Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 29
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2000|
|So often we are tripped up in our Christian walk by our own pride, and our need for personal recognition of what we have “done for God.” Dr. Barber illustrates, using the story of King Uzziah, and of Isaiah, why pride can be a dangerous thing.|
Ephesians 2:4-10, Isaiah 6:1-8
Made in Heaven by the Grace of God – Part 2
I want you to turn to Ephesians 2:7-10 as we continue the thought that we began in the last study. We saw last time that we are made in heaven by the grace of God. We didn’t pull ourselves up by our boot straps. We didn’t discover that we were lost one day, and then we found something. Oh, no. We were found. He came to us. Our salvation is totally of God, even when we received by faith what He offered. The faith was given to us as a gift of grace. Verses 1-3 are the sad state of mankind before Jesus came and did what He did. That is the result of Adam’s sin in Genesis 3. Let’s just read together Ephesians 2:4-10:
- But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
How do I walk in these good works prepared beforehand? Well, Ephesians 5 says I must be being filled with the Spirit of God. You see, God’s mark, His label, on me should not just be in who I am or what I am as a believer, but in everything that I do. I am what I am by the grace of God. I ought to do what I do by the grace of God.
Let me show the result of that. If I do it by His grace, daily seeking Him, yielded to what His Word has to say, then the Holy Spirit of God begins to manifest in and through me the very character of the Lord Jesus Himself. The deeds that He raises up and initiates in my life He anoints and puts His hand all over them. The difference is, I put Him on display by what I do. If I don’t go that route, if I choose to bear His label on who I am, but do what I want to do and ask Him to bless it, then I put myself on display.
May I ask you a question? When you look in the mirror in the morning, who is it that you are putting on display by your life? Are you displaying your own creativity? Are you displaying your own goodness and your own righteousness? Are you displaying your own productivity? Or are you displaying the One who wants to be displayed in your life? Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me.” It is not me living for Him, putting my efforts, putting my tireless energy on display. It is Christ living His life in and through me.
There are two ways to live this life. If grace is that which God can only do in a man, to a man, for a man and through a man, that a man on this earth could never come up with and a man on this earth could never deserve, and if I am what I am by the grace of God, I ought to do what I do by the grace of God, daily surrendering so that Jesus can be Jesus in me. Who are you displaying? Are you displaying yourself or are you displaying the Lord Jesus?
I want you to turn to Isaiah 6. Somehow when I grew up, I thought Isaiah and all the prophets were somehow on a rank with God Himself. Did you do that when you were growing up? I thought, “Abraham. Why nobody is like Abraham.” Then I read where Abraham lied and told them his wife was his sister. I thought, “How did that man lie? That man is perfect. He is like God.” I thought Habakkuk, Jonah, and all the prophets were just equal with God. Oh no, folks, they had hearts of iron, but they had feet of clay. They made the same mistakes that you and I make. I am so grateful God not only puts in there what they did right, but He puts in what they did wrong so you and I can learn from them. They were just one of us.
Isaiah had a pride in his life, a pride that could only be seen and recognized when God chose to show up in his life. You know, that is my prayer, that God would just show up when we meet together. Do you know what happens when God shows up? People start confessing sin and calling it sin just like God calls it. They get down off their little pedestal that they have put themselves on and all of a sudden, they stop judging everybody else in the church. All of a sudden the finger is not pointed towards their brother. It is pointed towards them. When God shows up and we are in His presence, we haven’t got time to worry about somebody else. Oh, folks, when God shows up, we see what He has been seeing all along, and we are willing to do something about it.
First of all, there is a prelude to Chapter 6 that I want you to see. In Isaiah 6:1, we have a key statement that we need to focus in on. “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne.” Now, who is this Uzziah? Most scholars believe that the prophet Isaiah and King Uzziah were dear friends. King Uzziah was a good king for most of his life, and somehow they had become very close. God had been trying to show Isaiah something about himself for a long time through his friend Uzziah, but Isaiah was too proud to listen to what God was trying to say. He was too proud to see what God wanted him to see. In the year of King Uzziah’s death, he finally saw what God had been trying to say for a long period of time in his life. That is something God was doing before Chapter 6 ever happened.
Now to understand that, you’ve got to go back to 2 Chronicles 26. I want to show you the historical report about Uzziah. If you don’t know this, you tend to read Isaiah 6 and miss the fine points that are in this beautiful picture in the Old Testament. I want you to see what kind of king Uzziah was. This is something God had been trying to get across to Isaiah through what he does with Uzziah, but Isaiah somehow missed it. In verse 3 of 2 Chronicles 26, it says, “Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jechiliah of Jerusalem. And he did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. And he continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.”
