Holy Smoke

Bible Book: Isaiah  6 : 1-8
Subject: Worship; Devotion; Holiness of God

Today we have the joy of commissioning our new banner. Inscribed upon the banner are the words "Holy, Holy, Holy." We worship the thrice holy God of the universe. In our text for this morning, we see a smoke-filled temple and a worshipping prophet. What do you think is involved in a genuine worship experience? I think there are three things involved. One of them involves an upward look to see God. Another involves an inward look when you see your own sinfulness. Another part of it involves the outward look because you see the needs of others.

I. Genuine Worship Is Seeing God In His Majesty

Isaiah had an upward look, and he saw the Lord high and lifted up. And the Bible says His glory filled the place. When was the last time that you saw the Lord? When was the last time that you were so impressed with the presence of the Lord that you just stood in awe before Him? Have you ever seen the glory of the Lord like that? Now, the Bible says in John 1:18 that "no man has seen God, but the Son has revealed him." In John 12:41 the apostle tells us that when Isaiah had this vision, he saw the Lord Jesus Christ. He was seeing the pre-incarnate glory of Jesus Christ. When you come to    church, you ought to be able to see the glory of God. But let's face it. We have come to dozens and dozens of worship services and we have left without having seen the Lord. That is the first part of worship. You see the Lord in His majesty. You see, when you come to church you ought to be coming looking for God. Not looking for a preacher; not looking for a song; not looking for other people. You ought to come looking for God. You see, folks, if you come looking for God you'll find Him. But if you come looking for something to criticize, you'll find that too. You usually find what you come looking for.

I remember years ago when Henry Ward Beecher was a great preacher in Brooklyn, New York. He was known nationwide because of his radio broadcasts. People would come to Brooklyn to hear Henry Ward Beecher. On one particular Sunday morning there were a lot of out- of-town guests there, and there was a guest preacher. Henry Ward Beecher was not even in the pulpit. When this guest preacher got up to speak, a lot of people who had come to hear Henry Ward Beecher got up and started to walk out. That man stopped them, and he said, "If you have come to worship Henry Ward Beecher, you may leave. But if you have come to worship God Almighty, you may stay." Those people sat down.

You see, you don't come looking for a preacher or even a sermon. You come looking for God. And if you come looking for God, you'll find Him. When is the last time you saw God at church? I like what John W. Stott says. He says, "Our worship is poor because our knowledge of God is poor. Our knowledge of God is poor because our preaching is poor." When I read that, I became convicted because it's been a long time since I've preached a message just on who God is and getting to know God. When you come to church, you ought to see the Lord.

But not only did Isaiah see the Lord, he also saw the seraphim. The Bible talks about these strange creatures, but we are told that they are angelic beings. There are all different kinds of angels, and these particular kinds of angels were created to worship and praise God nonstop. They have six wings. With two of their wings they covered their faces. That's a picture of humility. With two of their wings they covered their feet. That's a picture of how all earthly activity is forgotten when they are in the presence of God. With two of their wings they flew. That's a picture of how they are so ready to serve the Lord. Now, these angelic beings are also seen in the book of Revelation. You know, sometimes people talk about the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. But I am here to tell you that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is the same God. Some people say, "They worshipped God like that in the Old Testament, but not in the New Testament." Oh, no. You'll find that the way they worshipped God in the Old Testament is the same way they worshipped God in the New Testament, and the same way that we ought to be worshipping God today. Now, he saw God, then he saw the seraphim.

The third thing that we see about seeing the majesty of God is that Isaiah heard the adoration and the praise. Can you imagine what it must have been like to stand there in the presence of God and to see these angelic beings begin to praise God? What did they say? "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." Now, how can you know when you perceive the presence of God? Do you get a tingling feeling? Does the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Do you get goose bumps? How can you tell? Well, folks, we're not talking about a feeling. We're talking about perceiving the presence of God. Now, I am here to tell you, with every bit of authority that the Word of God gives, that God is here.

Some of you sense His presence, and some of you don't. Now, if you do not sense the presence of God, whose fault is it? It's not God's fault. He's here. It's just that sometimes we don't plug in, and we don't get on the right frequency with God. We have other things in our mind, or else we're not willing to tune in to His presence. You know, man has always been fascinated with other worldly things. But I want to tell you that I am fascinated with the presence of God. I will never be able to understand it. It's so mysterious. The Bible says, "Great is the mystery of godliness."

