Sunday, January 25, 2009


Below is the sermon I am going to preach in about 2 hours. This is more written out that most of my messages, I originally preached it in a seminary class, and felt led to revisit it. It is laid out like it is for Seminary, but edited for Heartland. If you were at Heartland on Jan 25th, you hear it, or at least close to it. I never stay exactly with my notes.


I want to begin this morning with one of my hero’s of the faith. Martin Luther entered a monastery as a young man, fulfilling a promise. During a storm one night, a lighting bolt knocked Martin Luther from his horse. Terrified he cried out to St Ann, the patron saint of mining, which was his father’s profession. He cried “help me St Ann, and I will become a monk”. True to his word, Martin Luther entered the monastery. During him time there, he became crippled by a fear of God. In his attempts to atone for his own sin, he spent hours upon hours in confession, he worked day and night in attempts to make himself right before God. Finally, he was given the duty of teaching over the book of Romans, and found the truth of God’s word that we are justified by our faith. It was then that Martin Luther put his faith in God for salvation, and started the journey that led to the reformation.

This morning I want to look at another example of this realization of sin. Like Martin Luther, this passage shows us an example of a man confronted with his own sin. It’s a passage you are all familiar with, many of you can quote it too me, let me read it too you.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:1-8 (ESV)


Point 1

I. The Problem in today’s churches in our view of God.

We love these verses, don’t we? We enjoy thinking about the magnificence of the God we serve. His flowing robe, His glory, the smoke and the shaking door posts. The God we serve is bigger than any other God, and it gives us hope and peace to think about how big and mighty our God is. We contrast it to when Elijah called fire down from Heaven to burn up the offering, and alter and all the water. It’s a powerful image. It’s an experience with God that is real and tangible. To see God, to be in His presence, to see the Seraphim and to feel the whole place shake. We long to have that kind of experience with God. I have heard people talk about feeling like they were in the throne room, dancing before the Lord.

I am hesitant to attempt to paint a picture of what Isaiah experienced outside of what the scripture says. I don’t think we can verbally express what he experienced. There are some things that we can’t describe. For example, I can say that “I love my wife”, but that does not come close to doing justice to the way I feel. I don’t have the words to explain how I feel. I think this is true for the depictions we get of the Glory of God. The descriptions seem vague and confusing because we lack the words to really describe the glory of God.

The Seraphim for example, we don’t have a clear picture. The word means flaming beings, but there are multiple interpretations about what that looks like, so I will just let you imagine. We know that the Seraphim were calling to one another. I am sure just the sight of flaming beings calling back and forth to one another “Holy Holy Holy” is an awe inspiring image. These flaming beings flying near the throne call Holy, Holy, Holy back and forth to one another would be enough to drop the jaw of any man. What I am sure of is that this would have better than any Hollywood special effect.

Seeing God in all His glory seated on His throne. We often wish we could be part of this picture. We have tried to recreate it as much as we can here on earth, we have written at least one song that I know of that uses these verses. We want to hang out in the throne room of God and watch the flaming ones cry holy. We have a desire to be part of it.

Unfortunately, I think we have become to comfortable with this event, that we desire to celebrate, to dance in the presence of God. Isaiah didn’t seem to be dancing, however. Isaiah was surrounded by Heavenly beings that were praising God. Isaiah didn’t join in the crying of Holy, but he did begin to cry.

In the presence of Almighty God, standing before His Throne, I can’t find anywhere in scripture where people are dancing, or raising hands. The Seraphim cover themselves with their wings in a sign of reverence and submission. We are not told Isaiah’s posture, but his reaction is clear, he exclaimed “woe is me”. Isaiah was a priest, and he knew what God had told Moses, that no one can look on the face of God and live. From that passage we can assume that Isaiah is shielded from seeing God’s face, but the presence of His Glory was more than overwhelming.

Isaiah had unclean lips. His worship was tainted by his sin, and he knew it. As he stood in the throne room, looking at the Lord, he first thought was “I’m dead meat”. Every sin he had committed I am sure came rushing into his mind. He understood that there was sin in his life, and it has polluted his worship. I am not sure if he was prostrate, but I assume he was. In Revelations 4, we find the 24 Elders falling down before the throne in worship. These elders are in Heaven, they not only are cleansed of sin by salvation, but they are in heaven, they have been separated from their sinful flesh, yet they still fall down.

Where Isaiah was in the temple, he had a clear view into the Holy of Holies. I am not sure if the veil was pulled back, or if for the sake of the vision, the veil was opened, but God would be seated above the Ark of the Covenant, this is where God told the nation of Israel He would be. Isaiah knew that is where God would be, but he never expected to see God in His Glory as he did his priestly duties in the temple.


Does this happen to us? We know where God is, He lives in the heart of the Believer, He inhabits our prayers, He is omnipresent, He is with us all the time. Just like Isaiah, we sometimes get comfortable with God being with us. We know where God is, and we can talk about Him and praise Him easily. Do we expect Him to enter our lives in a real and tangible way?

