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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - Holy, Holy, Holy

Mark Batterson - Holy, Holy, Holy

Mark Batterson - Holy, Holy, Holy
TOPICS: Holiness

The first thing you notice is his beard. It's long, it's thick, it's white. It covers half of his weathered face. His eyes are closed like a blackout curtain. Tears trickle down his cheeks, but you're not sure why. Tears of joy or tears of sorrow? His hands start to tremble, his body starts to shake, and he falls to the ground like a timbered tree. People don't know what to think. Is he okay? Is this okay? In the corner, there are skeptics whispering, always whispering. Who does he think he is? Doesn't he know where he is? Doesn't he know we don't worship this way? This is the temple after all. The old man could care less, because he cares so much. His eyes aren't closed because he's tired, his eyes are closed because that's how he opens them. His name is Isaiah. The people call him the prophet.

Minutes seem like hours. He finally gets up off of those old, calloused knees, picks up the hem of his garment. He walks out of the temple and through the streets of Jerusalem makes his way down an alley through a door into a humble dwelling where he sits down at his writing desk. He dips his pen, then he puts his pen to parchment on that unrolled scroll, and he begins to write Hebrew characters from right to left.

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and exalted, seated on the throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings. With two they covered their eyes, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to each other, 'Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,' the whole earth is full of His glory. At the sound of their voices, the door post shook, the threshold shook, the temple was filled with smoke. Then Isaiah said, 'Woe is me, I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, yet my eyes, my closed eyes, have seen the Lord Almighty.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, 'Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"

May the Lord add his blessing to the reading of his word. And may God reveal his glory all over again. Last fall, we did a retreat to Colorado with Dick Foth for network pastors, part of our Dream Collective. Dick Foth said something that inspired this series. I can't stop thinking about it. As a young pastor, he had a moment where he got frustrated, because people weren't doing what he was telling them to do. Shocking, I know. And that's when Foth heard the unmistakable, inaudible voice of God, that still, small voice that said, "Foth, stop telling them what to do. Start telling them who I am and I'll tell them what to do". We begin a series called Holy and it's not about what you can do for God. It's about who God is. An attribute is not something God does. An attribute is something God is. God doesn't just love, God is love.

God isn't just good, God is good. Only good, always good, gooder than good, as good as it gets. He is the definition of good. And so we focus on one attribute, God is holy. Let's double back. Dig in. Here we go. Verse one, "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". Ancient kings wore robes, and those robes were resumes. When a king won a battle, when a king conquered another king, the robe of that defeated foe was cut up and sewn into the conquering king's robe. The longer the robe, the more victories that King had won. So when it says that the train of his robe fills the temple, I think what it's saying is that he has defeated sin and defeated death, defeated every foe, but I wanna make it personal. When we surrender our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, our testimony gets sown into that robe.

Come on. Our testimony becomes a testament to the God who heals, saves, and delivers. Can I get an amen right there? King Uzziah sat on the throne for 52 years, one of Israel's longest reigning kings. He was the only leader that most Israelites had ever known. He was their identity, he was their security, and so when he died, Isaiah lost his center of gravity, but sometimes something has to die for us to get a vision. Sometimes something has to die for us to find our security, our identity in God and God alone. I don't want to say what I'm about to say, but I'm not doing anybody any favors if I pull punches. Just like muscles break down to build up, I think grief creates capacity for glory. I think that sadness and sorrow, in my experience, create capacity for joy. That pain and suffering can create capacity for praise, but the only way to learn this is to learn it the hard way.

But you have to believe in seasons of loss that God is digging a deeper well, that God is doing something in your life that's gonna recenter that gravity and make you who he called you to be. And this I know for sure, he is still the God who gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Isaiah sees God high and exalted. He sees God seated on a throne, sees God in all of his glory, and that same Isaiah writes these words many chapters later, Isaiah 55. "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,' declares the Lord". Can I suggest that God is the Mandelbrot set with ever-increasing complexity? That God is the Mobius strip that throws us for a loop? That God is the cork we cannot catch? "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts".

God likens the difference between his thoughts, our thoughts, his ways, our ways to the distance from one side of the universe to the other. That is not easy to put into perspective, but let's give it a go. The sun is 93 million miles away. If you could drive there 65 miles an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it would take you 163 years to get there, but the Sun that warms our face on a sunny day is only eight minutes and 20 seconds old. How is that even possible? It's called the speed of light. 186,000 miles per second. Snap your fingers. Light just circled the globe half a dozen times. In light years, the Sun is only 0.000001 light years away. The latest estimate according to astrophysicists, is that the comoving distance of the universe from one side to the other is 93 billion light years, and God says that's about the distance between your thoughts and my thoughts.

