Isaiah chapter 6 is the pattern of what happens to a man or a woman who gets a glimpse of the holiness of God.
As I read it, I want you to begin thinking about three views. One, an upward view. Two is an inward view. And three is an outward view. And in the context, I want to suggest that this is a deep, deep crisis in Israel and if you’re a prophet in Israel and the world is falling apart, and the political situation is unstable, does this sound familiar? And you’re not sure what the future is going to be like, does this sound familiar?
And everyone is fearful and you have a moral responsibility as a spokesman for God to know what’s going on, you go meet with God in the midst of a crisis and I am going to suggest that your personal crisis or the one that one of your kids has, might be the doorway where God leads you to get a glimpse of His holiness.
“In the year that king Uzziah died,” that’s the crisis, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne.” He goes into the temple and he gets this vision. “…high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. And above Him stood the seraphim, each had six wings: With two he covered his eyes, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the threshold shook at the voice of Him who called. And the house was filled with smoke and I said,” here’s the inward look, “Woe is me!” He is the most righteous guy on the planet. He is the prophet.
“‘For I am lost! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.’
“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
Did you see the pattern? By the way, God always speaks, I think God really speaks to us in ways, often, that are unique to our personality and how we hear. And this prophet, he is living in a world of kings and the train of His robe.
If you were a pretty important king – x amount of armies, x amount of wealth – you might have a train that is four or five feet long. If you were a super, super powerful king and you were the big kahuna king, and you had big armies and you were in really big control, you might have a train that is twenty feet long and there might be seven or eight or nine or ten attendants behind you.
The length of your train was the evidence of your status and your power. So when we read this, we think, The train of His robe filled the temple. Hm. Uh-uh. Isaiah, it’s looping, looping, looping, filling, filling, filling. In other words, it’s overwhelming. What it’s doing to Isaiah is of any king ever, he has ever heard of, in his mind, it is going, tchooo! And he just realizes, Woe is me! He is undone.
And he is a righteous man. If we would, here’s the thing, Isaiah compared to probably everyone else is here. Compared to God, he’s here. And for some of you with a really sensitive conscience, you have to be careful that in your moments with God you don’t just go completely introspective. Because some of you can just, Oh yeah. My motives are bad. And I’m bad. I think I’m really terrible. In fact, I’m a worm. I’m worse than a worm. I’m, I don’t even know. Right?
There was an era of what I call “worm theology.” And people felt really, really good about feeling really, really bad. Here’s the deal: When the Holy Spirit convicts you, it is for a very specific reason. You are the object of His love and He will tell you very specifically where you don’t measure up so that you can say to Him, I am so sorry. And the blood of Christ covers it to restore you to fellowship.
When the enemy wants to discourage you, he doesn’t convict. It’s called condemnation. And condemnation is vague and general. You’re a lousy…
When I go through this, everybody does, but when I have my bad condemnation moments, it’s like, I’m a terrible dad, I’m a terrible pastor, I’m a terrible husband. I bet ninety-seven point three percent of all my motives are wrong, even when I’m teaching. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And you know what it makes me feel like? I don’t want to pray; I don’t want to get near God. Condemnation, what does Romans 8 say? There is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus.
So that’s when you do spiritual warfare. You say, “I don’t believe any of that. This is who I am in Christ. I’m the son, I’m the daughter of a living God. I have His righteousness and I am robed in righteousness. I am accepted by the Beloved. Get out of here!”
But when He says, You were rude to your wife. Mm. You left the channel on and you started with, “I don’t believe that’s on prime time TV. This is terrible. I wonder how much they are going to show. I should probably investigate to make sure.” And then one of the kids or someone walks in the room, click! And then you realize you were sucked in.
Or sixty-eight percent, I don’t know where they get these statistics, I hope they’re all wrong. But all these people who do these things say sixty-eight percent of Christian men are on Triple-X porn sites regularly. I don’t know if you saw TIME magazine and Esquire, the epitome of biblical journals in my opinion, has done research recently on pornography – independent research – basically said that a man who watches pornography has a four times the probability of divorce. When a woman begins watching pornography, it’s six times.
And basically what they are discovering is is that it’s a complete rewiring of the brain that is absolutely akin to cocaine use. When God wants us to be pure and holy, it’s not that old thinking of there’s probably something really fun and He’s like a cosmic killjoy. It’s He is a loving Father who knows the implications and says, Don’t go there!
Like some of us, I’ve got these little grandkids now, so I’m in a whole new era – three-year-olds and one-year-olds and five-year-olds and seven-year-olds. And it has been years. My kids are grown. I’ve got two sons who are forty-two. Like, are you kidding?
But they’ve got kids. So it has been a long time since, “Noah! Don’t touch the stove.” “My Papa!” And you know what? I don’t feel bad at all. Or you know, the one just always wants to run outside into the street, like, I’m Mr. Hardcore. “No!” [makes crying noises] I don’t feel bad at all. Why? Because what I know, it’s going to kill them.
I’m a holy grandfather! There are rules. I don’t care if you don’t like them. I don’t care if you don’t like me! But I care that you don’t get hurt.
