A High View of God
A High View of God
Sunday AM Service 12-31-06
I want to thank Bro. Jim for giving me the opportunity to preach to you today and thank you for allowing me the privilege of sharing God’s word with you this morning. You know, when you preach in a church that is not your home church, it is really difficult to know what to preach on being unfamiliar with the needs and circumstances of the church.
However, I do know that your church is presently in the process of searching for a new Pastor, so I thought that this morning and this evening, I would offer some advice on two essential and foundational qualities to look for in anyone you might be considering calling as your pastor.
Now the good thing about this advice is that it is free, and yes, I know some of you may be thinking, “Yah! and you get what you pay for”. But I trust that won’t be true of this advice because I believe it is the advice of Scripture.
The two qualities that I believe are absolutely foundational and essential in any pastor wanting to grow a church God’s way are that he must have: “A High View of God” and “A High View of Scripture” and an unwavering commitment to build those qualities into the warp and woof of the church he is called to pastor. Without these two qualities trying to build a church would be like trying to put walls up on a house that had no foundation or frame. It is these two matters that give structure and form and keep everything in its proper place in every genuine spiritual building. So I want us to look at these two matters, this morning at the need for “A High View of God” and then this evening, the need for “A High View of Scripture”. With that said turn to Isaiah 6 and stand as we read the first 9 verses. (I am reading from the NASB).
Isaiah 6:1-9 1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out 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 trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among 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, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 And he touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.” 8 Then 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!” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ NASB
Whether we are speaking of the local church as a whole or the individuals in it, I believe that the foundational starting place for all true spiritual growth is to have a High and Proper View of God.
Ephesians 2:19-20 states, 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone. It is Christ Jesus, The Lord God, who is the foundational corner stone of every genuine spiritual building. It is a proper and high view of God which is the beginning of, and the basis for, all spiritual growth, whether corporate or individual.
What I am getting at here is that it is of the utmost importance that we see God for who He is in relation to who we are because that is what puts everything else into its proper perspective. The starting place for true growth is to see God for who He is—GOD! I believe this is what verses like Proverbs 15:33 are getting at where Solomon tells us that it is: Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.
God generated, Holy Spirit empowered growth, starts with a proper “fear of the Lord”, with a proper awe, reverence and respect of who He is. We live in an irreverent, disrespectful, immoral and self-indulgent age. And I am sorry to say that many of these attitudes which are so indicative of our culture, have spilled over into our personal lives and into the church today. I believe the prevailing attitude of our day is aptly described by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:1-4 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
More and more today we as individuals have become self-centered, and more and more, the church has become man-centered which I believe is a strong indication that by and large, both individually and corporately, we have lost a genuine “fear of the Lord”.
Because of this, the church more and more is becoming an organization dedicated to the building up of self-worth and the entertainment of the saints, rather than being a living organism dedicated to Glorifying, Worshiping, and serving the one true God.
I am very concerned about the self-help, personal prosperity, number oriented, and felt needs focus that have become so prevalent in the modern American church. These doctrines, which focus on man’s desires rather than on God’s majesty, rob God of His glory and detract from our genuine love and admiration of Him.
As believers, our attention should be directed God-ward not man-ward. We need to follow David’s example as he put it in Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Everything that came to David, came to him through his focus on God. (Expound – as long as his focus was on God, he could not be shaken).
To maintain a proper focus, we must have a high and proper view of God. The problem is that there is a casual, sometimes flippant attitude at work toward God in our culture today. We can see this in some of the ways God is referred to, such as, “good buddy”, or “the Big Guy upstairs”, or “my pal God”, or “God understands me, (i.e., condones my sin)”. Or, one of my favorites, “I think God has a sense of humor”. Well, God does have a sense of humor, but He doesn’t laugh at the same things we do. Note, Psalm 37:12-13 12 The wicked plots against the righteous, And gnashes at him with his teeth. 13 The Lord laughs at him; For He sees his day is coming. What God laughs at, we don’t think is funny.
