Three sins or four

The America I knew as a boy is gone, and I say that with a broken heart. This nation was dedicated by our founding fathers to Almighty God.  They understood that we have to be a moral people first before we can be a free people. Now, just like the Israelites in Nehemiah’s time, America has been taken captive by a foreign power – the “world,” the “flesh,” and the “devil!”

America and our civilization as we know it is in a moral freefall/chaos/fog, our world is standing at the edge of a moral black hole. We are living at a time when we are skidding out of control, when everything Biblical and true is being ravaged, when moral decay and spiritual disintegration are sweeping our nation and our world right straight into hell.

There’s a serious sickness of the soul that is crippling individuals, families, churches and communities – a sociopathic virus that is hollowing out the soul of our country.

America is very ill spiritually – a consequence of turning away from Jesus and making a mockery of Almighty God!  Our culture openly defies God, the Bible, the church, marriage, morals, ethics – our nation has turned its back on God and the result is tragic!

We have for years asked God to leave us alone and remove Himself from our public forum and we wonder why we have so many problems – today’s paper is like yesterday’s – crime, abortion, divorce, violence, greed, gambling, abuse, theft, murder, government corruption, war, suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, and abominable sexual immorality of all types, etc!

America’s ungodly culture of today is telling us that we must tolerate a new and a modern gospel for a new and a modern age (anything goes). But, if it’s new, it isn’t true, and we cannot, must not, dare not tolerate what is absolutely intolerable to God.

America has become a nation of idolaters, trying to find fulfillment everywhere else but in God – and our churches and families are being devastated!

America’s homes are in serious trouble.  Many of our children do not live at home with their mothers/fathers, sometimes that happens because of death, but most of the time it happens because of sin!  Many homes have a father/mother who has walked out; some don’t even know who their father is.

Satan has leveled all the artillery of hell at families and the homes of America – and the result is a tragedy. The devil has pipelined pornography straight into the living rooms of America through the television and the internet, and even little children are feeding off of it. Drugs and alcohol and suicide are ravaging young people. And we, we have ceased to be shocked.

What was horrible yesterday is acceptable today and a stepping stone for something worse tomorrow, if it can get worse. “It seems like in America, we have eaten through the bottom of the garbage pail.”

Because America has rejected a Biblical worldview and accepted and condones what God has clearly called “abomination,” we are no longer “One nation under God.” We are now “One nation going under!”

That is America – so called “God blessed America.”  Can God bless sin? No! Proverbs 14:34 – “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” NLT

If God were to speak to us today, what do you think He would say?  I believe the answer can be found in the book of Amos!

Amos 1:1-2: “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa – the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. He said: “The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.” NIV

Amos was a simple country preacher who left his home in Judah and traveled 22 miles to Bethel to preach a harsh message of judgment against the kingdom of Israel.

Amos began by pronouncing the Lord’s judgment upon six neighboring nations, then Judah and then Israel, then finally the whole nation.  He told them they were about to be violently judged for their sins, and compared God to a roaring lion.

The purpose of a lion’s roar is to paralyze its victim with fear, making it helpless before the lion’s charge.  Then comes the pounce, the tearing, and inevitable death!  God is pictured as the lion doing the roaring and the judging.  I believe this message from God applies to us as well.

Amos begins with the nations that surround Israel and gradually spirals in on Israel itself.  Each of the eight oracles of Amos 1:3 – 2:16 begins with the statement “For three sins of…even for four.”  This is a literary device used to express the concept of “many, or again and again.”

They would be punished for their many abundant sins, especially the one named. These nations had sinned again and again and again, they just kept on sinning.  God allowed them to sin to their capacity, even to the point of overflowing.

The “fourth sin/transgression” is equivalent to the last straw – the iniquity of each of the eight countries is full.

Judah and Israel rejected the word of God and turned to the same false gods which had deceived many of their ancestors.

Amos 2:4-5: “This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not relent. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire on Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” NIV

Amos 2:12 – “But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.” NIV

This led to empty and despicable religious practices that were offensive to God: Amos 4:4-5: “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign Lord.” NIV

They were going through all the right motions, even above and beyond. Outwardly they put on a show of religion, but their heart was far from God, like some in Jesus’ day: Matthew 15:7-9: “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” NLT

The punishment for the sins of idolatry and futile worship would be the destruction of the nation.  Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC.  The roar of the Lord and of His judgment had ended.

Why do we need to hear these warnings today?  Because the same attitude and state of the heart that caused the death of Judah and Israel can be found throughout the nations of the world today! Our world has forgotten the lesson of Amos, that God judges nations throughout history based on their morality!

How much further can we go before God says enough – before we hear the roar of the lion?  Are we listening? Or are we like Israel – too busy with our comfortable lives to pay attention?

Friends, you and I are living witnesses to the dismantling of our nation’s religious, moral and spiritual foundations, our Christian heritage, right before our very eyes.  I am talking about a gradual chipping away at the foundation of American civilization.  For the first 185 years of our nation, American culture was friendly towards Christianity.  Around the world America was understood to be a Christian nation, but that is no longer the case.

