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Unpopular Love, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
March 8, 2024 9:00 am

Unpopular Love, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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March 8, 2024 9:00 am

As we continue our series called, Come Back to Me, we’re talking about a prophet named Amos. He was an ordinary guy who was given an uncomfortable task: to call Israel out on their sin.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. See, we got to be open. We have to have open hearts to the Holy Spirit. We got to be committed to God's Word. We got to be filled with humility. We got to be open to other believers, especially other believers who are going to be not like us, who are going to see blind spots and things that we don't see.

Don't go for the counterfeits. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D. Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. We're in a teaching series called Come Back to Me, looking at a part of the Bible that most of us aren't super familiar with, the Minor Prophets. Today, we're talking about a prophet named Amos, an ordinary guy who was given an uncomfortable task to call Israel out on their sin. No one likes being the bearer of bad news, but let's be honest, hearing bad news is even worse, especially when that bad news is your own fault.

But sin isn't something that we can just ignore. We got to get it out in the open, and that's what Amos does in today's teaching. If you missed the first part of this teaching, visit J.D.

Greer.com anytime. Pastor J.D. titled this message Unpopular Luds. Amos chapter one tells us that during a national holiday celebration, Amos stood up in the center of one of Israel's most sacred cities, a city called Bethel, and there he started proclaiming the Lord's judgment on six surrounding nations, Damascus, Philistia, Tyre, Moab, countries like that, nations that were all competitors with and enemies to Israel. Now, that part of his sermon was undoubtedly well received because you know that one of the fastest ways to build a friendship with somebody is to get together and complain against the same people.

But then in chapter two, he starts talking about the charge against Israel, and here's the kind of things that he says. Chapter two, verse six, they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. In other words, they exploit the poor. Things were so bad that poorer people were going into debt just to buy a pair of shoes. He continues, he said, they trampled the head of the poor into the dust of the earth.

Later in the book, he's gonna describe how the rich manipulated the court system to benefit themselves in ways that the poor could simply not do. Verse seven again, and they turn aside the way of the afflicted. That means they were just apathetic toward those around them who were suffering as long as it didn't affect them.

They lived lives of ease and comfort and luxury in the face of great suffering. An important thing to notice here is that God sees this as a breach of justice. Maybe the worst part of all this is God says, yet it was I, yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before you. It was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and I led you 40 years in the wilderness to possess the land of the Amorite. In other words, God says, I was the one who gave you this land by grace. I was the one who fought your battles. I rescued you when you were in slavery.

And the way you respond to that is now by exploiting others and by twisting the system in your favor and by hoarding what I gave you. He goes on, he says, and I raised up some of your sons for prophets, but you commanded the prophet saying, you shall not prophesy. Most infuriating to God in all of this, Amos said, is that they did all this while remaining fervent in their religious devotion. Well, the bridge between Amos's day and our day is not a hard one to make, right? I can stand up here all day long and talk about moral corruption in Hollywood. I can talk about the corruption and hypocrisy of groups like Planned Parenthood, the evils of Islamic terrorism, or the wickedness of religious persecution in places like Russia or China or North Korea. And I can talk about how bad all those things are and how surely God has displeased and the judgment of God has come in on those things. And we're all like, amen, preacher, preacher, just like Amos's audience did. But y'all, what happens when the spotlight then turns on us the way that Amos did with Israel?

In fact, let's just go back through it. How many of Israel's sins do we also see replicated in the church? Don't we live in a country where justice has often been perverted in favor of the rich? Where too often we have seen underprivileged or minorities oppressed, even at times treated like they were subhuman? In a country where the rich can still work the justice system to benefit themselves? Where minorities have historically been treated differently before judges or in schools? And there is plenty of evidence that it continues to happen. No, not everywhere all the time, but certainly in enough places that it should bother us. And maybe we're not personally guilty of it ourselves, but do we show empathy for those to whom it is happening and respond like we would respond if it were happening to one of our kids?