So you see all the way down through verse 15 that King Uzziah had been a good king. He had sought the Lord. God had prospered him. There was a point in his life when he was doing it the right way, but something happened in Uzziah’s life. One of the saddest stories in the Old Testament was what happened to King Uzziah. If you will look in verse 16 it says, “But when he became strong.” Oh, if we could just hear what this tells us. You see, he made a mistake. He thought he was doing it, and he left God out of it. Oh, no. It was God doing it as a result of his willingness to seek the Lord in his life. “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”
Now you know that only the priests were allowed in that tent of meeting. There were two compartments. There was the Holy Place. There were three articles of furniture in that Holy Place. There was the show bread, which is the picture of Jesus being the Bread of Life. There was the golden candelabra or the candlestick, which is the picture of Jesus being the Light of the World. There was a golden altar of incense that sat right in front of the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The veil was six inches thick. Two oxen could not pull it apart. No man could go beyond that veil. No man except a priest could go into the Holy Place.
Actually, the High Priest was the only one who could go into that Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. He would take blood in a basin. They would tie a rope around his ankle. He would go in and that rope was there because if he had a heart attack in the Holy of Holies, no one could rush in and get him. They had to pull him out by the rope. It was a very sacred, pure, holy place. No king, no one except the Levitical priest, was allowed in that Holy Place.
The people were allowed into the court area, into the outer court where they had the laver and where they had the altar, but not in the Holy Place. King Uzziah felt like since God had given him strength and he had begun to think he had become strong, he felt like, “I can go in there. I can offer something on the golden altar of incense.” Well, it didn’t work that way.
Beginning now in 2 Chronicles 26 verse 17 we read:
- Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the
- LORD, valiant men. And they opposed Uzziah the king 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. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been
- unfaithful, and will have no honor from the Lord God.’ But Uzziah, with a censer in
- his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the
- priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the
- LORD, beside the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests
- looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him
- out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the Lord had smitten
- him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a
- separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD.
You must know that about Uzziah. It was in the year of King Uzziah’s death that Isaiah finally saw the Lord. God had to show up in his life. God had been trying to get his attention. The prelude in his life was he was trying to say, “Isaiah, don’t you see in your friend, Uzziah? Don’t you realize I am opposed to people who are proud?”
Oh, folks, we have no trouble talking about being saved by grace. People jump up and down and shout and say, “Amen!” But when it comes to being labeled in what you do, there are a lot of folks who haven’t got a clue as to what we are talking about. People are working, working, working for Jesus. You see, folks, a lot of people think that it is in human effort. We have already seen we are created by His workmanship. We are His product, and the good works are not what we come up with. They were predestined before the foundation of the world, and we are to walk in them. How do we walk in them? 2 Timothy says very clearly, we are to put the Word into our life before the works are ever even possible. We are not equipped for the good works until we are profiting daily by being taught and trained by the Word of God. You see, if a person is not living a surrendered life, he can be just like Isaiah, a proud man. God is trying to say to him, “You are not displaying me, you are displaying yourself because you have not been willing to listen to what I have tried to show you.”
Who do you know right now who is a Uzziah in your life? Oh, he’s a good guy. He comes to church with you. Young people, it might be one of your best friends. Oh, this man loves Jesus. He must love Him because he comes every Sunday night and Sunday morning, and sings in the choir with me. Well, let me ask you a question. Is God trying to say something to you through your friend as you watch him make proud decisions and you begin to watch God begin to bring him down? You think about it.
What has God been trying to say to you? What are you aware of in your life? Who are you aware of in your life? God is saying, “Do you see how I worked in his life? I’m trying to tell you something, and if you don’t listen to me, I’m going to show up in your life, and when I show up, you are going to see what I am trying to say.”
First of all there is a prelude in Isaiah’s life. The prelude is He has been trying to speak to him through his friend Uzziah. Secondly, there is a problem in Isaiah’s life. What is the problem Isaiah has? If you will study Isaiah chapters 1-5, you will find that Isaiah has got a big problem. He is always pointing his finger at everybody else. He is never willing to look at himself. That is one of the quickest ways you can find out whether or not your service is displaying God or displaying yourself. It’s that judgmental attitude that always festers with people who are filled with pride. In the first five chapters He drops a woe on everybody but himself. Now in chapter 6 he is waxing eloquent. Oh, he enjoys this. You don’t think so? Read on. I’ll show you.
