Bella Vista Church of Christ
Practicing The Presence Of God Part 2
Reading — Isaiah 6.1-8
Our Reaction To His Presence
Last Sunday we began our series on Practicing The Presence Of God. We examined:
• His Absolute Holiness - God is Holy, Holy, Holy.
When we see His Holiness and our sinfulness, like Isaiah, we will fall on our face in genuine, authentic conversion.
• Sunday night we talked about His Sovereignty - God is over it all. He is on His throne, high and exalted. His authority and power extend to every nook, crevice and corner of our world. There is nothing - No Thing - that is not under His authority.
• Then we noted that God is transcendent. He is in the midst of it all.
His train filled the temple. God is omnipresent and omniscient. He is in every facet of our lives working out His purposes and plans. IMMANUEL - God with us... God in us.
Today we’re going to note what happens to Isaiah, and what should happen to us, when we come in the presence of God who is Holy, Sovereign and Transcendent.
Recall now the setting for Isaiah’s encounter with God. The great King Uzziah has died after reigning 50 years. He had brought prosperity, protection and provision to Judah during his 50 year reign. Now Assyria, the mighty country to the North is flexing its military muscle. Assyria is knocking at the door of Judah. It is crisis time for this small nation. They are experiencing a national emergency. So against this backdrop, Isaiah the prophet comes to the temple looking for God’s advice and help.
Notice now, what happens to Isaiah during this encounter with God. It is what should happen to any of us when we have been in the presence of the Lord.
Church, here is a foolproof test for knowing whether or not we are standing walking, working, living in the presence of God.
FIRST WE ARE CONVICTED OF OUR SINS.
Verse 5. Upon seeing God, Isaiah cries out, Woe is me for I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.
Remember in high school when we read the story by Edgar Allen Poe, The Tell Tale Heart? As always, Poe made himself the culprit of this story. There was an old man who lived with Poe and he has this vulture- like eye, with which Poe becomes obsessed. To escape this eye, Poe decides he has to kill the old man. So, late one night he enters the old man’s room, but as a beam of light from his lantern falls on the old man’s bed, Poe sees the eye staring at him. The old man’s heart begins to pound and pound and pound as Poe struggles to smother him to death with a pillow.
To cover up his crime, Poe buries the old man under the living room floor. The next thing he knows, there is a knock at the door. It is the police. A neighbor had heard a scream. Poe went on to explain that he had had a nightmare and that it was his own scream. The police said his explanation was satisfactory. So Poe invites them in for a cup of tea. As they are drinking tea, Poe sits in a chair over the exact spot, right over the grave of the old man. As they talk, Poe begins to hear this muffled sound of a heartbeat. It becomes louder and louder and louder in Poe’s ears until he exclaims, You need investigate no more, I admit my sin... I killed him!
What happened to Poe in the presence of these officers is what happens to Isaiah in the presence of God.
• No, the officers didn’t hear the heartbeat.
• No, Judah didn’t know Isaiah’s secret sins.
• No, those about us probably don’t know our sins.
But Church, when we encounter God, when we see Him for who He is, we are awe struck with our own sinfulness. Our telltale heart betrays us. Seeing God’s Holiness convinces Isaiah and us of our sins. Like Isaiah, we can’t, we cannot keep from doing something about them. Like Isaiah, we must: Confess them, Admit them, Acknowledge them in genuine contrite repentance.
There are two things that always happens when we are convicted of our sins. The first is that we realize our own sins - our own unworthiness. Isaiah is a prophet, he preaches against sin, he confronts other people with their sins; but when he sees God, he confesses his own sinfulness. Sometimes we can become so preoccupied with other people’s sins that we have a tendency to forget our own. Know anybody like this? Those who are always pointing out the sins of others and never seeing their own? We are all guilty, aren’t we?... Sure we are! We have 20/20 vision when it comes to the sins of others, but very poor sight when it comes to our own. When we do this we tend to make others the standard whereby we judge:
• Our holiness,
• Our righteousness,
• Our purity.
