This sermon is number 3 in a series of 5
The God Of Justice - Part 3
"The Second Charge, Affluence"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Good evening to you all, it's wonderful to be back again tonight. It's hard to believe that we're halfway through the week already - but we've been having good times together in the mornings and in the evenings around God's word, and in His presence. I know I'm enjoying the ministry, particularly in the morning, and we praise God for it. It's good to be together and spend this leisurely time, so to speak, around God's word. I'm enjoying being with all the police officers as well, and hearing what is going on in the life of our police force. I have to say I really do feel that police officers make good conveners for meetings - I don't know whether you've noticed that or not, but as I travel around you get good conveners and bad conveners, but police officers get right to the point! That's what I've noticed, have you noticed that? They get the announcements out of the way, they say what they have to say, and then get down - and preachers love that, it gives them more time! But it's been wonderful to be here.
I want you to turn with me to Amos, where we're studying these evenings, Amos - and tonight we're looking at chapter 4. We've taken the heading 'The God of Justice', and on Monday evening we looked at chapters 1 and 2 and we look at 'The Accused', the God of justice was accusing six Gentile nations around the nation of Israel, and also the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. Last night we looked at chapter 3, where this God of justice brought His first charge against the nation of Israel, and He charged them for their sins against His Commandments. We're going to see the second charge tonight, which is the charge of 'Affluence', affluence.
We're reading in chapter 4, and we will read just verse 15 of chapter 3 please, of the previous chapter, for that is relevant to what we're going to say tonight. Chapter 3 then and verse 15, God says: "I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end', says the LORD. Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, 'Bring wine, let us drink!'. The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: 'Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. You will go out through broken walls, each one straight ahead of her, and you will be cast into Harmon', says the LORD. 'Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; for this you love, you children of Israel!' says the Lord GOD. 'Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; yet you have not returned to Me', says the LORD. 'I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me', says the LORD. 'I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me', says the LORD. 'I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me', says the LORD. 'I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; yet you have not returned to Me', says the LORD. 'Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!'. For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth; the LORD God of hosts is His name".
Let us pray, and as I've invited you on previous nights, I would ask you do pray with me now that God may speak, that He may speak to those who may be gathered here who have never trusted Christ as their Lord and Saviour; and that He may speak to all of us, because we all need to hear from God. If you're here and you don't need to hear from Him, well, you're the biggest person in need of prayer here tonight. We all need to hear from the Almighty, so let us unite our hearts together in meaningful prayer as we ask God for His help, and for His presence.
Father in heaven, we come in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified for our sins, was buried, and rose again, and is alive and is at Your right hand interceding for us, a Prince and a Saviour. We ask in His mighty, all-victorious name that You will meet with us tonight by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord, we thank You for the meditation this morning, and that little phrase spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 'Your God will come to you'. We long, Lord, that tonight our God would come to us. Lord, we remind You of the words and promise of our Lord Jesus when He said: 'If any man love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him; and we will come to him and make our abode with him'. Lord, come to us tonight and meet the needs of everyone here this evening, and may we get a vision of this God of justice who is also a God of grace. Lord, I'm going to pray that tonight the fear of God would grip us. Amen.
Imagine walking into your place of worship on Sunday morning as usual, and the visiting preacher is from the countryside, the backwoods in fact, and he gets up to preach and his opening lines are these: 'You elders and deacons wives are fat cows!' - can you imagine that? Now if you didn't choke on your toffee, or whatever you chew in the pew, I imagine you'd be thinking immediately that it's obvious that this man has never read Dale Carnegie's book 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' - and also, if he attended Bible seminary, he played truant during the sermon class, or like most people he probably fell asleep! What I'm absolutely certain of is that the pulpit vacancy committee would not be sending out feelers to see if this country cousin would be open to a call. But what this tells us is that God's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, because effectively what Amos the prophet said to Israel - remember, God's congregation, God's people - was, verse 1, 'Hear this word, you cows of Bashan'. As we read in the context, we see at the end of verse 1: 'Who say to your husbands, 'Bring wine, let us drink!''.