Over the last 50+ years the sinister forces of humanism, atheism, evolution, liberalism, legalism, pluralism, paganism, cults, the occult, astrology, Satanism, the abominations of abortion and homosexuality, the idolatrous practice of gambling, false religions of all shapes and sizes, to include the false religion called “political correctness” have been aggressive in their attempts to destroy America and drown and silence the church.

They are succeeding in gradually dismantling many of the moral and spiritual principles that once characterized our society. Political correctness is destroying the very fabric of our society. Never before in history have people been so afraid to stand up against absurdity for fear of being labeled a racist, a homophobe, or a bigot!

Atheism is growing in America. Their stated agenda is to force all Christians into the confines of their church buildings and to destroy all faith in God in our society!

Their plan is for us to never go outside our buildings to do anything to express our faith (Russia). They want to completely root out all Christian faith in our society! These people are dangerous.

Who is to say that after they have us all locked up in our buildings they will be satisfied with that? They will then monitor what we do in those buildings and how we express our faith to our children. Eventually there could be censorship and penalties against those who hold out to include jail and persecution.

A land now filled with Bibles will become a land where it is illegal to have a Bible. Think this could never happen? The first stages have already taken place (Iowa).

Today, we are in a culture war that comes down to essentially one issue – whether or not the United States of America and the church is going to acknowledge the supremacy of the one true God of the Bible.

That’s what the ACLU and all other forces that are attempting to eradicate Christianity are focused on.  This is about whether or not God is going to be permitted to hold the place that He has held from the very beginning of our nation.

Social and political liberals from Hollywood to our universities to our media to the nation’s capital are hostile toward God and are becoming more open about it all the time. In the middle of this social chaos, the church is facing the most perilous times it has ever faced in America.

There are powerful forces in America today who say that in order to be truly free we must rid ourselves of all moral restrictions, which means ridding ourselves of God.  Every effort is being made to eradicate all public references to God and Christianity!

Liberal historians and judges are rewriting our history and our laws.  They claim that all religions should be tolerated as equal and that Christianity should not be given public expression above other religions (or at all).

To practice Christianity publicly is now considered “insensitive”   because we might “offend” those who do not share our beliefs.

Judges are continually ordering the removal of crosses and nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments, etc., from public property because they supposedly violate a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion.

They have been working overtime for many years to make it illegal to even mention the name of God in public places (prayer, the pledge of allegiance, 10 Commandments, money).

Even the phrase “Merry Christmas” is forbidden in certain places. Lebanese born scholar Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari, a Muslim imam, said: “Saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication and drinking alcohol and killing someone!”

Today you can express any opinion you want as long as you do not tell someone that what they are doing is sinful in the eyes of God. Hollywood can show murders, rapes, homosexuality, and any other number of sinful acts, but don’t you dare tell another person that they are acting in an offensive manner before God.

People in the world see this as homophobia and intolerance! Christians understand that this is an act of love – potentially saving a soul from the very pit of hell.

This conspiracy parades itself under the guise that the founding fathers and the constitution advocated a “separation of church and state” – meaning that all references to God and Christianity should not be permitted in public settings that are associated with the government, the community, or public schools.

This phrase is not found in the constitution but in a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1802, when he was president (years after the constitution was written) to the Danbury Baptist association who had written him concerned that the government might interfere with the free and open practice of religion.  Jefferson wrote to assure them that it wasn’t going to happen.  Now the phrase is being interpreted to say the exact opposite by the forces of evil in this country who want to eradicate Christianity from our society.

“Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone – except God. Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control. My heart aches for America and its deceived people.”

On 15 April 2008, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, in response to an attack on organized religion by Bill Maher, said – “It is open season on Christians in America, you can demean and defame them and the media will laugh along with you.”

The only thing, it seems, that is not tolerated in America today is Christianity!

Because of this attitude based upon a lie we are seeing unbelievable decisions perpetrated upon our lives by people who do not fear God!

Adolf Hitler, in his book that was considered the Nazi Bible entitled: “Mein Kampf” (‘My struggle/my battle’) said “By means of shrewd lies unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell – and hell heaven.  The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” 

Americans today have come to dwell in an Alice-in-wonderland world of fantasy and self-delusion where everything has been turned upside down and inside out.

In our America, right is wrong, wrong is right, good is bad, bad is good, normal is abnormal, abnormal is normal, true is false and false is true:

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” NKJV

We no longer live in a Judeao-Christian environment or even a post JC environment – we are now living in an anti-Christian environment that has degenerated into a decadent culture obsessed with selfishness and sin, death and destruction, and this attitude is taking a terrible toll on humanity.

We have come to a place when as a nation we have said, “If the stock market is setting records then things are fine, so don’t get shook up over moral issues.”

Our nation is suffering from the worst recession to ever hit the world – not economic or educational, but a “moral recession!”

People say, “But God must be blessing America, look how prosperous we are. The Dow Jones is up and umemployment is down.”

Heed this warning, if there had been a Dow Jones in Sodom, it would have been up, too! Sodom was prosperous, just before the fire of God fell: Ezekiel 16:48-50: “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.” NASB

Now the bigger problem is – the moral meltdown that is now overtaking America has been met for the most part with a deafening silence from many of the pulpits of America and the people pleasing preachers who stand in them!

