“Woe to me” -A Holy Response

“Holiness is not absolute perfection, which belongs to God only; nor is it angelic perfection; nor is it Adamic perfection — for, no doubt, Adam had a perfect head as well as a perfect heart before he sinned against God. But it is Christian perfection — such perfection and obedience of the heart as a poor fallen creature, aided by almighty power and boundless grace, can give.” –Samuel Logan Brengle

Isaiah 6:3-8 (NIV)
3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This is probably my favorite passage on holiness, anointing, and appointing.  Recently our church has begun a bible study series and sermon series on the topic of metamorphosis…and I can tell you right now that it is very difficult – next to impossible to preach and teach on such subjects and not be compelled, convicted and motivated to do the same in my personal life.  This topic of metamorphosis is more about holiness than it is about a self-help topic to church goers.  How can we, sinners saved by grace transform ourselves by our own power…the short answer is we can’t!  The power to do such saving, delivering and transforming is God’s alone.  His Holy Spirit alone has the power to transform us from the inside out, but don’t think for a moment that we do not have some responsibility in this transforming process.  Our responsibilities begin and end with our free-will.  We have to choose, we have to want this transformational power.

The prophet Isaiah writes in these verses that when he was in the presence of God he was convicted of how imperfect and unholy he truly was; “Woe to me!” I cried.  “I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (v5)  I do not believe this to be some sort of preamble or allegory to explain his message to the people of Israel; I believe this to be Isaiah’s actual response to the very presence of God.  This is his eye witness report and his response. When God’s fallen creation stands before Him, we cannot but help notice our imperfections, our failures, our unworthiness in the light of His perfection and might.

Do you want to know a really wonderful fact about our God?  He is not content to let us remain that way!  God, through the power Holy Spirit, desires each of us to come face to face with our inadequacies, our imperfections, our faults.  When this happens, one of two things takes place, we either reject these promptings and ignore what He’s revealing to us, or we are brought to our knees in repentance and conviction declaring like Isaiah, “Woe to me, I am ruined!”   It might not be exactly that drastic, but the sense of heart wrenching conviction ought to drive us to our knees again seeking not only God’s forgiveness, but God’s power to be transformed, renewed and holier than before.

You see, God has the remedy for our imperfections, our faults and our failures.  Like Isaiah, who was broken in the presence of God, we too have to be broken vessels before we can be vessels for His purpose and His purpose alone.  When He breaks us, He replaces our imperfect pieces with His holiness further restoring that image of Him in us.  When Isaiah is touched with the hot coals by the Seraph, God’s purity touched impurity, and guess which one won?  Of course the purity and holiness of God cleansed and removed the guilt and shame of sin!

The awesome thing here for us to glean is that God wants to do this with you and me as well!    We may not be a mighty prophet like Isaiah, but we are children of God and because of this, God will not settle for the old imperfections and sin in our new lives and we shouldn’t either!     2 Corinthians 5:17 says; Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  Christ is and should be the blueprint of godly living for us in our lives today!  When we give up our selfish desires, our foolish pride, and surrender our old ways of living, God can then begin this amazing transformation in us.

Lastly, the evidence of a transformed and holy life is the yearning and painful groaning in our hearts for the rest of humanity.  When God has saved us, and is transforming us with His holiness; when our pride and our selfishness is no more, we then begin to see how desperately the people around us also need this transformation in their lives as well…when that happens, we cannot help but say like Isaiah, “Here am I, send me!”  Because it is then no longer about us, our pride, our desire for notoriety, it is about the power of God and His desire for right relationship with His creation – mankind.

This transformation of Holiness begins on our knees, as we too declare “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  It’s not about beating ourselves up, it’s about humbling ourselves before God and allowing Him to penetrate our hearts and lives with His transforming power!

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