He was talking to the leaders of the nation's wives, and effectively calling them 'fat cows' - imagine it! But you see, Amos wasn't concerned with courting popularity, neither was he interested in gaining fans or tickling the hearer's ears. He hadn't been to prophet school, neither had he been given fatherly advice on the introduction of the sermon, because his father wasn't a prophet either. He certainly wasn't interested in a call or a position to feather his own nest. Amos, as we've seen already, was God's man - and this was the point, why God sent this farmer sheep-breeder to preach His word: He wanted a man uncontaminated by the conventional. Do you understand what I mean? He didn't want a clone off a conveyor belt. He wanted a man untainted by ecclesiastical accepted wisdom. He just wanted a message boy, if you like, a man to take His message and preach it the way He had spoken it - so He chose a farmer. A farmer who, as we saw last night, walked close enough with God to hear God's voice, and to share the divine burden that God had for His people who were so heavily submerged in iniquity.
Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not encouraging vulgarity in the pulpit, and this was far from vulgarity for vulgarity's sake because Amos was a farmer. He used this image not because some of these women needed to subscribe to Weight Watchers, or they look like bovines, but because their sins were fattening them up for the slaughter. This was the farmer's imagery, they were being fattened up themselves for the kill - because this God of justice was not going to put up with it any longer. So this second message, this charge - we saw last night that the charge of God to the people of Israel was aimlessness, can two walk together except they be agreed? Tonight we're looking at this second charge, affluence, but God's prophet is bringing the accusation; and he's bringing, in fact, three specific sins why Israel was grieving the Lord, and why they were destroying the nation. The first sin we find in verses 1 to 3, it is luxury. God's people have the wrong values, or we could put it the other way round: they valued the wrong things. Their second sin was hypocrisy, we see it in verses 4 and 5: they had, as we saw, a religious revival. If you like, the churches were full, the offerings were high and heavy - and yet God saw it and said it was a sham, it was superficial, skin deep, hypocritical. Their third sin was stubbornness, we see it in verses 6 to 13, where they obstinately refused to listen to God's warning.
He starts this chapter the way he started in chapter 3, 'Hear this word!'; he starts again in chapter 5, 'Hear this word!'. Amos is blowing the trumpet to warn them, but they are obstinately, stubbornly not listening. So let's deal with each of these points of Amos as he gives this charge of affluence to the people of Israel. The first is luxury, verses 1 to 3. As I've said, these wives whom he calls 'cows of Bashan' were wives of the wealthy leaders of Israel. You see, their husbands had gotten rich by robbing the poor of money and of land. So we might call these women 'society women', you know, they lounged around all day, reaping the rewards of ill-gotten gain, drinking wine, and in fact telling their husbands what to do - no comment on that! But their sin was luxury - you maybe never thought of that as a sin, but you know the English word 'luxury' comes from a Latin word that simply means 'excessive'. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying here tonight, it's not a sin to be wealthy. There are great characters in the word of God who were rich, like Abraham, a very wealthy farmer; and David the King who had great wealth - but the point was: these wealthy men used their wealth for the glory of God. The problem comes when luxury is a superabundance of money, of time, of resources, and we use those things exclusively on ourselves - or, to put it another way, we expend them purely on aimless leisure and selfish pleasure.
Do you know that in the eyes of most of the world we in the West are rich? Now I know some of you are pensioners, and I know some of you would like to be earning more of a wage, maybe some of you are unemployed and you would not consider yourself to be wealthy. But what we consider here in the West as essentials for living are considered in most of the rest of the world as luxuries. Let me give you a couple of examples: thermostatic controlled heating is a luxury. Air conditioning, though you don't need it in Portrush, is a luxury. Refrigeration, cars, adequate medical care, telephones and abundantly available electricity and fossil fuels - these are all things that the rest of the world considers luxurious, and we enjoy a superabundance of them. So that means, tonight, Christian, you are rich - maybe not in Western terms, but in global terms. Now the question that hangs before us tonight in the light of the prophet Amos is: how are we using our relative riches for the glory of God? That was Amos' message - his second charge to them was one of affluence. They were guilty of the sin of luxury, expending their wealth on selfishness.
