Sunday Message, 22nd May: Spirit Without Measure 4
To Make us Holy Channels
In this series we are seeking to open ourselves afresh to the difference the Holy Spirit makes, what He does, and how his unique touch creates the Body of Christ. Over the first three weeks we have seen how Father, Son & Holy Spirit give extravagant experiential gifts all with the sole purpose of keeping that Body Jesus shaped, secondly we have seen that being more and more Jesus shaped needs to be our chief desire, and last week Peter showed us that such a Jesus Shaped Body can in the power of the Spirit take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This week we see that the Spirit Without Measure is Holy and flowing, not religious and stagnant, and if our lives are to be of use to the Lord we need to become like Holy Channels of His Grace and Transforming presence to others.
Isaiah was probably at prayer or worshipping in the Temple when he received an unforgettable experience of the presence of the Lord. The ornately carved seraphim high up on the dome of the Temple was no doubt a familiar sight to him but on this occasion their physical reality became blurred and lost in the blinding reality of the presence of the living God. He appeared enthroned and exalted so that, to the young Isaiah, it seemed that his majesty filled the whole temple. It was a significant moment in the life of a young man who was to become one of Israel’s greatest prophets. But it was also a significant time in the life of the nation. King Uzziah had just died after a long reign of 52 years. It was the end of an era. The whole nation recognised that it was a time of great change. The king had been a leper for a number of years: an outcast from the nation, banned from the temple. The whole nation was filling unclean, as though a curse from the Lord had descended upon all the people. The gloom of this period was not lifted until the death of Uzziah. Now there
was hope in the mind that a new era had dawned. It was with this hope in mind that the young Isaiah was worshipping in the temple when he experienced the call of the Lord to be his prophet. This was a turning point in the life of the nation. The word of the Lord would once again be heard with power and clarity. I wonder how often God has to allow us to go through a time of deep despair before we are ready to hear and to receive his word! But when the new day dawns the gloom of darkness is banished in the glorious light of his presence. This is always the experience of the Lord’s people. Even in the darkest times when we go through difficult days, or days of great suffering, he is with us. His presence slowly transforms the darkness into light as we allow him to take control even of our emotions. He lifts the gloom and radiates new hope filling us with his love and joy. It all seems impossible at the time, but as we relax in his presence, it actually happens. I sense that this is what we have and are experiencing as Trinity – no longer religious and stagnant, we are once again holy and flowing.
Isaiah’s reaction to his experience of the presence of God is an overwhelming sense of awe. In the vision he heard the seraphim calling to one another ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’. It was this sense of the holiness of God and the awesome reality that he, a mere mortal, had been privileged to be allowed into the presence of the living God that stirred the young prophet to the depths of his spiritual being. The experience of the holiness of God reminded Isaiah of his own creatureliness. Who was he, a mere created man, to enter the presence of the Almighty? No doubt there flooded into his mind at the same moment the corrupt state of the nation that for years had basked in the complacency of prosperity yet whose King had been a leper and an outcast, not even able to worship with his people. The ceremonially unclean king seemed to symbolise the uncleanness of the nation. With his sensitive nature, the young prophet
immediately associated himself with the sinfulness of his generation. He, too, was a man of unclean lips who lived among a people of unclean lips. Yet with his own eyes he had been permitted to see the true King of the nation, the Lord Almighty, the Holy One of Israel. How could he survive such an experience? Surely his uncleanness would pronounce a sentence of death upon him, but for the mercy of God! O that our generation today, that fears neither god nor man, would have a greater sense of awe before the Lord Almighty, the Creator of the Universe! We are so surrounded by works of concrete and brick, the creations of man, that we rarely stand with the psalmist to gaze up into the heavens and experience the presence of the Living God (Psalm 27:4). Our spiritual lives would benefit if we would stand aside from the ordinary pursuits of our daily lives and enter in to the majesty presence of God who set the stars in their orbits and say within ourselves, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ (Psalm 8:4) Perhaps the most needful spiritual experience, not only among secular man, but also among believers today, is a sense of awe such as Isaiah experienced in the presence of the holy God whose glory fills the whole earth. Holy Channels are what’s required not holy containers! St Francis had it right when he prayed: Make me a channel!