For other people who don't necessarily worship God, they want to think about something else out there. You know, that's why these science fiction movies are so popular. Some of you saw "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" several years ago. Do you remember that? When this great big UFO was descending, and these strange creatures came out. The people in that movie stood there in absolute utter awe. They were fascinated by the wonder of that otherworldly encounter. Folks, let me tell you. That was the depiction of Hollywood. But you and I have the opportunity to be fascinated with the otherworldly presence of Almighty God. We're always looking up for something to worship. The Greek word for man is "anthropos." We get our word "anthropology" from that. It literally means "the upward looking one." Man wants to worship something, and the Bible says that we ought to be worshipping God.

So Isaiah heard the seraphim beginning to praise God. They cried, "Holy, holy, holy." And, by the way, it was such loud praise; notice what happened in verse 4. It says, "At the sound of their voice the doorposts and the threshold shook." I say that because some people's idea of a biblical worship service is to just kind of come and sit and be real quiet. Some people's idea of a good worship service is that of a mild- mannered man exhorting a bunch of mild-mannered people to be more mild-mannered. They don't want to do anything. They don't want to say anything. They don't want to sing anything. They don't want to be asked to do anything. They just want to come and sit, and then leave. But the Bible teaches that the worship service of the Bible is a celebration; it's jubilation.

Turn with me to the book of Revelation and look in chapter 4. I want you to see these same seraphim in another situation (read Revelation 4:8-9). Then in verse 10 it mentions "the four and twenty elders." (By the way, the twenty-four elders represent all the redeemed of all the ages. Twelve of them, I believe, represent all of the Old Testament saints, and twelve of them represent all of the New Testament saints - you and me. And we'll be in that group. But notice what happens (read verses 10-11). Now, how many of you think you're going to heaven when you die? Let me see your hands. All right. Great! That's good. Do you know what you're going to be doing in heaven? You're going to be praising and worshipping the Lamb. You're going to be celebrating the fact that you've been redeemed. Now, what I think we ought to be doing is praising the Lord here and now. That's why Jesus said, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I think this same kind of praise and worship that we see in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 ought to be the kind of praise and worship that we have today. Turn over a few more chapters to Revelation 19. Here we'll see that heaven is replete with praise and adoration for God (read verse 6).

Have you ever been to Niagara Falls? If you have, you know that you can hear the sound of the falls long before you ever see the falls. It's a roar; it's a thundering roar. The Bible says that is the way the praise to God is going to be in heaven (read verses 6 & 7). I wonder, when you get to heaven and all that kind of praise and worship takes place, if you're going to say, "Well, we never did it that way before. That's just not the way I've always done it." You see, the Bible says that the worship of God ought to be that which exalts Him and magnifies Him and glorifies Him. The word "worship" comes from the Anglo word "worth- ship." That means God is worthy of our praise. And if you were here Wednesday night, you heard me define worship as "my personal response to an encounter with the Living God."

Now, did you notice that Isaiah is by himself in our text? He's not in a worship service. I want you to understand that there is such a thing as individual worship, just like Isaiah is doing, then there is family worship. But then there is also corporate, or public, worship. If you are not worshipping privately, chances are you don't do much worshipping publicly. You see, the person who worships God seven days a week - meets Him privately in prayer and Bible study - will come and worship with the body on Sunday. But the person who doesn't worship God Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday - chances are when that person comes to the church building on Sunday, they're not going to worship either. Because they really don't know the God that we're worshipping.

You've got to spend time with Him. You see, worship is not a spectator sport. It is something that you do. It is an attitude. But it is an act of responding to what God has done for you.

You know, we have a false conception of a church worship service. Most of us have this idea of what a worship service is. We think, "All right, this is the audience. Here is the platform. We are the performers - the preacher, the minister of music, the choir, the instrumentalists - we are performing and you are the spectators." That is wrong. That is a false conception of worship. Let me tell you the way it ought to be. There is an audience, but it's not you. God Almighty is the audience. He is an audience of One. Everybody in this room comprises a choir that sings praises to God. I'm not the performer up here. We are all performers, but we are performing to God. My job is to prompt you; to encourage you; to motivate you to worship the Lord. That's what Brother Mickey's job is. But don't come to just sit and watch. You're not to be a spectator; you are to be a participant in worship. So the first thing about worship is that you see the Lord in His majesty.