So here's my thought. Your best thought on your best day is 93 billion light years short of how good and how great God really is. "How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be," said G. K. Chesterton. "If the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos"? Do it, Lord. Do it in me. A little thought experiment. Is that okay? How are we doing? A little thought experiment. We'll start in the womb. We'll end up in outer space. Every one of us started out as a sperm cell. It measures 0.05 millimeters, which requires a 400 times magnification microscope just to see it.

Now the average egg cell, awfully small, but in terms of volume, it's 10 million times the size of a sperm cell. At the moment of conception, gender and genetic makeup already encoded into that double helix DNA at four months, about four inches long. At full term, average baby, about 20 inches. That's 2,500 times the size of that original egg, in nine months, no less, and we barely blink. Unbelievable. Stick with me. When you're a kid, a toddler, all you see is kneecaps, fair? Adults, they're huge, and so here's the deal. My dad may be bigger than your dad. Anybody else do that trick, but the truth is, even a large human is much smaller than a large land animal. Elephants can weigh up to seven tons.

Oh, I love this. And poop 220 pounds a day. But Dumbo is no match for Free Willie, because the blue whale, 150 tons, 110 stories tall, but Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, way bigger than that, but not as big as Mount Everest, which isn't as big as the African continent or the Atlantic Ocean, which is really much smaller than the planet we live on, which weighs about 13 septillion pounds. But you could fit 1,300 Earth into the volume of Jupiter. But the sun's diameter is 10 times that of Jupiter. And every single second produces the energy equivalent of a trillion megaton bombs, but it's a yellow dwarf star. There are super giants that are 15 times the size and there are hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way.

Did you know that 100 years ago, most astronomers thought it was a static state universe, thought that the Milky Way was the sum total of all that there is. Oh, we were thinking so small. The truth is, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies and the galaxies are expanding at the speed of light. In other words, those four words, "let there be light," are still creating galaxies at the outer edge of the universe. Makes you a little dizzy, doesn't it? Speaking of, if it feels like you're sitting still, you're not sitting still. Gravity gives that impression, but you're spinning at about 1,000 miles an hour. You're speeding through space at 67,000 miles per hour, but you're in a galaxy that's rotating at 468,000 miles per hour. But the Milky Way is so big, 100,000 light years from one side to the other, it's gonna take 200 million years to make one full rotation.

What is this message even about? Maybe just maybe we stop putting God in tiny little boxes. What does it have to do with holy? It's the very definition of "holy". Wholly other, God is in a category by himself. He has no rival. He has no equal. There is none like him. God is bigger than big. The theological word is "transcendence". He is God most high, but God is also closer than close. Did you know that the word "holy" is also an intimate word? The theologian, Ralph Martin calls it a lover's language. He is God most nigh, which to me brings us back to the womb. See, here's the thing. God doesn't fit within the four dimensions of space time. He created much less the logical constraints of our left brain, and yet he knows the number of hairs on your head. He knits you together in your mother's womb. You are his workmanship. He has prepared good works. He's ordering your footsteps. It's God who is so big and so intimate that the only word I have for it is holy.

Verse three, "They were calling to each other, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory". In the Hebrew language. One way to add emphasis is to repeat something twice. Verily, verily I say unto you. And Jesus would even say, Martha, Martha, Simon, Simon. Just to, "Hey, just listen to this twice, okay"? Pay careful attention. And at the burning bush, God says what? "Moses, Moses". But the angels don't say it twice. They say it thrice. Threefold repetition is the strongest superlative in the Hebrew language. It's called a super-superlative, and it's found nowhere else except here and in Heaven, because in Revelation 4:8, the angels are still singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come". The trinity is thrice holy. Now the Hebrew word for holy, "kadosh," it's the opposite of kalel, which means "common".