Now the problem is not owning possessions, we all do. The problem comes when possessions own you, and I believe this is particularly a sin of Christians. You say: 'Oh, why is that?'. Well, when you're born-again and you're converted, you're automatically freed from some very expensive vices. What happens is, because maybe you're not spending money on booze and cigarettes, the bookies, and going to various other places - I'm not saying that's everything that it means to be a Christian, far from it - but inevitably you stop doing some of the things that you used to do, not because necessarily that's the rules, but because you no longer need to; you're satisfied with Jesus, you've got the Holy Spirit living within you, those things don't do it for you any more! Because of that you have a few extra pounds in your pocket, and you accrue more money. Because you accrue more money, you inevitably rise on the social ladder even a little, and you can become very quickly out of touch with grassroots society, with the poor, with the working man and woman. Even, perish the thought, because of Christ's deliverance of sin in our lives, possessions that we can now buy with this accrued wealth, they can become idols, things we possess can begin to possess us. The net result is that we get out of touch with God. This is what happened to Israel - because of their luxury they had now failed to hear the voice of God. As we heard last night they were no longer walking with God, they were not in agreement with God.
Francis Schaeffer called it 'The god of personal peace and affluence'. The Lord Jesus talked about it in His parable of parables, or parable on parables - you know the parable of the sower and the seed, and the different soils, and there were four soils? I believe that's a parable not just for unconverted people, but it's a parable about how everyone hears the word of God and their reaction to it. One of the soils that the seed came to was thorny, thistle encrusted soil, and those thorns choked the seed of the word of God. Here was the Lord Jesus' comment on that allegory: 'These thorns', He said, 'are the worries of this world, the pleasures of life, the seductiveness of wealth, and the passionate desires for material things. They creep in and choke out the word, making it unfruitful'. Now could it be tonight, whoever you are, that your heart is so crowded by other things that God's voice is being choked? G. Campbell Morgan said many years ago: 'Persecution is only Satan's second-best weapon, the first is materialism'. You see, materialism by stealth, like the thorns and the weeds, grows up secretly and quietly and then chokes us. Someone has said: 'Whatever culture we are in, we are always being subtly coerced into spending our money or time on what is not of Christ'. A pastor in China who experienced great persecution for his faith, he said this: 'Consumerism could be more of an effective killer of Christianity than communism ever was'! He had been locked up for his faith, he could show in his body the wounds that he suffered for Jesus Christ, and yet he realised the subtle deadliness of materialism and consumerism in his society - more deadly than a despot!
In the words of Lee Tian, a famous Shanghai pastor, 'Consumerism makes you think you don't have to suffer to follow Jesus. It makes you think you can have lots of things and Christ as well. In reality you just end up with lots of things, and most of the time you don't even realise Christ has gone'. What an epitaph for Western Christendom: you end up with lots of things, and most of the time you don't even realise Christ has gone. Can I ask you tonight, Christian: has a tangible sense of the presence of God in your life disappeared because of wealth, because of luxury? Maybe you're here tonight and you're not a believer, and you're not really interested because you've got food on the table, clothes on your back, good horsepower under the sole of your foot, you've a roof over your head and a nice one at that, and you feel you've no need for God. My friend, let me challenge you tonight: that could be the very device of the devil to deafen you to the word of the living God coming to you tonight, so that you cannot hear. It's choking the word and the voice of God, and it will essentially damn your soul.
