“I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-23)
If we put verses 21-23 in the modern context, how many of us go to church gatherings and meetings (feasts and assemblies)? How many of us tithe to the church or donate money or other resources (burnt offerings and grain offerings)? How many of us give or serve to simply appease God or others (peace or fellowship offerings)? How many of us take part in worshipful activities such as sing praise songs at church (noise of your songs)?
The answer is probably most, if not all, of people who call themselves Christian do all of these things. But when they are done without truly accepting Jesus, not only as Savior of our lives, but as LORD of our lives (meaning dying to ourselves and giving our life fully to Him), HE WILL NOT ACCEPT OR REGARD THEM. We have put our hope in the wrong things.
I’ve written about this topic many times before (because it’s mentioned many times in the Bible), but God not only doesn’t care for empty religious activity, but as we see here, He actually despises it.
It gives me heartache as I think of the scores of people who may go to church and fill their plates with good activities and ministry work, but don’t actually have a personal relationship with Jesus. They may give lavishly and do significant work in His Name, but on the day of judgment, they will be tragically surprised when He says, “I never knew you. Get away from me evil doer.” (Matt. 7:23, Luke 13:27)
This sounds really harsh, and to be honest, I thought it was extremely unfair when I first read Jesus’s words. But when you truly understand the gospel and understand the penalty of sin, it makes perfect sense.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23)
Sin deserves judgment, and the penalty of sin is death- that is perfect justice. We cannot be absolved or pardoned of our sin without something (or someone) taking that penalty on our behalf. Those who call on Jesus Christ as both Savior and LORD, receive God’s gift of eternal life. It is a free gift, nothing we deserve or can earn on our own, no matter how many good things we do on this earth. It does not require us to toil and labor and strive to be perfect, because we never will be. That is why it is a gift of grace… God knows we can never make up for our sin on our own, so He made it up for us through Jesus. But we must accept that free gift from God, repent of our sin, and surrender our lives to Christ. When we do so, we are saved!
As we see in Amos 5, Israel believed they were saved simply because they did religious activity. They basically lived their lives the way they wanted to outside of church, and only did the things on the checklist that they thought would mark them as “good people” and earn them salvation.
They were looking forward to the “day of the Lord” (the day of judgment) because they thought that would be the day they would find victory and be freed from their troubles forever. But in verses 18-20, God sets them straight and warns them that on the contrary, it will be a day of darkness when they will be judged for their sin.
Folks, where are we at in our own spiritual walk? Are we going to church and reading the Bible and donating to worthy causes and attending church meetings simply out of duty, activity, or obligation? Do we think these things in themselves will earn us right-standing with God? Or do we have an honest, sincere, and genuine relationship with Jesus that has absolutely flipped our lives from the inside-out, so much that we don’t live for ourselves, but we live for Him? Because that is the the heartbeat of a true believer- “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
I know, this is a hard word- but it’s our obligation as Christians to send this message to the world. This is exactly why the Bible says:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The reality is that the majority of humankind will walk down the road of destruction straight to hell, while very few will find the road to eternal life in heaven. And it’s not because God doesn’t have the desire that all would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23, Matthew 23:37), but it’s more because we as humans are prideful and want to control our own lives and our own destiny. It’s the exact trap that the nation of Israel, who saw miracle after miracle from the Lord, fell into as they refused to enter the Promised Land.
Don’t let the fact that you go to church on Sunday or take part in religious activities be the foundation of your faith, because that is no foundation at all. May your basis of hope be in Christ, and Christ alone.
[From February 12, 2019]