When Face To Face With God
Imagine with me, if you would this scene. You have arrived at church on Sunday morning, and you know that something wonderful is going to happen. You have entered into the church with the full expectation of encountering God.
As you enter through the doors you are captivated by the sight, which you behold. Seat, elevated front and center, in the auditorium is God seated on high throne. The radiance of God’s glory has you captivated as it fills the entire worship center. And you are nudged back to awareness by the most beautifully sounding choir, a choir for the ages, the voices of angels. As the choir sings, it declares in its song how God is unlike any other.
In the midst of the resplendent majesty of God, how would you respond? If you stood face to face with the Lord of glory, what would you do?
Isaiah had that experience at a rather young age, and he could never be the same. God is available to you. You could encounter God, like Isaiah, and it could change the rest of your life.
Isaiah 6 tells of Isaiah’s encounter with God. It also tells of his changed life.
(Read the text)
In Isaiah 6, we have three parallel pictures of how God responds to man, when man acts upon his encounter with God. When man comes face to face with God, and acts upon that encounter, God will respond.
1) God Reveals Himself To Them That Seek Him
As the story opens we find Isaiah entering the temple. Isaiah was well aware of the fact that the temple is where God’s presence resided. Isaiah entered into the temple expecting to have an encounter with God, probably not an encounter of the magnitude he experienced, but he did expect an encounter. For Isaiah knew God reveals himself to them that seek him.
When you walked through the doors this morning, did you expect to see God. Were you prepared for God to reveal himself to you in all of his majesty? Did you expect something to happen?
Or did you walk through the door with false expectations and false motives. Are you here only to salve a guilty conscience? Are you here for the business sense, so that people will see you, and it will encourage business with you? Are you here for the purpose of seeing friends, and them alone? Are you here because this is where you are suppose to be on Sunday morning?
If you are here for any other reason than to encounter God this morning, you are going to miss the miracle of His presence. You will not know what an encounter with God will do to your life. Your own smug self-righteousness has placed blinders over your eyes.
How can we expect God to reveal himself to us? Will we see him displayed in all of his glory right before our very eyes? Will he appear to us in a flash of light, like he appeared to Saul on the rode to Damascus?
I would dare say that several of you present today are waiting for that same experience. You are sitting back saying, "Come on, God. If you are there, show yourself. Let’s see something that only you could do. If you make your presence irrefutable then we’ll believe." But the truth is that God doesn’t often work in that kind of way.
God has made his revelation complete. If you are looking for an encounter with God, the place that you will find it is in the written and spoken word. You will probably encounter God through the words of a song, a prayer spoken, a verse read, or a word spoken. As worship takes place, God will step in to give you a glimpse of his presence.
God revealed himself to Isaiah in all of his holiness and glory. The glory which filled the world, a statement that proclaims the Lordship of God over the universe. The revelation experience reaches it’s peak in Isaiah’s statement, "I have seen the King, the Almighty God."
Isaiah could not have offered a more complete statement of God’s authority over his life than to call him the King. In a land filled with kings, the one above them all is the King of Kings. He is the ruler and controller of my life. To him I yield my will and my desires for he is my God.
How do you see God? How has he been revealed to you? Is he the old man that smiles at his creation with all of the charm of Santa Claus? Do you prefer to look at him as a doting Father, someone who could never be displeased by what we say and do? Or may you see someone who is no threat to who you are.
It is easy to look at God in that light. It is easy because it demands absolutely nothing from us. We can sit and proclaim the Fatherhood of God, and nothing has to change. We can continue on the life course that we previously had charted.
But when we change our focus, when we begin looking at God as the ruler of our lives, we will need to make a change. No longer are we free to decide our own destiny. We have surrendered our futures to God. We have said, "God, take my will, take my desires, take myself, and shape me as you please."
Yes, God does reveal himself to them that seek him. Are you looking for him? Are you desiring to encounter God?
2) God Cleanses Those Who Repent
Notice how smooth the transition is in Isaiah’s story. God revealed himself to Isaiah, and Isaiah’s response is confession. An encounter with God causes recognition of sinfulness.
"Woe unto me." We will loose our spiritual complacency and tolerance of sin when we realize awe of God. The result of our encounter with God is we feel our guilt. The only way you can live without guilt is by staying away from the presence of God, But spiritually, that is not too successful.
How then can you deal with guilt? Admit your guilt, and, instead of attacking the guilt, attacking the sin, which results in guilt.
Isaiah’s response of confession is not too popular anymore. We do not like the idea that we could be sinful. If we do admit our own sinfulness, the last thing we want to happen is for others to find out.