Even so, God is joked about and referred to in the most irreverent and disrespectful ways today in both the secular world and in the church. How often do you hear God’s name used by people in a trivial and flippant way, or just as an exclamation like, “O my God” which, among other things, is a clear violation of the third commandment — do not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And people will excuse themselves by saying they didn’t really mean anything by it and were not intentionally demeaning God. And I think that is my point, God has become so minimized and trivialized by our culture that we no longer even recognize when we violate His majesty and holiness. Contrast this commonly expressed, flippant, disrespectful attitude toward God with the way Scripture speaks of our God.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Philippians 2:12-13 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Hebrews 12:28-29 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
What a contrast to the flippant, disrespectful attitude so often expressed towards God today. The problem is that by and large, we have lost a proper view of who God is in relation to who we are. All too often people see God as their peer or as someone to do their bidding and take care of their woes, rather than seeing Him properly as their Maker and King. All too often people forget the about the perfect righteousness and elevated position of the one and only true God. And because people believe they deserve mercy, Justice is now often viewed as being unjust. People are shocked by the idea of a just God who executes judgment against sinners because they no longer view God with the awe and respect He deserves. People, both in and out of the church, have lost a proper and high view of God.
Often people will begin to lower their view of God by trying to make an invalid distinction between the “O.T” God and the “N.T” God. People will ask the question, “What kind of God is the God of the O.T.?”
The typical critics line is — What kind of God sends the Israelites into Canaan and tells them to wipe out all the people? "That's not the spirit of Jesus is it?" "What kind of God does that?" "That's the O.T. God not the N.T. God." Well, what kind of God does send His people into Canaan with the command to wipe out all its inhabitants? A God who hates sin. That's who. The Canaanite people were a cancer on society. They were destroyed as an act of God's judgment, by a God who cannot tolerate sin against a people whose cup of sin was full. And the God who hates sin in the Old Testament is the same God who hates sin in the New Testament. I only know, and the Bible only reveals one God. Not one Old Testament God and one New Testament God. The God of the Old Testament is the same One we meet in the New Testament and He is a God who hates and judges sin. Scripture provides ample examples of the fact that God is a God who hates and judges sin. We will only have time to mention a few of these briefly. Note:
In Gen. 38:7, we read about Judah’s son Er being executed just for being so wicked.
In Gen. 38:8-10 we read about Onan, Er’s brother, being killed for not obeying the command to produce children by his brother’s widow.
Gen. 19:26 records that Lot’s wife was killed for looking back with regrets to Sodom.
In Lev. 10:1-2 we are told that Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering strange fire to God, that is for worshiping God in a manner of their own invention which God had not commanded. (Expound – the American church should pay particular attention to this – God has told us precisely how to worship Him).
In Num. 16 we are told that Korah and his followers were swallowed up by the earth for rebelling against God’s ordained leader Moses.
God’s Justice is no respecter of persons either, in 1 Chron. 10:13-14 we are told that King Saul was killed for his disobedience.
In 2 Sam. 6:6-7 we are told that Uzzah was killed for his irreverence when he reached out and touched the Ark of the Covenant to keep it from falling off of a cart.
God’s execution of sinners is not just O.T. either. In Acts 12 we are told that Herod Agrippa 1 was eaten by worms for robbing God of His glory by allowing others to elevate him to the place of God after he had made a good speech.
In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira were killed for lying to the Holy Spirit about their giving.
I have shared these instances with you, and this is just a partial list, because I want us to understand and have no doubt about the fact that God is not timid about executing His Judgment against unrighteousness. He is not one to be trifled with. As Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Our God is a God to fear and respect, a God who must be taken seriously.
You talk about the kind of God like the One we just saw executing people in the Scriptures and people say “What’s going on?”. Why would a God of Love act like that? Because people misunderstand God, they always ask the wrong questions. The question is not why did God kill those folks for their sin?, the question is, Why does God let any of us live?
You see, by and large people have lost sight of the righteousness of God and because of this we have become confused in our understanding of Him.
This is the same thing that happened to the Jewish people and Judaism. Remember what the Apostle Paul said of the Jews in Romans 10:2-3 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. 3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
You see, the Jews’ problem was that they did not see God to be as righteous as He is, and they saw themselves as more righteous than they were, so, by lowering God a little, and elevating themselves a little, they found compatibility, a righteousness which they could achieve in their own strength. And in the end they neither knew nor understood the righteousness of God. So is the way of all manmade religion.
