Sunday Sermon: ‘Making a Difference in This World’

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Please take your Bibles and turn to Isaiah 6 as we study today “How to Make a Difference in This World.” There’s an old Chinese proverb that says – “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Sometimes we think that we’ve done our part simply by cursing the darkness, yet rarely does cursing the darkness do anyone any good. It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness. Or in other words, it’s better to provide a solution than simply talk about the problem.

I often think about my life and what I am doing to make a positive difference in this world. Adrian Rogers used to say that everyone has the ability to brighten a room. Some folks brighten a room when then enter and others brighten a room when they leave. I want to be someone who brightens the room when I enter. I want to have a positive impact upon this world. I want someone’s world to be a little bit better just because I was here. I know that many of you feel the same way and I see you doing many things to make a positive difference in this world. Yesterday I watched a group of men and women from our church make a difference. I watched them give up part of their day off to help someone in need. That’s what I am talking about. Doing something that will make someone else’s world a little bit better.

One day Jesus was preaching a sermon and in that sermon He said –

“Ye are the salt of the earth… Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a basket, but instead on a candlestick; so that it can give light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 author’s translation)

Jesus said that our purpose in this world is to light a candle, rather than simply curse the darkness.

Centuries ago there was a very dark day in the land of Israel. Most of the nation had turned its back on God and judgment was coming. Yet in the midst of that darkness, God called a man by the name of Isaiah to be a light.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Today I want to share with you how God prepared Isaiah to make a difference.

I. To Make a Difference We Have to Be Able to See God

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord…

A. The Ability to See God

Are you able to see God? Some people can’t see God. Though they may believe that there is a God, He seems to them as though He’s a million miles away and in another world. People who can’t see God, can’t rely upon God. They try to handle life all on their own. Why can’t we sometimes see God? Let me give you a few reasons:

1. We don’t really know God

Maybe we know ‘about’ God, but we don’t know God. We’ve never been born-again by the Spirit of God. God is a theory or fable. Maybe there’s a God, but we’re just not sure. We’ve never had a personal encounter with the living God.

2. We’re spiritually shallow

Maybe we’ve been saved, but we’ve never grown as a believer. That Bible says that we’re still on milk when it’s time for us to be on meat.

3. We’re spiritually lazy

We know what we should do, but we just don’t do it. We don’t invest anything in our relationship with God.

4. There’s sin in our lives

The Bible tells us that sin will keep us from have fellowship with God. Such sin could be something like lust, greed, or anger, but it also could be something such as bitterness or resentment towards God.

5. We don’t see God working in our lives

Each of the things I have just mentioned can keep us from seeing God work in our lives. When that happens, we start to doubt God. Is He real? Does He care? Is He able? Is He willing? Whenever these thoughts begin to control our mind, we drift away from God and stop communicating with Him. We don’t pray because we don’t see Him working. And the reason we don’t see Him working, is because we don’t pray.

How big is your God? That’s a crazy question isn’t it? God is the same, regardless of what we think or know about Him. The Bible says – “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2 NIV) God is God regardless of whether or not we believe in Him. Scripture says that He is the same – yesterday, today, and forever. (see Heb 13:8) The problem is not that God is too small. The problem is that our vision of Him is often too small.

Isaiah had a small vision of God. As far as Isaiah could see, the king was dead. (King Uzziah that is) For the most part, King Uzziah had been a good king. He became king when he was only sixteen and he ruled for over fifty years. During his reign, he had helped restore the nation of Israel back to the conditions when David and his son Solomon were kings. He was a good king. Some might say that he was a great king.

But now Uzziah was dead. Many think that Isaiah entered into the temple in somewhat of a discouraged state. Perhaps he was thinking, “What in the world are we going to do now that King Uzziah is dead?” That’s what happens when we put our confidence in men, rather than in God.

But then something happened that Isaiah didn’t expect. God showed up. Isaiah got a vision of the REAL KING OF GLORY!

B.  Isaiah’s Ability to See God

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord…

What did Isaiah see when He saw God?

Isaiah 6:1 …sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

1. He saw a God that is alive and real                                

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…

To many people, God’s not much more than a fairy tale or an old story. He’s not real, alive and relevant to their lives. But God is alive and He is still involved in our lives. Jesus said –

Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that God is alive and real and relevant to your life? If you don’t believe that, you won’t see God working in your life and you won’t make a positive difference in this world. People who make a difference who have real faith in a real God.

2. He saw a God that is wonderful and glorious

Isaiah saw the Lord seated upon His throne. Isaiah saw a God that ruled above the circumstances of life. Isaiah saw a God that is still on the throne, regardless of what happens here on earth.

3. He saw a God that is awesome and powerful

The temple shook when the angels declared God’s glory. If you want an illustration of what the word awesome means, here it is. The word awesome refers to something that is so overwhelmingly great that it causes those in its presence to tremble. The Bible says –

“Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.” (Ps 33:8)

 For Isaiah to make a difference, he had to have big faith in a big God.

