“Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,” warned the prophet Amos (6:1) during a time of national apostasy. He then described some of the conditions of their ease: “That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch [“sprawl”] themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments” (Amos 6:4-6a). Amos painted a scene of people who were consumed with luxury, pleasure, and self-indulgent debauchery. Though these circumstances would be bad any time they occurred, they were particularly egregious at that moment given the fact that “they are not grieved for the affliction [“ruin”] of Joseph [the Northern Kingdom of Israel]” (6:6b). Because of their great apostasy, these ten northern tribes were about to be attacked and decimated by Assyria, yet they were so consumed with their own pleasures that they had no time to grieve for the fate of their nation, a fate in which they would share.
It is very tempting at this point to apply these verses to the United States of America, to her revolt against God, her rejection of righteousness, her enshrinement of sin, and her protection of perversion of every kind, and the careless indifference of most of her populace to the entire travesty. But I would suggest that a more appropriate parallel today would be the state of the church with its contentment with sin-filled lives and its emphasis on luxurious surroundings, sensuous music, and pleasure rather than preaching of the Word of God.
Many of us are at ease when a cancer of self-indulgence and sin is rapidly destroying us. We are content to go to church so long as it does not interfere with our own play and other pursuits too greatly, so long as it does not provoke us to self-examination, so long as it does not require any change in our lifestyles. Despite the church-growth movement suggesting that the church of Jesus Christ is burgeoning, the spiritual state of many sitting in the pews is calamitous.
Where can we find reverent worship of the Lord our God? Where is a hunger for hearing the whole counsel of God? Where do we see genuine praise that honors a holy God rather than music “to themselves” (v. 5) that puts on a performance and exalts the performer? Where do we find prayer meetings filled with people confessing their sins before God and people on their knees interceding on behalf of the spiritual needs of lost sinners and the saved alike? Where do we go to find godly men who, like Joshua, will declare, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). Where will we go to discover believers, men and women, living self-sacrificial lives for the sake of the Lord and the blessing of those around them?
These questions do not pose radical ideas. They suggest what should be the norm for the blood-bought, blood-washed church of Jesus Christ. Far too many of us, myself included, have fallen prey to a faith that would be barely recognizable by the One who called us unto holiness (I Thes. 4:7). Woe to every Christian Nero who fiddles while the church burns. Since we can still pay our bills and have sufficient left over to indulge our desires, is it a matter of indifference to us that many of our own lives, as well as the lives of our family and Christian brethren, miserably fail to reflect glory to God? God would have to apologize to the Northern Kingdom if He beamed contentedly on the coldness exuding from many redeemed hearts today. Will we allow our lives to be ruined by an ease that invites God’s chastening, or will we be characterized by godly hearts and holy endeavor?
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