Amos 9:7-10 The Sifting

There is a line from a popular contemporary Christmas song that goes: “And man shall live forever more because of Christmas day.” Is this a true statement? Does a mere date on a calendar guarantee eternal life to anybody, let alone everybody, as the song suggests? Surely the Universalist can sing these words and believe them, but not the Christian. The Christian realizes that Christ’s wondrous birth in a stable, by itself secures nothing – man does not live forever more because of a day, but because the Word made flesh finished the work resulting in the ongoing course of action, namely, saving His people from their sins.

Yet man often thinks of his own salvation as an event that has taken place in his own history. One large ministry advocates that one should write down their ‘spiritual birthday,’ that is the date they came to Christ, in order to gain assurance of one’s salvation. Many professing Christians point to a day they, ‘prayed the prayer with Billy Graham on television,’ or walked an aisle of a church or signed a decision card. But can we really say that we live forever more because of the day we confessed belief in Christ?

In verse 7 of Amos chapter 9, God reveals that He does not look with favor upon the nation of Israel because of any particular privileged historical day in their past. Lest they get an overinflated notion of a relationship with God based upon the flesh, God reminds Israel that their exodus from Egypt was no different than that of Philistia or Syria. In verse 8 God calls Israel a sinful kingdom, as He is not interested in their ability to call upon their spiritual past, but is more concerned with their moral present. Even so, the purpose of God in judgment of the nation was not complete annihilation, but salvage (verse 9). So God shakes up the pretending people in order to shake out the fakes and to purify a people marked by holiness. While sifting out the chaff, He safeguards every kernel of wheat so that not one falls to the ground.

In the same manner, many in what constitutes the church of today are relying upon a once-said faith, or in the act of baptism, or church membership, as the evidence of their salvation. But God is not interested in your spiritual past; He is interested in where you were last night, your business dealings this week, your mindset in worship right now. In order to make your calling and election sure, you must not dangle before God what you did on some past day, but rather the true mark of your election is your present life and your present and continuing faith – a persevering faith that is tried and purged in the sieve of affliction.

Jesus told Peter that although Satan would sift him like wheat, he assures Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Lk 22:32). We can be thankful to God that despite the war on pretence which He wages in the church, with all the power of divine omnipotence, that not one hair of the head of the elect will be hurt as He purifies a holy people called by His name.

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