II. Genuine Worship Is Seeking God In His Mercy

As soon as Isaiah saw the Lord, the next thing that happened was that he saw himself. Worship not only involves an upward look, it involves an inward look. Isaiah saw the Lord, and the Bible says that he said, "Woe is me, for I am a sinner. I am a man of unclean lips. I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips. Woe is me!" You see, folks, I know one thing for sure. When you do see God in His holiness, you will see how far you are from God's standards. So there are a couple of things that happen when you see yourself.

Number one, the holiness of God reveals our own sinfulness. Do you see these two panels that we put in here this week? They were in storage. They looked pretty good. I mean, there were some scratches and some scuff marks, but they looked pretty good. But then we brought them in here, and we looked at the panels beside this freshly painted wood. It looked horrible, and we concluded that they had to be painted.

Well, everybody comes to church wearing his or her little white robes of righteousness. And when we're all sitting here together we look pretty much the same. Yours may be a little bit whiter than mine, or yours may be a little bit dingier than mine. But it's basically all the same. But do you know what happens when we come into the presence of God Almighty? Do you know what Isaiah said about these robes of righteousness? He said, "All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags."

When you see the absolute holiness of God, all of your good deeds begin to look so dirty and filthy in comparison - and that's what Isaiah is saying. He is saying, "O no, I am a sinner." Actually he said, "I am a man of unclean lips." Now, why didn't he say, "I am a man of an unclean heart?" Because isn't sin a matter of the heart? Why did he say, "I've got a dirty mouth," which literally is what he said. I'll tell you why. Because Jesus said, "out of the abundance of a man's heart, his mouth speaks." And like they used to say back in North Carolina, "Whatever is down in the well is going to come up in the bucket." Whatever is down in the heart is going to come out of your mouth. If you come and see God in His holiness, your sin will stand out in dark contrast to the purity of God. Like David, "my sin is ever before me."

You know, holiness has taken on a bad connotation in these days. If you want to get somebody upset with you, you just say, "Well now, don't you just look holy." They're gonna’ want to fight you. Because the idea of holiness in our culture has a negative connotation. But in the Word of God, God is holy, which means that He is separate; He is clean; He is pure; He is different. When you see the holiness of God, you see your own sin. But don't despair. There is hope.

The second thing that we see is this. When you see the holiness of God it reveals not only your own sinfulness, but confession of sin always leads to cleansing. Isaiah said, "I confess I'm a sinner." And that seraph came and took a hot coal off the altar and touched his mouth with it, and said; "Now your guilt is forgiven. There is an atonement for your sins." The New Testament application of that is this. "If we say we have no sin, we make Him a liar. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses us from all our sins. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Why did he take a hot coal - and don't you know that was painful.

Folks, sin always produces pain and suffering. But when he took that coal off the altar - the altar is a place of sacrifice - and the beautiful New Testament teaching of that is this, that our Lord Jesus Christ laid himself down on the altar of the cross and sacrificed his very life so that in his fiery death we could find forgiveness of our sins. You say, "You know, sometimes I feel so guilty. Why do I feel so guilty?" I'll tell you why. Because you are guilty. I mean, there is an idea that is going around today that says, "Don't feel guilty." Folks, if you are a sinner, guilt is associated with it. We have the strange idea today that people describe like this: "I'm okay and you're okay." I saw a T-shirt some time ago that had a picture of the crucifixion of Jesus on it. And the message on the T-shirt said, "If I am okay, and you're okay, then explain this." Folks, if everybody are sinless and righteous, why did Jesus have to die on the cross? The truth is that I am not okay and you are not okay, but that's okay because of what Jesus did on the cross. That's the way our sins can be forgiven. And I want to tell you - when  you see God in His holiness, you'll see your own sinfulness and it will break you and you'll come before God, and you will say, "God, I am a sinner. Forgive my sins."

