hold fast to this confession.

-We also have the same idea we saw in Amos 9 that we’re supposed to hold on to hope. Our hope is in Jesus himself, so that hope will allow us to endure, or as the text says “he who promised is faithful.” 

-Thankfully our holding fast isn’t up to us! It’s God who remains faithful despite our unfaithfulness.

-After the vertical relationship is dealt with, then we move on to the horizontal relationship. (explain)

  • Together

-In addition to holding fast to our confession, we’re commanded to consider how to stir up (or encourage) one another to love and good works. And how do we do that? By not neglecting to meet together.

-I don’t know if you’ve been feeling this – but I got so tired of worshipping online. Not seeing people’s faces, not talking as we walk in. Not seeing people sing together! 

-Introducing Not For A Moment “You were reaching through the storm Walking on the water even when I could not see in the middle of it all when I thought You were a thousand miles away not for a moment did You forsake me 

After all You are constant After all You are only good After all You are sovereign Not for a moment will You forsake me

-If we hadn’t been meeting together as a group, we wouldn’t have been able to encourage those who were struggling

-We are dependent on each other. There are no lone rangers in Christianity. Rugged individualism (expressive individualism)

-Friend who wanted to go be a hermit. Where is the church?

-The way we encourage each other is by meeting together. Meeting tighter LEADS to encouraging. Think of communion – 1 Cor. 11:17 “WHEN you come together as a church.” 

-I get that this is a weird time to have a sermon about the need to gather, when we’ve been scattered for over a year, some people are still watching online! This is a time where we as the church NEED to be the church. 

-One thing that has fascinated me about the pandemic is every other major disruption in American history, people have turned to the church (attendance swelled after 9/11) This time, people turned to Netflix.

 –Article from Carl Trueman “That’s where community comes in: churches need to build community around clear Christian teaching, serious Christian worship, and practical Christian love.  Done well, those things can grip the imagination because they offer a vision of something better than the thin communities and shallow satisfactions of consumerism. Telling people that the way they live is wrong has no plausibility unless it is set against the background of a vision of something better.”

-South Suburban – we have something better to offer the world – and it begins by us not neglecting to meet together, but instead encouraging each other to live out love and good works. Our gathering is not meant to be a tack on, an addition if you’ve got time that weekend. Our lives are supposed to be lived out, bled out by encouraging each other each and every day until “THE day.”

May 9 Pastoral Prayer

Lord God, it’s good to be gathered here today as your people. We have come to worship You our Lord and our Maker. You are the great King above all gods. You spoke the world into existence – from the depths of the earth to the heights of the mountains; the seas and the dry earth were all formed at Your command. Almighty God, nothing is too difficult for You; nothing escapes Your notice.

But God we know that since that is true, it means that You know everything about us as well. You see our sin. You see the times when we deliberately choose to go our own way. We may fool others. We may even fool ourselves at times, but You see right to our hearts. You see the way we often get so caught up in our own busy lives, our own goals and agendas, that we stray from You. We don’t yield to You what is Your rightful place as Lord of our lives; we don’t seek, first and foremost, Your kingdom and Your righteousness. Please convict us of our sins, reveal our errant ways, remind us of the incomparable and complete sacrifice of Jesus and forgive us just as You have promised to do.

On this special day God we want to thank you for mothers. You are the Giver of Life, and we thank You for the special role that You have given to mothers to conceive and bear children and then to pour their lives into their children. Thank You that mothers can provide such a powerful example of Your tender heart and unconditional love toward us. Please be with the mothers who are here with us today. Give them the wisdom, energy and patience they need for their many daily tasks. I pray too that their children and husbands would show them appreciation and honor for who they are and all they do. God, we recognize as well, that this day may be a time of sorrow for those who have tried but been unable to conceive or those who have suffered miscarriages. Others may have lost a child or feel disconnected from or abandoned by their children. Please wrap them in Your tender love, comfort them with Your peace and let them walk in the hope that comes only from knowing You.

Father, we have seen a lot of change in the past few years. While change, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad, it can be unsettling. We are often tempted to cling to our memories of the past or to become worried or anxious about what tomorrow may bring, but please help us to remember that You are in control and You never change. You are the first and the last; the eternal, unchanging, incorruptible God. Thank You that Your word stands forever and we can rely on Your truth.

I pray Lord that we would rely on Your truth. That we would be changed by it. Call us out from the world around us, renew our minds and transform us. As Your word says, let us put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Let us bear with one another and forgive each other. Teach us to put on love, letting Your peace rule in our hearts, and being thankful. Lord Jesus, let Your word dwell in us in such a powerful way that it is evident to those around us.

Amos 9 Sermon Manuscript

What’s Next?
Amos 9

Note: this are the notes I use to preach from, if you’d like to watch the sermon as I preach it, please visit South Suburban’s YouTube page.

-Big themes we’ve seen: 

-concern for the poor/marginalized must be present in our lives 

-historical events don’t determine our current standing

-all the religious practice in the world doesn’t matter 1 ounce unless it’s wedding to moral living as demonstrated by justice and righteousness.

-Pastor Jeramy covered the last 2 visions of destruction last week, how they’re tied together, this week we’ll just look at the last one and how it connects to our future hope

Norwegian rats were tested once to see how long they could keep swimming. Gave up after 15 minutes. But, if they were pulled out and given time to recover they would make it over 40 hours.

-Having hope is unbelievably important. “Deaths of despair” are on the rise (Deaths from over drinking, drug overdose, or suicide)

-As we reach the end of Amos, we need to be reminded where we place our hope, and it’s not anything here on earth! Our hope is seated in heaven, it’s as secure as the empty grave.

-This is why Paul can remind us in Rom. 5 to “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

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PRAY

  1. The Last Destruction (1-10)

-Need some background/historical understanding to get the picture here.

1 Kings 12:25-13:1

-The first Jeroboam (who led the split of Israel) realized his people needed a place of worship to build national unity/identity. Built 2 centers at Bethel and Dan (north and the south) 

-A month after the feast of booths (looked at that in John 7 “I Am the light of the world”), Jeroboam made an alternative festival and system to replace God’s system. 

-Alex Motyer “The whole thing was a counterfeit: a counterfeit feast on a counterfeit altar to prop up a counterfeit monarchy!”

-In response to the first Jeroboam’s counterfeit claims, God sends “a man of God” to call out his sin.

-Just as the first Jeroboam set up a counterfeit claim, and a man of God is sent call out the sin, now in Amos 9, the second Jeroboam has propped up the same counterfeit claim and God sends another “man of God” to deal with his sin. But this time, it’s both Amos and the Lord.

  1. God’s Omnipresence in Destruction (1-6)

-Just as Jeroboam stood beside the altar in 1 Kings 13, here it’s the Lord

-Meaning most likely in Bethel

-This is a unique vision (7-9 are the visions God gives to Amos) other 4 begin “This is what the Lord God showed me” and God asks Amos a question. This time, there’s no exchange between God and Amos.

-All the intercession Amos has done in the past has disappeared. There’s nothing else Amos can do, God is now sharing what will finally happen to His people, the judgment/destruction that God will allow to take place.

-God has extended grace for long enough. This mockery of a worship center is finally going to be addressed!

-capitals are the top of the temple, thresholds are the bottom

merism – uses 2 extremes to refer to the whole thing (remember that, it’ll come up again in the next verse)

-This would take place during an earthquake, 1:1 “two years before the earthquake.” All these ideas we’ve seen before are coming back around!

-The destruction of the temple would fall upon all the people, and anyone who’s left will be killed “with the sword.” 

-Double emphasis “not one.”

-How comprehensive will this destruction be? How will one escape this judgment?

-Another merism in vs. 2.

-Sheol is the place of the dead (under the earth) Irony here is that they going to where they will be going anyway to try to hide! Don’t want to die? Go hide in a grave!

-Climb up to heaven can’t escape God. Does anyone know of another place where we see that idea? That God is everywhere?