Have you ever asked the question: why we in the West are as wealthy as we are in a global sense? Have you ever contemplated why the church in the West is so rich? Is it for living high off the hog? Are we God's favourites? No, I don't think so. Not very long ago I ordered a book free off the Internet, and it just popped up one day when I was on a Christian website, and it was free - so, I mean, you just get a book if its free, don't you? I ordered it, and it was entitled 'Revolution in World Missions' by K.P. Yohannan. Now, if you're a leader of the church of Jesus Christ here tonight, let me encourage you to get that book - and it is free - get it! Because in that book K.P. Yohannan, an Asian, sets out the vision that he has for missionary work into the next millennium. His idea is, and I believe it's born of God, that God has allowed the West to be rich, the church in the West to be rich, in order to finance Asia in particular, and that window of the world that still has to hear the gospel in their hundreds of thousands. His vision is, not necessarily as in bygone eras, that Westerners went to the mission field and westernised those countries, but rather that they should finance mission in those countries by indigenous nationals taking the Gospel to their own people. Do you know why? Because they are queuing up to do the work, but they haven't got the resources! Do you know that? They are volunteering by their thousands, but they haven't got the monies. His vision is to tell this story in the West, and to motivate Christians - maybe you can't go, or won't go - but certainly to give, and know that there are those lining up. I read in that story, it would break your heart in that book to read of evangelists who can't feed their children. I read one heartbreaking story of an evangelist who went to a tribal community in a remote area to tell them of Jesus and His love, and they were an illiterate people, they could not read or write. So he couldn't give them tracts, he couldn't give them a Bible or any form of literature, so he thought he would show them slides - but he had a problem, he hadn't got a slide projector. Do you know what that evangelist did? He went to the hospital every week, and he sold his blood that he might buy a projector to tell illiterate people about Jesus.
Can I ask you, Christian tonight, what would you give so that others might live? Does this touch us? God mightn't call you to go - maybe He does - make sure He has called you to stay; but if He hasn't called you to go, is He asking you, as a Westerner, to simplify your life in order to know God better because it's crushing and choking the word of God and His voice in your experience, or is He asking you to live more simply that others might simply live? That's not just a challenge to individual Christians, it's a challenge to Christian churches: how do you spend your wealth? Office bearers, ministers, pastors, deacons, how are you spending your wealth? Can I tell you: I know some conscientious Christians who don't give into their churches because they don't trust them to spend the money aright - they waste it! Listen to what Paul says in 1 Timothy chapter 6 verse 17, listen: 'Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life'. Is that not what the Lord Jesus Christ taught when He said: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth cannot corrupt and where thieves cannot not break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also' - where is your heart tonight? Where is your heart?
Listen, I believe this: here in the West, in the church, if we don't use the wealth that we have for the kingdom of Christ, we might lose it! All you have to do is look around you at credit crisis, national debt in the Eurozone, in the United States, crashing financial global markets - and it's quite possible that we, as the wealthy, might become the poor in a matter of decades, if God should choose! This God of justice, this God of the nations who takes note of everything that is going on! Verse 2: 'The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: 'Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks'. You see, fattened beef would be led away by the butcher, isn't that right? The Assyrians, who were going to bring Israel into captivity, they had a practice: they would put hooks in the noses of their captives, or in the lower lips of their prisoners, and they would attach a rope to them and they would lead them away like animals - either to captivity or to death. What this is telling us is just what Jesus taught us, what Paul taught us: do not trust in uncertain riches, but invest them in the kingdom of Christ!
