Face to Face with God: When God gets close

face2face

1. We are what we speak
In the presence of the pure holiness of God Isaiah acknowledged immediately that most of what came out of his mouth was not clean.  Would we be prepared to acknowledge the same?

This calls for honesty. The words we use are symptomatic of the state of our hearts. (Jam 3:5-6) A.W. Tozer said:

“I believe that there is little sense of sin among the saved and that the average Christian lives a life so worldly and careless that it is difficult to distinguish him from the unconverted.”

2. When we say “woe”
There is a tenderness that comes into the heart of a man or a woman who has been in the presence of God and has been compelled to say, “Woe to me!”

“Woe”, for the prophets of the Old Testament, was a potent weapon in their arsenal of words. It always preceded the most serious of announcements of judgement. That’s true in Jesus’ ministry to (Matthew 5:8-9; 23:13). Entire cities and even whole nations had the words “woe to you” pronounced over them, as well us smaller groups of people (Num 21:29; Jer 13:27; Ez 13:3; Hos 7:13; 9:12; Amos 5:18; 6:1).

For Isaiah this was his moment was the truth (Jer 9:23). The same kind of experience has been true for all of the great men and women whom God has mightily used throughout Church history. Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, C.H. Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Billy Graham, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, Anne Graham Lotz, and many more. At some point they came under the overwhelming conviction of the reality and corruption of their own lives through the all-pervasive presence of sin. Then, when they had truly encountered God, he gave their ministry a burning focus.

For example, in the 1830s in Dundee, Robert Murray McCheyne, a young pastor, saw an amazing move of God in his church and local parish. Hundreds of people were converted to faith in Christ in the space of a few weeks and the church congregation swelled in size. Later, someone asked him, “What is the greatest need of this church?” He could have answered, “Better facilities … more finances … better programmes … excellent music…” – a whole host of factors that we count important today in relationship to church growth. Instead he replied, “My personal holiness”, by which he meant the life-changing result of an awesome encounter with God in his life.

3. The disintegration factor
Isaiah saw God, he felt like a leper! He was more the “carrier” than the “cure” of their diseases (Lk 4:23). R.C. Sproul, once wrote:

“For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was … In the flash of the moment Isaiah had a new and radical understanding of sin. He saw that it was pervasive, in himself and everyone else.”

Isaiah’s experience is sometimes called the “the disintegration factor”. Integrity means “wholeness”, so dis-integrity or disintegration means “to be broken into pieces”. Isaiah had to be broken before God before he could be put back together. He was literally “shattered” by this experience, and humanly speaking there seemed to be no way that he could possibly get his life together again.

It is a good thing to be pulled apart if God is doing the pulling. It is the road to saving faith. It is also the precursor to an achieving faith that accomplishes mighty things for God and His kingdom. In effect, you become a dead man or woman and then you are resurrected and finally get to truly live!  C.S. Lewis said:

“God is the only comfort.  He is also the supreme terror; the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from.  If you think meeting God face to face will be fun, you need to think again.  You are still only playing with religion.”

In the Christian life we discover that the best place to start serving God is on our faces. We start from the bottom and work up (1 Peter 5:5-6).  There is a breath taking freedom released of coming clean about hidden sin? We need to bring things out into the open, confess our sins before him, bringing them under the blood of Christ and then ask the Holy Spirit to empower us to be free of them.

We need to stop trying to defend the indefensible and stop making excuses for the inexcusable. The cross is the only remedy for sin. Have you been there recently?