Psalm 139:8 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”

-Theme continues in vs. 3

-As Pastor Jeramy mentioned last week, Carmel is the site of a well-known showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Carmel is also one of the highest points in the Israel, and known for its’ thick forests and plethora of caves. 

-Then you’ve got the bottom of the sea! So where vs. 2 emphasized hiding in the spiritual realm, vs. 3 is the physical realm. 

-Again, in vs. 4

-Their captivity will also kill them. Instead of being refining, they will be slaughtered.

-Generally in the OT, God fixing his eyes on them was good! He would deal with their problems. In the Exodus, when God “hears the cries of his people in slavery” when he sends Moses. In this instance, his judgment is falling on them.

-Let’s think of a similar passage, but from the other side of this, that many of us know!

Rom. 8:38-9 “for I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-We, or at least I, often go to this verse as a good reminder of my standing before God. But if it’s true of God’s love, it’s also true of God’s perfect justice/judgment 

-Just as we can’t escape God’s love, we can’t escape God’s wrath. Our sin will be dealt with, casting it as far as the east is from the west (i.e. eternal) but our sin still has to be dealt with. All sin leads to death, and thankfully someone died in our place so that our sin now has an expiration date.

-Vs. 5-6 are thought of as a doxological hymn. Begins with a militaristic title “God of hosts.” Then lists out all the ways God’s ways are beyond ours.

-Think of it like this: both my grandparents were farmers in North Dakota. Integral to farming is water. When you drive through the countryside you see random ditches filled with water, pumps, sprinklers all that. We can direct the water in various places, God can call the water out from nothing. He can build a beach and destroy with a single word. God’s power is unstoppable and uncontainable, all we can do is worship Him. 

-Which is how the hymn ends: “The Lord is his name.” We’ve seen that before! 4:135:8. All 3 instances are praise to God as the Creator of everything. We must respond in worship to this God!

-Idea then shifts to God’s people, up to this point, no escaping the judgment.

  • The Shaking of God’s People (7-10)

-One of the most striking features of God’s people throughout history has been God’s unique relationship, care, and concern for them. Israel should have been wiped out by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, the early church should never have gained any traction in the first century!

-Christians were called atheists because they “only” worshipped 1 God, a humiliated carpenter.

-This thinking has led to an elitist mindset among God’s people in Amos’ day. They thought that since God had always provided for them in the past, no matter what happened in the future the same thing would be true! 

-God always keeps His promises, He’s promised to bless His people beginning with Father Abraham all the way back in Gen. 12

-Then comes vs. 7.

-God begins by comparing Israel to the Cushites/Ethiopians. NET- “you Israelites are just like the Ethiopians in my sight.” 

-group of people that lived south of Egypt, another way of saying the ends of the known earth. Israel is really the prime plot of land in ANE, everyone had to go through Israel to get anywhere else, part of the reason the land is so treasured by so many different people groups, even today! 

-Israelites had been depending on the fact that they were God’s “chosen nation” and neglected to pursue justice and righteousness in their lives today. Because they were neglecting current moral/ethical living, God viewed them exactly the same as he viewed the people living at the ends of the earth: the Cushites.

-But he also attacks the single greatest/most memorable event in Israel’s history: the exodus.

-So many references in this book point back to the events of the Exodos, Passover, Nile. That is the moment when God’s people claimed their own rightful place, and the nasty oppressing Egyptians were plundered, both in the Passover and in the Red Sea.

-But God was also behind the exodus of other people groups: specifically the Philistines and the Syrians, 2 of Israel’s bitter enemies. 

-I listened to a really interesting podcast this week where John Walton (OT Prof at Wheaton) addresses apocalyptic literature (Revelation & Daniel) and talks about prophecy not being the best term, because God being sovereign means He’s just telling people what He’s going to do!

-And since God is sovereign, He even rules over the affairs of nations that don’t contain His “chosen people.” Even some nations that are their enemies. 

-Finally get some good news at the end of vs. 8. While previously no one escaped the incoming judgment, now God says that He will not “utterly destroy” them. That’s a relief!

-But there will still be some kind of judgment. 

-There will be some sort of shaking out taking place.

-Colander example.

-God will weed people out, think of Matt. 13, the parable of the weeds growing up with the wheat. At the end of the day the wheat will be separated from the weeds.

-This shaking out will result in the death of all the sinners of His people, those who think they will never see or taste disaster.

-Similar to John the Baptist’s ministry in Matthew 8:7-10. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

-Just as the people in Amos’ day thought they were fine because of their heritage, so people in John/Jesus’ day thought they were fine. 

-Martin Luther’s 95 Theses began “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

-It’s also true today! Growing up in America doesn’t make you a Christian. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Being baptized doesn’t make you a Christian. Instead, what we’re commanded to do is “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Are you bearing that fruit?

-Throughout this book we’ve seen the fruit of what’s coming. Because people are being used and abused, because people are not being obedient to worship God rightly, because they are presuming upon God’s mercy, they will be severely judged. But that’s not the end of the story.

-This is where we need to know about our sin before we can get to the good news of the gospel message! Most people think they’re not actually that bad, and until you realize how bad you really are, you’ll never realize your need for a Savior!

-Expressive individualism is the predominant theme today. Summed up as “you be you” or “be true to yourself.” Or “My truth.” So what do we do when our expressive individualism runs into contradiction with someone else’s expression of their individualism? Our culture today says “Cancel!” Christ says “confess.” Then when we’ve confessed our need to stop pursuing our own individualistic expressions, then we can have life, and life abundantly.

-What does that look like?

  • Everything is Restored (11-15)

-Significant shift between vs. 10-11. We go from lots of destruction to “in that day” and a long list of really good things happening, just as Amos is prone to do, it’s 5 things: the king, the nations, the earth, the people, and the land.

-First, the king. God raises up “the booth of David that is fallen.” 

-Weird phrase, generally the house of David. Could be referring to the fake “feast of booths” that Jeroboam enacted back in 1 Kings 12.

-In the feast of booths, the king acted out his mediating role between God and the people, so once again God’s people would have a king like David who perfectly mediated on their behalf. That which David overseers would be repairs, raised up, and rebuilt, that is everything will be restored! 

-Second, the nations.

-The Messianic hope is not just for Israel, but for everyone. Edom here is standing in for all peoples. The remaining remnant (after the shaking out we saw in vs. 9) will join with God’s people.

-Think of God’s promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:3 “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God’s plan has always been to bless the entire world! We’re not on plan B, C, D, everything that’s going on is part of God’s plan A.

-When does this happen? James (Jesus’ half-brother) actually quotes this in Acts 15:16-17 as a reminder to the early Apostles that it has been God’s plan from eternity past to bring all nations to himself! 

-Third, the earth.

-Where previously the earth has been stricken by famine, locusts, now the earth will produce in abundance.

-First the plowman will overtake the reaper. That is, those who are prepping next year’s seeds will run into the people who are still taking out last year’s crops. They’ll be so bountiful they won’t be able to harvest it all!

-Then the treader of grapes will overtake the one who seeds it. Grapes were used to make wine, people would tread, step on, the grapes to get the juice out. In this case, the time from seeding to harvesting is so small, the planters won’t be able to keep ahead of the growing grapes. Could you imagine dropping a seed in the ground, and instantly it’s producing fruit? 

-But that’s not all! The grapes will be so productive that the mountains and hills will be overrun with their wine! Those are some productive grapes!

-This is the culmination of what we see in Romans 8:20-21 that an implication of the Fall is that even the creation was broken. The planting and harvesting that was supposed to be easy now takes work! The soil that should have been easy to till is now filled with rocks and clay.

-Fourth, the people.

-This is picking up a theme we say in 5:11 where the people would build houses but NOT dwell in then, and plant vineyards but NOT drink the wine because of their transgressions.

-This time, everything they work for will bear fruit!

-Lastly, the land.

-The land from which they would be led out in exile would be returned to them. And this time they’ll possess it forever!