Amos brought the charge to them of their affluence, and not only did they commit the sin of luxury, they committed the sin of hypocrisy in verses 4 and 5. Amos is being ironic here, he says: 'Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgressions' - and really what he's saying is, 'Carry on your religious services, but it's all a waste of time!'. Now, as I've said, there was a revival of interest in religion, but it was all a sham - for later in chapter 5 and verse 5 he actually commands them not to go to Bethel, and not to go to Gilgal, these significant places in Israelite history that have now become shrines to pagan gods! The Lord saw their hearts, they were all flocking to their places of worship, they were entering into the particular, we might say, 'sacraments' of their religious practices. They were into the rituals, they brought great wealth as offerings, but God is being sarcastic almost with them: 'Keep on going, because I'm not noticing it, because it doesn't mean anything to Me!'. That's serious, isn't it? I mean, if Amos was speaking to us, he might say: 'Go ahead you, go and do your daily readings every morning, go and go down your shopping list of prayer requests - go on, go and do it! Go to your meetings every night of the week, and flock to your conventions, and give your tithes, but it's all a waste of time!'. You say: 'How could it be a waste of time? Are those not good things to do?' - of course they're good things to do, but they were a waste of time because God does not look on the outward appearance, He looks at the heart! In verse 5 we see that He says: 'Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven' - that was something that was forbidden to do, and leaven in the word of God is a picture of sin. What Amos is saying is: 'You're engaged in all this religious activity, but it's hypocritical because you've got wealth as your idol and there is sin in your life!'.
Oh, we've seen this God of ours as a God of justice. You see, God doesn't want sacrifices of animals, God wants obedient hearts - that's what He longs for! That's what is the heartbeat passion of His being: obedient souls. Do you remember the story in 1 Samuel 15, where Saul, the King of Israel, was commanded to slay all the Amalekites? Instead of obeying God he spared Agag, the King of the Amalekites, and some of the best sheep and oxen to sacrifice, he said, unto the Lord. What was the response of Samuel the prophet? He said: '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 heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king'. You might be here tonight and you're religious, and there is a particular church or a particular denomination or religious persuasion, and that's where you hang your hat. You say their prayers, and you do it their way, and you give in every now and again to make sure the clergyman will bury you when your time comes. You turn up at Christmas, and maybe even on Easter Sunday to sing the wonderful joyous hymns - but you know deep down in your heart tonight that it's all a farce, it's a sham, there is no depth to it, it's hypocrisy. Don't you kid yourself, my friend here tonight - I'm just being honest with you before the word of God, I can't do anything else. Don't you think that that pleases God! The only thing that pleases God is a broken and a contrite heart for sin, and a trust in the only sacrifice for sin - and that is the slain Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, the spotless, sinless, substitute Saviour.
God wants obedience. Even their singing didn't please Him. Now that's no surprise when you hear it sometimes - but in chapter 5 in verse 23 He said: 'Take away from Me the noise of your songs'. I'll tell you: there was great orchestral praise, this was not just a ramshackle get-together around the piano! This was exuberant, very, very, very highbrow praise to God - but to Him it was only a noise! They honoured Him with their mouth, but their heart was not right before Him. They were steeped in religion, they were making their pilgrimages to Bethel and Gilgal, they loved to go to meetings - oh, Ulster is full of this! Even today, 'Go to the meetings', but there was no heart repentance, there was no restitution, putting things right brother to brother, sister to sister. There was no brokenness because of the church, or the land. There was no true seeking after God, it was all external religion - hypocrisy.
Now how do you know if that's what you've got or not? Well, here's a threefold test of your Christian activity tonight: one, does it bring you nearer to God? Does all that you do on a weekly basis in church bring you nearer to God? Two, does it make you more like Jesus Christ? Three, does it enable you to reach out to others, or do you become more selfish and more insular? Now, can I say something, and I'm going to make a very bold statement here tonight: if your activity as a Christian does not qualify in all of those three counts, quit it! I'm not saying quit being a Christian, I'm saying quit hypocrisy! The best thing that all of us could do, preacher included, on a regular daily basis is to get before the old rugged cross, blood stained with blood so divine, and get broken on a daily basis because of sin - and when broken and emptied, to get filled with the Holy Ghost! That's what we need, and I'll tell you: a lot of the superfluous activity in evangelical churches and the rest is nothing but hypocrisy. We've more resources today than ever - conferences, conventions, books, sure you hardly need a library any more, you go on the Internet and you have everything you could ever want - but I ask the question of you tonight: are we any better for it, or are we worse? Here in the West now I'm talking. Almost every year we hear through the evangelical community of a so-called 'revival'. Now I believe in revival, and I believe there is revival in parts of the world this very evening - but I'll tell you, here is the test of true revival: it is not revival if people don't become more holy, it is not revival if their holiness does not change the community in which they live. All that that is before God is worthless religion and sham, whatever label is upon it!