Usually there is nothing immoral about being in a position of privilege, but justice demands that we use that position of privilege to help empower those who don't currently share it, to make sure that they get treated equally under the law and that the doors of opportunity stay as open to them as they do to us. We love talking about the sins of others, but would not Amos probably say many of the same things about us that he was saying about Israel? And y'all listen, I know, I know that talking about our sins is not gonna make me popular, but here's why we have to do it. God makes clear to Amos, if you want my presence, you will take sin seriously. And those who don't take sin seriously, don't take me seriously.

People who treat sin lightly, don't take God seriously and churches that tolerate sin alienate Christ. So that's the charge he gives against Israel. Well, sadly, Amos' voice was not the only one heard that day. There was another preacher, his name was Amaziah. Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, you notice he's got a pretty good position. He sent the Jeroboam king of Israel saying, Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.

The land is not able to bear his words. This other preacher, Amaziah, also claiming to speak for God, rose up to oppose Amos. He told the king that Amos was a radical and a troublemaker.

He convinced Jeroboam to banish Amos. A couple of things I want you to see there from that verse. The first one is this, there will always be pseudo preachers or bloggers ready to tell our generation whatever they want to hear. Y'all listen, I'm not a perfect preacher and I got a lot of blind spots in my own life.

And I need you to pray for clarity and courage for me. By the way, this is why I am committed to just teaching through the Bible. A style that they usually call expository, where you just kind of work your way through the Bible and let the Bible bring up the various subjects. That's opposed to being topical, which is where I come up with what I think you need to hear and then find Bible verses to support it.

The reason I don't usually go with the topical route is that if I do that, I'll end up only giving creative series that just affirm us most of the time. I'll just stand up here all the time, talk about how you can be more than a conqueror and how God wants you to soar above all your problems. And everybody would love that.

And the church would get bigger and we would be super popular. But if we let God's word guide us, we're going to hear not only what we want to hear, we're going to hear what we need to hear. And I need you to pray for me that God gives me courage in this, to faithfully preach both the popular parts and the unpopular, both the comforting and the offensive, to give you the words that fill you with hope, but also the ones that fill you with anger.

Words that affirm not only the better angels of our culture, but also confront our demons. Because let me tell you something, let me tell you something in my heart, in my heart, I want to be popular. I want to be popular.

I like to be liked. And so daily, I feel the pressure to conform to culture so that I and our church will be more popular. I want us to be the church that everybody loves to come to. But I know that that will only grieve and drive out the presence of Jesus. I don't want to lose the presence of Jesus. And people say, well, if you don't soften your stance on this issue and quit preaching about this sexual thing, then you're going to lose people. And I always say, I hate that.

I genuinely hate that. But I would rather lose them a hundred times over than lose the presence of Jesus. I need you to pray for me. I need you to pray for me that God will give me courage to confront our sins, popular sins, to stand against culture and not just the sins of others. Second thing I want you to see in that verse there, maybe even more important, those preachers closest to the centers of power are most likely to ignore injustice and defend the status quo. Let me give you a very sad and very uncomfortable fact of history. In the days of slavery and segregation, many conservative reformed Christians who believed like us were complicit with the status quo. The first decryers of racism and slavery were the Quakers and the Anabaptists who were marginalized groups on the fringe, far from cultural and political power centers of the day. Majority Christian culture, many good people were mostly silent on it, at least at first. Now, thank God, the reason the reforms actually work was because the church eventually repented. They realized how inconsistent these things were with what they believe and they got involved. Christians have always fueled and driven these reforms. The denomination that we do a lot of our mission work through, the Southern Baptist Convention, has been one of the dominant religious groups in the South for over 150 years. And its initial leaders were complicit with, even spoke up in defense of slavery and then segregation in the South. Why? Why? Was it that their fundamental belief structure was bad?