-These passages are in the Bible to point us to where we’re commanded to place our hope. Heb. 6:19 “we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”

-As I mentioned before, it seems that people either fixate or forget about the end times, but God has called us to do neither! God has called us to use the hope of our future home as the motivation for faithful living today. We can’t change the past or the future, but we can (and must) be faithful today.

-We also need this reminder in the midst of our suffering/difficulty. Think of some of our brothers and sisters in the faith living in a place like India right now. Or China. Or North Korea. Or Iran. When they come read a passage like this it gives them the motivation they need to remember that this world is not our home. As they face the daily threat of loss of home, of job, even of life, they can place their hope that death isn’t the end.

-But we need that reminder too, because I think we’re often too ready/willing to plant ourselves firmly here in the midst of our comforts and earthly possessions instead of living to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done right here and now, just like it’s being done in heaven.

-And that’s the tension we currently live in! God has tasked us with caring for his creation here and now, but not to put our entire hope/confidence in it. That’s where we get busy loving and caring for the people God places in our life and in our body, the church, so that we can together see God honored and glorified as we do our best to remain faithful each and every day until that day when Jesus comes back.

-Just as I read at the beginning, I’m going to end reading Rom. 5 “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Amos 7 Sermon Manuscript

Shape Up, or Ship Out

Amos 7

NOTE: These are just the notes I use to preach from, in order to get the full context/understanding of this, watch the sermon HERE.

-Standard unit of measurement. Foot used to be measured by the emperor’s foot, led to some discrepancy. 

-If/when you’re buying something, you probably want to know you’re getting what you paid for! 

-Necessity of having the same measuring line

-What happens when you’ve got a different standard?

-Ripped off, businesses can’t communicate, building is difficult 

-Today we’re going to be looking at what happens when we don’t compare ourselves to God’s unit of measurement 

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PRAY

-Beginning the vision section of Amos

-Amos broken into 3 parts: Judgment against the nations (1-2), Israel’s Sin and judgment (3-6), Future Visions (7-9)

-We saw in the first section the wealthy were continually oppressing the poor/marginalized, which led to

-Second section of the incoming judgment, highlighted by justice and righteousness, which we spent a lot of time on the last 2 weeks (God’s definition of justice is very different than the world’s definition)

-The rest of this book (3 weeks) will take a look at God’s response to His people’s lack of responding to His commands/Word

  1. 3 Warnings (1-9)

-Theme of 5 & 7 in this book, today we’ll look at 3 warnings, next week will be a 4thwarning, May 9th will be the 5th

-Remember, God has warned his people repeatedly, this is all rooted in the Torah, first 5 books of the OT, consequences for neglecting His commands.

-Plus, Amos had been warning them! God warned them in the Torah, this is why it’s so important to continually be rooted and built up in God’s Word, that’ll come up again, but note it here

  1. Locusts (1-3)

-God revealed a vision to Amos. This solidified his prophetic role to the people

-Also begins a theme in this section. Notice vs. 4, 7 all begin with the same phrase. Then move to “behold” with a description, and then the prophet pleads on behalf of his people, wherein God relents, at least the first 2 times!

-“He was forming locust.” God was the one creating these little creatures, working behind the scenes.

-Then it tells us specifically when this locust swarm will be sent out.

-Latter growth would be late spring, after the rains of March/April, meaning entering the dry season.

-After the king’s mowing is the early part was given to the king as taxes, so once again the people who were oppressed were the poor!

-Amos is stuck watching this whole thing take place (remember, this is a vision God is giving to Amos) so God is showing a little picture of what’s going to happen in the future because of Israel’s unrepentance. After witnessing the whole interaction, Amos intercedes on their behalf. 

-Amos pleads for God to forgive the people. Note that it’s not because the people are repenting! Amos is interjecting himself on behalf of the people!

-Can you think of any other places in the Bible where that happens? I mentioned one during our Good Friday service – Abraham interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen. 18. God would spare the world for 1 person.

-Also seen again when Moses interceded on behalf of the people in Ex. 32. People had just created the golden calf, Moses comes down and sees it, God threatens to wipe out the people, Moses intercedes. 

-These are small examples that point us to the ultimate intercession when Jesus came down to the earth.

-Amos begins by referring to Israel as Jacob. Perhaps reminding God that Israel was not the choicest of all peoples to choose from! Deut. 7:7 “It was not because you were more in number than other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples.”

-Between Jacob & Esau, Esau was the impressive one. He was the hunter/gatherer while Jacob was the mommys boy! Amos goes all the way back to the 3rd generation of Israelites to make his point that this people are the smallest people!

-Compare this to the way they thought of themselves in Amos 61 “the notable men of the FIRST of the nations”, “are you better than these kingdoms?” 13“have we not by our own strength captured Karnaim for ourselves.”

-While Israel is thinking they’re hot stuff, God (and Amos) remind them they’re nothing, without God’s interceding on their behalf

-Because of Amos’ intervention, God relents. Apart from Amos writing this down, no one would have known what God spared His people from. 

-Isn’t the same true for us today? Who knows what God has spared you OR THE PEOPLE YOU PRAY FOR from? 

-Don’t neglect to intercede on your behalf, on the behalf of your children, or anyone who isn’t walking with the Lord, you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes!

-Agrarian society, locusts were devastating! Didn’t have the pesticides, insecticides that are so common today. And ultimately God is working behind the scenes even in this incoming trouble. What does this say about God?

-Think of one of the themes we see throughout the Bible – Joseph first says it to his brothers in Gen. 50:20 “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”

-We see a similar theme to the life of Job. God says “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Yet God allows Satan to tempt him, to test him, and Job continues to trust God in the midst of that.

-brothers and sisters: there may be locusts that God has prepared to send your way to continue to draw you to himself. These locusts could potentially even be lifelong struggles that you will need to face, but God will be with you in the midst of those things. 

-Think of someone like Joni Eareckson Tada who became a quadriplegic at 18, or even the Apostle Paul! 

-I think of Charles Spurgeon, who battled crippling depression so severe he one time had to stop preaching in the middle of a sermon to rest, then finished out his message. Every winter he would travel to the south of France to get away from England in order to have the strength to carry on with the rest of his responsibilities. “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the rock of ages.” 

-God never promises us a worry/pain free life. Instead He promises that whatever comes our way, He will walk us through it! So when locusts comes, take heart!

-This is only the first of the warnings!

  • Fire (4-6)

-God’s not done doling out consequences to His people here. After the locusts (and God relents through Amos begging forgiveness), God sends a judgment through fire

-Notice that it “devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.”

-“Great deep” isn’t the ocean (as we would think) instead this is the water from which all other water flows, like Gen. 1:2 “darkness was over the face of the deep.” It was wiping out the source of all water for the people, then once that was consumed, it started moving to the land.

-This time, Amos doesn’t ask for forgiveness, instead he asks God to just stop.

-Once again, the Lord relents, He will not use these means to discipline His people

-This leads us to the third and final vision for this week:

  • The Ultimate Standard (7-9)

-My dad one time preached 1 sermon on Amos (misleading me to thinking he preached a whole series on this book so I had asked him for help once I decided to preach through this book, turned out it was 1 message and not a series, so thanks for nothing dad!)

-Nice thing is one of the only sermons I remember from growing up is one this text! So I’ve got something to go on!

-In this vision, God is standing beside a wall that was built with a plumb line. A plumb line is a measuring line, a string and a heavy weight (let gravity do the work) that ensure whatever you’re building is straight/level.

-Having something level is really important when you’re building! Just a little bit off can destroy the whole structure! 

-Plumbline tells you just how far off of “correct” you are. 

-One example is with music. They make this thing called a metronome, the bane of those who are learning music! Keeps you locked into a specific tempo.

-God has similarly built a plumbline/tempo for how we are supposed to live. A standard by which we’re to measure our entire lives. A tempo that we’re supposed to sync our lives to, and if we don’t, destruction is guaranteed to come.

