Waves of Justice

The Book Of Amos Teaches Important Lessons About Worship And Justice.

Ross Sawyers
May 30, 2021    56m
Are you passionate about seeing justice in the world? The Book of Amos teaches us important lessons about how right worship leads to justice flowing from Jesus, through us, and into a broken world. God had Amos share a message of justice to bring people back into the right worship and relationship with God. Video recorded at Grapevine, Texas.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:09] We start today, a new series on the minor prophets, it's the last 12 books of our Old Testament. I think this is often a neglected part of our Bible, and sometimes it's hard because it's hard to understand the historical context of what's going on. And then, oftentimes, we read and there's so much dire in there that it's difficult to find any hope.

Ross Sawyers: [00:00:35] The Jews, when they think about these last 12 books of the Old Testament, the minor prophets. They are called the minor prophets, not because they're less important than the major prophets, they're less in length in the book. So Isaiah Jeremiah, books like that, are the major prophets. Hosea, Amos, Joel, books like that are the minor prophets, they're lesser in length. They were written over about a three-hundred-year period, roughly the late 700s B.C, and then into the early 500s. And like I was saying that the Jewish people, the way they thought about these 12 minor prophets, they didn't think of them as 12 separate books like we do, they called it the Book of the Twelve and thought about it as a single narrative. And I think that's a good way to think about it, that it has just a singular narrative. The idea of Hope From The Ashes would certainly be a summary of that narrative that flows through.

Ross Sawyers: [00:01:38] Daniel Hayes, who has written about the minor prophets, says this, I think this is an accurate way to think about it, what we find is a broken covenant that the people of Israel had a covenant with God that he'd established, and the prophets are calling them out because they continue to break the covenant and they refuse to repent. They're called out, they know what they've done, but they still refuse to repent, and God sends judgment. And then there's always a promise in the prophets, in this Book of the Twelve, of a future restoration, a future hope. So, in the midst of the judgment, they can see through, and there will be a time where hope will arise.

Ross Sawyers: [00:02:24] There are three superpowers that reign during this time frame of these minor prophets. The Assyrians were the ones in 722 B.C. who took over Israel, they had become the reigning superpower prior to that. Later the Babylonians become the superpower, Judah then becomes the ones who are wiped out by Babylon. And then in the post [inaudible] period, the Persians have become the ones who reigned. So, that gives a bit of context of where we're headed. We'll talk about that again and again, and hopefully, by the end of the summer, we'll have just a good grip and overview of these prophets.

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:09] If you don't subscribe to our Table For Two, and we call it the Table For Two, we think about that time alone with God at the table with him. And there are devotions that are written every day, Monday through Friday, that follow what's preached on a Sunday, regardless of who's preaching. And it would be a good time if you haven't subscribed to that, to do so, because this week we're focused on Amos today and all week long there will be devotions that are written about Amos. So, you'll get an even deeper understanding of what God is doing through this particular prophet.

Ross Sawyers: [00:03:44] Hosea is the intro to the Book of the Twelve. We took a two-week detour to talk about serving within the church body, and because of that, we're a bit out of order in the way we're going at the Prophets. So while Hosea is the beginning, he'll now be the end in August, and it will all flow, it will be OK. For those who just have to have it in order, know that we know it starts with the Hosea, but we're going to end with the beginning in mind, if that would be a fair way to do it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:04:18] In Hosea, I just want to give you an intro from it, to give us an intro into this Book of the Twelve. Someone has said, and I think rightly so, that chapter 14 verse 9 in Hosea could be a good motto or saying that kind of wraps up, Scripturally, the Book of the Twelve. It says this, "Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them." And then Paul gives us some help in Romans 15, of how we're to think about the Old Testament. In verse 4, he says, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." And so we find hope in these earlier writings that God gives us from the Scriptures.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:19] Now we're going to focus on Amos, so in your Bibles, if you'll turn to Amos. If you have a Bible about the size of mine, then you're going to be about two-thirds of the way through, and you'll find Amos. Or just go to the table of contents, no harm, no foul, that's why it's there, to help us find those things a little harder to find. We'll also have the Scripture on the screen.