That's what God said in Isaiah, if I can remind you of it - turn with me to Isaiah chapter 1, we were there the other morning. Verse 11, or just listen as I read it to you, Isaiah 1 verse 11, God says this: ''To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?' says the LORD. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies; I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands', listen to this, 'I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow''.
God charged them with luxury, then He charged them with hypocrisy, and finally He charged them with stubbornness. God sent warnings to them in verses 6 to 11, but they would not listen - and here's how He sent the warnings: He sent drought, He sent famine, you read the passage. He sent diseases, He sent a plague of locusts, He sent war, He took the best of their young men to die in war - and we should sit up and listen to that! There were local catastrophes, and yet we read five times in this chapter these chilling words: 'Yet you have not returned to Me!'. Now listen friends tonight: if the goodness of God does not lead you to repentance - and some of you here tonight, maybe you're not even a Christian, and God has been good to you. It has not been all sunshine and roses, I know, but nobody's life is - but God has been good to you, and yet you're not repentant tonight. Could it be that God has to come the way He came to Israel, and bring all these catastrophes into your life? Maybe you're experiencing this at this very moment: you're suffering hard times, you're wondering why. Maybe you're even pointing the finger at God, and shaking the fist at God - but could it be that God, and I say it reverently, with a heart that beats and breaks for your soul: God cries, 'But you have not returned to Me, you have not returned to Me!'.
Are you a backslider that turned your back upon God, and God has brought discipline into your life? What has He sent your way to bring you to Him? If His goodness won't do it, maybe the chastising of His rod in justice will do it - but it's all for the one goal, whether it's goodness or it's wrath, it's all to bring restoration, it's all to bring redemption and bring you to Jesus. What has God been doing in your life? Do you understand that it's not to drive you away from God, but it's to bring you to Him? Let me ask: what has God been doing to our nation? Don't tell me it's not God. He wants to bring our people back to Himself, but we could write over it tonight: 'They have not returned unto Me', says the Lord. Stubbornness!
Here's the parting shot: Amos says God is now finished with natural calamities, and with local catastrophes. 'Israel, He's not going to do that any longer, here's what He's going to do' - look at verse 12 - 'Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God!'. God wouldn't send any calamity any longer, but God would come Himself: 'Israel, prepare to meet your God!'. Now, that is not an evangelistic text - it can be used in such a fashion and applied, and so if you're here tonight you need to be prepared to meet God. You may be prepared for your summer holidays, you might have the policy all paid up, you could be prepared for what you're going to do tomorrow on the golf course - but if you're not prepared to meet your God, you're not prepared, and you could meet your God tomorrow... today! Prepare to meet your God! But this is to God's people, have you ever heard this text preached on this way? This is the way it's meant to be preached on: God's people, you need to prepare to meet your God!
In Romans 14 we read: 'For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ'. Second Corinthians 5: 'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad'. First Corinthians 3: 'If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire'. These three texts are to believing Christians, to people in the church! It's an event called the 'Bema', it's a judgement seat, and the One sitting on it - Jesus said: 'The Father judges no man, but has given all judgement to the Son', it is gentle Jesus, meek and mild sitting on this throne of judgement, my friend, and I believe I'm honest before God tonight in this pulpit: there is very little terrifies me more than that day! And I'm born-again and saved. Prepare to meet your God. They had encountered God's disciplines, perhaps like you are tonight, but the next step was to meet God Himself. He was coming personally.