-Here’s the thing about the plumbline. It’s NEVER going to change! Gravity works 100% of the time! The fact that you’re still sitting there proves my point! And that never changing standard is the measurement that God will use to judge his people, as the end of vs. 8 makes clear. 

-So what happens if everyone is walking around with a slanted/skewed perspective? Is the plumbline wrong, or are we wrong? Yet that’s EXACTLY what happens so often in our world today. People are leaning over looking at the plumbline of God’s Word, and blaming God’s Word as being wrong instead of looking at themselves as the wrong ones.

-But let’s take that analogy a step further, what happens when someone else’s slant is different than our own? Anyone ever read the Dr. Seuss book The Sneetches? Divided into star bellied vs. non star. Guy makes a device that puts stars on bellies, then couldn’t divide each other up anymore.

-We spend so much time looking around at other people assuming our “slant” (or star on our belly) is the standard unit of measurement, then try to force others to adopt our same slant. 

-And here’s where it gets even MORE difficult! It literally changes you.

-If you break a bone, get a cast, after the 6-8 weeks the cast comes off and your limb looks anemic! It hasn’t been used. The rest of our body compensates and get stronger at the expense of the broken limb.

-Similarly, when we’re walking with a skewed perspective we focus on the strength at the expense of the weakness, so instead of using the right plumb/level, we just look at each other and refuse to give grace. We too carelessly and callously throw names out instead of looking to listen.

-What measuring line(s) does our world use today?

-Hyper-individuality 

-Sexuality

-Gender

-Vocation

-Finances

-What measuring line does God use?

Amos 5:24 “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Acts 2:44-47 “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

-How are we doing at these things? This is getting back to what we saw as a biblical definition of justice: radical generosity, universal equality, special concern for the poor & marginalized, both corporate and individual responsibility. We did this just this week with the blankets and pillows!

-When we’re tempted to rely on our own works, our own efforts, or at times even the world’s standard of measurement, remember what God has called us to pursue, remember which standard God will use! God calls us to love unconditionally

  • A Message from the King (10-17)

-This is a very interesting section that contains the only personal information about Amos other than the first 2 verses of the book.

-We’re also introduced to a new character in the story: Amaziah, priest of where? NOT Jerusalem. 

  1. Amaziah’s Complaint (10-13)

-Amaziah, turns out, is a tattle tale. No one likes a tattle tale. Runs off and complains to the king about Amos. 

-Accuses Amos of “conspiring against the King” and Amos has the audacity to do so within the king’s own kingdom! And the nation can’t bear his words.

-Amos is attacking the national theology of Israel. Since the people are living in unrepentant sin, Amos’ job is to call them out! And the high priest’s livelihood is threatened by it. Remember, Amos has called out these worship centers in Bethel and Gilgal.

-But Amaziah is sneaky, he references the prophecy Amos has given about Jeroboam. He knows if the king is attacked, it’ll be dealt with.

-After sending off a message to king Jeroboam, he then turns his attention back to Amos.

-First, notice that Amaziah at least acknowledges that Amos is a seer. Just doesn’t like what Amos is seeing. But nowhere does he try to downplay or dismiss Amos’ message. 

-Second, urges Amos to flee back to his homeland of Judah. Amaziah may have thought he could go to Jerusalem and be a thorn in the side of the high priest there.

-Third, he accuses Amos of earning his living through prophesy. One translation translates “eat bread” as “earn your living.” 

-Amaziah has essentially walked all over Amos, refusing to hear or heed Amos’ message! 

-Has that ever happened to you? You’re doing your best to obey God and all you face is blatant opposition? You’re not alone!

-Not saying just be a (as a seminary professor used to say) “ignoramus” who is unwilling to be taught and corrected, but when God is leading/guiding you somewhere (and has been confirmed by your church body), don’t back down! Continue living out your calling!

-One of the most potent verses getting to this idea is another prophet, Jeremiah 20:9 “If I say ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name.’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

  • Amos’ Critique (14-17)

-Amos gets a chance to reply. He begins by dealing with Amaziah’s accusations first, that he is not in the prophecy business to make a living. At this time in Israel’s history, their arose guilds of prophets who were trained/discipled in how to be effective prophets, but not all of them were true prophets who were speaking on behalf of God.

-One of my favorite lines from Dr. DA Carson “I am neither the prophet, nor the son of a prophet, and I work at a non-profit.” 

-Amos wasn’t in prophesy to make money, he does that other ways. Got commanded Amos to go prophesy, he didn’t have a choice! He must obey, or suffer the consequences. 

-Because Amaziah begged Amos to leave and stop prophesying, Amos offers a word from the Lord to him. In summary, everything someone would hold dear would be utterly stripped away from him. Another series of 5

-First his wife will be defiled. This would be a 1 2 punch to Amaziah. First, that he wouldn’t be able to protect the women he most dearly loves. Second, one of the requirements for priests affected the women they would marry. A prostitute was not the type of women priests could marry, so essentially Amos is calling Amaziah’s calling of priest into question

-Children will be killed. Already knew there would be an incoming judgment, but didn’t know how it would affect him personally. Now he does

-Land that he owns will be divided up. Just as the plumb line would be used to judge each person, a different sort of plumb line will break down Amaziah’s land and give it to victors of the coming war

-Amaziah will be taken out into exile. Just as we saw last week in 6:7, the rich being the first to be led into exile, Amaziah will be on the front of that line, and will die in “an unclean land.” A land that is not the chosen land, that is not where God’s chosen people are to live.

-Lastly, just as Amaziah will go into exile, so will the entire nation!

-Not a cheery ending to this chapter! What do we learn? We see the need to stand fast to God’s Word. Amos knew the ultimate standard by which he would be judged, and it wasn’t Amaziah! He clung to the truths of what God had spoken, and we need to do the same today! So soak, saturate your mind in the truths of the Bible, then find a church community who will hold you accountable to the Bible and strive day by day to fight against sin, and keep your eyes and your gaze fixated on Christ! 

Amos 6 Sermon Manuscript

Lasting Justice and Righteousness

Amos 5:18-6:14

NOTE: This is the manuscript I use to preach from, which means somethings will not make sense unless you listen to the message itself. If you’d like to listen to that message, please click HERE.

-Looking in depth at justice last week, not going to dive in again. Summary: biblical justice is marked by: radical generosity, complete equality of person, special concern/care for the poor and marginalized, both corporate and individual responsibility.

-So often we think of justice as something we do “out there” and not affecting what we do “in here” We divorce our Sunday mornings from the rest of our week, but what we’re going to see today is the way we pursue justice will directly connect to our worship on Sunday morning

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  1. Let Justice Roll (18-27)

-Woes begin here. That is, sorrow will be coming because judgment is coming

-Think of Jesus “woe to your scribes and Pharisees, you tithe your mint and cumin, but you neglect the weightier matters of the Law”

“Both notions (justice and righteousness) are wrapped up in Yahweh’s character and moral order, which were to be the foundations for the relational ethos, the social behavior, and the political, legal, and socioeconomic structures of the community. The leaders – in particular the king – were to embody these qualities and habits. This is why they are singled out for special judgment in Amos and throughout the prophetic literature.” (Carrol, NIV Study Bible, 307)

  1. The Day of the Lord (18-20)

-First woe is reserved for those who desire (crave) the day of the Lord.

-This is a theme throughout Israel’s history. If things get tough, just remember God will judge our enemies!

-There’s an element to that that’s true, right? 

-Think of a place like Deut. 32:36 “For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.”

Acts 1:6 “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

-I pray regularly, “God please come soon.” Early church prayed “maranatha” 

-So why would God condemn them for their craving of this time when that’s a theme throughout the Bible and history?

-Because their fascination/fixation on the future led them to disregard their holiness in the presence. Does that sound like anyone you might know?

-Story working in college at a church who GUARANTEED Jesus was coming back in the pastor’s lifetime, so take on a bunch of debt.