In many ways we have grown timid and afraid – “As long as it doesn’t bother me, I’ll turn my head.” The church and it’s ministers are guilty of standing silent and afraid while this country that we love is fighting a pitched battle for her very life, not against the military power of a foreign enemy, but against Ephesians 6:12 – “…the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” NKJV

America desperately needs a true, spiritual revival to take place in our individual lives, our families’ lives, our churches, and our communities! People in our communities are dying, and many are dying lost! There are many in the church who are in desperate need of healing and times of refreshing!

Acts 3:19 – “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” NKJV

That is why the most urgent need in the church and in our world today is true, biblical, expository preaching: Hebrews 4:12“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” NKJV

Because of its power, the Word of God must be preached and taught from pulpits, in classrooms, and in homes.  It must be exposed from the pulpit as a constant stream of knowledge with practical applications. The Bible must be taught continuously, accurately, and passionately.

We must learn to let the “text do the talking.”  The church that does not do these things will not keep its candlestick for long (Revelation 2:5).

It has been said that preaching is the man of God opening the Word of God and expounding its truths so that the “voice” of God may be heard, the “glory” of God seen and the “will” of God obeyed.

Unfortunately, much of the preaching today seems out of balance, having become too much like what someone described as “a mild-mannered man standing before mild-mannered people urging them to be more mild-mannered.”

On a History Channel show that aired on 5 March 2008 entitled Hell: The Devil’s Domain – the narrator said that “by the 20th century, the ruler of hell was absent from the pulpit, and because of that he (Satan) enjoyed a rebirth in our culture.”

Brothers and sisters, preachers cannot be shy about preaching about hell or the devil or any other subject because most people alive today are going to hell: Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NKJV

The world is in a deep spiritual sleep: Romans 13:11-12: “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here…” NLT

That is why now is the time for the strongest men to preach the strongest message in the context of the strongest ministry and start telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – without fear of the consequences!

Preachers cannot become guilty of preaching 15 minute “Sermonettes for Christianettes.” 

God has told preachers to tell people what God says, not what people want: Ezekiel 3:10-11: “Moreover He said to me, ‘Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I shall speak to you, and listen closely.  And go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God.” NASB

God is not “politically correct,” and He is certainly not tolerant of sin: 2 Timothy 4:1-4: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” NKJV

“What does it mean to preach the Gospel in season and out of season? Well, in season-when they like it and out of season – when they don’t like it. With many folks, the Gospel is almost out of season today.” Marshall Keeble

As a preacher, I must preach like this is the last time I will ever preach, as “a dying man to dying men.”  I cannot be afraid of what people think who only have itching ears: Galatians 1:10 – “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT

Philips Brooks, in his 1877 Yale Lectures on Preaching, said:  “If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else.  Go and make shoes to fit them.  Go even and paint pictures which you know are bad, but which suit their bad taste.  But do not keep on all your life preaching sermons which say not what God sent you to declare, but what they have you to say.  Be courageous.”  

Faithful preaching must identify and denounce the false gods of this world that call upon our people to bow before them every day, regardless of whose feelings get hurt.  God does not want us to avoid controversy by telling people what they want to hear.

God called us to proclaim His word, to be vigilant watchmen, to warn God’s people about the hosts of evil advancing all around us. We cannot play at preaching – we preach for eternity!

I’ve had people say to me, “You can win more people to Christ if you just soften your tone.  You can get more acceptance if you will just be more positive and not preach judgment. You can be more effective if you just tone down your preaching!”

You know what, the devil tells me that every day! One thing is for certain: “If Jesus had preached the same message that most preachers preach today, He never would’ve been crucified.”  Leonard Ravenhill

God did not call on Christians to tickle fancies and scratch ears with gentle words that condone arrogance and apathy toward His Word.  God called us to declare the truth!

“Preachers need to preach the Truth – bear down on it. We don’t need to make friends, we need to save souls.” ~ Marshall Keeble

Wouldn’t you rather have people thank you in heaven than hate you in hell for not telling them the truth?  “I would rather have thousands to say to me at the judgment, “We heard you preach, and you hurt our feelings,” than to have just one soul say “I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth!” John T. Lewis

You are at war. So am I. Every Christian is! Spiritual warfare is happening at this moment, whether you realize it or not. It is not a game – and it is not optional. It is “defeat, or be defeated!”

That’s why it is better to be divided by the truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.  It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie – it is better to stand alone with the truth like Amos did, than to be wrong with a multitude!

The Bible is full of warnings of things far worse than being dragged around with a hook in our lip (like the Assyrians did to the Jews) if we refuse to hear and obey – warnings of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, warnings of fire, smoke and brimstone, warnings of eternal punishment in a boiling lake of liquid fire.

Those warnings are true whether you’re talking about ancient Israel, the seven churches in Asia, modern nations or the local church today. Amos 4:12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.” NIV 

There are still two ways we can prepare to meet God. We can either try to do it on our terms or His. But make no mistake about it; we’ll meet Him either way.  Are you ready?

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