Ross Sawyers: [00:05:41] Several years ago, I was praying and asking God, what should we do for that particular summer? And I wasn't really sure where he wanted to go, and so I just, in my mind, randomly chose Amos as the book that we would study. What I didn't know is what God would surprise us with over the course of that summer, and the theme of Amos is that of universal justice. And he began to work in our hearts as a church in ways he wanted us to be more proactive in the realm of justice in our mission efforts, which we already were to some degree, but it heightened it for us. Arising out of that was a team of people who God used to shape together a part of a partnership that we would be in at 121 for the next several years. And I just want to, I know the bulk of our church body has turned over since we did that series in Amos, some are still a part here today.

Ross Sawyers: [00:06:45] But I just want to give you a picture of what happened in that realm, and what God has done over these years, just in summary fashion. Vince Rice has been a key part of that, and he'll share with us kind of what happened out of our study of Amos.

Vince Rice: [00:07:12] Cambodia was very well known in the early 2000s for being a place for pedophiles to go and get underage girls. Things got bad enough around 2004, that The International Justice Mission got involved when they heard that a five-year-old had been trafficked. And so they did their first raid, they set up an office in IJM. And so they had been there for about five years when 121 started looking for a justice project to be involved in. And through a long series of events, we ended up partnering with them. And that partnership looked like obviously donating money, we actually helped them open a new office in [inaudible] a very popular tourist destination in the northern part of Cambodia. And then we also partnered with the office, we set up pen pals, essentially, between members of the office and members here at 121. And then we started making annual trips to Cambodia to do whatever we could to encourage the people that were actually on the ground working, and so we did some retreats for them, and we worked out in the field with some of their partners that were working with girls who were recovering, who had been rescued. We really just did whatever it was that they needed us to do when we went. And so we did that for several years.

Vince Rice: [00:08:34] And I remember thinking the first three or four years that we went, that this was a problem that was going to be here for maybe as long as I was going to be going, it was just a huge, huge problem. But God does not look at problems the same way that we do, and so by 2015 after IGM had been there for about 10 years, and after we had been going for six, things had progressed to the point in the government so that the justice system had started to work on its own through 10 years of IJM prompting and training and doing all the things that they were doing. And in 2015, IJM actually had their first turnover, so they turned the sex trafficking piece of their job over to the government, and they transitioned to working on labor trafficking, which is still a huge issue in Cambodia today.

Ross Sawyers: [00:09:39] One of the things that we were involved with, with IJM a few years ago was a justice seminar that they put on for local churches. And when they first started talking about trafficking to these pastors, the pastors literally did not believe them, they could not imagine that that was going on in their country, and in their towns, and in their villages. So it was an awareness, it was an awareness for the church, the local church there in Cambodia, it was an awareness for the police. IJM did years of training to help them not treat the girls as perpetrators, but to treat those girls as victims and survivors. It was awareness for villages, for dads, for families, to be aware when a stranger came to town and wanted to meet their girls, you know, wanted to hang out. And so just an overall awareness that this was a problem, that this was an issue, and that all of them needed to be part of the solution.

Vince Rice: [00:10:59] Just in the time that we were there, and obviously, we just support, IJM and the government, and all the other NGOs were the ones actually doing the work. But we got to see that work, and see how God used them, and see how God moved, and see how God did a miracle, frankly, beyond really anything that we could ask or imagine. And it's just been a joy to be a part of that, and to see God work, and to know that he is able and that he is willing. And what looks like a Goliath-sized problem to us, is really just a pretty small one to him.

Ross Sawyers: [00:11:53] When we started the work in Cambodia, over a period of time, three different couples ended up going out of 121 and serviced as missionaries there. Today, Vince's daughter and son-in-law, and grandson are still there serving. And we just have an ongoing relationship with them, and the focus has shifted a little bit because there's been such good success in the work that God has done with it. One thing that Vince said in there, and I've watched that before today, and then I watch it in the 8:00 a.m. service, and I didn't pick it up as much the other day, that I just want to highlight if you didn't catch it. And it was that the pastors in the area where this was a major problem, the sex trafficking of little girls, and they were unaware and didn't really probably believe it. Now, I think that's a good word for us when we think about justice issues today, because oftentimes we put it through our own experience and say that's not a problem because I don't see it. We don't want to be a people unaware of real injustices going on in our culture, and are we willing to step back in humility and get outside of our own experience and say what really is going on here?

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:16] Well, I think Amos helps us anchor in Scripturally to that idea, and so let's take a deep dive here. And what we want to do in these prophets, is give an overview each week and then anchor into a passage of Scripture. So I'd like to give that overview, and then in verses 21-24 of chapter 5, we'll find our anchoring point, and I believe it's pretty much the central piece of Amos.