The confession of Isaiah, "I am a man of unclean lips," is reminiscent of Leviticus 13:45. The condemned leper was to leave town, go and live in a leper colony, outside of the camp, and warn anyone who came near. The lepers were commanded to wear torn clothing, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face, and cry out aloud to anyone who passed by, "Unclean, unclean."
Isaiah was not saying he had leprosy. His declaration was "I am as good as dead. I am a spiritual leper, unworthy of being in God’s presence."
Those around us can not help us. They are wallowing around in the same muck we are in.
When we are close enough to awe God, we are close enough to experience God’s grace. But sometimes the cleansing process is painful. But we can stand the pain.
We have not talked about the live, burning coal. We have romanticized grace. We have given the impression that getting wet is all that is needed. We talk about baptism, but not about confession and repentance.
The story of Charlotte Elliott, a world renowned opera singer give us a picture of the pain that comes with confession and cleansing.
A preacher attended a concert by Ms. Elliott, and was impressed by the beauty of her singing. After the concert, he approached her and mentioned how God could use her if she would come to him like everyone else, a sinner. The very thought was repulsive and painful for her, and she became angry.
That night, she was unable to sleep because of what the preacher had said. His words continued to run through her mind, over and over again. By morning, Charlotte Elliott had written these beautiful words:
Just as I am, without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou biddest me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come
Just as I am, and waiting not to rid my soul of one dark blot
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come
Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise, I believe, O Lamb of God, I come, I come
Cleansing is sure to be painful. The pride upon which you live must be destroyed. The desires which you strive for must be left behind. The will which was your strength must be surrendered. Everything that we are, everything that we ever hoped to be, is laid upon the altar, and sacrificed for Him.
Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Sometimes if burns as we receive it.
3) God Calls The Cleansed To Service
When Isaiah is cleaned up by God, he hears something he had never heard before, and he says something he has never said before. Notice the progression: Encounter God; recognize guilt; painful cleansing, and we hear and respond to the call for service. God calls the cleansed to service.
When, I served at the ministry in Athens, IL, the statement was made by a young woman, on her way out of the church on Sunday, "I can not think of a better church to be stagnant in." I believe that was suppose to be a compliment, but I think she was missing something.
God has not called us to sit in padded pews, Sunday after Sunday. God doesn’t need any more "pew potatoes." God needs people who will stand with Isaiah, and when the call is made "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" shout forth in a loud voice, "Here am I. Send me!"
Ephesians 2:10 says, "We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." The work is all ready. Are you getting your job done? Or are you rotting in the potato heap?
Statistics say that in the average church 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I’m thinking of a woman who teaches Sunday school, teaches youth groups, leads the prayer chain, calls weekly and hosts a Bible study. I’m thinking of a man who works with the youth groups, serves on the board, takes out communion to shut-ins, and serves on several ministry teams. But for each one of these people there are at least a couple who serve in no way at all.
First Christian Church can never meet the challenge that faces her until everyone takes God’s call to service seriously. Don’t tell me how good the sermon was. Show God in your service for Him.
Let’s look further. From 1975 to the late 1980’s enrollment among the Christian Church Bible colleges declined about 30%. Do you know what bothers me about that? That parents and guidance counselors are telling their children, "You don’t want to go into ministry! You will never make any money doing that!"
In 2000 from the 30 Bible colleges there were only about 500 graduates. Keep that in mind when you think that the median age for ministers in the Christian churches is 55, and the average age of missionaries 56. In the next ten years half of the present ministers and missionaries will be over retirement age. We are loosing ground.
What about the 5000 to 7000 language groups around the world who have never heard the name of Jesus? Do they have to die in their sin, so we can do as we please?
There is no doubt that God has called you to service. Could God be calling you to specialized service, and you are just ignoring him? Do we need to change the words to the old familiar song to:
I’ll go where I want to do dear Lord
In a small middle class town
I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord
As long as I can be what I want to be
Look how God feels about worship without service in Isaiah 1:11-8: "The multitude of your sacrifices - what are they to me?" says the Lord. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, or rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."
Consider this from songwriter Keith Green, the words from Can’t You See.
A reporter from the US News and World Report in 1985 asked Mother Teresa why she made the move from a successful 27 year teaching career with upper class children in India to working with the outcasts of the nation. Mother Teresa’s answer was simple, but we don’t live it. "God did not call me to be successful, only faithful.
All that we could gather around us will not amount to anything, after we are gone. The only thing that will last is what is done for Christ.
Maybe you have special talents and abilities that you have never allowed God to use. God can only use us when we surrender all to him.
If you enter into worship attempting to seek God, He will be revealed to you. If may not be in the vision of Isaiah, but he will appear. What will you do with Him?
God calls you to repent.
God calls you to place yourself in Christ.
God calls you to serve.