-Guy from a previous church who “cracked the code” through astrology and was able to tell you the EXACT date Jesus is returning. Didn’t like it when I told him that “secret codes” and “hidden knowledge” is called Gnosticism and was labeled a heresy in the 4th century.

-There are 2 issues related to eschatology we need to be careful to avoid (define eschatology)

-Get’s tricky quickly, you’ve got historical premil, dispensational premil, amil, postmil, pretrib, postrib, midtrib, then you’ve got the person who say’s they’re panmil, we’ll see how it all pans out. Recommend The Future of Everything or Systematic Theology.

-Millard Erickson, Christian Theology “there is intensive preoccupation with eschatology…eschatomania. The opposite might be called eschatophobia. Somewhere between the two extremes of preococupation with and avoidance of eschatology, we must take our stance. For eschatology is neither in unimportant and optional topic, nor the sole subject of significance and interest to the Christian.” (1058-9)

-Don’t forget 1 Peter 4:17 “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

-These people – these leaders of Israel are so preoccupied with the future (eschatomania) they’re neglecting to live holy lives today. Church, let that not be true of us! 

(Erickson, 1059) “after describing the second coming and assuring his readers of its certainty, he councils, “therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:18). It is sometimes easy to forget that the eschatological truths in God’s word, like the rest of his revelation, our intended to comfort and assure us.” 

-Amos next uses a really funny example of “The day of the Lord” will look like

-Anyone ever watch the 3 stooges, or Mr Bean, or enjoy slapstick humor like that? That’s the exact picture Amos paints here!

-Imagine Larry, Curly, and Moe stumbling across a wild Lion, so they immediately turn and run away, yet in their haste to get away from the lion they’re not paying attention to where they’re running so they run straight into the side of a giant bear! They finally escape from the clutches of the bear, sprint into their house, slam the door, lock it, winded they lean up against the wall to catch their breath and their bitten by a snake! They can’t catch a break!

-And why is it this way? Why is “The day of the Lord” judgment and not celebration?

  1. Unacceptable Worship (21-23)

-If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am unbelievably passionate about worship. I think one of the primary ways we should be reading the Bible is through the lens of worship. Gen. 1 is meant to instill worship in all of us for the sovereign creator God, and Rev. 22 ends with the reminder that Jesus is coming soon where we’ll finally worship perfectly, then everything in between is how we worship God acceptably, with TONS of reasons historically and theologically.

-God begins “I hate” look back up at vs. 10. While His people hate those who bring about true/lasting justice, God hates their worship. 

-So why is God rejecting the worship of his people? This is a wholesale rejection of everything his people are trying to do. Look at the senses God uses. 

-Smell in vs. 21

-Sight in vs. 22

-Sound in vs. 23

-What exactly is it that makes God “hate” the worship of his people? Look at the next vs.

  1. Justice and Righteousness (24)

-Instead of fixating on the future, or offering up their plentiful acts of worship, God commands them to pursue justice and righteousness. We talked at great length about justice last week, what about righteousness?

-2 aspects to righteousness, God’s righteousness and our righteousness.

-Concept of being in right standing morally, ethically, spiritually, etc. But also has the idea of right living in the here and now.

-Read Rom. 3:21-26 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

-Law pointed to God’s righteousness, part of why the worship was called out is because it wasn’t connected to righteous living. 

-The way we can be righteous today is by putting our faith in Jesus

-That’s where we can connect the dots between justice & righteousness in our daily lives. Paul will go on to say we’re either slaves to sin or to righteousness, but if we’re slaves to righteousness it leads us to pursue biblical/lasting justice in every sphere of life.

-Our world has disconnected these 2 concepts: justice AND righteousness. Our world wants justice APART from righteousness, but you can’t have 1 without the other.

-Kingdom without the king.

-The idea of righteousness & justice is supposed to flow out in every area of our lives in overwhelming abundance, like waters & an ever-flowing stream.

-Compare to a wadi – water comes in small doses then leaves

-We as Christians are so tempted by our world to operate using the world’s ideas/patterns of thought. We’re trained to think in these bipolar/partisan ways where everything is either Republican OR Democrat, but God calls us out of that way of thinking INTO a whole new way of life. His kingdom is NOT of this world, his patterns of life, of growth, of holiness cannot be built on the foundation of what the world offers us. Jesus calls us to a brand new way of operating, and he does it by drawing us into a family. 

-Last week I talked about both the corporate and individual responsibility we have to live out a justice life, but one piece I didn’t bring up was the way the reciprocal is true in salvation. 

-Remember, the primary or strongest responsibility we have before the Lord is individual, we’re not off the hook for corporate sins/issues

-But in salvation we’re saved individually, and only by being a part of the corporate are we then saved through Jesus’ atoning blood and sacrifice

-Remember from 1 Peter 2:10 “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

-As God’s people, the church, we now have to look to bring about justice & righteousness wherever we find ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to be a part of a local church – we’re not lone ranger Christians, we’re called to a place AND A COMMUNITY for a reason! We need to demonstrate Christ’s love to the watching world, and then see God work in us and through us for his glory. Otherwise: 

  1. Exile (25-27)

-Just their worship previously was rejected by God, God brings it up again.

-Some debate here as to what God means. It’s a rhetorical question, but do we answer “no” or “yes”? If no, then what about all the instances where the Israelites DO offer sacrifices? If yes, then what is God’s point? 

-Most likely (and my opinion) is God is connecting it to justice & righteousness. The people’s worship (sacrifices & offerings) WAS connected to their justice & righteousness. AND it shows us that the right rituals were not the primary point. 

-Think of a place like John 4, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well and reminds her that a time is coming where worship will not longer be dependent on location – instead God’s people will worship 24/7/365.

-But this isn’t just a NT idea, in 1 Sam. 15:22 “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

-But look at what they’re doing with their worship now in vs. 26. These are Mesopotamian gods that the people have assimilated into their worship of Yahweh. So even if their feasts, assemblies, offerings, and songs were accepted by God, they were ALSO worshipping these other gods. 

-Don’t we have a tendency to do the same? We only “worship” if it’s the songs I like, the preacher I like who agrees with all the same things I agree with, the translation of the Bible I like, wearing the clothes I like in the room that is decorated up to my standards.

-I have a friend who is a Pastor at a church where they don’t do any of the songs he likes. Isn’t that a better opportunity to worship than if it’s just the songs you like?

-Because the people are fixating on the future, are worshipping both unacceptably AND the wrong gods, God, the God of hosts, who can defeat all these other tiny little gods, will send them into exile

  1. Woes of Complacency (6:1-14)

-Just as the leadership has been previously called out, the leadership is going to be called out once again.

-Remember these people were waiting for the “day of the Lord” to come, they were in the midst of a good economic season, so they felt like everything was going to be just fine

  1. Look at the Nations (1-3)

-These people acted as if they were the best people in the world! They were the best nation, they had wealth, they had prosperity, but as we’ve been seeing throughout this section instead of utilizing their wealth to serve others, it was to pack their own houses

-In vs. 2, God basically tells them to look at all the nations from the N to the S, nations that once were prosperous and had tons of land, but had been beaten into submission and now were tiny nations compared to Israel

-Then, vs. 3, weird idea that they are assuming the “day of disaster” is a long time away. Everything’s fine so party hard! But because they assume that it’s far off they can do whatever they want, or in this case “bring near the seat of violence.”

-How many people today live this way? According to a 2019 Experian review, the average American carries $6,194 of credit card debt. That is putting off the day of disaster, discontent to live within the means and times we’ve been given. Now – being in debt is not inherently sinful, so if you need financial help, we’ve got a class for you right now!

-The second half of this verse gets to how these people were not living enacting true and lasting justice in their current context. They were so fixated on the future they neglected to care for those nearby.

  1. Woe to the Wealthy (4-7)

-God then moves on to a second woe, this time explicitly focused on the wealthy.