Ross Sawyers: [00:13:40] But in chapter 1, we see a historical setting that's helpful, so we know when Amos was writing, and we know things about Amos. We don't often know much about who these actual men and women are in scripture in detail, and yet we do find that with Amos. And the Scripture tells us he was a sheepherder, and some believe he was probably the one who owned it, owned a flock of sheep. We also learned about Amos, that he was a fig picker, he had sycamore trees that he would pick figs from. And he was in the south, he was in Judah. So at this time, Israel had split in two, there were three kings that were under a United Kingdom, Saul, David, and Solomon. After Solomon died, the kingdom split. So when you read in the scripture about Israel and Judah, now you're reading about Israel there in the north, and Judah is the south. So it's been split, Israel in the north, Judah in the south. Amos is this sheepherder, this fig picker, a hard-working farmer basically from five miles south of Bethlehem in Tekoa. And God is calling him out to be a prophet for just a few months, it seems, to the northern wealthy. God's calling out a southern farmer, to bring a message of judgment on the northern wealthy, that is what is happening here.

Ross Sawyers: [00:15:16] I think this is an encouragement for us personally. Here's Amos, a man doing his vocation, doing the thing called him to do, and for a period of time, God has a different assignment for him. And I think each of us needs to know what it is that God has called us to do vocationally, and we simply work in that vocation and keep our ears open as we follow after God and say, huh, I wonder if ever he's going to call me for a short-term kind of assignment? Or will he call me into something totally different? Or will he leave me right where I am? Any of it's fantastic, we just want to have our ear towards God to know. And just know that God uses untrained, unprofessional, people to bring his message, he will do that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:12] As I mentioned, the kingdom is split and we learn that the two kings that are described here, the king of Judah is Uzziah, and the king of Israel is Jeroboam. Amos is coming out of the south, he's going up into the north where it's being ruled by Jeroboam. In First Kings 12, we're told the Jeroboam had done more evil than anyone before him as king. He, the Scripture says, cast God behind his back. If you looked at the God of Israel, of which he is now the king, and he just takes God and throws him behind his back. Instead, he builds molten images, idols, and is chasing after other gods, and he's leading the people to do so.

Ross Sawyers: [00:16:59] Now, to give outside of the scripture historical context in this time frame, in the mid-700s to the later 700s. 776, the first Olympic Games began, and I'm not sure if they're going to happen or not. It seems to be some thought, but they're supposed to happen in July in Japan this year. So that's one thing to think about what's going on in this time frame, and then scholars say that Rome had its beginning in 753 B.C. And it made me think, as I thought about that, who is God raising right now as a nation that four hundred years from now will be the world power if Jesus does not come back prior to then? So in that time frame, while the Assyrians have risen to power, Rome is being established and will later be the period in which Jesus enters into this world.

Ross Sawyers: [00:18:08] The other marker here that's interesting is an earthquake. And we're told that there was an earthquake two years before, and that's all that's said, and it made me think like Hurricane Katrina, that's just a marker. There are natural catastrophes that we just mark things by, and everybody knows about it in that time frame. One hundred years from now, someone could say something about that, it would be meaningless. But today we can say that, and it has some meaning to most of us, we can mark things by that. Not a natural disaster, but another kind, is 9/11, it's a marker for us, we just mark something by that. And so Amos marks, what's going on by who the kings are, by that particular earthquake, so we know what period of time there is.

Ross Sawyers: [00:19:01] As I mentioned, the theme of Amos, the prevailing theme, is justice. And I'd like for us to think in just a few minutes about waves of justice and that, that's what God is looking for us to have a flow of. The primary injustices that were being done here in Amos, when you read through it, the specific examples, it's the wealthy who are taking advantage of those who don't have the wealth, that is what is occurring in Amos. More specifically, it's the people of Israel, God's people, taking advantage of those who are vulnerable in Israel. That equivalent today would be Christians who are wealthier, have more, and they're taking advantage of Christians who don't have more, that would be the direct context. And certainly, it applies beyond that idea.