So, our conclusion becomes, as long as we are not as bad, mean or impure as so-and-so, we’re okay! You see, all we have done is lower the standard ... We’ve changed the standard of holiness. As long as we’re not as bad as:
• Our spouse,
• The preacher,
• A Bible teacher,
• Our boss,
• Or an employee, then we’re okay.
Question!... Is this anyway to measure our holiness?... NO!
• We must look at God.
• Examine God.
• Compare ourselves with Jesus.
Isaiah’s eyes are upon God... As a result, he is convicted of his own sin. Paul says, Don’t measure yourselves by yourselves, but measure yourself by God’s Holiness.
Church, listen to me. When we see God for who He is, and ourselves for who and what we are, we’ll stop talking about the sins in everybody else’s life and start seeing our own condition.
• When someone is quick to point out the sins of others,
• When someone begins to talk about the inadequacies, faults and shortcomings of others,
• When they begin to criticize the actions of others, just mark it down, you automatically know they have not... They have not been spending time in the presence of God.
You see, if we will stand in the presence of God for a few moments every morning, we will not be pointing out the sins of others, but will be focused upon our own faults and be intent upon dealing with our own inadequacies.
Something else also happens. When we become convicted of our own sins, we’ll understand that these sins are the biggest problems we have in this life. Isaiah suddenly gets some perspective. Suddenly he realizes that things like: Uzziah dying, the Assyrians threatening, are not the biggest problems he has in life. Isaiah realizes there is something more important to deal with than Judah losing its:
• And protection.
In the Presence of God, suddenly these things do not matter any more. What does matter Audience?... His own sins. This is all he is concerned with here in our text. Right? You see, standing in the presence of God brings a proper perspective.
Standing in the presence of God will stop our worrying about things like:
• Our health,
• Our money,
• Our careers,
• Our golf score,
• Our politics,
• Our things,
• Our power, popularity, prestige.
We’ll understand that the biggest problem we have is not found in the world around us, but the world within us... The sin within us. Folks, our greatest problem is not what’s going on in the world about us, but losing our relationship with God because of our sins within us. Isaiah reminds us that there are bigger problems than:
• Not being able to pay our bills
• Not being able to quickly climb the corporate ladder
• Not having the health we want
• Not getting into the school we want
• Not being able to finish our house on time, or getting our car out of the shop.
The problem is our sins and the separation from God that they cause. We spend too much time worrying about the wrong problems and not enough time dealing with the sin problems within. Isaiah gets a corrected perspective and right priorities when he sees God. And so will we... And so will we.
William Booth, the preacher who founded the Salvation Army, lived in downtown London. His son lived next door. One night his son awoke at 2 AM. He sees his father in the next apartment. William is walking the floor, back and forth, back and forth. He goes to his father and asks, Dad, what’s wrong? William Booth replied, What are all those people in London going to do about their sins? Here is a man who spent his life addressing human needs:
• Proper clothing,
• And housing
Yet when it came down to it, when it came down to what kept him up at night... It was the problem of sin. Question!! Do our sins keep us up at night? They will when we walk in the presence of God.
You see, when we come to a conviction of our own sins, when we see ourselves as we really are:
• We’ll stop comparing ourselves to others.
• We’ll stop talking about and criticizing others.
• We’ll understand that the biggest problem we have is our own sins and what to do about them..
Secondly, standing in the presence of God, Isaiah received something else besides conviction... He received a cleansing.
Look at verses 6 and 7. When Isaiah confesses his sins, one of the angels flies to where he is, and with a live coal touches Isaiah’s lips, saying, Your guilt is taken away... Your sin is purged... Your sin has been atoned for.
Well, what does that mean?... What does this word atonement really mean? What does it mean when the angel tells Isaiah, your sins have been atoned for? Atonement was a word used in the Jewish justice system. It was the price or penalty paid for a criminal act. Under the Law of Moses, people would make an atonement for their sins by sacrificing their most expensive, most valuable animal.
What is interesting here is that when Isaiah confesses his sin:
• He doesn’t make the atonement,
• He doesn’t pay the price,
God does... God does.