-Look at all these descriptions:

-lie on beds of ivory – yes, that is a 4 post EXPENSIVE bed

-stretch on their couches – spread themselves out lazily

-eat lambs and calves – while the rest of the nation is given to “cleanness of teeth” the wealthy are eating the finest meats

-sing idle/lazy songs – they comparing their lazily written songs to David

-drink wine in bowls – wine isn’t cheap, and they drink it by the bowl full1
-Anoint with finest oils – just as wine isn’t cheap, neither is oils! Ever been to bath & body works? 

-They have all these riches, their excess is clearly demonstrated, but they don’t give a rip about the destruction taking place around them. 2 options for the last line of vs. 6: either ignoring the societal ruin God has brought around them, or they’re ignoring the incoming judgment 

-Yet those who think they’re hot stuff, always tooting their own horns and neglecting to care for those nearby them will be the first ones to be taken away into exile.

-Jer. 9:23-24 “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

  1. God’s Judgment (8-14)

-God won’t mess around. He’s willing to deal with his people in a destructive way. Because his people are prideful, God says he hates it, and will therefore destroy the city.

-Vs. 9-10 are a little bit weird. A house has been destroyed, relatives are searching for bodies to deal with. One asks if there’s anyone still in the house, the other says no, then one replies “Silence! We must not mention the name of the Lord!” A few options:

-First is fear of mentioning God’s name will bring more judgment

-Second is worry that if he uses God’s names as a curse he will be judged

-Another is there’s no reason to cry out to God anymore, they’re all dead. 

-I’ll let you pick whichever one you like best!

-Vs. 11 gives us another description of the destruction, both great houses and little houses will face ruin.

-Then we end up with some more word play and slapstick humor in 12-13

-First, do horses run on rocks? Ever seen a horse race? Are there big boulders for them to run through? No! Hooves would be destroyed!

-Second, many scholars break these Hebrew words out a little differently and end up with the phrase “Does one plow the sea with oxen?” Has anyone here been to the beach? Dig a trench and what happens? Yeah, immediately covered. Not to mention if you did find a way to plow then you’re using salt water to try to grow crops. Not a great combo!

-Just as ridiculous to try having horses run on rocks or plow the sea with oxen, is what the people are doing with justice and righteousness. Remember, we saw wormwood pop up last week in 5:7

-But these people are so prideful that they continue boasting!

-Lo-debar is a city, but it literally means no-thing! So they rejoice that they have captured “nothing!” Ever been to the Grand Canyon? Or see mountains? Or the northern lights? Some amazing feature God has made. Push ups.

-Then they think they captured Karnaim by themselves. Karnaim is an allusion to horns which stands for strength throughout the OT. But their boasting leads to the last verse:

-As they boast in their strength, God is working behind the scenes to destroy them. The 2 places listed refer to the northernmost part to the southernmost part of Jeroboam’s kingdom. 

-We saw today that we cannot divorce our weekly living from our Sunday morning worship, otherwise God will not be pleased with the way we’re worshipping Him, and we’ll be tempted to think we’ve accomplished what we have in our own strength and ways instead of realizing that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from a good, holy Sovereign creator!

What I was listening to this week, this song was playing in the background of my mind as I wrote this week’s message, and also played on repeat during the long drive in Indianapolis and back!

Sermon Notes on Amos 5

Let Justice and Righteousness Flow

Amos 5

One note, this is just the manuscript I used to preach from, meaning there may be some making context below. If you’d like to listen to the message, please check it out here.

-Examples of justice. We all long for it in every area of our lives. Think of your favorite movies: the little guy finally beating the big bully and getting his justice. The Mighty Ducks get revenge on the Hawks. Marty McFly gets the best of Buff.

Louie Zamperini Unbroken

John Perkins Let Justice Roll Down.

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  1. The Lord is His Name (1-17)

-I realize it’s been a couple weeks since we were last in Amos, so quick catch up:

 -Amos 1, 2 the surrounding nations and God’s people have not been living right, so God will bring a judgment upon them

-Amos 3 more sins of Israel, lion coming upon them

-Amos 4 their false worship and all the ways the people are not returning to God, towards the end “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” then “the Lord, the God of hosts is his name”

-Chapter 5 reverts back to oracles against Israel

  1. The Decimation of Israel (1-3)

-Remember, last chapter God listed 5 plagues he’d brought, yet they did not return to Him, this is picking up that theme about what it’s going to look like now as He passes out his judgment

-This judgment is not doled out callously, this is a dirge God is singing. One translation said this is a grave song, a minor key, said with much mourning.

-Israel is pictured as a young lady

-Where there used to be someone to help (God) He’s no longer there, forsaken

-It will be so bad, their forces will be reduced by 90%

-Those aren’t great odds – that’s like UCLA, the 11 seed beating Gonzaga, the 1 seed of the whole tournament 

-So how will God’s people respond to this judgment? Is it utterly hopeless?

-Thankfully, whenever God’s involved, there’s always hope!

  • Seek God and Live (4-13)

-If, and only if, the people will seek the Lord, then they will live, instead of being decimated.

-So what does it mean to seek the Lord? The rest of these verses are an explanation of what that will look like, but I’ll give you a spoiler: to care about justice. We’ll talk about justice in just a bit, after we finish walking through this section, so if you want to sleep for a minute, do it now!

-Second time these cultic centers have come up

4:4 “Come to Bethel and transgress, to Gilgal, and multiply transgression.”

-This time God is calling out their sin. Instead of encouraging them to visit these places to continue in their sin, this time he’s saying if the people REALLY want to live, if they want to worship acceptably, they need to seek Him instead of going to these centers. 

-Also through Beersheba in southern part of Judah. Place where Abraham lived, and where Jacob received God’s blessing and built an altar.

-Places are all the wrong ones, remember back to 1:2 “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem.”

-The people keep going back to what they know and are accustomed to, and this whole time God is saying “I’m over here! Come back to me! Stop running away!”

-If any of you have dogs you’ve experienced this. Anytime they get a taste of freedom they’re gone! I have countless memories growing up after a dog had gotten out with treats trying to entice my dog to come back. In the same way, God is trying to entice His people to come back to Him. And why?

-All these places are on the chopping block. Gilgal will be sent into exile, Bethel will be destroyed 

-Gilgal into exile is a play on words, Hebrew galah is go into exile

-Pointing out the irony of looking to a place that sounds like exile as your source of hope and confidence

-Instead of finding their comfort & hope in various cultic centers, God again says “Seek ME if you want to live” 

-If they do not seek God, it’s repeated that he will destroy Joseph (head of all of Israel), anyone that would normally be able to help is gone.

-Then we get the first glimpse of the primary problem God is calling his people out for in vs. 7. Justice and righteousness is not being demonstrated by His people (again, we’ll dig further into this in a bit)

-The reason God is not accepting His people’s attempts to seek Him are because they are not actively living out justice and righteousness.

-Justice is being treated like wormwood, an unbelievably bitter plant. Anyone ever try to do a warhead challenge as they were growing up? 

-Righteousness cast down to the earth. Remember back in 2:7 “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth.” Not just the poor that are being trampled, the whole idea of righteousness is treated just a poorly as they’re treating the poor

-Focus then shifts back onto God

-Don’t forget, Israel’s God created the stars! He causes the sun to rise day by day, time passes through His hands. He also controls the rain that waters the earth. That’s who these people are messing with! Yahweh is His name.

-One of the features of Hebrew writing is using chiasm to create focal points. Think of it like a funnel, 2 equal points on each side that parallel each other leading into the primary point of the section. In all of vs. 1-17 the chiastic center is “The Lord is his name.” then everything else is something related to that theme

-Everything that we just studied will come up as a theme again as we continue in this section.

-Just as vs. 8 showed us Yahweh’s power, so 9 shows us God’s power again. Nothing can stand against God!

-Then, just as vs 7 was an accusation against Israel, 10-13 are an accusation against the powerful. 

-One note, the gate was the entrance to the city, patriarchs would gather there in the cool of the shade, people would bring cases to them to hear their verdicts. So when you read gate in many of the prophets, should think a court of law

-MSG “people hate this kind of talk, raw truth is never popular”

-Similar to the injunctions in Chpt. 2, poor are being used and abused

-They’ve extracted from them to build their houses and vineyards, but won’t get the reap the fruit of what they’ve built.

