Amos 5:18-24

“Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”


            Social pundits have coined the anacronym SBNR, which stands for spiritual but not religious.  These individuals identify themselves as spiritual but do not claim any specific faith. Today approximately 30% of Americans classify themselves this way.  This starkly contrasts 60 years ago when only  2-3% of Americans were unaffiliated with any religion. While the SBNRs are becoming prevalent in our culture, there is also a rising segment in the church who are RBNO, i.e., Religious but Not Obedient (to coin another anacronym).  These individuals claim to be Christian and even may regularly attend a church but are not obedient to Christ and his word.  They are the individuals who attend but are never transformed.  They outwardly follow the church's religious practices but do not obey God’s word.

            But RBNO is not new.  It was a problem that continually plagued the people of Israel.  They gave lip service to God.  They obeyed all the rituals and religious practices mandated by the law, but in their hearts, they were far from God.   They would go to the temple on the prescribed days of worship.  They would participate in feasts and religious activities.  They would make a public show of their piety.  Yet they continued to abandon the moral law of God. Along with the worship of God, they would also worship idols and the gods of the Canaanites.  In verses 21-23, God examines each element in Israel's worship and rejects each one. First, he rejects the celebration of their feasts (vs. 21).  These were the annual pilgrimage festivals such as the Feast of Weeks and the Passover. Next, he rejects their offerings and sacrifices (vs. 22).  Israel thought that the rituals themselves rather than the repentant heart were all that was necessary for forgiveness, and so God condemned them.

Last, he rejects their music (vs. 23), which they offered up in their worship.  God rejected these external acts because they failed to be transformed inwardly. As a result, they lacked justice and righteousness.  In other words, they were disobeying the last part of the law that related to the treatment and care of others.  As one writer states, they were so religious, they did not repent.  They had the external appearance of religion but not the inward heart of righteousness.

            This is the same danger we face today.  We attend church, enthusiastically join in the worship songs, and nod our heads in agreement with the words of the pastors, but we walk out of the church unchanged.  We verbally affirm our faith in God, but we follow the morality of the world in how we live.  We are RBNO.  This is the very attitude that James warns against when he writes, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).  In other words, faith that is not transformative is not genuine.  Instead of being RBNO (religious but not obedient), we must be RART (religious and radically transformed).  The measure of our faith is not seen in our religious activities; it is seen in our obedience to Christ as Christ points out, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15-15:17).  Are we following Christ and obeying him or following the world and adapting to the philosophy and morality of our age? God desires us to be radically transformed so that we manifest his character in all aspects of life.  That is the person God desires us to be.



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