The Transforming Vision
Text: Isaiah 6:1-8
FCF: We resist cleansing and are unable to serve God effectively because of that resistance.
It is not difficult in our world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate. Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.
-- A Long Obedience In the Same Direction
God’s will is not accomplished because people are not obedient. In order to serve God effectively, we must be transformed by His cleansing Power. Through his sacrifice, we are enabled to sacrifice ourselves to His will. It is only as we get a glimpse of who God is and who we are in relation to him that this can happen. Only when we get a true picture of who God is, and we see ourselves as we truly are, can we be transformed for service that is acceptable to Him.
Isaiah had a vision through which he was uniquely transformed and enabled to serve God. Although we may not experience the vision of God in the same way Isaiah did, the basic ingredients of his vision can be applied to ourselves in order to become a vessel fit for the masters use.
1. We must understand our individual condition
a. Through a correct vision of God
Far back in my boyhood I remember an old saint telling me that after some services he liked to make his way home alone, by quiet byways, so that the hush of the Almighty might remain on his awed and prostrate soul. That is the element we are losing, and its loss is one of the measures of our poverty, and the primary secret of our inefficient life and service. And what is the explanation of the loss? Preeminently our impoverished conception of God. ...
Men who are possessed by a powerful God can never themselves be impotent. But have we not robbed the Almighty of much of His awful glory, and to that extent are we not ourselves despoiled? We have contemplated the beauties of the rainbow, but we have overlooked the dim severities of the throne. We have toyed with the light, but we have forgotten the lightning. We have rejoiced in the fatherhood of our God, but too frequently the fatherhood we have proclaimed has been throneless and effeminate. We have picked and chosen according to the weakness of our own tastes, and not according to the full-orbed revelation of the truth, and we have selected the picturesque and rejected the appalling.
-- John Henry Jowett in Listening to the Giants. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 9
God is holy. Fire is the symbol of holy power. Jealousy, wrath, remoteness, cleanliness, glory, and majesty are related to it. He is unsearchable, incomprehensible, incomparable, great, wonderful, and exalted. His name is Holy.
--- Holman Bible Dictionary
b. Through a correct vision of ourselves
i. Lowly (unworthy of worship)
God creates out of nothing. Therefore, until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.
-- Martin Luther, "Martin Luther--The Early Years," Christian History, no. 34.
Keith Miller puts it this way:
It has never ceased to amaze me that we Christians have developed a kind of selective vision which allows us to be deeply and sincerely involved in worship and church activities and yet almost totally pagan in the day in, day out guts of our business lives and never realize it.
Lois K. Blanchard pictures Christ as still walking the streets today. She asks these pointed questions: "If Jesus came to your own home to spend a day or two -- If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you'd do? I know you'd give your nicest room to such an honored Guest, and all the food you'd serve to Him would be the very best. And you would keep assuring Him you're glad to have Him there -- That serving Him in your own home is joy beyond compare; but when you saw Him standing there, could you go to the door, with arms outstretched to welcome Him your Heavenly Visitor? Or would you have to change some things before you let Him in? Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been? Would family conversation be continued at its pace? And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace? Would you be glad to have him meet your very closest friends? Or would you hope they'd stay away until His visit ends? Would you be glad to have Him stay forever, on and on? Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone? It might cause some embarrassment the things that you would do, if Jesus came to your own house to spend some time with you.
Think about it. Does your home [heart] need a bit of spiritual remodeling?
2. We must undergo individual cleansing
a. Cleansing from guilt of past actions
A boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon, when a bumblebee flew in the car window. The little boy, who was allergic to bee stings, was petrified. The father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. The boy grew frantic as it buzzed by him. Once again the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his palm. There stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. "Do you see this?" he asked. "You don't need to be afraid anymore. I've taken the sting for you." We do not need to fear death anymore. Christ has died and risen again. He has taken the sting from death.
-- Adrian Dieleman, Waupun, Wisconsin. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 1.
b. Cleansing from pollution of heart
To align two objects on the far side of a field and keep them in
perfect alignment to guarantee ploughing a straight line is a good
illustration of what God has provided in His divine grace to secure to
us a place in Heaven. It takes more than just a title to a mansion in
the skies to make Heaven. A "born-again" experience gives one a "title
to a mansion in the sky," but there must also be a fitness--"holiness,
without which no man can see the Lord." There must be a cleansing of
the heart from the very nature of sin in order for the divine grace of
God to plant in the heart a perfect peace that can look forward to the
end of this life and to a holy heaven with absolutely no qualms of
fear. As wonderful as the forgiveness of our sins is, with the nature
of sin still resident in the heart there yet remains a certain amount
of the fear of judgment! Thank God for the provision that has been
made in the death of Christ on the cross to cleanse the heart from the
very nature of sin (Eph. 5:25-27).
We'll Get to That Later - - - I. Parker Maxey
3. We must undertake our individual commission
God has a plan for each of our lives, but until we accept it and are willing to submit to it, we are not going to experience the joy of that plan coming to fruition. In order to find true fulfillment, we have to let Him fulfill his plan in our lives. That comes about by two things.
a. A relinquished will
The true pupil, say of some great musician or painter, yields his master a wholehearted and unhesitating submission. In practicing his scales or mixing the colors, in the slow and patient study of the elements of his art, he knows that it is wisdom simply and fully to obey.
It is this wholehearted surrender to His guidance, this implicit submission to His authority, which Christ asks. We come to Him asking Him to teach us the lost art of obeying God as He did. ... The only way of learning to do a thing is to do it. The only way of learning obedience from Christ is to give up your will to Him and to make the doing of His will the one desire and delight of your heart.
-- Andrew Murray in With Christ in the School of Obedience. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 13.
b. A receptive ear
In George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan, Joan of Arc is always hearing voices from God, and the king is angered by this. He complains to her, "Oh, your voices! Your voices! Why don't your voices come to me? I'm the king, not you."
"They do come," she replied. "But you do not hear them. You've not sat in the field in the evening listening for them. When the Angelus rings, you cross yourself and have done with it. But if you prayed from your heart and listened to the trilling of the bells in the air after they stopped ringing, you would hear the voices as well as I do."
-- Ben Patterson, "A Faith Like Mary's," Preaching Today, Tape No. 87.
For years the Bible was a dead book to me ... like grits without salt. But after I gave my life to Jesus Christ, it became alive. I saw that the Bible was God's way of talking to me.
-- Steve Bartkowski, quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, quoted by Jamie Buckingham in Power for Living. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 11.
What Isaiah experienced in the Old Testament, God provided for all believers at Pentecost with the Baptism of the Spirit. The fire that touched the apostles at pentecost was the fire of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, our appetite for the Holy Spirit is cooled because of fanaticism of and because of how some have mishandled the Word of God. We have become like aan inexperienced farmer I once heard of.
A city dweller moved to a farm and bought a cow. Shortly after he did, the cow went dry. When he reported this fact to a neighbor farmer, the farmer expressed surprise. The city man said he was surprised too. "I can't understand it either, for if ever a person was considerate of an animal, I was of that cow. If I didn't need any milk, I didn't milk her. If I only needed a quart, I only took a quart." The farmer tried to explain that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible. Is that not also true of the Christian life? Those who only turn to God in need miss the real joy that flows from a daily infilling of His Spirit.
Just because some have distorted the truth is no reason to back up from the truth altogether. We need to embrace the Holy Spirit and His cleansing work in our lives.