Ross Sawyers: [00:20:00] In chapters 1 and 2, Amos does something that's rhetorically strong, he begins by issuing indictments on nations that surround Israel. And he says, hey, they've committed three sins, even four, and what he's saying is that it's been numerous sins that they're committing, and fire is going to come down in judgment on them. Then he brings it in, and he starts talking about Judah. Now, remember, we got Amos coming from Judah coming to the north to Israel to prophesy to them. Next, he talks about Judah, his own part of the country, and he says that three sins, even four, its numerous and judgments coming on them. And you can imagine that those who are listening to this when they're reading about the surrounding nations and how God's going to bring judgment on them, and then their neighbors, that now they're split from and bringing a judgment on them, they're thinking, yes, they deserve it. Imagine their shock when in chapter 2 verse 6 and following, the rest of the book is an indictment on them. Oh, it's so much easier for us to look out and say three sins, even 4, they're numerous, yes, you've got a problem. Then look within myself and say, uh oh, maybe I've got the same problem. Amos uses imagery that other prophets use, and he uses that of a lion, and he said, the lion is God, and he's dangerous, and he's about to roar, and he's coming. You better lookout.

Ross Sawyers: [00:21:40] Fast forward to Amos chapter 5, and in chapter 5, what we find is that somehow they had believed that if they do all the external rituals of worship, if they do everything they're supposed to do worship wise, then it's OK for the way they treat other people. They don't have to treat them well, and so they have this idea then of doing these rituals of worship. And then they believe that because they have the wealth that they have, that they're blessed by God. And yet, they take advantage of, and treat poorly, others.

Ross Sawyers: [00:22:35] That gets us to verses 21-24, and that's where I want us to anchor for the next few minutes. And I want us to think about two ideas around this. The first is a right or wrong heart of worship, 21-23. This is good for us to look at, and then to examine our own hearts. And that's all I'm asking, is that we just examine our hearts. And really, you're the one that knows your heart before God, and I examine my heart before God. But let's think about right or wrong hearts of worship, in verse 21 he says, "I hate. I reject your festivals." That word, hate, this is God speaking to his people who are, quote, worshipping him, and he's telling them, I hate what you're doing. The word hate is the word for renounce, I renounce even the relationship that we have right now, I hate what you're doing, I reject your festivals. Oh, you're doing those things that you've been commanded to do, that's been laid out for you to do, all the festivals, but I reject them. And then he says, "Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies." The word delight, it could also be a word for smell. He's saying, when you gather up and you assemble together, it actually smells bad to me. I don't like it, I don't like when you gather up, I don't like when you do the festivals, even though you offer up to me burnt offerings in your grain offerings. So absolutely, you're supposed to do these offerings and so forth, but when you bring them, I'm not accepting them. It's not just about bringing the offering, and I'll not even look at the peace offerings of your families. I'm not going to accept them; I'm not even going to look at them.

Ross Sawyers: [00:24:24] Verse 23, "Take away from me the noise of your songs." Quit singing, you don't mean it, so it's just noise, take it away. As a matter of fact, "I'm not even going to listen to the sound of your harps." I'm not listening. Isaiah, who also wrote in this time frame to the same people, he describes God in this way, in their worship. And he says to them, he said, you've wearied me. I'm burdened by your prayers. As a matter of fact, I'm not even listening to them. You know, I thought about that, and sometimes people say it doesn't seem like God's listening to me and it just hits a wall, or it hits the ceiling. Sometimes he might not be, it's about the heart, is there a right heart or wrong heart?

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:21] A couple of weeks ago, Arenado in preaching, I just loved his message. And he talked about, it's the heart, everything we talk about comes back to the heart. Is it a right heart, or is it a wrong heart of worship? We can take the Lord's Supper, we can do baptism, we can sing songs, we can talk about God's word, we can do different things, we can pray, we can do all the things they're talking about, and those can simply be rituals. But it's not about the ritual, it's about the heart.

Ross Sawyers: [00:25:59] It's way Proverbs chapter 4 verse 23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." I think it's why in Psalm 86, the Psalmist says, "Unite my heart to fear your name." Unite my heart. A few years ago, I started to understand more of the definition of the heart, and that made more sense to me when I read that verse. Because the heart, by definition, is the way I think, it encompasses my mind, it is my emotions. But it's not just my emotions, it's my actions, and it's my motives behind the actions, it's about motive. So I'm asking God to unite my thinking, with my emotions, with my actions, with my motives, to unite those to fears name, that I might have a heart of worship. And the challenge is Jeremiah 17:9, "Is that the heart is more deceitful than all else.", that's the problem. Because it's sometimes difficult to even diagnose our own heart.

