Practicing Religion

You shave. Daily. Or at least regularly. If you are an American adult reading this, then chances are good that you shave. Man or woman. Blade or electric. You shave.

Do you think about it? How to shave, that is? Apply the cream like this. Hold the razor like that. Move from here to there, but be careful of that other spot. Apply some pressure, but not too much. And so on.

Do you think about it? Chances are good that you don’t. You don’t really think about shaving. You’ve done it enough. You just do it. Paying a little attention to what you are doing. But maybe not fully in the moment. Just going through the motions. Autopilot.

Autopilot works for shaving. It doesn’t for worship.

“Oh, wait, Aaron, but I can put it on autopilot in worship. I can be there, but not there. In body but not in spirit, ya know.” Yes, I know. We all can. But then it’s not real worship. Autopilot doesn't work for worship.

Amos, a Judean shepherd and fig-picker by self description, was called by God to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century. He ministered from about 760-750 B.C. The Old Testament Minor Prophet book bearing his name was written in that same time.

Amos began his message with a unique rhetorical device. Reading from 1:1, you will notice that Amos pulled his audience in by naming the sins of nations all around Israel. Even sister nation Judah. This geographic, prophetic circle, however, was more like a noose tightening around the People of Israel. Throughout the book Amos contrasts God’s sovereignty with Israel’s sins. Through prophetic warnings in poetic imagery Amos paints warnings with words. yet there is hope. There is always hope. As God promises the restoration of His people in the final verses, 9:11-15.

Israel was God’s People. Israel had sinned. Disregarding rights. Trampling the poor. And merely practicing religion.

Israel—blessed immeasurably by God—was no longer living in relationship with God. They “went to worship” but they did not worship. They were on spiritual autopilot. Going through the motions of a religion of men. Missing the faith of relationship with God.

Amos pronounces for God in 4:4,

Go to Bethel and sin;
go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three years. 

The People of Israel were going through the motions of worship to please themselves. Almost sarcastically God tells them to sin in the places they had set aside to worship. Their worship had become sinful. Just as their lives. 

Have you disconnected organized church worship from your personal relationship with God? 

Have you disconnected your love relationship with God from your love humanity made in his image? 

Don’t just practice religion. Live a relationship.

You’re not shaving. You’re serving. Serving the Sovereign God who loves.

Read Amos this week. Share this post with someone. Subscribe to follow. This is the third post complimenting our sermon series Major Stuff from the Minor Prophets surveying one of the twelve books each week.