I know I've been preaching on the God of justice, and there's a lot of judgement - I can't help that, I just preach on the word, I'm the messenger - but listen tonight: there is grace, there is grace greater than all your sin and misdemeanour. There is a fountain open at Calvary for uncleanness to all who will, by repentance and faith, plunge beneath - they will be as pure as the driven snow, because on Calvary's tree the spotless Son of God was judged that you might never be judged. That's why God takes sin so seriously, because it cost His Son everything. As Paul said to the Corinthians: if you judged yourselves, you would not be judged. If you would uncover your sin, Calvary would cover it - but Calvary will not cover what you will not uncover!
All of you, I ask you tonight: are you prepared to meet God? Are you prepared to meet your God? We can sing all the songs we like: 'When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing' - and it will be, but there is something in between that, there's a judgement seat and the believer must be prepared. Unbeliever, there's a Great White Throne, and the book shall be opened, and whoever is not found in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire - that's God's word. But believer, I come to you tonight, for my heart is for you just this moment: are you prepared?
Chopin, that great musician, in one of his early concerts, one of the first concerts he ever performed, made a litany of mistakes - but after he played his concerto, the whole audience rose to their feet but one old man sitting in the corner on the front seat. He just sat as he was, he didn't move. That elderly gentleman was Verdi, Chopin's master and mentor. When the whole building rose and stood to their feet in adoration and praise, he remained sitting down - why? Because he knew where the mistakes were. There is a poem with which I finish that never ceases to grip me, it's about the judgement seat of Christ. It goes like this:
'He would have me rich,
But I stand there poor,
Stripped of all but His grace,
And memory will run like a haunted thing,
Down the years that I cannot retrace,
And my penitent heart will nigh break,
With tears that I cannot shed,
And I'll cover my face with my empty hands,
And I'll bow my uncrowned head'.
Israel valued the valueless, their sin was affluence - is it yours? For if it is, or hypocrisy, or stubbornness, you are certainly not prepared to meet your God. Let us pray.
We're going to sing a hymn in just a moment, but I'm conscious of a heavy sense of the Holy Spirit, and it is paramount that you engage with God in this moment. If you hear His voice, harden not your heart. Maybe the Holy Spirit has broken through some of the arid, infertile, dry ground of affluence, and wealth, and love of other things that you haven't realised was such a problem. He has shown you tonight it is, and you've heard His voice - oh dear friend, what is God telling you to do? Surely it is to repent? Surely all of us could do something? I'm not going to be personal tonight, but sometimes people - I'm just saying this because it just speaks to where sometimes folk are at - my wife doesn't work, because she needs to be at home at the moment with the children. We look to God for our need, and sometimes Christians come up and say to my wife: 'What do you do?'. She says: 'I'm at home with the children'. 'Oh, that's good, that's great, I wish we could do that' - I'm not saying what you should or shouldn't do, but what I am saying is this: a lot of folk, Christian folk, are living above their means, and if they lived with a little bit less they would have an awful lot more to give to God.
Friend tonight, what are you going to do? Unsaved person here tonight, God has touched your heart. I know I'm preaching primarily to Christians, but God has touched you - you know you're going to stand before God, and all those secret things are going to be uncovered. You need to get under the blood tonight, you need to be washed, you need to repent, you need to come to the cross and say: 'Lord, save me, cleanse me' - otherwise you'll answer for those things. Deal with God, will you? Let this not be a wasted night, a wasted message: deal with God. Tomorrow night we will look at the third charge of God to Israel, 'Apathy'. Friday night, 'The Sentence', the judgement.
Father, Your word has gone forth. We can do very little at all, but we certainly can do no more now - but Lord, we pray tonight that You will move with the burden of God the Spirit, upon souls here tonight - saved and lost - and that You will quicken them to see as You see, that they may give their all to Jesus who gave His all for them. May Your presence remain with us now. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Annual Christian Police Association meetings in Portrush, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the third recording in his 'The God Of Justice' series, entitled "The Second Charge, Affluence" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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