• It is God that burns the sacrifice,
• It is God that makes the atonement for Isaiah’s sins.
I believe Isaiah’s experience is a prelude and a foreshadow of what was done for us at the cross. What Isaiah experienced in the Temple is what we experience at the cross... ATONEMENT.
Did you know that Christianity is the only major world religion where God reaches out for mankind? Other religions have man reaching out for God, but in Christianity, our God does the work... He is the one who does the atoning. Listen to these scriptures:
• Ephesians 2.12- 18, Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ... For through him we have access to the Father by one Spirit.
• 2 Corinthians 5.17-19, If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
• Hebrews 2.17, For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
No wonder Paul concludes in Ephesians two that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest any man boast.
Chuck Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship was visiting a prison in Brazil that was founded on Christian principles and operated by Christians people. His tour guide was a convicted killer. Colson said wherever he went, he saw men who were working and appeared to be happy and content in their circumstances. He was told that most of these men had been converted since their imprisonments. He said, where there was usually obscene graffiti on the walls, he found beautiful murals depicting Biblical scenes and spiritual themes. Near the end of the tour, his guide asked if he would like to see their torture chamber? Sure he said. The guide said, are you sure you want to see this? Colson said, I’ve seen torture chambers in prisons all over the world, nothing will surprise me. So the guard opened the door and Colson said, I was surprised... Very much surprised. There in that cell was a life size crucifix, a wooden cross and a likeness of Jesus hanging on it. The guard said, He’s doing time for the rest of us. That is atonement!!... That is atonement!!
No wonder Isaiah said forty seven chapters later, He was despised and rejected by men... He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows... He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. You see folks, where we should have died for our sins, He died for us... That’s Atonement.
Here it is Audience,
• When we come into the presence of God;
• When we see Him for who He is, and ourselves for who we are, sinners
in need of forgiveness;
• When we confess our sins with broken contrite hearts;
Then He is just to forgive us.
Listen to these verses which confirm this concept:
• Isaiah 1.18, Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD. Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
• Jeremiah 31.34, No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying,
Know the LORD, because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest... For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
• Acts 2.38, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
• Ephesians 1.7, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
• 1 John 1.7-9, If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
You see, when we respond to our CONVICTION with CONFESSION, then God will respond with our CLEANSING. The question this morning is this, Are we living in the presence of God?
Then thirdly, when we see God, we will know our calling.
Read verse 8 with me, Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send?... And who will go for us?... And I said, Here am I, Send me! Did you notice that God didn’t address this call to Isaiah? This call is not issued to Isaiah, but is a very general call... Whom shall I send? Who will go for us. Isaiah is an eavesdropper, yet:
• Isaiah willingly takes the challenge.
• Isaiah volunteers.
But this shouldn’t surprise us, for once we come into God’s presence; once we see ourselves as sinners; once we understand His grace... His work... His cleansing... His sacrifice for our atonement, we will, like Isaiah be found saying, Here am I, send me.
Once we understand God’s unimaginable GRACE, we will find that His mission will become unavoidable. We can’t help ourselves, but to say, Lord, let me do it.
• Let me teach that class of little children.
• Let me visit the sick.
• Let me give to the poor.
• Let me serve as a deacon.
• Let me come worship you on Sunday evenings.
• Let me study your word in Bible classes.
And a thousand other things there are to do in His kingdom. Do you know how to tell if an individual is living daily in the presence of God? If he is saying let me do it!!
Then number four, we will become evangelistic.
Isaiah accepts the call to tell others. This is our lesson for tonight.
• Are we living in the presence of God?
• Are we convicted of our sins?
• Are we daily enjoying His cleansing.
• Are we practicing our calling in the kingdom?
If you are not, then this invitation is for you. Come, act upon your convictions; confess your sins, and become His child by, faith, repentance and New Testament baptism, immersion in water for the forgiveness of all your sins.
As a child of God, if you need to confess your sins, His promise is to forgive all your unrighteousness. Perhaps all you need is to begin taking your place in the kingdom, working your calling, because you understand His unimaginable grace.
However this lesson has spoken to you, respond to His presence.