What the Jews missed, and what we must see if we hope to grow spiritually, is a proper view of God’s holiness. Holy is the one all inclusive term that sums up all that God is. When we refer to the holiness of God we are referring to the sum total of all of His perfections and in particular we are referring to His absolute and perfect purity by which He can not and will not tolerate sin.
When we refer to God’s holiness we are referring to what many theologians refer to as God’s “other otherness”. Other than what? Other than what we are, which is sinful and imperfect. And when we don’t see God for as other from us as we ought to, we loose sight of the majesty, beauty, perfection, power, and transcendence of our God and then we tend to tolerate sin, first in ourselves and then in others, and this stops spiritual growth in its tracks, at least from the human point of view. (Explain – God will grow us through our failures, but Scripture recognizes our participation in our spiritual development and instructs us that we can hinder or aid the process).
So, to keep ourselves positioned for spiritual growth we must have and maintain a proper view of God’s Holiness, and the best way I know to do this is to have an Encounter with God. When we look in Scripture and see the encounters that people had with God, one thing is common to each of those occurrences. When people come face-to-face with God, so to speak, they see two things, His magnificence and holiness, and their weakness and impurity. While I do not believe God deals any longer with His people through direct confrontation like we see in the O.T., we can still have the same kind of up-close-and-personal encounters with Him by meeting Him face-to-face in His Holy Word. One such encounter recorded for us in Scripture is found in the passage from Isaiah chapter 6 which we read earlier. By prayerfully considering this passage of Scripture we can have the same kind of encounter, the same kind of experience that the prophet had. We can meet our God up close and personal and encounter our God with the same results that Isaiah experienced.
I would like for us to briefly look at six things about Isaiah's encounter with God in Isaiah 6:1-9: His Crisis; His Confrontation; His Conviction and Confession; His Cleansing; His Consecration; His Commission. First note:
His Crisis (v. 1a)
Isaiah 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.
In this verse we find Isaiah in the temple of his God and the reason he is there is because his world is collapsing around him and he is confused and concerned. There are a couple of things which have driven Isaiah to this point of personal crisis.
— The eminent forthcoming judgment of God which he has seen is coming to Israel. (Expound).
— The death of his friend king Uzziah. (Expound).
It doesn't have to be this way, but how often it is that it takes a crisis situation to drive us to seek the face of our God. (Expound).
So, Isaiah is at a crisis point in his life, and is driven to his God and next note:
His Confrontation (vv. 1b-4)
Verses 1-4 describes Isaiah's confrontation with God. Isaiah was seeking his God and now he is confronted by his God. There are several things we can learn from this confrontation which will also be true when we are confronted by God through His Word.
In verse 1 Isaiah says, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple — this pictures God's majesty, rule, preeminence and glory. (Expound — when we encounter almighty God, all notions of the casual and silliness disappear).
In verse 2 we read that, Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. Note the priority of these permanent servants of God — 4 wings for worship, 2 for service.
In verse 3 we are told of the Seraphim, And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." In a kind of heavenly antitheses, we see the angelic Seraphim declaring to one another the Holiness of God.
Remember, Holy, is the one all inclusive term that sums up all that God is in all His perfections. It refers to the sum total of all of God's perfections.
No other characteristic or attribute of God is used to describe God in this way — being repeated 3 times. He is never referred to as love, love, love, or merciful, merciful, merciful, or just, just, just, or patient, patient, patient. But Holy, Holy, Holy. We need to recognize that God is Holy. We need to understand He is perfectly perfect. When we do, we then will have a proper perspective of God and we will see Him as He is described in:
Verse 4 — And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. This verse pictures the awesome power of God and the white hot heat of His Holiness. You see, it is in the white hot light of God's Holiness that everything comes into proper focus in our lives. It was in the white hot heat of God's holiness that Isaiah saw God for whom God is, and saw himself for whom he was. When Isaiah was confronted with the Holiness of God, it led to the only thing such a confrontation can:
His Conviction and Confession (v. 5)
Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
This verse describes Isaiah's response to his encounter with Holy God. Note how he responded.
— First Isaiah says, Woe is me, for I am ruined! (Expound — Woe=damned; Isaiah saw his sinfulness—was convicted of his sin).