You are going to see he enjoyed bringing judgment on other people, but he didn’t want to say anything when it came to himself. In 3:9 he says, “Woe to them that display their sin like Sodom.” In 3:11 he says, “Woe to the wicked! It will go badly, with him, For what he deserves will be done to him.” In 5:8 he says, “Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room.” 5:11 says, “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink; Who stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them!” 5:18 says, “Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood.” 5:20-22 reads, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.” He is waxing eloquent. The problem is he sees everybody else’s sin, but he hasn’t seen his own.
Let’s read the text in Isaiah 6, and you will see what God does. “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.”
Now watch who this woe is pronounced upon. It is not pronounced upon the people. Oh, no. God had to show up in his life, and when God showed up in his life, he didn’t have time to judge anybody else. Continuing with verse 5: “Then I said, Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” You see, that’s a problem to proud servants of Christ, to people who don’t seem to understand we wear His label. We are saved by grace, but we wear His label on what we do, that which He initiates in our life. If we are not putting Him on display, all we are doing with our tireless efforts to serve Him is displaying the proud self in our own life. What does God have to do to help us see that kind of service is not pleasing in His sight? There was a problem with Isaiah. He knew how to judge others, but wasn’t willing to look at himself.
I think it was Freud who had the projection theory: when you see somebody else you are really judging what you see in yourself. Freud didn’t come up with that, that’s Romans 2:1: “Thou that judgest doest the same thing.” We live in such a proud time. I am sick of the pride in my own life. Sometimes I need to get away for a while. I need to see Wayne like God sees Wayne. You need to see yourself like God sees you. That’s why Paul says, “When you partake of the Lord’s supper don’t be caught in the position of judging the guy sitting in front of you. You examine yourself. Examine yourself.” Find out the pride that is in your own life.
Well, there was a prelude. God had tried to say this to him a long time. He could have avoided a lot of pain in his life if he’d gone on and learned his lesson from Uzziah, his friend. It took until the year of King Uzziah’s death for the problem in Isaiah to finally surface. He was quick to judge everybody else, but he wasn’t quick to judge himself.
Finally, God had to draw him a picture. I love Isaiah, because he is kind of like me. God had to draw him a picture. God had to show him the throne. It wasn’t just the one on the throne that I want you to see here. The picture that God drew for him is incredible. Verse 1 says, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne.” Remember, John, the apostle? John saw that in the book of Revelation. Paul saw it and couldn’t say anything about it. He said, “I saw what I saw, and I can’t even talk about it. I don’t even know if I was in the body or out of the body.” Here is a man who saw it and recorded it. He said, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.”
Do you know what the temple is? That’s the Holy Place. That’s the heavenly Holy of Holies. That’s where He rules and reigns. Isaiah saw it, but he saw something else, and I think this is what got his attention. Oh, yes, seeing the Lord certainly got his attention, but I think it was not just seeing the Lord in His Holiness. I think in seeing the seraphim, the closest ones ministering to the Lord there, God had to draw a picture for him to help him to be willing to see himself. Let me show you. “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.’” Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let’s go back to those seraphim. What were they doing? Folks, the most beautiful angels I know anything about in scripture are those seraphim and they hovered right over the throne. These are angels who are somehow created to serve right in the presence of God sitting on His throne. What is the agenda of those angels? They had six wings. What are wings for? Well, that’s what you use to serve, to do whatever you are designed to do. What was their agenda with those wings? With two, the most beautiful angels ever created, with two, they hid their face. With two they hid their feet and with two they served, they flew. Do you know what the agenda of the angels was? Not to detract in any way from the one who was sitting upon the throne. Their agenda was not displaying their beauty. Their agenda was hiding themselves in the presence of God so that the display would not be of them, but would be of Him.
Think about that, because I think it’s got something to say as we get down to verse 5. Isaiah was absolutely overwhelmed. Look at what he says. “Woe is me for I am ruined!” Do you know what the word “ruined” means? I am destroyed. Everything I have ever done is nothing more than an abomination to God. Come on, Isaiah. You are the prophet, man. You are doing good in the Old Testament. No, he was full of himself, and everything he had done now is ruined, utterly destroyed. Look at what he says, “Because I am a man of unclean lips.” Now it is so important that you see this. Why would that be a problem to Isaiah? Well, the lips, even James 3 tells us this, always reveal the heart of someone.
Now he knew his people were a people of unclean lips. He said, “You don’t even hide your sin. You can listen to yourself and know what your sin is.” “I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips.”
