You Don't Need a Better You - You Need a Better View!
A few days ago, I watched an excellent video by Chris McRae, the pastor of the Sojourn Church in Carrolton, Texas. He was teaching about the issue of identity as a believer. Apart from the three main points of the message, what really stuck in my mind was the sentence that I’m using for the title of this blog: You Don’t Need a Better You – You Need a Better View!
Unfortunately, so much of the teaching and preaching in the church in America is antithetical to Chris’s assertion and is no more than an echo of the narcissistic, self-help, pop-psychology of the modern world system.
- Clement Stone (1902 – 2002) was founder of the Combined Insurance Company and was one of the great philanthropists of the 20th century, and co-author of “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude” and “The Success System That Never Fails.” He started the Combined Insurance Company with $100 borrowed from his grandmother and turned it into a billion-dollar enterprise by 1979. It is reported that he had his sales force recite aloud the following affirmations, among others, at the beginning of each day: “I feel happy; I feel healthy; I feel terrific!” “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
Positive thinking and talking is truly mind-altering and will make you a better you, and even make the world a better place to live. But it will not make you a new creation in Christ. Anyone, anytime, anywhere – atheist, pantheists, or polytheists - can use these self-help methods and become better persons. But it’s not the saving, life-transforming, God-acceptable way the Christian life begins or is transformed. The focus is wrong. It’s not about you!
What then is the “better view” that we desperately need? It is an RSVJ! What in the world is and RSVJ? It is a Revised Scriptural Vision of Jesus!
Isaiah, one of the great Old Testament prophets was given an RSVJ and it radically transformed his life and ministry. The narrative is found in the book he wrote that we have titled Isaiah, chapter 6:1-10. This chapter opens with these words, “In the year King Uzziah died”, which to us is an innocuous statement, but not such for the young prophet Isaiah. Such an announcement brought discouragement and disillusionment to Isaiah because a great king had passed away in a very tragic manner. This resulted in a crisis of leadership and sovereignty in the southern Kingdom of Judah. Was this the end of a great nation? Where was the LORD in all this?
Amid Isaiah’s ministry and during his mourning for King Uzziah, he got the “better view” of God’s identity and of his own as well. A background check reveals that prior to Isaiah’s vision, for several years he had been prophesying and preaching to the hard-hearted, idol-worshipping, rebellious people of God. The main theme of Isaiah, chapters one through five is judgment. For example, the term, “Woe unto them,” is used six times in chapter five alone (vss. 8, 11, l8, 20, 21, 22). But once Isaiah has seen the Lord, the theme changes quite obviously. The next five chapters (7-11) are so full of prophecies of the Person of Jesus Christ that scholars call these chapters “The Book of Immanuel.” Some of the greatest of Old Testament prophecies about Jesus are found in Isaiah chapters seven through eleven (see 7:14 and 9:6-7, in particular). Before Isaiah sees the Lord, his message is full of judgment; after he sees the Lord, his message is full of Jesus. Before, he is pronouncing woes upon others; after, he pronounces woe upon himself, and then begins prophesying about Christ.
It was while Isaiah was standing beside the grave of a king on earth that he saw the glory of the King of Heaven. It was when he observed a vacancy on earth that he saw a vision from Heaven.
What was the image he saw in this “Better view” that transformed him forever? Isaiah saw that we have an incomprehensibly glorious God (Isaiah 6:1-4) The first verse declares that “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
We need the New Testament to fill us in on this vision of the prophet. John informs us that Isaiah saw the Glory of God's Son. John 12:41, "Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him (the “him” is Jesus)."
The prophet Isaiah saw the God who is large and in charge. The throne of Israel was vacant, but the Throne in Heaven is always occupied by the God who both rules and reigns over all.
Any previous notions about who God was shattered by this vision. Isaiah discovered that this God can never be fully comprehended. He is “high and lifted up.” His ways are unsearchable, and His judgments are past finding out (Roms 11:33). His ways are not as our ways, neither are His thoughts as our thoughts. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so are His ways above our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, 9).
Isaiah realized that God can’t be controlled. He saw “the Lord sitting upon a throne.” God is the sovereign of the universe, and He does whatever He pleases. We can’t capture and confine and control God.
Isaiah saw that God can’t be changed or corrupted. The name, “Jehovah,” is made up of the present tense of the Hebrew verb which means “to be”; it means “I Am.” God is forever the same. What He is, He always has been and always will be. With Him there is no variation, neither any shadow cast by turning (James 1:17). Though King Uzziah had corrupted himself and his throne, the King of Heaven is incorruptible.
Isaiah Saw the Gravity of His Sinful State. 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."
It was in the presence of God the Son, whom we know as Jesus, that Isaiah is given another vision - not of beauty, but of the ugly, unholy, ungodly, horrible, state of his own heart.
Therefore Isaiah said, "Woe is me, for I am undone, lost." The word “undone” means to be “cut down, cut off, erased, or dissolved.” Psychologically, the term "undone" means “to come part”; ‘to experience personality fragmentation”; “to break-up”.
Isaiah Saw the Grace of God's Merciful Salvation. Consider the scandal of the statement of Isaiah 6:6-7, “your guilt is taken away; your sins are covered.” How can this be? Isaiah has just confessed that he is guilty before a Thrice Holy God, yet God, upon his confession, has declared him not guilty, and his sins atoned for. How can this be right?
The truth of the matter is Isaiah 6 does not give us the whole story. But if one keeps reading, they learn that there will be one born of a virgin that will be a Son given and a child born. This One will make the gospel the greatest news ever to fall on sinful ears: In the words of Isaiah in Chapter 53:4-6, "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - everyone - to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah Saw the Greatness of His Responsibility to Serve and Speak forth the Message of God. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord.” This is the first time God speaks in the story. The voice follows the vision. This order doesn’t change. We must seeGod before we can properly serve God. God’s plan involves a sending on His part, and a going on ours.
Then before Isaiah even knows what He is going for, or what He is being sent to do, he surrenders himself unconditionally to God (“Then said I, Here as I: send me” Is. 6:8). This is true Christian surrender. Knowing we can totally trust the all-wise and all-good God, we can commit ourselves to Him and His will without knowing yet what He wants of us. “And God said, Go, and tell this people.” God’s commission has not changed. We are to penetrate our society and proclaim our Savior. WHY?
- Because the groups without Christ (over 6500, totaling around 2.5 billion persons) have only enough knowledge to send them to hell! (Romans 1:18-20). The knowledge they have is only enough to reveal that God is great and glorious and they are guilty of sins against Him.
- Because the gospel of God is powerful enough to save them for Him and Heaven.
- Because the glory of God is good enough to satisfy them forever!
Have you lost confidence in the power of the gospel to save the hardest, the worst, or the most moral persons? Have you lost sight of the real Jesus, who is large and in charge? Have you seen Him high and lifted up to such an extent that you are compelled to say with the Apostle Paul: "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men to be reconciled to God?" (2 Cors. 5:11)
Are you struggling to become a “Better You” when in reality what you need is a “Better View”? Do you need a recovery of biblical hope because of the hopeless scene that is unfolding before our eyes? Let's begin to cry out expectantly every day: Lord, give me a Revised Scriptural Vision of Jesus. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. I want to see you high and lifted up. Give me a Better View of You!
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