Do you know the reason some people can't worship, or don't worship? It's because they strut into the presence of God with such arrogance. And they say, "God, you sure are lucky that I came to church today." But I am saying that you've got to be broken before God can touch you and cleanse you.

III. Genuine Worship Will Lead You to Serve God in His Mission

In our text we notice that God finally speaks. He gets Isaiah cleaned up, and He says, "All right, who will go for me, and who can I send?" Isaiah is ready to go. He holds up his hand. Can't you just picture it? I think he's like a little first-grader in class, and he knows the answer to the question, and he's holding up his hand hoping the teacher won't overlook him and call on somebody else. He says, "Here I am, Lord; send me, send me." You see, folks, once you have really worshipped, you'll want to leave that worship experience a changed person, and you'll want to go out and minister for God. You'll get involved in some kind of service. You know, we have a false concept today. We think the only person that ministers is the professional minister. But I believe the New Testament teaches that every believer is a minister for Jesus Christ. Every believer ought to be involved in some kind of ministry. That's the only way that the body can operate - when every person is doing his part. Now, this is a problem that many of us have. We say, "Here I am. Send the preacher." That's right. We know there is a lot to be done, and so we've got the preacher. Send the preacher. Send the staff. You see, folks, you haven't really worshipped until you have said, "Here am I; send me."

Now, what is the correlation between service and worship? Because, let's face it, there are some people who may never really worship, but they are busy for God. They take up the collection; they serve on committees; they teach Sunday School; they keep the nursery; they sing in the choir; they do a lot of work, but they never really tune in with God and worship Him. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people we know and all they want to do is come and praise God. They want to feel good. They want to sing the songs and just have a happy time in church. But when it comes to serving the Lord, they're not to be found anywhere.

What is the correlation between worship and work? Let me say to you that I believe worship must come first. But true worship always produces work. Let me give you an example, and then give you three quick lessons to conclude. In Luke chapter 10, verse 38, Jesus comes to the home of Martha and Mary, and you know the story. Martha is in the kitchen fixing supper, banging the pots and pans around. Mary, meanwhile, is out there at the feet of Jesus worshipping Him, listening to Him, communing with Him. Can't you see Martha as she looks out of the kitchen and motions to Mary, trying to get her to come into the kitchen to help? Mary just sits there, worshipping the Lord. Finally, Martha comes out, and I can just see her with her hands on her hips, and she says, "Jesus, won't you do something with Mary. I'm in there working my fingers to the bone, and here she is out here just talking with you. Get her in there to help me." By the way, that's the attitude of a lot of workers. They look around at some other people who are sitting at the feet of Jesus, and they say, "Boy, I am a whole lot more righteous than they are because I'm doing this job." But you need to hear what Jesus said. Jesus said, "Martha, Martha, you are burdened and troubled with many things, but Mary has chosen the one thing that is necessary."

What's the lesson we get from that? First of all, sit at the feet of Jesus and worship Him. Get to know Him. Love on Him. Praise Him. Adore Him. But once you have truly worshipped, I tell you, you will get out and you will work. Here are the three lessons:

A. Work without worship is futility

In the thirty something years that I have been preaching, many people have wanted to work, but they have not wanted to worship. Their theme song is "We'll Work Till Jesus Comes," but they really don't want to sit at His feet, and love on Him, and learn from Him, and live in Him. But I'm here to tell you that all of that work is work in the flesh. When you stand before Jesus it will be wood, hay and stubble. It won't matter for anything; it's futility.

B. Worship without work is hypocrisy

Where I grew up they used to have what they called fifth Sunday singings. There was a group of people who just went from one singing to another. They just wanted to go and praise the Lord and have a good time. But when it came to teaching Sunday School or keeping the nursery or working for Jesus, no, they couldn't do that. You see, folks, if you say you love Jesus, but you don't do the things that He commands you to do, that's hypocrisy.

C. Worship that produces work is heavenly

That's God's plan for your life. So, first of all, love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength. Love Him, and then you can serve the Lord with gladness.


So, how do you know that you've worshipped? If you see God, if you plug in, if you make a connection with the Almighty God of the universe. And, secondly, if you see your sin, and if you're changed and transformed. And then, thirdly, you know that you've worshipped when you leave that place and you're ready to go out and serve the risen Lord.