The next thing Isaiah experiences is God’s cleansing hand upon his life: this is the at the heart of the work of the Spirit without Measure, the very moment we humble ourselves before God, he acts to restore us to himself and make us holy channels for Him! God never cuts us off from fellowship with himself. It is sin that severs the relationship with the Father. Like the Prodigal Son, the moment we come to ourselves, to a recognition of our pitiful condition, God acts to restore us to a right relationship with himself. God does this through atoning for our sin. This atonement brings about out ‘at-one-ment’ with the Father. It should not surprise us that Isaiah experienced God’s act of
atonement more than 700 years before Calvary. Atonement for sin is a central theme of the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the New Testament. This underlines the consistency of God, who revealed to his prophet that salvation lies at the very heart of his purposes for mankind, and that this can only be achieved through an act of God himself. Isaiah’s realisation of his own sinfulness and his cry to the Lord, prepared the way for the revelation he received of God’s act of atonement, whereby he takes away the offence of the penitent sinner. Not only did Isaiah experience the forgiveness of sin but he was also given assurance that his guilt had been taken away. It is this assurance that brings what Paul described as ‘the peace which passes all understanding’ (Phil. 4:7). This amazing peace comes into the life of each believer who experiences the love and forgiveness of the Father who so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son and allowed Him to die upon a cross for the atonement of our sin. ‘He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). Through Christ we find our ‘at-one-ment’ with the Father and the assurance that we can rest secure in his love. Such an assurance fills us with a deep peace that the world cannot give, neither can it understand. Do you know that peace, more than that; have you experienced that gift of shalom? Holy Channels for his purposes.
Isaiah’s experience of being brought into a right relationship with God was followed immediately by his call. With no hesitation the young prophet responded. His response was experienced immediately by the experience of being commissioned by God a prophet to the nation. God does not waste time. He had appeared to the young Isaiah for a purpose. God’s hand was already upon his life. He had formed him in his mother’s womb and watched over him and nurtured him to bring him to this point where he was ready to experience the presence and the holiness of the Lord Almighty. This experience of God having watched over his life
from birth is referred to in 49:1 ‘before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he made mention of my name’. Both Jeremiah (1:5) & David (Psalm 139:13) gave a similar testimony. God watches over us from the moment of conception until he takes us home to be with him. Isaiah’s immediate response to the call of God reflected his new-found spiritual experience. This was not grounded in a confidence of the flesh, or in any sense of his own worthiness. His confidence was solely in the Lord who had transformed his sense of unworthiness. He had done this by taking away his sin and even removing from him the crippling experience of guilt, thus leaving him free to serve the Lord with a pure heart. Isaiah had the faith to know that if God called him to do a task; he would supply all the necessary resources. If God called him to a ministry, however difficult it proved to be, he would give the enabling for that ministry. The prophet was therefore able to respond with confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord. Once we have this confidence in what God has done for us we too can respond: ‘Here am I. Send me!’ God wants to use you r life in a unique way. He knows the gifts he has given you and he knows the circumstances of your life. There are things that only you can do. His call to you today is: ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ God is longing to hear your eager response, ‘Here am I, send me!’
The Spirit without Measure is given to all who surrender their lives to the living God. His supreme gift to us is that of holiness; He digs the channel for the redemption of Father God to flow, through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. You can choose religious and stagnant if that’s what you want, but if you choose relationship over ritual, and revelation over reservation, the Spirit without Measure will flood your life with holiness and grace, and you will gradually become more and more holy channel for Jesus and His ministry to all. In this day and generation the Lord says: Whom shall I send? What will our response be?
May 22nd 2011.