— Upon seeing his sin, Isaiah then confesses — Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips. When Isaiah was confronted by a holy God he was convicted of his sin and then he confessed his sin. And note he confessed it specifically and plainly. He didn’t minimize it or excuse it, he simply humbly confessed it. He wasn’t concerned about personal embarrassment, but the fact that he had offended Holy God. (Expound and note the significance of mouth as Isaiah's trademark; also note need for confession today rather than building up of self-esteem).
— What caused Isaiah to respond to God in this way? I believe we have the answer to that question in the last part of verse 5 where Isaiah says, For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. The reason Isaiah responded in humble conviction and confession was because he had seen the Holiness, Magnificence, and Majesty of the living God.
Isaiah’s response to God serves as quite a contrast to the attitudes we see expressed today by those who have supposedly “seen” the Lord. I get real skeptical when I hear someone telling about seeing God today. (E.g. man shaving, the heavenly tie, Jessie D.).
When we truly encounter the living holy God we will conclude one thing, I'm bad and I'm doomed in the same way Isaiah did.
We cannot see our own sin very well, but it becomes clearly exposed by God's Holiness. The foolish pride and nonsense of man disappears into fearful self-recognition in the light of the awesome holiness of God.
When we see God, we are going to see 2 things: His holiness, and our sinfulness, and this is, and should be, very intimidating. Note how the people of Scripture responded to the presence of God.
— The example of the disciples in the boat. (Mark 4:35-41).
— The example of Daniel. (Daniel 10:4-9).
— The example of Habakkuk. (Hab.3:16) In the third chapter of Habakkuk, that prophet of God saw a picture of God's judgment and just went to pieces.
— The example of Samson's parents. Manoah, Samson's father, saw God and said to his wife, "We've seen God, We'll die." (Judges 13:15-22).
— The example of Job. Job 42:5-6 5 I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; But now mine eye has seen thee: 6 Therefore I abhor myself, And I repent in dust and ashes.
You see, these people all knew what we must know, that God is God! God is not some kind of utilitarian genie we carry around in our pocket and pull out whenever we wish, to do our bidding and take care of our woes.
When we see God for what He is — holy — we will then see ourselves for what we are — sinful, helpless and undeserving. (Expound – I’m afraid we don't really see ourselves as worthless and undeserving). It is from the perspective of recognizing our own sinfulness and helplessness that we are positioned to receive God's grace for what we need — for forgiveness, for provision, for growth and for service..
When we come face to face with the Holy almighty God, it brings conviction to our hearts and from this conviction flows confession and repentance. Following his conviction and confession we then see:
His Cleansing (vv. 6-7)
Isaiah 6:6-7 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 And he touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven." [Expound — Isaiah was not left in his state of woe and neither will we be when we confess and repent].
So, Isaiah in personal Crisis, seeks his God. When he seeks his God, he finds God and is confronted by Him. In this confrontation with holy God, Isaiah recognizes his own sinfulness and confesses his sin. When he confesses his sin, God cleanses and forgives him, and then note, once he is cleansed, then he is consecrated, or set apart for service, note verse 8.
His Consecration (v. 8)
Isaiah 6:8 Then 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!"
It is after cleansing that we are ready for service. Isaiah was consecrated or set apart for the Lord's service after he was cleansed. (Expound — it is after we are cleansed that we are ready for service, not before—God doesn't use dirty utensils). So, Isaiah was cleansed, then he was consecrated for service, and then he was Commissioned. Look at the first part of verse 9.
His Commission (v. 9a)
Isaiah 6:9 And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.'
He said Go. You're the kind of people I'm looking for, people who are broken and contrite in spirit. Psalm 34:18 states, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit. God is looking for people with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and we become broken and contrite when we encounter God in His holiness, and are broken in genuine repentance over our own sin. To close our discussion of God's holiness and the response that that holiness should produce in us, note Isaiah 66:1-2, 1 Thus says the Lord, "Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? 2 "For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being," declares the Lord. "But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. [Expound and note that His holiness calls us to be holy likewise].
1 Peter 1:15-16 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
The first bottom line non-negotiable truth which we must have firmly planted in our hearts is that we must take God Seriously. We can’t be flippant about God. We must have a high and proper view of our God, giving Him the awe and reverence He deserves. This is the cornerstone of our spiritual life. It is on this foundation that the remainder of our spiritual building rests.