Green Hill Update
Pastor Daryl Crouch
October 14th, 2020
Four Probing Questions
In a recent reading from the prophet Amos, I noticed again how determined the Lord is to finish what He started in us. I will not relent from punishing Israel for three crimes, even four, because they sell a righteous person for silver and a needy person for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and obstruct the path of the needy. A man and his father have sexual relations with the same girl, profaning my holy name. Amos 2:6-7
For the trading of human beings, for the mistreatment of the poor, and for sexual perversions, in this case, the Lord exacted physical punishment on the people of Israel. That’s pretty heavy devotional reading, but in this actual historical account the prophet Amos illustrates for us the connection between our personal holiness, love of neighbor, and the glory of God.
In other words, the Lord not only calls us to walk uprightly, but He demands it. The text shows us that He even uses physical difficulties, political upheaval, and natural disasters to discipline us…to disciple us back to Himself.
You may say, “Well that’s the Old Testament. We live in the age of grace.” But Paul wrote, “What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 6:1-2
The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament, and His grace means that we don’t die and go to hell the first time we sin. Jesus died for our sins and in our place, but that is not the end of the story. It’s just the beginning. Because of Jesus’ finished work on our behalf, God is committed to finish us. He is at work in us to refine us, to cleanse us, and to conform us to look like Jesus.
So then, what does that mean for us? Let’s begin by what it doesn’t mean. First, it doesn’t mean every hardship is the result of our personal sin. Sometimes hardship comes because of our righteousness. Talk to Job about that. Second, it doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us. Actually hardship is often evidence of God’s presence, not His absence. Finally, it doesn’t mean that the world is ending. Jesus could return at any moment, but Peter said we should not be surprised at the “fiery ordeal” among us.
How then should we apply Amos’ sermon? First, the Lord does discipline us. God speaks through His Word, but He also uses the events around us, including hardships to lead us back to Himself. Second, our response to world events should cause us to examine ourselves first. We often assume it’s the sinfulness of the world that causes suffering, but Amos shows us again that sin and the suffering it brings often begin with the people of God. Finally, repentance—honest, humble, desperate repentance—is the mandate.
One would think a global pandemic, social unrest, and political division, along with a myriad of personal troubles would led Christians to face plant before the Lord and cry out for mercy. But that hasn’t happened, at least not in any overwhelming kind of way. Instead, we continue to see Christians bow up, point fingers, disrespect others, and wring our hands.
Perhaps on our little place on the planet, we can respond differently. Perhaps as many of our people battle cancer or other health challenges, juggle financial stressors, struggle with marriage and family, worry about a political election, and grapple with biases and bad attitudes, we can humble ourselves, return to the Lord together, and trust Him to sanctify us. Perhaps, the Lord can look at Green Hill, Tennessee and find a people who are fully His, a people who are running back to Him. Perhaps the Lord will see a people who depend on Him and live for His kingdom, His glory, and His renown. Perhaps the awakening we hope for begins with repentance in us.
So let me encourage you to join me in asking these four probing questions of self-examination:
(1) Do I have a growing appetite for the presence and glory of God ?
(2) Does hardship humble me and deepen my trust in God?
(3) Does my life in Christ lead me to love, serve, and share the Gospel with my neighbors?
(4) Does the Holy Spirit work through my life to bear witness to the redeeming grace of Jesus?
The work the Lord is doing in the world is not work that we simply watch from a distance and make judgments about. The work He is doing around us is also the work He’s doing in us.