October 3, 2010

The Gift Abused, God Removes - Oct 3, 2010

Due to the church laptop being stolen, no audio is available this week. Sorry!

“...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” (Benjamin Franklin).
This quote is commonly attributed to Ben Franklin. It’s a bit pessimistic. But, today’s Bible readings express a similar point. They tell us that we should not put our trust in governments, economies or wealth. Governments fall. Economies fail. Money runs out.

Instead the Bible tells us to trust in Jehovah God. HE ALONE lives forever, reigns over all and has the ability to bless us BEYOND the grave.


The public High School I attended offered a class in woodworking. We just called it “shop class”. The shop room was equipped with all sorts of great tools for shaping and joining wood together. There was a planer, a jointer, a table saw, a band saw. There was a big cabinet full of hand tools and there were bins that held sanders, nail guns and all sorts of other power tools.

Our shop teacher knew better than to trust high school boys to be responsible with such weapons of mass destruction. So, he very rarely left the shop room. But every once in a while, he had to step out. And that’s usually when it happened. By “IT” I mean some kind of abuse of the power tools. Sometimes it was a belt sander race, or firing a few nails into the ceiling tiles with one of then pneumatic nail guns.

I think you can imagine what happened when we got caught doing something stupid like this. There was speech delivered about how it was a PRIVILEGE to use these tools. The offenders were sent to the principal’s office, and the tools being misused were taken away.

This was a fitting response. I mean really, they didn’t give us these expensive tools so that we could PLAY with them. We were supposed to be learning how to make things. How to take rough lumber and turn it into a table, or a chair, or a cabinet.

In our sermon reading for today, we’re going to hear about some very privileged people in Israel’s history. They were the high officials who ran the government during a time when Israel’s economy was booming. But they abused their position of privilege and responsibility. God responded by taking back the authority He had given. The theme for today’s message is...
The Gift Abused, God Removes.
1. God Gives with a Purpose
2. His Patience Has a Limit
Amos 6:1-7 (NIV) (This is God speaking...)

1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
you notable men of the foremost nation,
to whom the people of Israel come!
2 Go to Calneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?
3 You put off the evil day
and bring near a reign of terror.
4 You lie on beds inlaid with ivory
and lounge on your couches.
You dine on choice lambs
and fattened calves.
5 You strum away on your harps like David
and improvise on musical instruments.
6 You drink wine by the bowlful
and use the finest lotions,
but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;
your feasting and lounging will end.

At this time in Israel’s history, the nation was split into two different Kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom was called “Israel”, and the Southern Kingdom, “Judah”. The capital of the Southern Kingdom was Jerusalem, which was built on Mt. Zion. The capital of the Northern Kingdom was built on Mt. Samaria. When God spoke these words through Amos, He was addressing the rulers of both Kingdoms.

These rulers were very blessed. They were the most powerful and important people in the nation! The people of Israel came to them for answers and for protection. They had a reputation of greatness, because God had placed them in power.

Not only were these men the most important people in the nation, these two Kingdoms were the greatest in the neighborhood.

In verse 2 God tells these rulers...
“2 Go to Calneh and look at it;
go from there to great Hamath,
and then go down to Gath in Philistia.
Are they better off than your two kingdoms?
Is their land larger than yours?” (Amos 6:2 NIV).
The answer was “NO”. The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah were bigger and better off than any of these. These rulers that God was addressing were the “top dogs” of the two most best nations around.

But, their response to God’s tremendous gifts to them was complacency. They were happy to sit back and relax. They were not interested in getting up and doing anything, unless it involved getting another bowl of wine. The economy was doing well. The income of the average Israelite was up. Never mind that the people were worshipping idols instead of the true God. What did that matter?

Idol worship was especially rampant in the Northern Kingdom. In verse 6, God calls the Northern Kingdom “Joseph”. He says, “you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph”. You see, the tribal land of Joseph’s two sons made up the majority of the Northern Kingdom’s land mass.