Ross Sawyers: [00:27:14] A few weeks ago, my stepdad took my brother and I on a guided fishing trip on Lake Texoma, and he's gone with the same guide several times over the years. And I love it, the fishing God's name is stringer. I don't know if he made up his name or what, but that's him. He's a really neat guy, we showed up at six-thirty a.m. on Lake Texoma and it was a beautiful morning, it was cool, and the fog was just sitting over the lake. And Stringer comes over to the boat, and you know, when you have a guide, it's simple, you're just kind of there and you act like you're fishing. But we caught our limit, it was an amazing trip. I mean, we're just casting one line over here, and one over here, and one over here, and there were just fish flopping everywhere, just like a Jesus moment, one hundred and fifty-three coming into the boat all at once. He apologized to us because we were done in less than an hour, we had our limit. But when he got in the boat, he said, we're going to have to go farther away than I usually do. Because when I left last night, Lake Texoma was clear, he said, but this morning, there's a mud line. I thought, what's a mud line, I didn't even know what a mud line is, until we started riding across the lake and you could see it, water was clear, and then it was just a clear line and it was muddy. The Red River flows through part of Texoma, it's a river. And the rains had finally brought the mud in from the Red River, and so now it's just all across the lake. And we had to go a long way, it was a beautiful ride on the boat. We had to go a long way to get out of the mud, so that we could actually cheat and see the fish with that finder that tells you exactly where they are and drop your line in the line, it tells you, twenty-four feet stop, and then it's there. Doggone it, we were hitting them right and left. I mean, I wish evangelism was like that, so you say go here, drop it 24 feet, say this, they're in. I mean, it's just coming in left and right. But our hearts are muddy like that, they're not clear, and sometimes our worship is wrong because our hearts are wrong and muddy. And we can drive all day long to try to get out of it, and we never will. There's only one way out, God is the only one that can take care of that muddy heart so that it's clear, and we can see him clearly and then we can worship rightly.

Ross Sawyers: [00:29:55] Jesus was challenging the heart often. In Matthew 15:7-9 he challenges them because they were just doing the traditions of men. They were doing lip things, they were singing with their lips, but their hearts were far away from God. So he said in vain, they worship me. It's vanity to just say things with our lips and our hearts are far away. In Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." A.W. Towser said, "What we think about God is the most important thing that we'll think." Because the way we think about God will determine the way we worship God, and it will determine the way we live for God.

Ross Sawyers: [00:30:50] Amos is helping them see who God is, he helps them in 4:13 and 5:8-9, to help them see Him as the creator of everything that is. Can't you see who God is? Paul does the same in Colossians 1 when he says, it is by him, and through him, and for him, that all things have been created. And that he's before all things, and in him, all things hold together. It just helps us to continue to see who God is.

Ross Sawyers: [00:31:15] And then Jesus tells us how to worship, what's the right way? He said in John 4:24, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." In spirit and truth. The only way we can worship in spirit and truth is to have the Holy Spirit of God within us, who connects with our spirit and teaches us the truth, the truth of God’s Word. He's the one that enlightens our hearts and minds, so that we even understand it so that we can worship rightly. It's not about the elements, it's not about the rituals. And it's not just about this gathering of worship, it's about daily time alone with God, we talk about the table for two. It's about as we're going that we're worshipers. Worship just means to ascribe worth to. Am I living in such a way that I'm ascribing worth to God in everything that I do?

Ross Sawyers: [00:32:16] Is it the song that I worship, and the style of song, or is it the God of the song that I worship? Is it the idea of God that I love, or is it God himself that I love? Is it God that I love? I won't know today whether we worshipped or not, really. I can see some people raise their hands, and some other people it could be more reflective, and others are just trying to figure it out, and others are singing zealously, some aren't singing. I don't really know what that says actually, I'm good with that. Because sometimes people just need to reflect on what's being said, they might get hung up in one phrase and never get past it. Some people just might as soon as the song starts, I don't know, that's a motive issue, and that's on you and it's on me.

