My book “Is God Calling Me to Missions? 10 Questions to Help Determine Your Calling” is now available here on Amazon.
Before you head over to Amazon to grab a copy you should know that I’m sending a copy of the book out as a token of our gratitude for anyone who gifts a gift to the ministry during January.
Canadian donors can give through ABWE CA here. (Choose “Suko, Caleb and Christina” from the drop down list)
God’s Holiness Motivates our Mission
One of the worst things we can do in the Church, in the ministry, and in missions is to do the right things for the wrong motivations. When I say “motivations” what I’m really talking about is the driving force of the heart. I’m talking about that inward factor which pushes us on, gives us reason for what we do, and provides fire in our bones to continuing doing what we do even when things get tough.
Christianity is unique among the religions of the world because it makes these intentions and motivations of our heart primary. We find throughout the Old Testament prophets that God laments the fact that his people would offer sacrifices and outwardly make good-looking attempts to keep the law yet inwardly their hearts were far from him.
13 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
I want you to think with me today about the proper motivation for missions. This is important because God is not only concerned with what we do in missions but individually he is concerned with why we do it. Yes, a wrongly motivated missionary may preach a true gospel and some may even come to faith by the grace of God through their ministry but wrong motivations set us up for failure, they are at the best temporary motivations which will sooner or later come crashing down on our heads.
However, worse that, wrong motivations do not please our Heavenly Father. God our Father has given us a task and he doesn’t want us to pursue that task for any outside reason, for mere secondary motivations. Even above understanding the task God wants us to comprehend the reason and motivation for the task he has called us to do. In fact, I would say that understanding the proper motivation for the task is foundational to understanding the task itself and soon you will see why.
Isaiah’s experience with God’s holiness and glory
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.”
About King Uzziah
He had the 2nd longest reign of all Judean Kings and one of the most peaceful and successful, he built an army of over 300,000 men which was greater than the army that his father Amaziah had built before he was conquered by Israel. He conquered a number of other peoples around and had taxes coming in from them. He developed the area around Jerusalem significantly.
He developed war technology.
“In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.” 2 Chr 26:15
Although Uzziah is referred to as a righteous king early on in his reign, he later ran into problems. As is often the case, with his success came pride and with pride came his destruction.
2 Ch 26:16-22
16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor,
18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”
19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.
20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him.
21 And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.
22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz wrote.
We see a very logical and clear progression in the life of Uzziah. He started off well, he did the right things, yet is seems that possibly he didn’t have the right motivation. So what happens later in life is when he sees his success rather than attributing it to God Almighty, he grows proud and he believes that his success is because of his own abilities.
Pride leads him into the temple with a censer in his hand doing what was clearly laid out in the Law as a job that was given only the the priests who had properly prepared themselves.
There were two others instances when someone offered unauthorized fire in the temple.
-Nadab and Abihu Lev 10:1-3
-Korah’s rebellion Num 16:18 Where 250 were burned up in God’s wrath.
-Saul makes an unauthorized burnt offering 1 Sam 13
What these examples show us is the emphasis God himself places on his holiness and his glory.
Unfortunately the end of Uzziah’s reign is typified by a complete disregard for the holiness of God. It’s interesting that there is evidence of an earthquake in Uzziah’s reign. Some historians say that the earthquake happened when Uzziah entered the temple to burn unauthorized incense. This could be the case and if it is then it makes sense that later we see Isaiah in the temple and once again an earthquake. This earthquake which accompanied the proclamation of God’ holiness and his glory again emphasize how important, how powerful, and how dangerous God’s holiness really is.
Context of Isaiah’s vision
Let’s think about the context of Isaiah’s vision.
- Judah had just experienced an extremely successful and long reign of King Uzziah
- Advancements in technology had been made
- Military conquest
- Overall the economy was doing well
- There was peace on their borders
- Yet understanding of God’s holiness and respect for his glory. was at an all time low!
This is a dangerous situation for any country, any church, or any person to be in.
Unfortunately, there is something about man’s fallen nature that lulls him away from a holy God when the present circumstances are more or less comfortable and prosperous.
Isaiah was called to preach to a people who were deaf to God’s glory because of their own prosperity and false sense of security. We know that these people would not listen to the message that God gave to Isaiah because just a few verses down God tells Isaiah:
“Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy
And blind their eyes.” (Isa 6:10)
What is Holiness?
The primary meaning of “Holy” is: Separate, other, different
When God tells us he is holy, he is telling us that he is different!
How is he different?
