I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…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!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:1–7)
When Isaiah sees God’s glory he is undone.
With the full force of revelation, the holy presence filling the temple makes him realize that, as a sinful man, he is far too unclean to be there.
So what does Isaiah do? He confesses his uncleanness—and not just his own, but of all the people. He views himself as a representative of all that is morally and spiritually wrong with God’s people. He cries out, “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…” And God responds, “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Let us not miss the significance of this for how we gather as a church.
In an encounter with God’s holy presence, our sin must be dealt with.
This involves two things. First, a right response from us: the humble and honest confession of our sin. We must have our own “Woe is me!” moment when we come into God’s presence. This is why, when LifePoint gathers, we offer a prayer of confession, which sounds something like this:
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we have sinned against You and against our neighbor in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault. We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins. For the sake of Your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive all that is past and grant that we may serve You in newness of life to the glory of Your name. Amen.
A prayer like this furnishes our gathered worship with language by which we can express true confession and repentance before God. What is spiritually and morally wrong with LifePoint Church? In the prayer of confession, each of us is given the opportunity to fess up as Isaiah did, answering, I am.
But second, a proper dealing with our sin involves an even greater opportunity: hearing a word of assurance, the Gospel of grace, which reminds us of God’s glorious love. From God, we hear the same Good News Isaiah heard: “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for. Come into My presence and worship Me as your King.” This might be proclaimed to LifePoint through the reading of a passage of Scripture such as 1 John 3:2-3 or Romans 5:8-9.
The basic idea behind confession and assurance is to give us a pattern for the Christian life.
As Christ-followers we need to be in the daily habit of owning our sinfulness before a holy God. We also need to be in the daily habit of allowing the truth of the Word to assure us of God’s love for us. Together, confession and assurance constitute a crucial practice for the church—a practice that enriches our worship gathering by giving us a realistic perspective of ourselves and, most importantly, of God in Christ:
“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103:8, 10)
PRAYER AND REFLECTION:
- When the church prays a prayer of confession in gathered worship, what impact does it have on you? What’s going on in your heart and in your thoughts? Are you absent-mindedly reciting the words, or is it bringing a deeper awareness of your sinfulness in God’s presence?
- Ask God’s Spirit to do a profound work of conviction among LifePoint. Pray that people, yourself included, would not be able to “feel at home” in God’s presence without humble confession and thorough repentance of all known sin.
- Ask also that the Gospel of grace would be treasured, celebrated, and proclaimed in everything we do as a church. Pray that the Holy Spirit would make us more and more amazed by the Gospel.
Set List for Sunday, March 31, 2019:
- Yes And Amen (T. Brown, C. McClarney, N. Moore)
- What A Beautiful Name (B. Fielding, B. Ligertwood)
- There is a Fountain Filled with Blood (W. Cowper)
- All Hail King Jesus (J. Riddle, P. Mattis, R. Jackson, S. Gretzinger)
- This I Believe (The Creed) (M. Crocker, B. Fielding)