What would change if we could? If one day during our worship service, God appeared and we could see His glory? Would we continue to sing praises, or would our response be the same as Isaiah’s? Would we celebrate or lament? How do you handle the reality of God’s glory? How would we respond to how we have used the gifts he has given us? How would we respond with the responsibility he’s given us?

Martin Luther struggled with God’s holiness and His power. He struggled with his sin until it was almost debilitating. It was more than he could handle. The Apostle Paul struggled with his sin when he said:

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

We often learn to tolerate our sin. It does not cause us distress, we do not lay on the floor of a small room as Martin Luther did. Do we gloss over our sin, even as we assemble together to worship, assuming it brings us into the very throne room of God?


My point is not that we shouldn’t worship, or that somehow being mortified or paralyzed by our sin will make us holy. The danger we have found ourselves is not the sin that is atoned for in Christ, but the casual attitude that can overcome the church. We have limited worship to singing, we often limit our singing to a type of music. We have defined our “worship time” and have dictated to God how we worship. We come to church with our own agenda, making our opinions known about the programs we use, the way we sing, the messages we preach. Often times, we are agenda driven and not spirit driven. The image of God we are giving to the masses is not an exalted God seated on His throne. What is the view of God that we live out?

As Isaiah sees God in His glory, he is aware of the uncleanness of his lips and the lips of the people he dwells with. He is a member of his society, not a democratic nation that some people are atheist, some are agnostic, some Mormon, some Catholic, some Baptist and some Satanic. The people he dwells with are Jews, worshipers of the God is Israel. It is unfortunate if we read this a condemnation of society outside the church. Isaiah is speaking of believers.


Do we have unclean lips? Have we praised God with our mouth and used the same mouth to curse man who is made in God’s likeness? Do we have divisions and factions? Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks? What is coming from our heart? Does it make our lips unclean?

The danger comes when we are unrepentant and we expect God to honor our worship. We continue to have the agenda drive church, and pretend like there is holy and acceptable worship being offered. If God is not in your business meeting, He is not in your worship service.

Point II

Explanation: There is a solution to the problem of not being able to worship because of our sin and uncleanness.

What is to be done? What lessons can we learn from this example? Lets look at the example Isaiah gives us.

1. First, Isaiah acknowledges his shortcoming. He has seen true worship, and he comes short and he acknowledges that he is incapable. He knows that his worship is tainted by his sin. He understands who he is and who God is, and where he, as a man, stand before God, and it is not a comfortable place for him to be. Praise be to God that we have the atonement power of Christ Jesus to offer us freedom.

2. Second, we understand where people are, where our church is. We don’t attend a perfect church. The people we are sitting next too aren’t perfect, and we need to have understanding and love for one another. We need to pray for one another. We need to keep one another accountable. We must acknowledge that we are all a people of unclean lips and we need to be cleansed.

The buzzword we use that I am going to use is Revival.

As Christians, we need revival. You don’t need me to tell you that. Most of you know how revival comes. A few begin to take their sin seriously and turn and pray and seek God’s face. Being involved in church doesn’t bring revival or make us holy. Knowing history or theology, does not make us holy. Knowledge is good, but apart from holiness, it is worthless. No amount of knowledge can substitute for personal holiness. Personal holiness comes for us, just like it did for Isaiah. First, the angel took a coal from the altar where atonement has been made. The coal covered his sin, the blood of Jesus covers our sins. We are atoned for through no work of our own, just as God took the initiative with Isaiah, Christ took the initiative with us. I think we can all agree that apart from this atonement, we cannot please God, follow God or honor God.

Once we understand who we are, not worthy, just redeemed. We should respond to the invitation. When the false idea of worship left Isaiah in the full view of who God is, His majesty and His glory, he was ready to be changed. Once changed, he was ready to respond. It was not until Isaiah recognized his sin and it was taken and atoned for that Isaiah could hear the voice of God and he was ready to respond.

In our lives, once Christ has atoned for our sin, we must be ready to respond. Where is God leading you? What are you doing with the gifts He has given you? If God were to show up in His glory, how would you feel about what you have been doing? If this morning, if this place was suddenly filled with the glory and majesty of God, what would change in our service?


We will find revival when we seek God with our whole hearts.

When will this happen? What will it take? It takes me and it take you. It takes us looking for God, not through the lenses of contemporary Christian culture, but clearly in His work and by prayer. Understanding there is nothing of value that we ourselves can offer, but God has made a way. God made a way for Isaiah to come into a deeper and more meaningful relationship. There is a way for us to move beyond American Christian culture. I am challenged by these verses. I don’t have all the answers, but this passage challenges me to question my motives and my preconceived notions. I have to ask myself, do I care about God more than my own happiness or desires? I am constantly asking myself, am I working for the Lord, or just in proximity too Him?

Simple invitation. Cry out for revival. Look to the God of Heaven for who He really is. He is the one who is so Holy and Powerful that we have nothing of value to offer Him. To find personal holiness, He requires our obedience. Be spirit led, and not agenda led. Then, we can begin to see revival take place in our lives, our homes, our churches and our communities. Let’s pray.

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