Ross Sawyers: [00:33:49] We can know in some other ways that I'll describe in just a moment. Some of you are familiar with the song The Heart of Worship, Matt Redman wrote it in the 90s. The story behind that song, the pastor of his church was sensing that their worship had become stale and routine. And in that sense, he also saw it was vibrant, so it was both stale and something amiss, and vibrant. That can happen because it's the heart, things can look vibrant and be amiss, things can be stale and actually might be right on. This isn't about traditional and liturgical worship or contemporary worship, which is weird because we've been talking about contemporary worship since the 80s, at some point, it's not contemporary anymore. I don't know what it is, but contemporary didn't appear to be the right word of contemporary...But that's irrelevant, it's the heart. It doesn't matter if it's a hymn or not a hymn, a reading or not a reading, same flow every week or not the same flow every week, what's the heart sits behind it? And this pastor sensed it, and so he said, you know, we got rid of the sound system, got rid of the band. And he said, we're doing this for a period of time and we're just gathering with our voices, and they just stripped it down. And he challenged the church to say, are we consumers, or are we worshipers? Let's all search our own hearts, are we consumers or are we worshipers? And after a period of time, they really got a fresh perspective on Jesus. And that song, The Heart of Worship, is a song about what occurred over that period of time in their church. It's about the heart. You say, I thought we were talking about ways of justice. I am, if our worship is off, our justice will be off. If our worship is wrong, the way we do justice will be wrong, I can't determine today if we worshiped or not.

Ross Sawyers: [00:36:14] But the second part of this in verse 24, helps us get a better picture of if we did or didn't. Right or wrong outflows of worship would be verse 24. If I worship right, the heart, I'm talking about the heart...If I worship right, justice will come out right. If I worship wrong, justice will come out wrong. We'll talk about justice quite a bit in the course of these prophets over the next few weeks, but let's get an intro to it right here in what he has to say. Verse 24, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." I think we could look at this, the theme of Amos, if you wanted to memorize one verse in Amos and say, hey, where do I lock down and grab the big idea of Amos? I would grab it right here, "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." I love the imagery of the water, and what he's doing here, saying, hey, I love to hear it. And somebody wrote this, I loved it, God loves the sound of justice, he loves it, that is a sound that is music to his ears. He's not telling that song to go away, he's listening to that song, it's the song of justice and the song of Righteousness.

Ross Sawyers: [00:37:34] Lisa and I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks and are so grateful for the space and time. And we've been out on the Gulf Coast, and that to me is just some of the prettiest water, and the white pure sand. And one of my favorite things is to hear the wind blowing, and the waves curling and then crashing into the shore. I love listening to the waves, I listen to them all night long, all day long. That's what God is after, just waves of justice, and he loves that sound. He's telling his people, this is what I love, let it roll.

Ross Sawyers: [00:38:22] Unfortunately, Israel was worshipping wrongly, and their justice was wrong. In chapter 2:6-7, we see a little bit of what they were doing, this was what their idea of justice was from their idea of worship. Verse 6, "I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals." They're selling people into slavery, their own people. Verse 7, "These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless Also turn aside the way of the humble." They're not helping those who are vulnerable and in need. "And a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name." We haven't figured out how to be more sexually immoral, we've just figured out how to advertise and get it out there better. It was happening right here, 8th century B.C., among God's people. That is an example of dead, ritualistic, empty worship, when that's the life that flows out of it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:39:45] And then there was bribery, it was whoever in verses 10 through 13 of Chapter 5 it was, "Anybody that spoke with integrity they hated because they were putting heavy rent on the poor.", in verse 11. "And exacting attribute of grain from them. And he says, hey, you've built houses of great stone but you're never going to live in them. And you've planted pleasant vineyards to drink in your wine, you're not going to drink of it because your sin is so great against God you distress the righteous." Wrong worship, they did all the ritual things, and this is the kind of justice that flowed from it. Wrong outflows, if worship was off, justice was off.

Ross Sawyers: [00:40:33] So, let's talk about justice for just a moment. Today, and as you've listened, there is no doubt that this is caused all kinds of things to roll through you. Depending on your perspective of what's going on in our world, is probably how this was just heard. What I'm asking is, is that as believers, Christians, that we would check our hearts and be genuine and true worshipers of God so that we can have the right outflows of it.

Ross Sawyers: [00:41:16] When I talk about justice today, probably for some people, it's a turnoff. It's probably like, Ross, here we go again, I know what his perspective is going to be. And for some, it causes us to really lean in, what is this? But we want to know God's view of justice, not the culture's view of justice and not the culture's view of righteousness. Our culture is full-on rejecting God, now, why would I take my cue from a culture that is rejecting God as to the way that I do justice and righteousness? I don't, I want to take my cue from God, who is just and who is righteous. God's view of justice and righteousness is that every person is created in the image of God, therefore, every person is a person of value and to be treated as such. Sin is not to be valued and treated with dignity, sin is not to be exalted, a person is to be valued and dignified, that flows from a God who is just, righteous, and loving.