Every command of Scripture is given by an absolutely holy God who, in His kindness and tenderheartedness, wants to prevent you from being hurt or damaged. Holiness is wholeness. Holiness is for your health.
And Isaiah has this picture of upward and then inward. And then notice, when that happens, your priorities change and you say, God, what do You want me to do? It’s just the opposite of our day: God, what can You do for me? God, how do You make my life work out? How can I be more fulfilled? How can I get more of this? How can I do some of that? How will You change…?
We are always asking God to change everything. Try this one: God, change me. Just change me.
Now, the next place where God reveals His, 1 Corinthians chapter 6, and time permitting, all I want to do is read the passage. It’s interesting, because of what the deep bonds that occur in the realm of sexual activity, it says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually, sins against his own body.”
And we now have the evidence in our day and our world long before this was written about what happens.
“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”
Now, I just want you to, it’s hard, but just pause and I want you to go back to that mountain with the smoke and the lightening and the earth shaking. And then I want you to semi-visualize this temple filled with this train of this robe and these bizarre looking creatures with all these eyes, chanting, “Holy, holy, holy” as you are face-down on the ground.
And then I want you to try and even ponder that the temple that God has chosen in the New Covenant, where He wants His presence manifested, is your body. He owns you. He bought you.
We read of these Old Testament characters and David, empowered by the Spirit; and the prophet, empowered by the Spirit; and Elijah doing this. Even Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter. The Transfiguration. We, New Testament believers, have a more intimate relationship and access to the God of the universe than any of them did.
Because the Spirit of God would come in the Old Testament at times and anoint with power and manifest His presence. And Jesus, that last night, said, “There is a new covenant.” A covenant is an agreement that people make that, on the basis, we will shed blood to demonstrate that we will give our lives before we will break the covenant.
And He said, “This is My body given for you.” And when He shed His blood, when a person repents of their sin, turns and says, Oh God, I believe Christ died to pay for my sin and as my substitute. Will You come into my life? The Spirit of God, literally, pulls you out of the kingdom of darkness places you into the kingdom of light; the Spirit then enters your mortal body, you are sealed with the Spirit, spiritual gifts are deposited, you are engrafted into a supernatural family called “the Church.” And the Holy Spirit lives in your body and now God’s game plan to take His message to the world is not to get people to come to a temple in Jerusalem to see the glory and the power of God and the nation that has been transformed, but to take you and I in sort of decentralized distribution.
And now we go forth and in your home, you are the ambassador of the living God with His Spirit living within you. And your job is to reveal God to your family. Then you go in your driveway to reveal God to your neighbors. And then you go to work to reveal God.
And not only to reveal God, but then because you are a part of a new kingdom, you bring the kingdom. And you bring the kingdom love and the kingdom life and the kingdom values. And so instead of ego and pride, you champion humility. And instead of: Who are the powerful people to get close to? You care for the marginalized. And you become this living temple that begins to impact like salt and light or leaven in bread, transforming.
That’s how the world got changed. And nothing has changed in terms of God’s agenda. Have you ever thought? So ask yourself: So what do you put in this temple? What does this temple view? Where do these hands go? How do you treat this temporary temple?
If we would ever grasp that, wouldn’t there be a set, wouldn’t there be a set of very logical implications? And, again, it wouldn’t be some legalistic, I can never do this, I can’t watch this, this is bad, I don’t wear lipstick, I don’t go to movies, and I don’t play cards. I don’t think that got us very far.
But you, like the psalmist, would say, Oh God. I will put no worthless thing in my mind. You would say, I want only holy thoughts. You wouldn’t be asking questions like, I wonder how close to sin can I get without falling in? You would be asking, How close can I get to righteousness and holiness to be pleasing to my God? It’s just a completely different paradigm.
Well, God’s holiness raises a couple questions and we touched on them earlier but I think it’s important that we at least address them here. If God is so holy that He can’t gaze on sin, how can sinful people like us have a relationship with God? Right?
This is the greatest news in the world. It’s the gospel. It’s the gospel. This is, guess what, you can’t! But Jesus made it possible.
Romans chapter 5, verses 6 through 10, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Notice it’s not when we cleaned up our act. It’s not when we got it together. It’s not when we got religious. At the right time, when we were helpless, when you bring nothing.
And then he says, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die.” And then underline this verse, verse 8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And put a circle around the little word for. There are are two words in Greek for for.
This is the word that means on behalf of and in the place of. He is your substitute. Everything that I deserve because of my sin, as the just righteous wrath of God would come toward me, Jesus steps in front and says, “I got it.” And then as we will learn later, He will say, “I’ll take the judgment of God and I will give you the righteousness of Christ.”
“Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were His enemies, we were reconciled,” that word just means you become friends. Have you thought, think of the juxtaposition of what we are talking about.
This holy, awesome God, we are undone! And then over here, we are friends! If you, don’t get over that. If you’re just thinking, Wow! That’s amazing! That’s far out! I can’t grasp it! Good. That’s not casual.
