Direction Not Perfection

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

(Isa 6:1 ESV)

Last month you will recall we dealt with the theme of assurance, assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation is an important theme in Scripture. However, too often we look in the wrong direction for our assurance. Too often we look to our past experiences: our coming down the aisle to make an emotional profession of faith, or signing a card, or saying the “sinner’s prayer.” These are all examples of past experiences we can remember. But there are also past experiences we don’t remember: being baptized as an infant before the church or being dedicated to God before the church as a baby. These are all past experiences. But, as I have noted on occasion in the pulpit, our “experience” does not save us. God saves us.

But if we have had a saving experience (conversion) with God then there will be present evidence to the fact of such an experience. Case in point, if I was derelict in my duty to lead worship service next Sunday at my church by not showing up to preach or anything that Sunday, and then apologized to my parishioners and the leadership for not showing up that Sunday, would they not want a reason? What if I told them that the reason why I did not show up was because, while driving the night before on I-81, I was involved in a car accident? I explain that a Mack truck hit me head on traveling 80 miles an hour. Would they believe me, especially in light of the fact that neither I, nor my car, had a scratch on us?

Let’s be honest. You and they would think either I was delusional, or I was the biggest liar. If I had a head on encounter with a Mack truck then there would be some evidence. If this is true of a truck, then how much more for God who is infinitely more impactful than a tractor and trailer? Above all, God is holy. In fact God is not only holy; and God is not only holy, holy. But God is holy, holy, holy. The prophet Isaiah came in contact with an infinitely holy God. The impact of that event changed Isaiah. Before his tongue was impure; now he can speak with prophetic purity. Before he was racked with justifiable guilt and shame and blame; now he is guiltless and faultless and blameless. Prior to this, Isaiah was prideful and hopeless; now Isaiah is humble and hopeful. This does not mean Isaiah was perfect; perfection in this life is impossible. As John Macarthur says, “It’s not perfection, but direction.” God impacted Isaiah. This impact radically changed Isaiah’s bearings or orientation. We hear a lot these days of “orientation.” Some orientations are more radical than others, some so radical we think they are inseparable from who we are. Of all these orientations, the deepest and most radical is our sinful nature. When God has had an impact on us, like Isaiah, we will not come out unscratched. God seizes us, turns us, and changes us from the inside out. We are marked by repentance!

In conclusion, assurance of salvation is the primary theme of the Epistle of 1st John. In light of this theme, John gives us evidences or marks of assurance that we can point to in the present to show that in fact we have been and are saved. John’s method to gain assurance is by looking at our present pursuit of holiness. Ask yourself, “how is my present pursuit of holiness? Does my pursuit of happiness trump my pursuit of holiness?” This does not mean true Christians can’t seriously fall into sin, but it’s never total or final. Read 1st John. Prayerfully ask yourself these questions. As you do, don’t look to your perfection, but your direction.

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone)

Carl

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