Ross Sawyers: [00:42:42] Justice, in the Bible, has two sides to it, it's punitive, meaning it punishes, and it’s restorative, meaning it brings restoration. What we love about IJM, International Justice Mission, is they're about punishing the perpetrator who is the trafficker, and they're about restoring the young girls who've been trafficked so that they can be restored again. That's the two sides of justice. And often we see in scripture that side of justice of helping the vulnerable, and righteousness is that ethical standard by which we treat people, and Scripture is our guide for how we do that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:43:22] And what will fall from a true worshipper of God would be waves of justice, what would flow from true worshipers is justice, but were unable to do this well. Why? Romans chapter 3:10-12, we're told that there's none who does good, not even one, "There's none righteous, not even one." We're incapable of God's righteousness because we're unrighteous and unjust ourselves. I want to try this, I think I'm right in this perspective, and I think this is key to worship and justice. Just like in worship, we can look like externally we're doing it all right, but the heart is off, the motive is wrong, it's empty, there's no engagement with God himself. Justice is the same, there can be all kinds of justice issues being taken care of, advocated for, people acting on how they want to deal with those, but the motive can be a total miss for what they're doing. The challenge for us is to not look around and say, well, I don't like the way they're doing that particular thing, and then we discount the thing. How do we discern and sort out in our media narrative today, what is God's justice, God's righteousness, and what is not? Part of how we do that is staying tuned in to God. Our culture, the cultural idol today, is the idol of self.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:12] I am watching the Mavs game the other night, I'm not smart enough to figure out how not to watch the commercials, so I watch the commercials all night long. And if you watch the commercials, it is a major idolatry of self, it just flows. It is a narrative from this commercial to the last commercial about what we can do. Read Genesis 11. it's not a new idea, it's the Tower of Babel. It's all the people coming together and saying, this is what we can do, how we can rise up together. That's not God's way, that's the idol of self.

Ross Sawyers: [00:45:50] And then the culture has said these are the things that we believe are the justice issues, and if you don't see these justice issues the way we see them, then we cancel you out. Now, some of the things that are being raised in our culture need to be raised and need to change. How do we discern them? We discern them as we stay in tight with Jesus himself. Did you notice how Egypt was taken into slavery for 400 years, and then a few hundred years later, we're reading about Israel doing the same thing to their own people that Egypt did to Israel. Oh, how quickly we get flipped on our head. The problem today is not class, the problem today is not gender, the problem today is not race, the problem today is not all the labels that everyone wants to attach to groupings of people, the problem today is not intersectionality. The problem today, and the label we need to be most concerned about, is the label of sinner? The problem is sin in the human heart that rises up and wreaks havoc in all these other categories. The culture is not dealing with the human heart, if the human heart doesn't change, things won't change.

Ross Sawyers: [00:47:47] I think the most painful and yet the most joyful sound in human history quite possibly could have been the hammering of the nails through the hands and feet of Jesus. A sound mixed with sorrow and joy because it was there that all of your unrighteousness and my unrighteousness, all of your injustice and all of my injustice, all of your impure motives and all of my impure motives, all of my shame and regret and guilt, all of your shame and regret and guilt, he took those on himself. The punitive justice of punishment Jesus took on himself. The restorative justice, Jesus restores through his work on the cross. The perfectly just One, the perfectly righteous One, put on himself the problem of sin, which is the problem of all humanity. And the way we're made unified is through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Ross Sawyers: [00:48:53] And the Scripture says, in Ephesians 2, we're made one new human race in Jesus Christ, where he's gathering up a family of every tribe, tongue, and people from all over the world, every generation for all time, and it's only through Jesus Christ. On the cross, he poured out on us and gave us the possibility to be spared from the waves of judgment coming on us, and instead, he poured out the waves of grace and mercy and love on us, and he relieved us of the judgment to come. The whole narrative of the Book of the 12 is that it is hope from the ashes, in Jesus Christ we have hope. And we're told in Second Corinthians 5:21, that he's the one that makes us righteous. So, when we repent and believe in what Jesus Christ did, we can't do anything. Remember, we can't keep driving across the mud and hope we'll finally find a clearing. The only way we'll find a clearing, is for Christ to enter into our lives. The only way we'll understand to worship in spirit and truth, is for the Holy Spirit to enter in us through Jesus Christ. And the only way we'll know truth is through the Spirit of God who comes into us. Jesus has called us to attach to him. to follow him, and to be shaped by him. And when we're attached, following, and shaped, the waves of mercy mixed with the waves of justice will flow through our church body. Right worship, right outflow.