II. To Make a Difference We Have to Be Able to See the Need

A. Jesus Saw the Need

Matthew 9:36 … when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

The phrase ‘moved with compassion’ means to be touched in our inner most being. In other words, the needs of the people had an effect upon God. Did you know that our needs still affect Jesus? We read from the book of Hebrews –

Hebrews 4:11 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

The word ‘infirmities’ refers to our “human weaknesses.” Because Jesus was a man, He understands what it is like to be human. He was tempted, or perhaps a better translation would be ‘tested’ in every way that you and I are tempted and tested. Jesus understands what is like to live here on this earth. There’s something else important in this verse. The way that it was written indicates that Jesus is still, to this very day, affected by our struggles. He’s not cold and indifferent. He’s not a million miles away. He’s right here with us in this struggle.

B. Can We See the Need?

I have a personal conviction. I believe that God often reveals need to me because He wants me to get involved. Often I’m like the disciples who said, “Send them into the city so that they may buy themselves bread.” In other words, “Let someone else deal with this.” I believe that Jesus not only sees their need, He also sees my indifference and if so, then one day I’m going to have to stand before Him and give an account for my indifference.

Why are we sometimes indifferent to the need around us?

1. Perhaps it’s due to our selfishness

We want God to give us His grace by the truckload, while we dish it out to others with a thimble. Life is all about us and therefore we can’t see the need around us.

2. Perhaps it’s due to our hopelessness

I believe that we as Christians sometimes think that the world is too far gone for anyone to make a positive difference, so why try? Pack up, close up shop, and let’s go home. Yet we need to realize that as long as God keeps us here, that means He still has work for us to do.

3. Perhaps it’s due to our pride

“I can’t believe that so and so would do such and such.” “Boy, I would never be that way.” Yet the Bible says – “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall…” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Consider what happened to Isaiah –

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Perhaps we should take a few moments here and consider Isaiah’s situation. King Uzziah, for the most part, had been a good king. Yet he had a dark side. His name meant “Jehovah is strength” and he demonstrated that by the way God used him to help Israel defeat many of its enemies. He was a military genius.

Because of his many military victories, the nation of Israel prospered. But then a terrible thing happened to Uzziah. The Bible says – “when he became powerful, his pride destroyed him.” (2 Chron 26:16 GWT) Near the end of his life, Uzziah did a terrible thing. He went into the temple, where only the priest were to go, and tried to offer incense upon the golden altar. Though the priests did everything they could to resist him, he resisted their counsel. Then God stepped into the picture. The Bible says – “While he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out across his forehead…” (2 Chron 26:19 GWT) God struck him down with leprosy, even while he was standing in the temple. He never recovered. He died of leprosy.

Many of you know that those who had leprosy had to cry out something whenever any approached them. The Bibles says that they had to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” Consider that as we re-read Isaiah’s words while in the temple.

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

I believe that Isaiah used the word ‘unclean’ because he remembered the leprosy of King Uzziah. Uzziah had been plagued with a physical leprosy and therefore he had to cry out “Unclean!” Isaiah, and the rest of the nation, had the disease of spiritual leprosy. In other words, when Isaiah saw his sinfulness in the light of God’s holiness, he was completely broken. ‘Woe is me! I am undone’ literally means – “It’s all over. There’s no hope. God is going to strike me dead for being such a hypocrite.”

III. To Make a Difference We Have to Be Able to See How God is Going to Use Us to Meet That Need

A. Isaiah’s Confession

B. Isaiah’s Cleansing

Isaiah deserved to be struck dead. But God didn’t strike him dead. Instead God did something pretty amazing once Isaiah realized his sinfulness.

Isaiah 6:6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

I’m sure that this is only symbolic of what actually happened. A live coal from the altar would have severely burned Isaiah’s lips. So what really happened? The altar spoken of here was probably the brazen altar that stood at the entrance of the temple. There the animals were sacrificed up to God as their bodies were laid upon the hot burning coals. The brazen altar represented a place where sin was judged.

The angel took a hot coal from the brazen altar and laid it upon Isaiah’s lips and by doing so, cleansed him of his sin. Isaiah said that he had unclean lips, and so it his lips that the angel cleansed. Consider what the Bible says –

1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 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 his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I’m not worthy to be used by God and neither are you. According to his own confession, neither was Isaiah. But our God is gracious. The Bible says that God is not willing that any should perish. God receives no pleasure from punishing the wicked. God receives pleasure and glory when He is able to extend to us His gracious forgiveness.

C. Isaiah’s Commissioning

Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?…

God said, “I’ve got a job that needs to be done. Who can we find to do it?” What was God doing? He was testing Isaiah to see if he was God’s man.

Isaiah 6:8 …Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Where was God going to send Isaiah? God was going to send Isaiah right back into the darkness he had just come out of; only this time in a much different way. Rather than cursing the darkness, Isaiah was going to light a candle.

CONCLUSION

We live in a world full of need: physical need and spiritual need. Often it seems that we as Christians go to one of two extremes in meeting the need of the world:

We go far to the left and focus only upon the physical need of the world. We sometimes think that if we feed the hungry, we’ve done all that needs to be done.

Or, we go far to the right and focus only upon the spiritual need of the world. We sometimes think that all is needed is for us to share the gospel.

It seems to me that Jesus did both. He met both physical and spiritual needs. He did not turn a deaf ear to the cries of those that were hungry; neither did He feed them a meal and then walk away. Jesus fed them them the bread of this world and then He fed them the bread of life.

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