No. Unquestionably, our belief system is probably the best one that is equipped to undo racism. Because we have believed, we've always believed this, that there's one race of man, there's one race of man, the human race. There's one problem that affects everybody, it's sin. There's one solution, the blood of Jesus Christ. There's one hope, the resurrection from the dead. There's one father and Lord over all.

There's one thing we're all looking for, the return of Jesus. And so that creed itself has been the fuel of racial reforms throughout history. You say, well, was it that it was just really difficult to resist cultural pressures of the day and so culture conformed them more than the Bible did? Sure, that's part of it.

Culture has an enormously shaping influence on us and it still has that on us today. But I don't think that's the full explanation. The full explanation you see here with Amaziah, those preachers who are closest to the centers of power are most likely to ignore injustice and defend the status quo.

That is why it happens. I look back at some of our theological heroes, guys like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield. Many of them did not only not speak out, they went along with slavery in their days.

In their works, I have one open and you'll be reading the most beautiful passage about the fatherhood of God, about the universality of sin, about our adoption in Jesus Christ. And you know that right outside their window, right outside George Whitfield's window is a slave that he was just blind to. Was it that they were really bad people, that they were just blatant hypocrites?

No. No, they just didn't think about it because it didn't affect them. They were in the place of privilege and power and so they just ignored it. They were fallible men and women as are we. I sometimes wonder if I'd have lived back then if I'd have been the same way.

I'd have probably been worse. Because y'all, the more I get to know myself, the less impressed with me that I am. I'm not some bastion of courageous virtue.

I tend to be blind to things that don't affect me either. So see, we got to be open. We have to have open hearts to the Holy Spirit. We got to be committed to God's word. We got to be filled with humility. We got to be open to other believers, especially other believers who are going to not be not like us, who are going to see blind spots and things that we don't see.

Don't go for the counterfeits. Thanks for joining us today for Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. We'll finish our teaching for the week here in a moment, but I wanted to make sure that you've heard about our brand new featured resource this month. It's a devotional and 21-day scripture guide through the Minor Prophets, and it shares the name of our current teaching series called Come Back to Me. I don't know about you, but this teaching has been so helpful in my walk with the Lord, and I couldn't be more excited about this devotional study that expands on this series, actually covering all 12 of the Minor Prophets. Each day, you'll read, study, pray, and apply the scripture you read. This is a perfect way to dive deeper into these books of the Bible, and like most of our resources, it would make a perfect discussion guide for someone who's exploring what it means to read the Bible or study scripture even for the first time. We're sending a copy to any of our listeners who support the ministry of Summit Life with a gift of $35 or more right now.

You can give today by calling 866-335-5220 or visiting us online at jdgreer.com. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD.

Israel turns now to a couple of other lines of defense to excuse themselves, and Amos confronts them both. The first one, the first one, chapter three, verse two. We're God's chosen people. We're forgiven. We're chosen. We're God's favorites. God says to them in verse two, chapter three, yeah, that makes your sin even worse. You see, you not only knew me as Lawgiver, you knew me as Father and Redeemer.

To whom much is given, much will surely be required. Second excuse they brought up, our religious zeal makes up for our moral shortcomings. Hey, we're in church all the time. At this point in their history, Israel's going to church all the time, and they're putting on their feast, and God says to them, chapter five, verse 21, I hate, I despise your feast.

I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. In other words, you can't excuse yourself with grace. Well, thank God that God accepts us by grace.

If we marked iniquities, who could stand? We're not just perfect. We're not perfect. We're just forgiven. God says, if you really had been forgiven, you'd be more passionate about these things, not less passionate. Forgiveness doesn't become a way that you avoid these things.

It becomes a way that you drive deeper into these things. A failure to show concern for the poor shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel. When you are blind to the needs of the poor, it raises the question of whether or not you've actually ever believed the gospel, because you are unaware of your own pressing, desperate need for God's grace in your life. That's why Jesus would say, Matthew 25, he says to a group of people who think they're Christians, and on the last day they show up in heaven, and they're ready to be received into glory. And Jesus is like, I don't even know who you are.