Ross Sawyers: [00:50:37] Most of this will be as we go, some of it will be on purpose, just like a Cambodia effort. We have a number of efforts. One thing that came out of last summer that we're about to begin is an entrepreneurial program for prisoners in their last year when they're about to get out. so that they might have the best shot at success when they come out. If you have any interest in that, let us know, that came out of us talking about race last summer, there has been a team working on it for months now, and looks like we're ready to get going. There are other things going on as well.

Ross Sawyers: [00:51:17] But here's one thing I want to caution us on, if this is OK. I'm a 57-year-old white male, and I am not an expert on the white man. I might be close to being an expert on me, but I usually have to ask Lisa for help for me, so I don't even think I'm an expert there. In the eight a.m., there was a lady who was helping us with different things on race, and she's just been phenomenal, and she was on our race panel last summer. And, you know, she's not an expert on black people. She's an expert on her experience, and what she understands from Scripture, and she's bringing a really healthy perspective to bear, and helping us and others on how to how to cross the bridges where they're not good. I love that.

Ross Sawyers: [00:52:17] Not every company is bad in what they're doing, some companies are doing really well in the way they treat everybody. Some are not, some are improperly motivated in this last year, they see the writing on the wall economically. And if we don't do this, then we're going to be in trouble economically. Others see, you know what, I legitimately see the people and I want to make sure that everything is right for the people all the way through, people of color or whatever it is. Could you, in whatever realm you're in, ask the questions? We're asking questions at our church, are we doing things that limit particular people? We want to ask that question. Whatever company you're in, you know, you can't be an expert everywhere, I can't make general statements, and I really don't know what to totally believe, what the media tells me. So how do I know what's really happening? But I do know they're sinful human hearts, and I know that's inside of structures. Can we at least in the structures we're in, take a look at those structures and say, are there things here that might need to change? We don't have to put a vast label out there, that's just being human and valuing a person. That's God's kind of justice, I think. Where does God have us? But more than anything, we start with the worship in our heart before God, and that'll help me sort through when things are wrongly motivated out there, and when things are rightly motivated. What are the things I'm to be a part of, what are we to be a part of as a church? Then I walk in those.

Ross Sawyers: [00:54:04] I think Martin Luther King is helpful for us, and he said that there's two ways the civil rights movement could have gone, one pathway was a Marxist ideology and violence, the other way was the way of Martin Luther King Jr. and it was the way of biblical love. And he was by no means a perfect man because none of us are, but his desire was to incarnate the love of Christ. And he developed principles of nonviolent resistance, and in developing that, it flowed from their Ten Commandments of self-purification. And here's the first one and I want us to end on it. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus. When Christ has entered our life, we worship rightly. The righteousness and justice of Jesus is now present within us, as we meditate and linger on Jesus, the life of Jesus will flow through, and waves of justice will pour out, from 121.

Ross Sawyers: [00:55:17] Father, thank you for the time this morning in this part of your word, thank you for Amos and for calling him out, and just even giving us hope that you could, however, you want to use any of us vocationally and then if you have different assignments for us, God. So we pray for your help there. And then, God, help us to know in our hearts that our worship is right before you, and then, God, what do you want us to be a part of in this cultural moment? You've placed us in this time in this geography, and we want to be active in it, and we want to be about your justice, your righteousness, not sin, but those things that are of you. So, God, help us to walk in those things, and to be able to sort out, with discernment, what are the right things and what are the things that aren't. So, will you help us, even with different perspectives, so that we don't just lean into our own biases, God, would you destroy that, and let us have the purity and devotion of Jesus flowing through us? I pray in Jesus' name.

Ross Sawyers: [00:56:20] Well, let's just take a little bit of space, and if God is saying something specifically to you, let this be part of that time. And then I hope you'll consider dwelling on these things as you move out of here today as well.

Recorded in Grapevine, Texas.
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121 Community Church
2701 Ira E Woods Ave.
Grapevine, Texas 76051