May 19, 2011 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Michael Kang, Gracepoint Berkeley.
Amos 5:18-24
What was God’s view of the Israelite’s religiosity? God hated the Israelites’ religiosity. Even though they had religious feasts, assemblies, burnt and grain offerings, He rejected them all. He would not listen to their songs, accept their worship, or look upon their religious activities with favor, because it was all for show and the rest of their lives did not line up with His precepts and commands. Though they would obey in the area of worship, in the compartment of religion, and comply in that arena, they did not do so in the rest of their lives. Like the pie chart from our Monday-Sunday message series – they were willing to give the religion slice to God, but the rest of it was their own.
What fundamental view of God must the Israelites have held in order for them to have such spiritual confidence while living utterly selfish lives? The view of God that the Israelites must have held is that He was just some distant God who didn’t know or didn’t care about the rest of their lives. They thought they could live their own way, selfishly, sinfully, and He would just somehow excuse it. They did not have regard for His holiness; they rejected His rightful ownership over their entire lives, and they did not respect His laws and decrees that had been given to them. They had spiritual confidence because they followed through on all the religious rites and they thought that was enough to oblige God to be pleased with them and to fulfill His end of the deal to be their God and make things go well with them. They thought the day of the LORD was going to come and make everything right, in terms of what they wanted for themselves. Their view of God did not lead them to humility, to brokenness, to desperation and so they did not recognize their need for mercy and forgiveness from a holy God before whom they were needy sinners.
How can an active religious life become justification for ignoring justice and righteousness?  What can be a safeguard against this? An active religious life can lead to self-justification for ignoring justice and righteousness because you think that somehow all of your religious deeds and service make up for and outweigh the deficiencies in your character and excuse the lack of justice and righteousness in your life. The Israelites probably thought that since they were doing such a good job with their religious rites, they were good people, good in God’s eyes, and therefore they did not think to examine how they were living or what their lives showed about the true condition of their hearts. The safeguard for this is self-reflection before the Word of God, and humility before people that can be a mirror and show us our true character and talk to us about what we are actually like, and how that has manifested in our lives and how we’ve treated people around us. Because of blindness to my sin, it takes the people of God around me and coming before the Word of God again and again with a spirit of humility that will allow me to look past the “righteous” acts and see what is truly inside and motivating me.

I think it’s a human tendency, an outcome of human pride, to look to the externals and to want to paint a picture of the self in the most positive light. It would be tragic for me, for anyone to think, just because I’m on a church plant, I’m serving in ministry in such and such capacity, I’m doing well spiritually and God must be pleased with me. It’s a temptation to point to the externals and ignore the inner reality that God sees. And a lot of religious activity and serving God can either be used as a justification or a distraction from confronting and dealing with the inner reality. I have to be sure that as I’m busy serving God, engaging in ministry, I am not neglecting to do the work of looking hard at my own heart, applying the messages, being honest and struggling through prayer, and approaching God and working out my salvation with fear and trembling. I should never have the feeling of spiritual smugness or complacency. As we have many opportunities in which to engage with the Word of God and prayer – daily DT and prayer times, prayer meeting, nourishment time, messages, Bible studies, etc. – I need to seize these opportunities and not give into temptation to disengage my heart in even the slightest way. I need to hold myself, hold my heart, under the light of God’s Word and not let it slip away into the comfortable darkness. As a leader, I must always first engage myself with God and His Word and minister out of authentic conviction and what I’m experiencing, rather than letting it become mere words that sound right. I can’t just think about “ministry” as some external category of serving God, but have an integrated view of my life where I’m considering my relationships, how I’m treating others, whether I’ve been serving and loving people around me and not just doing stuff. And rather than being a distraction or justification, ministry can also be part of a safeguard itself, because as I look at the students’ lives and have to think about challenging them or teaching them, it’s an opportunity to examine my own life in the process and reaffirm the truth of God’s Word.

Submitted by Michelle Sun, Gracepoint Berkeley.
Amos 5:18–24
What would it take for “justice [to] roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream?”  How can this become a reality in my life?

For righteousness and justice to roll on like a river and a never failing stream, there has to be justice and righteousness in my own life that is a pattern and a way of life for me.  It would take many years of discipline and a way of obedience that I would have to have learned from living that way.  It would take a lot of dying to my personal agenda and to my own ideas of how to make myself happy.   I need to dethrone myself from the center of my life and let’s God’ will be done in my life.. through surrendering my schedule and through laboring for the work that needs to be done, through showing concrete love to the people that I need to love..

 

I was thinking about the three girls and a boy that we just took in as a church as soon as we found out that they were in dire need.  There was such an overwhelming response from the teachers who found out about the situation.  There was such a feeling of pity and sadness about their situation, but then they all concretely wanted to respond by providing a place for them to stay, providing rides for them every morning and every afternoon, wanting to feed them, going out and buying new shoes for them and warm jackets… I was thinking that those kids can be a recipient of God’s righteousness flowing into their lives because there were whole bunch of people who were practiced at self-denial and community life.  There is no way that a single teacher could pull this off.  God’s righteousness and justice and flow into the lives of others especially when we are being a church together like this.

 

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