“For while we were His enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
The second question then is if trusting God’s work on the cross blots out our sin before God and we are holy in His sight, why do we keep on sinning? And we touched on this but just write in these notes, because it will be more clear, the three aspects of holiness. There’s a point in time, there’s a process, and there’s an end.
The moment you put your faith in Christ as Savior, you are legally declared righteous. So sin’s penalty, in other words, the penalty for sin – you are forgiven because of Christ’s work and as I said before, I love this picture. I just have this picture in my mind of a computer screen and Jesus and me.
And under mine is all the sins in thought, word, and deed. And under Jesus is the very righteousness of God. And I just love this picture. When I trust in Christ, I am justified and it’s “delete.” And then the righteousness of Christ is put into my account. That’s my positional, legal standing. I have been forgiven, legally, of all my sin and the power of sin has been broken.
But notice then in sanctification is progressive holiness and so the penalty of sin is gone, but now I work out, I begin in my practice to become holy. And so I now, before, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to sin or not. Now, I can choose to live righteously, but since the flesh wages war against the soul and since I live in a world system drawing me away, I can still choose to sin.
And when I choose to sin, it breaks fellowship with my heavenly Father. I don’t lose my salvation, but the connection, the line, there’s static. And the more I willfully sin, I can, over time, begin to shut off connection and relationship of His power in my life. So I confess my sins; He is faithful and just to forgive me my sin and keep on cleansing me.
Finally, the day will come when either the Lord returns or I die. And I immediately go into His presence. And when I see Christ, I will be transformed.
Let me give you an illustration. I bought a house in California, which is actually pretty miraculous. So I put x amount of money down and legally, that house is in my name and my wife’s. I own the house. It’s mine. The bank doesn’t own it; I own it.
However, each month I am progressively owning more. I am beginning to get in reality what is legally true. And it keeps coming down as I pay off each month, right? This is where, if you really play this out really carefully it doesn’t quite work, but just stay there with me, okay? And then, at some point in time, at least some of you have had the experience, you pay it off. It’s fully mine.
It was mine, legally, because there was a down payment. And I own it. Anybody know what the Spirit of God is called in the book of Ephesians? Your down payment of the Spirit of God coming into your life, the residence of Christ.
Then you live out and you progressively become more holy and it requires, like a newborn babe long for the pure milk of God’s Word, so that by it you might change and be transformed.
I have to go through the process of putting off the old, putting on the new. It’s a journey; it’s a process. I’m not going to be conformed to this world. I am going to be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that my lifestyle could progressively demonstrate God’s will – the good, acceptable, perfect will of God – Romans 12:2. But at some point in time, when I die, that which is true of me legally and Lord willing my life has progressively and dramatically changed in the last thirty-five more years, then I will meet Christ and I will be transformed once and for all and be holy: glorification.
Okay, that’s the best explanation and if you, by the way, if you can come up with a better illustration or fine-tune that one, email me. Because the middle part doesn’t quite work. Because you’re making payments and you could read in works. Okay.
How must we respond to the holiness of God? First, it’s a commitment that we make. Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”
You don’t slide into holiness either. It’s a commitment. Scripture says God hates sin. God hates arrogance. A commitment to holiness is: I want to be holy. Not: I am doing better than others, or, I think I have had this struggle and I come from this family background so anger is an issue in our family. And everyone I have known in our family, well, they have always divorced. And it’s really hard and I’ll try and do good but we just don’t do relationships well. Or, I had this problem with my…
Just stop it. We all have that stuff. “Be holy even as God is holy.” Is it impossible? Of course it’s impossible. The Christian life is impossible. Only Jesus can live it. And once He lives in you, that’s why surrendering, being in His Word, doing life in community, together, God causes us to be transformed progressively. But it starts with: You’ve got to want to be holy.
I remember one profound thought from someone I really respected said, “You’ll be just about as holy as you want to be.” Think about it. “Be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word is mature. But…
Then the command is in 1 Peter. It’s a command to obey. I love it, because he makes it really clear that it was hard for those early Christians; it’s hard for us. And it’s not about willpower, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be self-controlled. Set your hope fully on the grace that is to be revealed.” It’s that eternal perspective. “Set my hope on the grace,” the line not the dot.
“Be sober,” right? Understand what life is really all about. And prepare your, I love the King James on this. Remember? Does anybody know this in King James? “Gird your loins.” Man, for ten years, I read that and I thought, I’m not sure you should even say that one out loud.
And what it was, if you were a Roman soldier is you would have a long robe and you would have a belt. But when you were ready to go into battle, you would gird your loins. And so what you would do is you would take your robe and you would tuck it in your belt so now you are ready for action.
And so what he is saying is: You want to live a holy life? You’ve got to get your game face on is the way we would say it. You need to get your mind in gear. You need to realize there’s all this stuff coming at you and you’re not going to slide into it. Here’s what’s going to be hard but you’re going to set your hope on the grace. And then, “Therefore, as obedient children, don’t be conformed any longer to the former lusts, which were yours in your ignorance but like the holy One who called you, be holy also in all of your behavior because it is written: ‘Be holy for I am holy.’” And I love that, “In all your behavior.”