Oh, folks, you see, this meant more to Isaiah than it would be to the normal person. Everything he did to serve God was with his lips. My lips are my means of service. Oh, he saw it. He saw God in all of His glory. He saw the seraphim hiding themselves so that nothing would detract from that glory. He said, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips. All of my service has been from a proud heart.” Finally he says, “For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”
It takes a lot sometimes for God to finally break through. I can stand up and preach, and I am not even hearing what I am saying. Most of the time, nobody else is hearing it either. But when God shows up, something happens with the Word. All of a sudden, it is not you looking at your brother. All of a sudden it begins to reflect the ugliness that is inside of your own life. I don’t like what I see in myself when God begins to reveal that in my life. Do you like that in your life? Folks, when God shows up, that’s when we finally see that we are either displaying Him, His mark is on us, His label is on us and on our service, or we are displaying ourselves.
Where are you right now? Who is displayed in your life? Do your children come to you and say, “Dad and Mom, if Jesus is like you, I want to know Jesus.” Are you displaying Him? Are you displaying yourself? “Oh, I have been faithful to this church for years. I mean, everybody knows that. Why, I’ve been on every committee. I work hard. I sweat. You know good and well I’m doing that for Jesus.” Let me ask you a question. How do you feel when nobody appreciates you for what you are doing? “Rotten.” Then you weren’t doing it for Jesus! You were displaying yourself.
In Ephesians we are seeing that everything we are, everything we do ought to be of Him, through Him, by Him and to Him, as Romans says, so He gets the glory, not man. I don’t know how to get it across, because evidently Isaiah was in the same problem we are in. We get so proud and deceived by our own flesh that we can’t even see that we are a people of unclean lips. Our service is nothing more than energetic flesh that God will never bless.
Well, if you understand self, and if you are going through that, there are three things about self that might be important to you. Number one is self-will. That’s when you know self is involved: I will initiate it, and God better bless it. Self-will. Have you ever been there?
Secondly, it is self-effort: I’ll come up with it, and I’ll do it in my strength and bless God, I’ll do it. Have you ever heard that? Thirdly, it is self-glory: since I came up with it and since I’m doing it in my strength, I’ll take every bit of the glory for it. That’s where lots and lots of people find themselves. What’s our service like right now? Are we putting Him on display? Or are we putting ourselves on display?
Verses 6-7 just ought to light your fire. Verse 6 says, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs.” You know, I get this picture of the seraphim flying around there. They are hiding themselves with two wings. One of them hears something. “Oh, did I hear what I think I heard. Was that proud Isaiah? Did he admit something? Is he repenting? Praise God. Let’s get to the altar quickly. We’ve got to tell him something.” Hey, folks, the down side is the good side, because there is a flip side to that. The mercy of God is waiting on you if you will go on and get honest with Him.
He runs to the altar. The altar in the Old Testament is the cross in the New Testament. The price has already been paid. God has already expected that out of him. He knew he would fail. He has already taken care of it. The seraphim runs and grabs a token from the altar, a coal, and he flies quickly to Isaiah and touches him at the place of his sin, right on his lips. Oh, folks, can’t you see that is the way in which God wants to free us of old self.
As quickly as you are willing to die to that old pride in your life, God is that quick to forgive. Isn’t that precious? That’s what He told us in Chapter 1 of Ephesians. He said He lavishes us with forgiveness. Do you know what that means? It means you can’t sin that God doesn’t abound with grace and mercy to forgive you. He is ready to forgive you. “Oh, I have been carrying this around for a long time. You mean I can actually be honest with people like this?” Sure you can. If you can’t be honest in here, where can you be honest? Just go on and deal with that rotten, critical, judgmental, divisive pride. God said, as quick as you do, you are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. We have it available at any time.
Now, he is finally ready to be used. When he saw the pride in his life, look at what he does. Verse 7 reads, “And he touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.’” If we knew how quick we could be released from it, many, many more people would be running to the cross daily. The power of the cross is there again, that crucified life, when I am willing to go on and admit that, God is quick to forgive.
Verse 8 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’” Wait a minute! I thought he had already gone. I thought he was a prophet. Now, he is ready to be a vessel, and he said, “‘Here am I. Send me!’” Do you know what God was about to tell him? “Isaiah, I want you to go and preach a message that nobody will ever listen to.” “How long, O Lord? How long?” “Until the end.” Tradition says he was sawn in two and martyred for his faith. He couldn’t have handled that before because he was too proud. He couldn’t handle going out to where nobody would ever hear him again. You see, we are not ready to be sent until we are cleansed of the pride that is in our life.
What’s in your life? What’s your service like? Are you displaying Christ or are you displaying yourself? Moses displayed himself. He didn’t display God. That’s why he didn’t get to go into Canaan. That’s exactly what God said. “You did not represent me.” In other words, “You painted the picture that I am a tyrant ready to beat my people. Oh, no, Moses, you displayed yourself. You didn’t display me.” “Isaiah, you are displaying yourself. You are not displaying Me.” Who are you displaying?