Holy is anything but ordinary. It means set apart, consecrated, dedicated to God. The word "holy" means "other". The word "holy" means "whole," W-H-O-L-E, and I think you put them together, and you come closest to this idea that God is wholly other. "God's holiness," said A. W. Tozer, "is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered". God is in a category by himself. Soren Kierkegaard called it the infinitive qualitative distinction. I don't even know what that means, but it sounds right. Let me bring it down to earth. Years ago I was reading a book titled "Dog and Cat Theology". The authors argue that there are two kinds of people in the world that relate to God very differently. A dog person says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God". A cat person says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God".

My apologies to cat lovers, but God spelled backwards is dog. And diaper spelled backwards is repaid. that's for new parents. Read the Bible cover to cover, and there is one unavoidable, unmistakable, undeniable conclusion that you come to, there is a God, and I'm not him. Someday, my friends, and this isn't a threat, it's a promise. It's a beautiful promise. We will stand before the throne of God. I won't be on it. You won't be on it. God, in all of his glory, in all of his holiness, he is still seated on his throne here. Now I have to go here a little bit, because there's so many false assumptions, false narratives when it comes to holiness. I think some of us think church lady, church cat, SNL, right? Like, can I just say this? The opposite of holiness is holier than thou. The opposite of righteousness is self-righteousness. "I don't want any part of that".

The best definition, the simplest definition, why don't you jot this down? Holiness is Christ's likeness. "Jesus is the dictionary," said Eugene Peterson, "In which we look up the meaning of words". In other words, you wanna see what holy looks like, acts like, talks like, walks like It looks like, it acts like, it talks like, and it walks like Jesus. And the last time I checked, Jesus broke some religious boxes. Jesus broke some religious rules. He ate with sinners, celebrated Samaritans, touched lepers, healed on the Sabbath and all of that, of course, offended the Pharisees, why? Because the Pharisees practice what I would call holiness by subtraction. "Don't do this, don't do that, and you're okay". The problem with that is this, you can do nothing wrong and still do nothing. Goodness is not the absence of badness. When we fixate on sins of commission and we just kind of ignore the sins of omission, what we would, could, should do, what you end up with really is legalism. It's conformity to an external religious code. It's behavior modification. Holiness is inside out.

P. T. Forsyth said it this way. "We have seen in Christ a holiness the prophets did not know. It is not less solemn, it is not less sublime, but it is more sweet". Don't you love that about Jesus? It it is more deep. It is more abiding. It's not just a vision, it's a presence and a power. Now stick with me. Holiness is both a person and a process. It's past tense and present tense. It's a noun and a verb. And the best way to think about this is the duality of light. Light is a wave weight, light is a particle weight. It's both. So holiness is positional. Now it's interesting, because holiness, yes, something that we do for God in the form of consecration, but it's something first and foremost that God does for us. The word kadosh can mean "to cut," which is critical, because that's how covenants were established.

Read Genesis 15 and what you'll see... And, again, recorded human history is 5,000 years, and this is 4,000 years ago. So you would expect this to be somewhat primitive. So the way a covenant was established is an animal was literally sacrificed in half, and some scholars suggest that when you walk through the parts, you actually walk through it in a figure eight, which the last time I checked is the infinity symbol, because God's covenants are eternal, and so what I'm saying today is, if you are in Christ, you are in covenant with God and you're holy, but it's also a process, isn't it? So how does that happen? Well, I think the Holy Spirit has two names and I'll just do this really, really quick, but I think you'll remember it. Last name, Spirit, first name, Holy, is that fair?

So the job of the Holy Spirit is to form the character of Christ, which is holiness in us, and so I think sometimes we're so focused, like, "Man, there's just so much sin. There's just so much sin in my life". You do not want to drink this, do you? That's nasty. So we think, "How am I gonna get rid of that sin problem here"? Here's what's counterintuitive. God does it for us, how? By the outpouring and in filling of his spirit. You know what? Well, is it really making a difference? Fill me, Holy Spirit, I need you. I need you. Come and fill me. Come and fill me. Fill me again. Oh, God, fill me with your spirit. Sanctify me. Purify me with your spirit. May the fruit of the Spirit fill me to overflowing.

Let me just go back for another drink. It tasted good. Let me change lanes. A few weeks ago, my counselor said something that reframed our counseling session. He said that goal of counseling is to get me to operate a little outside my programming. All of us have adapted strategies, and we're gonna get really practical right here, because how do we work this out? We all have adaptive strategies from our family of origin, how we get attention, how we resolve conflict, how we relate to others, how we react to life in general. When those adaptive strategies are not working, we usually just keep doing more of the same thing, or is that just me? And I'm discovering that not just in counseling, but in spiritual growth, that the way it happens is when I operate just a little bit outside my programming, and so we're about to enter a Lenten season. What if we just operated a little outside our programming and see what God does?