And they're like, what do you mean? We always went to church. We were like your biggest fans. And he was like, yeah, but when I was hungry, you didn't feed me. And when I was naked, you didn't clothe me. When I was in prison, you didn't come visit me. And these people are like, whoa, wait a minute, Jesus, when were you in prison? When were you hungry? When were you thirsty?

We would certainly have done all these things for you if we'd have known. And what did he say? And as much as you didn't do it to the least of my brethren, you didn't do it unto me.

Now what's he saying with that? He's not saying that the way you earn a relationship with Jesus is if I start doing those things, what he's saying is, if you really knew me, if you would really experience my grace, you would instinctively do those things. Karl Marx very famously said that Christianity is the opiate of the people.

It actually is the smelling salts of the people. Because when you really understand grace, you wake up to the compassion and generosity and injustice that is happening. Your experience of grace, even if you are insanely religiously busy, if you are not involved in generosity and compassion, then it is all fake. I don't care how much you come to church.

I wonder sometimes what God would say to us. I hate your assembly. I hate your prayer meetings. I hate your songs.

I hate your concerts. He would say that if it is not accompanied by compassion and generosity and a commitment to justice. Amos chapter six, verse one, woe to those, woe to those who are at ease in Zion. Zion just means the kingdom of God at ease playing through life. And so many around them are suffering.

I found an old sermon this week by Charles Spurgeon on this text that he identified three groups who are at ease in Zion. The first group he said is the apathetic. They just don't care. It's not that they're cruel or vicious people. They just don't really think that much about things that don't affect them.

He said, secondly, you got the self-indulgent. These are people that maybe they care. They care, but they love creature comforts too much to actually sacrifice. He said, thirdly, you got the procrastinators. He said, those are people who know they're supposed to do something, but never actually do anything about it. They care enough to repost things on Facebook and like the heck out of stuff and retweet. We call them the slacktivist around here.

They're kind of an activist, but there's a slack because all they do is retweet and repost. Woe to you who are at ease in Zion. Y'all let's talk for a minute about the amount of people around the world who've never even heard the name of Jesus. Is that not a position of privilege that all of us occupy? You know the gospel that has saved you from sin and death and hell and there are people all around the world who've never even heard it. Don't you owe it to them?

How could that not be unjust? It is not fair to experience the kind of grace you have experienced in the gospel and keep it to yourself. Every saved person this side of heaven owes the gospel to every unsaved person this side of hell. And I wonder if God would look at us and say, whoa to you who are at ease in Zion when so many perish. So where did all this leave Israel?

What was going to happen to them? Chapter eight verse one. This is what the Lord God showed me. Behold a basket of summer fruit. Then the Lord said to me, the end has come upon my people Israel.

I will never again pass by them. Summer fruit means ripe, overripe fruit. You know how overripe fruit is? It looks really, really good on the outside.

It's really got a great color. You pick it up. You don't notice that it's a little mushy and then you bite into it and regret the day that you were born. Overripe fruit.

He said, that's what you're like talking to Israel. You look great on the outside, but you're ripe for judgment because it's all rotten on the inside. By the way, some of you have had that experience with churches, haven't you? You come into a church, everything looks great. Everybody's dressed nice. Everybody says, hello brother, how are you?

God bless you and the music's great. And everybody looks so spiritual. Then you get into it and realize that there's all kinds of thing, corruption and things that are inside of there. Chapter five, verse 18, woe to you. He says to Israel, woe to you who desire the day of the Lord. Why would you desire the day of the Lord? It's darkness, not light. It's like a man was fleeing from a lion and a bear met him.

That's a bad day. Right? You see, they talked in their day about how much God, how much they yearn for God to come back. Oh, the day of the Lord is going to be awesome. God's going to come back. He's going to deliver us. It's going to crush all of our enemies.