-Isn’t that rough? All the planning, hard word, execution, to not enjoy it? There’s good examples of this throughout history – basically every major movement in Christianity being traced back to a tiny group of believers who committed to pray together regularly for the good of their community. Sometimes not seeing the fruit of that until a century AFTER that entire group had died. Are you willing to do that kind of work today?

-We then see the same 2 words that appeared back in 7 in 12 “you who afflict righteousness, who take a bribe, and (CSB) deprive the poor of justice” See how this is a theme throughout this chapter?

  • Seek Good (14-17)

-Just as they were exhorted to seek God in the previous section, so here they’re exhorted to seek GOOD. So to seek God is equivalent to seeking good. How do you do that? Vs. 15 tells us: “hate evil and love good.” 

-Remember, I said 2 weeks ago when the love idea first came up in 4:4 all the fake offerings/worship they tried to do were called out, and they LOVED to openly commit these transgressions, these sins. Here is the alternative, instead of loving sin, love good, and not evil. That’s how God will be with you! And you do this by establishing justice in the gate – in the courts of law.

-Then, to conclude the chiasm, is the last lamenting for Israel in 16-17. People will be wiling, because the Lord will pass through their midst. That would have caused their minds to go back to an earlier moment when the Lord passed through their midst during the Passover in Ex. 12:12. When God comes, judgment comes with him.

Excurses: What is justice?

-Been alluding to this idea/topic pretty much since the first week we started studying this book, and here we now get to deal with it! What does biblical justice look like?

-Let’s keep this in perspective, has anyone heard of Calvinism or Arminianism? How about infant baptism or believer’s baptism? How about sacraments vs ordinances? Or a more recent example do we sing modern songs or only songs written over 100 years ago? Today one of the most hotly debated issues is over justice.

-Brief history of where we’ve run into problems. We viewed justice primarily from a social/horizontal lens. So social justice became THE primary means of whether or not one was a Christian. Ran into problems because it was quickly divorced from robust theology. I remember “social justice week” at my rich, Christian school. People would sleep in tents outside, eat only rice & beans, and then go back to their nice comfy dorm rooms for showers, homework, etc. Does that really make a difference?

-2 wings of a plane, faith & works. James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? …faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

-It’s not works to get faith, “it is faith alone that saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Calvin

-Before we dig in, a couple notes/caveats to keep in mind

-Tendency today to take anything that’s said politically, we as Christians need to do a better job of not viewing everything exclusively through a partisan lens.

-We need to do a better job of listening James 1:19 “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” Our cultural climate today boasts in the opposite: quick to speak, quick to become angry, and if there’s silence just start yelling about something being a justice issue. 

-Here’s where it gets tricky: because of that climate we’ve become conditioned to quickly jump to conclusions about things, we already have our responses formed before the person has even gotten their first word out. We’ve become conditioned to respond to the news with incredulity. We maybe believe about 5% of what the news tells us, so we inherently assume a position of suspicion, and continue in the suspicion until it’s proven to be right beyond a shadow of a doubt. Watch The Social Dilemma

-Then where it gets REALLY difficult is when we bring that same level of suspicion into the church, where we’re supposed to be a family who loves each other unconditionally. So instead of assuming motives of people, or jumping to conclusions about what they REALLY mean, ask questions to try to make sure you know what is really being said.

-While I know I’m still new here, God has called me to come preach the Word here every week to you, and I take that responsibility VERY seriously! I try VERY hard to not let it just be my words that I’m saying, but is an opportunity for us to hear from God Himself.

-So because it’s not my words that I’m saying, there are going to be things that challenge, convict, and at times even shock us, because last time I checked none of us are perfect, so there will always be ways in which we’re not measuring up to God’s perfect standard.

-That being said, I’m human, so I will make mistakes, I’ll misspeak, I do my best to not do that, but I talk a lot, so if/when something rubs you the wrong way, instead of jumping to conclusions, PLEASE come talk to me! I promise I don’t bite, and I’m operating with a certain dictionary that I know. EXPLAIN

-Using Tim Keller’s 4 articles on biblical justice

-The world tries to define justice from the wrong starting point. Basically, since the Enlightenment, people have been viewed as islands unto themselves. You enter the world as a blank slate, and then make the best of the circumstances you’re given.

-So what’s the problem with them?

-Sin. Rom. 3:23 “all have sinned and fallen short.” We don’t start with a blank slate.

-What experience and history show is sins tend to be passed down generationally along family lines. Example, anger. 

-Gross oversimplification of the heart of these issues, one side views the problem as exclusively an individual problem, the other side views it as exclusively a corporate problem. Then you’ve got others anywhere between those 2 extremes.

-Then the proposal to get justice comes at it from those 2 extremes

-1 says people just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps

-Other says we need to enact laws/policies to address the injustice around us

-So what does the Bible say about justice? 

-Bible says justice isn’t built on either individuals or societal evils, instead it is based in the very character of God, who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26) This is another area the world misses – what happens when someone “sins”? Today they’re simply cancelled. Think of JK Rowling. This past week it’s been happening to Jeff Bezos.

-God’s justice is both retributive and reparative. Punishes evildoers, and restores those who are victims when injustice reigns supreme.

-Because acting justly is rooted in God’s character (and we as His people are commanded to be like Him) there are 4 key aspects to biblical justice that we are to realize: radical generosity, universal equality, concern for the poor & marginalized, responsibility individually and corporately

1. Radical Generosity

-World says either your money is yours, or your money belongs to the state. God says your money is His, and he entrusts it to you (1 Cor. 4:7 “what do you have that you did not receive?”)

-Mosaic law talked about theft always being wrong, yet every 7 years debts were all cancelled, every 50 years land went back to original landowner

-Also forbid landowners from harvesting all the way to the edge of their field so that the poor could glean food from their labor (Lev. 19, Deut. 24)

-Most striking passage is Acts 2:45 “They were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Not socialism (willingly selling possessions) but not completely libertarian either (distributing proceeds to all)

-Bruce Waltke “The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to the advantage of the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” 

Ezek. 18:5Job 29Isaiah 1, Luke 12 all talk about the need to be radically generous with the resources God entrusts to you. Unlike the world, which says this is only a horizontal/social issue, the Bible says this is primarily a vertical/God issue

2. Universal Equality

-You cannot get to everyone needing to be treated apart from a biblical worldview, there’s just no way. We’re too different! 

-Aristotle said some races and nationalities deserved to be slaves.

Prov. 22:2 “Rich and poor and this in common: the Lord is the Maker of them all.”

-Jesus treated everyone with dignity, even sinners and Samaritans

3. Concern for the Poor & Marginalized 

-While we treat everyone with dignity, we’re to have a special concern for the poor, weak, and powerless. 

-Think of James 1:27 “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep unself unstained from the world.” 

-Notice 2 things: not “It’s not a religion it’s a relationship” 

-Keep unself unstained = holiness/sanctification 

-Jesus, when John the Baptist asks if he’s the one “the poor have good news preached to them.” 

-God always goes to the poor/marginalized, Jesus came poor & marginalized

Gal. 6:10 “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

4. Both Corporate and Individual Responsibility 

Joshua 7 – the sin of Achan, whole family died for his sin. Paul blames those who lived in Jerusalem and their rulers for crucifying Jesus in Acts 13:27

-Or think of the nations in Amos 1-2. Not all sins they committed, but they’re still held responsible/culpable. 

-but ultimately, we are individually responsible for our sins, think of Acts 16:31 “what must I do to be saved?” 

-Individually we all must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. We can’t depend on the faith of your grandparents, you won’t be saved by walking into the church, you need to believe. Then when you believe you can start enacting biblical justice.