- He is omnipotent, we are weak and failing
- He is all knowing, we are limited in our knowledge
- He has not beginning and end, we are finite
- He is Creator, we are creation
- He is pure, we are sinful
- He is perfect in all his ways, we are terribly lacking
God’s otherness applies not only to the relationship between us and him but to everything! Another way to look at it is, you and I are ordinary but God is extraordinary! Another word that could be used in place of holy is “strange” Have you ever noticed how we often fear that which is strange and unfamiliar?
- We love the familiar, it makes us feel secure and comfortable
- Notice that God’s holiness is always unsettling
- It certainly unsettled Isaiah “Woe is me!”
- It unsettled Moses at the burning bush
- It unsettled the Israelites when God came down on Mt. Sinai
- It unsettled anyone who has every really caught a glimpse of God’s glory
- This is in some way similar to culture shock
- It unsettles you because you can’t understand it!
- But then there’s reverse culture shock that is experienced when you go back to your home culture and you notice things you didn’t notice before!
- God’s holiness also helps us to see into ourselves.
The seraphim’s full time job is simply to proclaim God’s holiness.
- They proclaim God’s holiness because it is his holiness that is the sum of his perfections
- Perfect in power
- Perfect in moral purity
- Perfect in love
- Perfect in grace
- Perfect in mercy
- Perfect in judgement
- Perfect in knowledge
- Perfect in his plans
- Perfect in his actions
- Perfect in his words
- Perfect in his creation
- Perfect in all his ways
Even in the seraphim we see evidence of God’s holiness in how they cover their face and their feet.
How does the holiness of God motivate our mission?
- It focuses our message upon the God who gave the message.
- This may be the greatest factor, we need a mission that is first and primarily about our God!
- It reminds us of how much greater our message is than simply saving people from hell.
- Saving from hell is good but it can’t be our main motivation factor.
- We may not always want to save everyone from destruction (example of Jonah)
- In order to save from something we must have something to save them to.
- Fear of hell, while it may spur someone on to hear the gospel message never saves anyone.
- The gospel message is always one of faith in a holy and glorious God. Not one of fear of hell.
- Sometimes few will listen to our preaching of the gospel (example of Isaiah)
- Saving from hell is good but it can’t be our main motivation factor.
- It helps us to communicate the majesty, the beauty, and riches of God in our gospel. (Example of how Paul writes in Ephesians and Romans 11)
- It helps us to avoid a gospel of legalism
- Sometime people think that too much of a focus on holiness can lead to legalism but nothing could be further from the truth. So called “holiness” movements are fake holiness, they’re facades, they’re carefully wrapped garbage that looks great on the outside but falls apart and starts to stink once you open it.
- Legalism takes our eyes off of a holy God and puts them on ourselves until we are so far removed from that holy God we think that we could possibly attain his holiness by our own self-will and self-imposed standards.
- Just as Isaiah was blown out of the water by his contact with a holy God so also God’s holiness understood through his Word will always annihilate all forms of legalism that tend to creep into the gospel.
- It makes the gospel personal
- Isaiah had to be personally affected by the holiness of God before he could become an ambassador of the holiness of God.
- It keeps us from falling into the trap of “Methodism,” “Programism,” “Techniqueism”
- A realization that it is only the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person to bring them to belief, to change their unholy heart and give them a holy life in Jesus Christ breaks us free from the ever changing landscape of mission techniques, methods, and programs. We realize that no one is saved by a method or a program as good as they may be.
- It provides unchanging motivation in all circumstances
- When the mission is good we recognize that God is still holy and we have a long way to go
- When the mission is bad we recognize that God is still holy and we have a long way to go
- Understanding God’s holiness balances us!
How can we keep God’s holiness central in our mission?
- Make God’s Word Central in your life and in your mission
- His Word is holy
- His Word reveals a holy God
- His Word shows us that we are unholy
- Make daily personal Bible study central in your life
- Without consistent and regular exposure to God’s Word you will drift away from the concept of a holy God just like Uzziah did.
- Remember that your mission is a personal calling from a Holy God.
- Remember that your job is to point people to God
- Grow daily in your awe of the perfections of God
- Read Tozer, and Sproul, and J.C. Ryle and others who help explain the depths of God’s holy character to us.
- Make your life a holy example
- Grow in your disdain for sin
- Grow in your longing for perfection
- Grow in the fruit of the Spirit
- Grow in the out working of the truths of the Scripture
- Mat 5:16 let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
- Emphasize faithfulness to God’s holy calling over other outward signs of the missions success.