And it's going to be fantastic. We really long for the day of the Lord. And Amos said, no, you do not. He refers to the day of the Lord five times in the book of Amos. And it's always a day of judgment. And Amos says, judgment always begins with the house of God.

There aren't a lot of Christians like this today. Oh Jesus, when are you going to rapture the church? It's going to be awesome. We're going to meet you and you're going to crush all of our enemies and you're going to rule on earth with you.

And I want you to come back so much. I'm not sure you want that because for those walking in sin, Jesus coming will be like darkness, not light. It's like they're running away from the lion of a bad financial situation or the lion of bad politics and into the bear of Jesus's judgment. But see, in that very place lies the good news. Like I showed you last week, the New Testament apostle said that the day of the Lord, the day of the Lord that the minor prophets talked about, that day began on the day that Jesus was crucified. And there the judgment that Israel was afraid of, had a right to be afraid of, and that they deserved and that you and I deserved was poured out on Jesus. That's where the day of the Lord began. And because of that, we're willing, if we are willing to genuinely seek God, we can find safety. One of my favorite old hymns, I think talks about this, Rock of Ages. We've seen that growing up.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself. And it was written by a guy named Augustus Toplady in the, I think, 17th century or 18th century. He was an Englishman who was running through a field because a storm had come out of nowhere and there was hail and lightning and he feared for his life. As he was running across this field, he saw like a hill with kind of a rocky outcropping. And he thought maybe I'd go over there and just sort of shield myself from some of the storm. And when he got there, he'd seen that some boulder had fallen on top of this other rock and it had split this rock. And it created this little crevice just big enough for him to shove his body through and be shielded from all the hail or any lightning that was there.

And so as he was standing there and all the hail was pounding the rocks around him, he was totally shielded from it because this rock had been split open. And he thought, this is what the gospel teaches me about Jesus. He says, Jesus was split open so that I could hide in him. He took the judgment of the day of the Lord so that I could have mercy inside it. And as he was thinking about this, he looked down on the ground, those little ace of spades on the ground.

He picked up this ace of spades and he jotted down the words, the first verse of Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee. He says, that is the answer. That's the gospel. The gospel is that the day of the Lord has been absorbed so that what remains of the day of the Lord for us is blessing and goodness.

And we can have it, but you have to seek God with real repentance, which is why Amos concludes his sermon this way, seek good and not evil that you may live. And so the Lord, the God of hosts will be with you. As you have said, he'll be with you. He doesn't want to stay away. He wants to be with you. He wants to multiply blessing in you.

He wants to pour out his power through you. But in order for that to happen, you got to hate evil and love good. You have to establish justice in the gate.

You got to establish justice places where it affects you and where it doesn't. You got to take away from me the noise of your songs to the melody of your harps. I will not listen to the riff of your electric guitars. He would say to us, they don't even impress me. We'll let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

Unpopular love. Let's humble ourselves before God now and let the Holy Spirit work in our hearts. Let him uncover sin and move us in a new direction of repentance. This is Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. In case you missed it earlier in today's show, I am very excited to tell you about our brand new featured resource this month, which we are sending to all of our financial supporters and gospel partners. It's based on our current teaching series and sharing the title Come Back to Me. And it's a workbook with nine devotionals and a 21-day scripture guide to help you read, study, pray through and apply what you're reading to your own life. And while Pastor J.D. covers five of the minor prophets in our teaching here on the program, this devotional guide covers all 12.

While many people may pass over these books of the Bible, I think we're all learning just how applicable they are to our daily lives today. You can receive your copy today with a gift to this ministry. Give us a call at 866-335-5220.

That's 866-335-5220. Or give online at jdgreer.com. That's jdgreer.com. And if you're not signed up for our e-newsletter, be sure to do that while you're on the website to make sure that you never miss a new resource or blog post. Sign up for the e-newsletter when you go to jdgreer.com.

I'm Molly Vidovitch. Be sure to listen again next time as we dig into the book of Habakkuk. We're learning how to trust God's plan even when life goes wrong. Join us next time for Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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