Stagnant Religion :: By Grant Phillips

When Amos, the farmer turned prophet, spoke on God’s behalf to Israel, the nation was enjoying prosperity, but their spiritual life had become lackadaisical and corrupt. As so often happens, true worship suffers at the hands of material success.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with success in business or in our personal lives, but when material success is obtained through greed and injustice, God is not pleased. Unfortunately, this was the case in Israel at that time.

As the Lord would say, “Anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see” would agree that we in America are in the same predicament as Israel was at the time Amos prophesied to them.

“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21).

Israel’s “church” services were showy and vibrant. They wore their “Sunday” best, hoping to be noticed by the crowds. Their business and personal dealings with others throughout the week, however, were not pleasing to God, but even so, they proudly displayed their offerings to the Lord of hosts. Unfortunately, though, their offerings were not exactly provided with a humble heart and to the specifications of God’s requirements for sacrifice. In short, they were just playing “church.”

“I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings” (Amos 5:22).

It is obvious that God is quite displeased with their burnt offerings, grain offerings and peace offerings, but they don’t seem to notice or even care. They wanted everyone to see what “they had done for the Lord,” but they were not even giving Him their best, only the leftovers of their life.

“Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps” (Amos 5:23).

Music flows to the rafters as they lift their voices in song, but God is not impressed. How could God not tap His foot at their melodies? Such beautiful voices and precision playing of the musical instruments! “Listen to the crowds applaud me! Surely God is impressed!”

“How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall” (Amos 6:4).

With much success in their businesses, they had become fat, lazy and spoiled. Ego trips had caused their spiritual relationship with God to take a nosedive. While they feasted in the lap of luxury, their souls had become anemic, starving for spiritual food.

As they sat in their seats dressed in their “Easter Sunday best,” waiting anxiously for the service to end, they critiqued the clothing of those less fortunate around them then checked the time on their shiny new smart phones and watches.

“You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David” (Amos 6:5).

Their services were professionally performed and called “worship,” but their hearts were far away from the One they were supposed to be worshipping. Their repetitious choruses wearied the ear of God. Could it be that many of those leading the “worship” service were not even saved?

“You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation” (Amos 6:6).

Material success had made them proud, thinking only of their own physical comforts instead of their less fortunate kindred who were in need.

Their country is about to fall around their ears, but they are so self-centered they are a reminder of Nero, who fiddled while Rome burned.

“The time is surely coming,’ says the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).

They were totally unaware that judgment would soon be coming when they would cry out to God, wondering why God would allow this. Some did miss the days of old when the true Gospel was clearly expounded from most pulpits, but now most all the congregants preferred 15-20 minute sermonettes so they could get to the local restaurant ahead of everyone else.

“People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it” (Amos 8:12).

They would look for God, but He would not be found. Many thirsted for real preaching from God’s Word, but it was getting harder and harder to find. Even though many of the local assemblies were filled to capacity, the message was empty and lacking the meat of God’s Word.

After a careful reading of these verses, we can almost hear Amos saying to us, “Thus says the Lord.”

Is it possible for religious services to succeed, drawing thousands of worshippers, while true worship becomes stagnant? It most certainly is, as observed in these few Scripture passages found in the book of Amos.

This should be a loud and clear message to us today, especially since we have become duplicates of the Israelites in Amos’ day.

Thank the Lord, many of our churches come together properly worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ with the right attitude and a humble heart. Unfortunately, many more do not.

Some church gatherings are like walking into a funeral home. One looks around and sees nothing but sad, long-faced “worshippers.” You would think Jesus is still in the tomb.

Then there are others quite adept at entertaining the crowds. They are out for the glory, not for Jesus but for themselves. The strobe lights point to the performers on stage, and the music is loud and lively.

Can God be found in either of these two examples? God has made it clear that He is not there.

What is in the hearts of those in attendance, whether they are leading the service or sitting in the pews? Are they humble before God, or have they just put on their “church face,” which will be quickly removed when they exit the front door?

What is the message coming from the pulpit? Is it the true Gospel or another gospel?

The apostle Paul said in the book of Galatians:

“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different [heteros] gospel; which is really not another [allos]” (Galatians 1:6-7a, insertion mine).

Paul is saying in verse six that he is amazed they are falling for a different gospel other than the true Gospel of Christ. (Heteros means “different.”)

In verse 7a, Paul is saying they are falling for a gospel that is not the same as the true Gospel of Christ. (Allos means “same.”)

Strong Bible-teaching churches do exist today, but they are getting harder and harder to find.

Jesus said,”… However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Jesus is coming soon, and many will not be ready.

Grant Phillips


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