Big Idea of the Series: This four-week sermon series wrestles with the common statement: “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” Christianity, by default, is a religion in the common definition of the word. The answer, then, seems to be less about losing our religion than finding a pure one. The aim of this series is to explore what it means to have a pure and un-defiled religion by considering elements like our motives for religious activities, obedience, humility, hypocrisy, and authentic community.
Text: Amos 5:11-27
Topic: Worship, Motives
Big Idea: We can perform all the religious acts we can think of, but if we are doing them for show, God will reject them. God doesn’t require our perfection, but He does desire pure hearts and honest motives.
Sermon Ideas and Talking Points:
- This song by Jon Foreman is an artistic expression from God’s point of view based on this specific text from Amos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UihssQZoUd4.
- Here again is a rebuke about performing religious acts for show instead of from a pure heart—in particular, acts of worship like singing. Does this text mean that people shouldn’t raise their hands in worship? Or wave a flag or dance? Of course not! There is too much Biblical evidence of God being pleased by such expressions of worship—as long as they are sincere. The key element is motive. We cannot know someone else’s motive for their expression of worship; we can only know our own. If we raise our hands—or keep them down—out of a concern for what others may think, such expressions are not acceptable to God.
- Comparing King Saul and King David is a great way to illustrate God’s priority of a pure heart.1 Samuel 13:5-14 tells the story of Saul’s presenting a burnt offering to the Lord when it wasn’t his role. When Samuel confronted him for doing so, Saul made excuses for his error. Samuel’s response: “Now your kingdom will not endure. The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart,” (v. 14). David, on the other hand, was a lustful, adulterous, lying murder. When he was confronted about his grievous sins, David broke down. He repented. There were consequences, but his throne wasn’t taken away. One might be confused by God’s responses. Saul lost his throne over a religious act, making an offering; and David slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, lied about it, killed the husband, and got to keep his kingdom? How is that fair? The key factor is the two men’s heart attitudes, their motives, revealed when they were finally confronted. One was repentant, and one made excuses. We all mess up, but our heart’s desire to obey God is revealed when we realize it. May we be like David who wrote this verse after he was broken for his sins: “Create in me a pure heart, O God; renew a steadfast spirit within me,” (Psalm 51:10).
- Amos 5:16-20 talks about the “day of the Lord,” the day we will all stand before God and give an account of our lives. Amos warns that those who falsely think of themselves as religious will be sorely disappointed on that day because they will be rejected when they expect rewards. They will receive judgment for neglecting others in need (vv.11-12). In the same way, 1 John 4:17-21 connects confidence on the day of judgment to loving others: “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
- How can we know if we have pure motives or not? Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” When we spend time in personal Bible reading, the Holy Spirit will bring our secret motives to light. Our job is to be honest with God and with ourselves and, when He points out a wrong motive, to quickly agree with Him and change it.
Amos 5:11-17 Amplified Bible ® (AMP)
11 Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor And demand a tribute (food-tax) of grain from them, Though you have built [luxurious] houses of square stone, You will not live in them; You have planted beautiful vineyards, but you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great (shocking, innumerable), You who distress the righteous and take bribes, And turn away from the poor in the [court of the city] gate [depriving them of justice].
13 Therefore, he who is prudent and has insight will keep silent at such a [corrupt and evil] time, for it is an evil time [when people will not listen to truth and will disregard those of good character].
14 Seek (long for, require) good and not evil, that you may live;
And so may the Lord God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said!
15 Hate evil and love good, And establish justice in the [court of the city] gate. Perhaps the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph [that is, those who remain after God’s judgement].
16 Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, “There is wailing in all the public plazas,And in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’And they call the farmers to mourning [for those who have died]And professional mourners to wailing.
17 “And in all vineyards there is wailing,
For I will pass through your midst [in judgement],” says the Lord.
18 Woe (judgement is coming) to you who desire the day of the Lord [expecting rescue from the Gentiles]! Why would you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness (judgement) and not light [and rescue and prosperity];
19 It is as if a man runs from a lion [escaping one danger] And a bear meets him [so he dies anyway],
Or goes home, and leans with his hand against the wall And a snake bites him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, instead of light, Even very dark with no brightness in it?
21 “I hate, I despise and reject your [sacred] feasts, And I do not take delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 “Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings and your grain offerings,I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fattened animals.
23 “Take the noise of your songs away from Me [they are an irritation]! I shall not even listen to the melody of your harps.
24 “But let justice run down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream [flowing abundantly].
25 “Did you bring Me sacrifices and grain offerings during those forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? [Certainly not!] 26 You carried along your king Sikkuth and Kayyun [your man-made gods of Saturn], your images of your star-god which you made for yourselves [but you brought Me none of the appointed sacrifices]. 27 Therefore, I will send you to go into exile far beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
- What is one thing that stood out to you from this week’s message?
- What was the cultural situation of this passage?
- How is it possible to give the vibe that we are worshipping God, and yet not really worship God?
- When you think of the less fortunate, what words come to mind? Are they words that God would use?
- What can you do to bring some justice to your world this week?
- How can I pray for you?
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