God tells us that the rulers of BOTH kingdoms were sitting back and taking it easy even though the Northern Kingdom was being devastated by idol worship.

These men could have made a difference. They could have instituted reforms that would have encouraged their citizens to return to God. God didn’t give them power and money so they could play with it.

God gives with a purpose. They should have been moved to great sadness over the unbelief around them. They should have done something about it. Instead, they looked at how good they had it and said, “Awesome, let the good times roll!”

Look at verse 3.
“3 You put off the evil day
and bring near a reign of terror” (Amos 6:3 NIV).
The English here is a little confusing. What it means is, they couldn’t see any reason that their good situation might change. And since there was nobody in sight who could stop them, they ruled with their own interests in mind.

Verses 4-6 tell us what they were did. They got plenty of rest on their designer furniture. They ate only the best. They tinkered around on their instruments and made up songs. They drank lots of wine and pampered themselves with the most expensive lotions.

In verse 7 God informs them that His patience has a limit. They’ve had their chance to be proper rulers. Soon, it’s all gonna be over.
“...you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end” (Amos 6:6b-7 NIV).

So, what are YOU and I supposed take away from all this? First of all, this warning was spoken by God, through Amos specifically to the rulers of Israel and Judah because of their abuse of power. It wasn’t written to you and me.

But, can we learn from it? You bet. It might not have been written TO us, but it certainly was written FOR us. Our response to God’s blessings should never be complacency. Our response should never be: Oh, great, now I can take it easy and live for myself.

Our response to God’s blessings should be: Lord, what do you want me to do? Lord, what’s the right way to use this talent or gift?

You see, the greater the gift is, the greater the chance of complacency. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the farmer who was blessed with a huge crop? Luke 12, verse 16...
“...The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16b-21 NIV).
The greater the gift, the greater the chance we’ll waste that gift. Spending it all on ourselves.

This happens with God’s greatest gift also. With the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel tells us that though we are sinners who don’t deserve God’s love, He has loved us anyway. He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to sacrifice Himself in our place. On the cross Jesus took His sinless life and offered it in our place. He suffered for us, so we stand cleansed. Forgiven of every sin, and worthy of living with God for eternity! What a gift!

And yet our response CAN BE, “Great, now I can take it easy and LIVE FOR MYSELF.” The free gift of sins forgiven through Jesus Christ wasn’t given to us so that we can play in this life. We are given peace with God and freedom from condemnation so that we can fully enjoy life, living it to God. To His praise. To His glory.

The incredible gift of God’s forgiveness means we get to live for God and to God, not for our old sinful self.

In First Peter 2, the apostle Peter tells his fellow Christians...
“16Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:16-17 NIV).
If we use God’s grace as an excuse to sin, we’re in danger of losing that message and all the eternal blessings that it gives.

Turn to Revelation 2:1-5. This is Jesus’ message for the church that was worshipping in Ephesus.
“1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place” (Revelation 2:1-5 NIV).
Apparently the Ephesian Christians’ love for Jesus had begun to grow cold. He tells them to return to their first love, or He will come and remove their lampstand. That means there would be no more fellowship of Christians there.

Turn to Amos 8:11-12. This is similar message. Where the gift of God’s Word is neglected, it eventually goes away.
“11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
12 Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it” (Amos 8:11-12 NIV).
Again, these messages were not written specifically to us, but they WERE written for our warning. The gift abused, God removes. Let us cherish the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ above any other blessings we have. And when we find that we have not been faithful with any of the gifts God has given, let us return to Him with repentant hearts, asking His forgiveness. For God tells us in 1 John...
“9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).
The Father forgives all who come with a repentant heart in the name of His Son.

Prayer: Father in heaven, your harsh words against the rulers of Israel and Judah are scary to our ears. The idea that you would with draw you Word from us or take our church away is horrible. Without your Word and the forgiveness that Christ has won for us, we would be lost. Help us not to abuse your gifts. Help us to use all we have properly. Be ever patient with us Lord, forgiving our every failure because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Amen.

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