-So there are both corporate and individual dimensions, but individual is the strongest

(Timothy Keller, Generous Justice)  – “We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God. It consists of a broad range of activities, from simple fair and honest dealings with people in daily life, to regular, radically generous giving of your time and resources, to activism that seeks to end particular forms of injustice, violence, and oppression.” 

-All of this starts with the us in the church. Even though we may disagree on some of our approach to policies and procedures, we need to be able to talk about these issues, otherwise our world will never see a faithful example of what they should be aiming for in relation to justice, and it begins with us, we need to start having conversations here with each other. 

-As I was thinking/praying through this idea this past week, I was struck with where/how I spend my money. I like Amazon, it’s fast, easy and cheap. Should I be buying things for the convenience factor?

(John Perkins, Let Justice Roll Down) – “This Jesus, this One who had brought good news directly from God in heaven, had lived what He preached. Yet He was arrested and falsely accused. Like me, He went through an unjust trial. He also faced a lynch mob and got beaten. But even more than that, He was nailed to rough wooden planks and killed. Killed like a common criminal. At the crucial moment, it seemed to Jesus that even God Himself had deserted Him. The suffering was so great, He cried out in agony. He was dying. But when He looked at that mob that had lynched Him, He didn’t hate them. He loved them. He forgave them. And He prayed God to forgive them. “Father, forgive these people, for they don’t know what they are doing.” His enemies hated. But Jesus forgave.” 

-We’ll get to the rest of this section next week, and see how justice ties into righteousness. But as you leave this week, be thinking/praying about what it looks like for you to live out God’s command to pursue justice through: radical generosity, universal equality, concern for the poor & marginalized, responsibility individually and corporately

Music for EFCA Theology Conference 2021

I’m looking forward to leading the music for this year’s EFCA Theology Conference! While I’m sad we won’t be in person (there’s something fun about joining with 400 pastors from across the country to sing LOUDLY together!), I’m thankful that we can continue meeting and singing despite a pandemic preventing us from all being in the same place. I try to use this conference to equip pastors with a couple ideas. First, that you don’t need a giant band every week. We can sing praises to God with just a piano and our voices, and sometimes just our voices! Second, I hope to gives pastors some ideas of songs (old and new) they can take home and teach to their congregations that are biblical true, easy to sing, catchy melodies, and will help move the head knowledge to a heart knowledge where we can take the things we’re learning and apply them to our lives. This year, I thought I would add links to where all the music can be found.

All Creatures of Our God and King

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (Praisecharts)

Speak, O Lord (Praisecharts)

Christ Our Hope in Life and Death (Praisecharts)

Jesus, Strong and Kind

Only a Holy God

King Of Kings (Praisecharts)

He Leadeth Me

Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

Yes I Will (Praisecharts)

I’ve also compiled on these songs on a Spotify playlist that you can find HERE. Because of the theme of this year’s conference, I’ve also put together an additional playlist that is various musical interpretations of various Psalms, which you can find HERE.

Resources That Disciple Me

This past Sunday I preached on what we let disciple us, and shared a suggestion from Brett McCracken on the Wisdom Pyramid. It’s a helpful guide on what we consume and allow to shape us. I also share the various podcasts I listen to, and the books and music I’ve been enjoying the past week! Here’s the whole list:

Podcasts:

5 Minutes in Church History – Stephen Nichols does brief historical ideas/stories

Bible Talk – 3 professors/pastors walk through the Bible, 15 episodes in haven’t even finished Gen!

BreakPoint – John Stonestreet, director of the Colson Center, news

The Briefing – Al Mohler, president of SBTS does daily news analysis from a Christian perspective. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s is unbelievably insightful.

Credo Podcast – prof. from MBTS on theology

Cultivated: A podcast about faith and work – Mike Cosper interview Christians 

Doxology & Theology – prof. from SBTS on how to better worship God

EFCA Theology Podcast – my dad does it so I have to listen

Every Square Inch Podcast – HIGHLY recommend. He’s insightful, articulate, careful, and pastoral

For the Church – Jared Wilson, author and speaker

Freakonomics – non-believer looking at some of the ways the world works

Gospelbound – Collin Hansen, part of TGC interviews various people about how to live a Christian life

The Happy Rant – a friend of mine, like to joke a lot

The Holy Post – Phil Vischer (Veggie Tales) Skeye Jethani (former editor of CT) discuss current issues

Like and Books and Everything – Kevin DeYoung, Collin Hansen, Justin Taylor talk about what it says!

Pastor Well with Herschael York – interviews with pastors

Pastors Talk – Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman various issues

The Pivot – musician named Andrew Osenga talks with other artists about how God has led them in their lives

Preaching and Preachers – Jason Allen, pres. Of MBTS guide to preaching better

Revitalize and Replant with Thom Rainer – self explanatory

TGC Podcast – sermons/lectures from their conferences 

TGC Q&A – various people answer questions about Christianity and living out our faith

Thinking in Public – Al Mohler talks to various authors about their writings and ideas in the public square

This American Life – stories from various parts of the country

This Cultural Moment – Mark Sayers is a pastor in Australia who is unbelievably insightful into reaching our secular culture

The Village Church Sermons – Matt Chandler

Books/Authurs:

JT English – Deep Discipleship

Will Wiight – Unsouled

DA Carson – John Pillar

Grant Osborne – John: Verse by Verse

Richard Lovelave – Dynamics of a Spiritual Life

Carl Trueman – The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

Athanasius – On the Incarnation

Music

Lots of instrumental music to study, Jon GuerraJon ForemanSlugs & BugsCityAlightGettysHillsong

Pandemic From The Trellis and the Vine

One of my favorite books on intentional discipleship is The Trellis and the Vine. I’ve been looking over it again to be reminded of its’ message, and found the conclusion of the book incredibly prophetic. It was written in 2009, but imagines a situation where a global pandemic has prevented large groups from gathering. How would it impact the church? Here is what they say:

As we write, the first worrying signs of a swine-flu pandemic are making headlines around the world. Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world, and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reasons of public health and safety. And let’s say that due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months.

How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function—with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no home groups (except for groups of three)?

If you were the pastor, what would you do?

I guess you could send regular letters and emails to your people. You could make phone calls, and maybe even do a podcast. But how would the regular work of teaching and preaching and pastoring take place? How would the congregation be encouraged to persevere in love and good deeds, especially in such trying circumstances? And what about evangelism? How would new people be reached, contacted and followed up? There could be no men’s breakfasts, no coffee mornings, no evangelistic courses or outreach meetings. Nothing.

You could, of course, revert to the ancient practice of visiting your congregation house-to-house, and door-knocking in the local area to contact new people. But how as a pastor could you possibly meet with and teach all 120 adults in your congregation, let alone their children? Let alone door-knock the suburb? Let alone follow up the contacts that you made?

No, if it was to be done, you would need help. You would need to start with ten of your most mature Christian men, and meet intensively with them two at a time for the first two months (while keeping in touch with everyone else by phone and email). You would train these ten in how to read the Bible and pray with one or two other people, and with their children. Their job would then be twofold: to ‘pastor’ their wives and families through regular Bible reading and prayer; and to each meet with four other men to train and encourage them to do the same. Assuming that 80% of your congregation was married, then through these first ten men and those that they subsequently trained, most of the married adults would be involved in regular Bible-based encouragement.

While that was getting going (with you offering phone and email support along the way), you might choose another bunch to train personally—people who could meet with singles, or people who had potential in door-knocking and evangelism, or people who would be good at following up new contacts.

It would be a lot of personal contact, and a lot of one-to-one meetings to fit in. But remember, there would be no services to run, no committees, no parish council, no seminars, no home groups, no working bees—in fact, no group activities or events of any kind to organize, administer, drum up support for, or attend. Just personal teaching and discipling, and training your people in turn to be disciple-makers.

Here’s the interesting question: after 18 months, when the ban was lifted and you were able to recommence Sunday gatherings and all the rest of the meetings and activities of church life, what would you do differently?

Marshall, Colin; Payne,Tony. The Trellis and the Vine . Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.