Truth, Conspiracy, and Living Worthy
(Part 2: What is a Worthy Life?)
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July 17, 2022*
By Pastor John Partridge
Amos 8:1-12 Colossians 1:1-14
We live in a nation, a world, and denomination that is filled with division.
That seems obvious to even the casual observer and even more obvious to anyone who reads, or watches, the news. Last week we talked about how the followers of Jesus Christ are called to live and to love in a divided world, we heard God’s calling to Amos, how God’s patience has limits, how God intended to measure the people with a plumb line to see who was straight and who was crooked, and we heard Jesus’ example of the Good Samaritan that shows us how our love and mercy can, and should flow across the lines of division that surround us. (All this can be found in last week’s message here: https://pastorpartridge.com/2022/07/10/truth-conspiracy-and-living-worthy-part-1/)
But how else are we called to live? What is it that God wants to measure in us? What is it that tries God’s patience? And what would it look like if we lived our lives in a way that was worthy of the God that we claim to follow?
Those questions cover a lot of ground so let’s get started by hearing God’s explanation to Amos and the charges that God was bringing against his church and his people that we find in Amos 8:1-12.
8:1 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. 2 “What do you see, Amos?” he asked.
“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.
Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
3 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”
4 Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,
“When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales,
6 buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
7 The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.
8 “Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.
9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.
God says that his people go to the temple, sing songs of praise to God, leave the church, and then trample the needy and abuse the poor. They worship God but are impatient and can’t wait for the religious holiday to be over, they can’t wait for the sabbath to be over so they can get back to work and make more money. And when they go back to work, they lie, cheat, and steal because, to them, money is a greater god than the God of Israel. They cheat their customers, they cheat the poor, they ignore God’s command to share and to help the poor among them even to the point of sweeping up and selling what’s spilled on the floor rather than allowing the poor to glean it. So much do they ignore God’s commands about the poor, that they are unforgiving and deliberately drive the poor into bankruptcy so that they can buy the needy as slaves by purchasing debts as small as the cost of a pair of shoes.
Can you imagine being sold into slavery for a debt as inconsequential as a hundred-dollar pair of shoes? That was the world in which Amos lived. And God’s judgement is that he will never forget anything that they have done. As he always has, God will stand up for the poor and the needy and God will bring punishment to those who have abused them. God says that he is removing his blessings from them and sending all manner of punishment and declares that there is a day coming when no faithful priests will remain to teach the truth.
God’s patience with his two-faced, hypocritical people is at an end and the poor will be avenged. When they have lost the money that they desired more than God, through their suffering, perhaps they will learn the meaning of mercy, compassion, and love.
That brings us some clarity and understanding about what tries God’s patience, and how God measures us, but we still need to better understand how that translates into living justly in the twenty-first century. What would it look like for us to live a life that is worthy of the God we claim to follow? And for that, let’s turn to Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae found in Colossians 1:1-14, where we hear these words:
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
2 To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sistersin Christ:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on ourbehalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified youto share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
This is an example of a good church, and it is one with which Paul is pleased, publicly praises, prays for, and for which Paul gives thanks to God. And it is a church that people are talking about. While Paul is in prison, or at least house arrest, in Rome, he hears stories about the things that they are doing. Some of these stories came from Epaphras, a Gentile convert who was mentored by Paul, and who now is a preacher, teacher, evangelist, and church planter in Greece, but Paul’s words make it sound as if this was not the first time that he’d heard good things about what was happening there. People were telling stories about the church in Colossae, and they were stories about their faith and their love for their neighbors and for one another. And people weren’t just telling stories about them, the church was bearing fruit, it was evangelizing, sharing the stories of Jesus and the gospels, and people were coming to faith because of the love and the grace that they saw in the people of the church.
That doesn’t mean that they were left on their own. Paul, Timothy, and their ministry team, continue to pray for them, support them, mentor them, answer questions, guide them, offer advice, and whatever else they can to help them learn and grow. Paul wants this entire church to become worthy of the Lord, Jesus Christ. And Paul explains what he means by “worthy” so that everyone will know what that looks like. Living a life that is “worthy” means living a life that pleases God, that bears fruit by exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit and by reproducing their faith and bringing new people to faith in Jesus. Living worthy means doing good works, regularly and continually growing in knowledge, building up to great endurance, learning great patience, and giving joyful thanks to God who qualified you to share in his inheritance.
God cares about what his people are doing and how we live our lives. His patience has limits, and he will measure us with his plumb line to make sure we stay on the straight and narrow and not get warped and crooked. God calls us to overcome the divisions that surround us by loving the people with whom we disagree, and even loving our enemies, as much as we love ourselves. But living a worthy life isn’t just a one-time rescue mission or something that we do occasionally. Living a life worthy of Jesus Christ is a lifetime commitment to pleasing God, bearing fruit, doing good, growing in knowledge, and growing in endurance, patience, and thanksgiving to God.
You see, a few verses later, in Colossians 1:28-29, Paul explains that the goal isn’t just for us to become better people, and it isn’t just to love our neighbors. Paul says:
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
The end goal of living a life worthy of Jesus Christ isn’t just focused on me and isn’t just focused on the local church. The end goal isn’t even to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ, although that’s certainly part of it. The goal of living a worthy life is to present… everyone to God, not just as converts and believers, but to present… everyone… to God as… fully mature disciples. Paul says that it is that goal toward which he is strenuously working, and toward which the church is called, with all the energy of Jesus Christ that works within us and through us.
The goal isn’t just to be lifeguards that pull drowning people out of the water. The goal is to pull everyone out of the water, and then train them, educate them, and mentor them, until everyone is a lifeguard. It is, I admit, and enormous task. It’s too big for any one of us to accomplish alone. That’s why we can’t be Lone Ranger Christians. We must all work together, as the church, through the power of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God that lives within us, to make and mature disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
That is how we overcome division.
And that is how we live lives that are worthy of Jesus Christ.
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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com . All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.