Amos 5 (NLT)
"Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live! Then the Lord God of Heaven's Armies will be your helper, just as you have claimed."
This verse seems simple enough, but I think it has a lot of information in few words. Not only am I told to do what is good, but I'm told to run from evil. This seems pretty extreme, but it makes a lot of sense to me. Evil can be very cunning and persuasive. It's easy to get pulled in without even realizing it. It's also easy to think that we can be around evil and still resist its temptations, which may be true some of the time. However, we're all human and we have been born to sinful nature. Satan knows this, and he knows how to use it against us. It seems to me that God doesn't even want us to take the chance of getting sucked in. Turn, and run from evil!!
This verse also states that you should do these things "so that you may live." As simple as those few words seem, they speak volumes to me. This tells me that if I don't turn from evil... if I let it live inside of me... if I willingly take part in sinful deeds... etc, etc, etc... I am DEAD. Whoa. Extreme? Maybe. But God makes it clear that we are to turn to Him and REPENT of our sins in order to be saved. I can't really live for God and love Him and still choose to live in sin. Sure, I may slip up (because I'm human, and I'm destined to sin no matter how hard I try not to), but God is just asking that I acknowledge that I messed up, ask him to forgive me, and try my hardest to turn away from my sins. Now that doesn't sound so extreme. Even more, I know that if I do this, "God will be your (my) helper." He will help me. It's great news to me that I don't have to do this on my own (because I would surely fail)! I am so thankful that God has allowed me to truly LIVE!!! (If you haven't experienced life through God, you are missing out!!!!)
"I hate all your show and pretense--the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living."
The Israelites were living horribly sinful lives apart from God, but they were acting like they were religious. Sadly, this happens way too often. God is telling the Israelites (and us!!!) that he doesn't want a big show of fake religious ceremonies and such. He doesn't want me to go to church on Sundays and live a life apart from Him the rest of the week. He doesn't want me to make sacrifices and sing hymns and praise Him if it's all an act. He wants me to truly turn to him and live a life that is pleasing to him.