When God Shakes His Church
Our world seems to be unraveling before our eyes. ISIS is sending their young children to be suicide bombers. Babies are ripped from their mother’s womb so their parents can pursue all their selfish longings. The best America could come up with for presidential candidates are a far cry from what the founding Fathers envisioned, I’m sure.
Good is called evil and evil is called good.
And everyone is asking: What in the world is going to happen?
I don’t know. At least, I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow or even next year. But in a world of uncertainty we can be certain of this: God’s Kingdom will not fail. (Luke 1:33 ESV)
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. (Psalm 145:113 ESV)
Many Christians are concerned about their future. As we witness our brothers and sisters lose their businesses and homes due to their beliefs, and Christianity being pushed out of schools, we are alarmed. We know nothing of the persecution faced by so many of our fellow saints in other countries, but it’s growing rapidly here in the U.S. We wonder if our comfortable times are over. They very well could be.
And I would be glad. I say this with caution and trembling because persecution is unnerving. But so often, it is the path God uses to cleanse and grow his Church.
I just finished studying the book of Amos and it was rich. In case not all of you have read Amos, I’ll summarize for you:
The people of Israel have become arrogant and have rejected God’s law (Amos 2:4). Instead of caring for the poor among them like God commanded in Deuteronomy 15, they trample the poor for their own selfish gain (Amos 2:7). They make deceitful deals and are filled with greed (Amos 8:5). They commit perversion before the Lord with no remorse (Amos 2:7). They take sin lightly. They worship created things in place of their Creator. God sends multiple judgments upon them, yet they refuse to turn to him (Amos 4).
Guys. We are Israel in the book of Amos.
You see, Israel continued to make sacrifices to God as they pursued all the world had to offer. They thought that as long as they brought their burnt and grain offerings they’d be A-OK with the Lord. Check that box! Now they’re free to live how they want–even committing sexual sin right on the altar. (Yes, that happened.)
And we shake our heads. How terrible! Oh, but how blind we are! Don’t we do the same thing?
We go to church and Bible study, pray, read our Bible, Maybe even serve in some ministry. Check, check and check! But then, when we’re alone, we entertain and even give in to thoughts that would profane God’s name. We gossip about that girl. We move in with that boyfriend. We go into debt to buy that new purse but save no money for those who can’t even buy food. We too, take sin lightly. But God does not. And he is not pleased.
“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24 ESV)
God hated the “offerings” the Jews brought before him. He knew their hearts were far from him, and therefore, their worship was only for show. This was also displayed by their lives. Likewise, our lives prove whether or not our faith and worship is genuine (James 2:14-26).
In the last chapter of Amos, God declares that he will bring destruction upon Israel and then restore his people.
Don’t miss this:
“For behold, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’” (Amos 9:9-10 ESV)
This is so important, friends! A sieve is a utensil used for separating coarser from finer particles. God often uses persecution or suffering to shake those who claim his name. When the pressure is on, no one who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit residing in them will stand. They will be like the finer particles that slip through the tiny holes, not having the wholeness needed to remain in the sieve.
“But no pebble shall fall to the earth.” Oh, what a beautiful thought! Guys, we are the pebbles! No true believer will fall away.
No matter how hard we are shaken, no matter who becomes president, no matter how much persecution is placed on us, we will remain on the Rock of Ages.
Take heart, fellow saints. God is using everything around us to bring about his purposes for his glory and our good. Sometimes, that means shaking things up to cleanse and refine his Church. And that is a gracious and good thing.