Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Can You Minister Effectively Without Holiness?

Summary:  The great prophet Isaiah had a vision of God and His holiness and was immediately aware of his own sinfulness and uselessness for God's work. Yet just minutes later we see the prophet confidently volunteering for a ministry assignment by God: "Here am I. Send me!" What happened to bring such change in Isaiah? And what lessons can we draw for our own ministries today?

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Isaiah 6:1-8  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. [2] Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. [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 seraphim 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!”

The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord and was in terror: “Woe to me, I am ruined, I am a man of unclean lips.” Then seemingly just minutes later we hear him crying out confidently to the Lord to volunteer for ministry: “Here am I. Send me!” This remarkable heavenly vision in just eight verses reveals to us an absolute prerequisite for effective ministry by anyone called and sent by God to do His work.

Let’s briefly review the vision to see why Isaiah initially was groveling in fear before the Lord, yet shortly thereafter was responding excitedly to the Lord’s appeal, “Whom shall I send?” What exactly did Isaiah see?

• (vs. 1) He “saw the Lord…on [His] throne” in heaven.
 
• (2) He saw the magnificent seraphim above the Lord. Many Bible scholars believe them to be a high order of angelic beings.
 
• (3) He hears the seraphim loudly praising God: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
 
• (5) The Lord’s splendid, glorious holiness (3) so starkly contrasted with Isaiah’s human sinfulness that the prophet cried out, “Woe to me, I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips.”
 
• (6f) Then one of the seraphim took a live coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips, visually symbolizing God’s forgiveness of Isaiah’s sins: “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
 
• (8) God cries out, “Whom shall I send?” [to Israel with God’s message]. Now purged of the guilt of his sins, Isaiah was able to respond with confidence in the presence of God’s absolute, glorious holiness, “Here am I. Send me!”

I want to keep this Bible study brief and will get right to the point. What exactly did Isaiah see that first plunged him into despairing fear? He saw (vs. 3) the glory of God Almighty splendidly manifested in His impeccable, absolute, unblemished, unlimited holiness! In the brilliant radiance of God’s holiness, the prophet felt “ruined” as he regarded his own human sinfulness.

But then God provided “atonement” for Isaiah’s sin. The live coal from the altar was the visual symbol then. The ultimate atonement for all the sins of all who will believe and repent was provided over seven centuries later, with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection. This is our “Gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and it was prophetically foreshadowed in Isaiah’s heavenly vision.

Cleansed of his sin by God’s atoning action, the prophet now felt confidence in the presence of God’s radiant, glorious Presence and holiness to reply to God’s call with “Here am I. Send me!”

In sum, it was the vision of God’s holiness that so unsettled Isaiah. His sin separated him from fellowship with God. So God reached out, via the seraphim with the live coal, and “atoned for” Isaiah’s sin and qualified him to speak as a messenger of a perfectly, totally holy God.

Just as surely today, in our 21st century, Almighty God is “holy, holy, holy.” And His intent is still that the “whole earth [be] full of His glory.” He sends forth His called people to share with this fallen world that message of God’s holiness and glory, as perfectly revealed in the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).

What is the takeaway from Isaiah’s vision for us who desire to participate in the Lord’s work on this earth? Simply this: read God’s Word, pray, and get a personal revelation of God’s perfect, uncompromising holiness. Understand that it is a major part of His glory with which He desires to fill the earth. And if we allow God’s radiant holiness to bring us to to contrite repentance, He will forgive us and qualify us to represent Him and His holiness to this sinful world.

Examine yourself, ask God to dig deep into your heart and to expose every last shred of carnality and unholiness in thought, word, and deed. Be ever mindful of the warning of Hebrews 12:14 — “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” And strive daily, with the help of God’s grace (Titus 2:11-12) and the indwelling Holy Spirit, to root out the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and to walk in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).

To be vessels unto honor, fit for the Master’s use (2 Timothy 2:21), we want to accurately represent the Lord God Almighty to the world. We should be aiming to help the world to “see” God as He is, as the prophet Isaiah saw Him, in the fullness of His holiness and glory. And one of the best ways we ministers of the Lord can do that is to walk before the world reflecting God’s perfect holiness in our own godly lives. Can we do this? YES! For the Scripture says that, as born-again believers we can “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.