Well, the day is not even half over, but I had to post during our free time this afternoon. Landon Dowden, New Orleans Baptist Seminary grad and pastor/planter of Crosspoint Church in Baton Rouge, LA is one of our speakers this week. The theme is The Mission of God. This a.m., he spoke from Isaiah 6. The main point was that we must know God truly before we can be on mission with Him.
The prophet Isaiah discovered that quickly. When in a vision, he found himself in the throne room of the Creator, all he could exclaim was, “Woe is me, for I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips, and and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
Dowden said that we are not free to think anything we want to about God. His point? “We think too little of Him and too much of ourselves.” Isaiah discovered this, and it was clear that being in God’s presence and seeing Him clearly brought rapid horror. He had thought one thing about God, but being in God’s presence clarified things quickly.
What was the angels’ song? “Holy, holy, holy…” This is the only attribute of God that is repeated thrice like this in scripture. We don’t see “love, love, love” or “mercy, mercy, mercy,” but God’s holiness is extolled and magnified.
God’s holiness means God’s “otherness,” or His separate-ness. He is different and apart from us because He is completely pure, totally righteous, and devoid of any evil. Thus, He is holy. The scary thing? … He asks us to be holy, as He is holy.
- In Exodus 22.31, He said, “You are to be my holy people.”
- In Leviticus 11.14, He said, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”
- 1 Peter 1.16 echoes this passage when the apostle quotes, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Knowing that we serve a holy God means that we must enter God’s mission with humility and a desire to separate ourselves from worldly passions and desires. It literally means that we must die to ourselves and allow God to make us holy through our love relationship with Jesus Christ (for we cannot through self-effort or behavior modification achieve our own holiness; it is a gift).
Seeing God on His throne caused Isaiah to realize His own compromise with his culture. The amazing thing is how God responded to Isaiah. He sent an angel with a live coal to teach his lips. Rather than becoming the first lipless prophet in history (I guess he’d talk like Elmer Fudd… “hewo, my nay is Isaiah..”, the coal rather took away his sin and iniquity, effectively cleansing him and preparing him for mission.
But notice that Isaiah had to first see and understand who God truly is before he could be a part of God’s mission. I think too often that we have compromised with our culture and allow things, habits, and people into our lives that belittle God’s holiness. As we swim around in cultural dirty water, we become dirty too. Then we begin thinking less of God and making much of ourselves. We interpret God as we think He should be, and gradually we morph Him into god rather than LORD. He becomes more a creation of our imagination than the true God. We find ourselves worshipping and serving a god who actually doesn’t exist because we have denied the one true God and refused to allow His attributes to infect our own character.
Let me stop here and just say this… It’s messages like these that make me appreciate what God is doing among collegians in our day. Can you imagine having heard, taken to heart, and begun to apply a message of God’s holiness when you were 18? God is continuing to move in a mighty way among collegians today, and it must be a strategic focus of any church that is near a college.
Dowden compared Isaiah’s reality shift to the one that took place in A Beautiful Mind. In the movie, Noble prize winner John Forbes Nash is firmly convinced of a non-reality, peopled by friends and colleagues that do not actually exist. Finally, with help and significant intervention, he encounters true reality and realizes that much of his life has been a lie.
Such is our own existence when we attempt to live life apart from knowing and embracing the truth about God and of God.
Dowden closed by urging us all to display the holiness of God to a world lost in non-reality. We were created to bear His image, yet we have sadly fallen in love with bearing images of ourselves that flatter us and help us get through life with the least conflict.
Our holy God is on mission, and He calls every person to Himself first and to His mission second.
- What is your concept of holiness and what needs to change?
- How can you change your understanding of God to be one that truly reflects who He is?
- What compromises do you make that hinder His holiness from being displayed in you?