So three challenges. One is personal prayer. Personal prayer. You're gonna get one of these on the way out, a kneeler. I have two reconstructed knees, a couple of ACL tears. I need a kneeler, but I bet some of the rest of us do too. But here's what we want. And by the way, our kids are getting one like this. How awesome is that? As I was praying this week, I was just envisioning our kids learning what it means to just posture before God in humility and believe him for big things. I can't wait to see what God does. Would you put this somewhere that it's a reminder? Here's my personal recommendation. Put it next to your bed. Great way to start the day and end the day. Just a few moments on our knees. This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Now the second challenge is corporate prayer. Would you make House of Prayer part of your rhythm? Thursday night, 7:14 PM, DC campus, Capitol Turnaround. We're gonna press in and pray through. Come Holy Spirit. Believing God for some extraordinary miracles. Corporate prayer, and then a weekly fast. And you'll see a number. You can text FAST to that number and I'm gonna challenge you to do it. How many of you... Well, let me say this. If you have an eating disorder, if there is a medical condition, my recommendation is that you don't fast food. That you find something else to fast, but I'm gonna fast food, and those physical hunger pains produce spiritual hunger pains, and we're gonna do a John Wesley fast, and so here's what you're signing up for, and I hope you're even texting right now, sundown to sundown from Wednesday to Thursday, starting Ash Wednesday, you eat dinner on Wednesday, you start fasting, and then about that same time on Thursday, you break fast, and guess what? Dinner's on us.

Come on, right before House of Prayer. Let's break fast together and then let's just give God our praise. How does that sound? No, how does that sound? All right, let me close with this. In Judaism, there's a prayer called kedushah. It's a recitation of Isaiah 6:3. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth full of His glory". They would recite these verses, recite these words with a unique body posture. I want you to stand, campuses, online if you can, I want you to stand, because Jewish rabbis believed, and this is a... I don't know about this, okay? But I know it comes from Ezekiel 1:7. They believed that angels had one fused leg, and so follow with me here. You pray with your feet together, kind of forming one leg, and what's what's interesting is that little change in body posture is like, you have to have a little bit of balance, don't you?

And it makes you more cognizant. It almost centers you like a deep breath, and so while they sang this song, prayed this prayer, they were not human. They pretended to be angels, which I just think is kind of beautiful. You can pretend to be a lot of things. That's not a bad thing to pretend to be, but there's more with those legs together. The kedushah was recited on tiptoes. Can you try it? No one fall over on me. Don't fall over on me. And it's hard, it's hard. Here's what's in my spirit. Over the next seven weeks in this Lenten series, we're gonna hit our knees in prayer and we're gonna worship on tip totes, and I think for some of us, some of this is a little outside our programming. That's the point. It's about saying, "God, what do you wanna do in us and through us"? You can stay standing, but I need three more minutes.

Isaiah 6:4, "At the sound of their voices, the doorpost and threshold shook, and the temple was filled with smoke. Then Isaiah said, 'Woe is me, I am undone.'" We have lost the wow of God, because we have lost the woe of God, and we have lost the woe of God, because we have lost the wow of God. When you have an Isaiah encounter with a holy God, when God reveals his glory, your ego is undone, your sin is undone, your shame is undone. Self-consciousness undone, self-centeredness undone. Now you start living for the glory of God and it starts with the step of faith. I think it starts by surrendering our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, and I wonder if you're in the house, if you're online, this is your moment, the Holy Spirit just tugging at your heart. This is a moment to commit and recommit our lives to the Lord. I wanna pray a prayer and we're just gonna make it a corporate prayer, so that everyone can pray it. I don't want you to pray it if you don't mean it. I haven't heard it yet. Stick with me. I'm gonna pray it out loud. You can pray it after me, but I think this is a moment of saying:

God, you have made me holy, and I'm on a journey to become more and more like you. I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord. And I believe in my heart. That God raised him from the dead. Right here, right now. I confess my sin. I profess my faith. I surrender my life. To the lordship of Jesus Christ. Past, present, future. Time, talent, treasure. Heart, soul, mind and strength, And I declare by faith. That God is my father. Jesus is my savior. The Holy Spirit is my helper. And Heaven is my home.

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