In listening to believers’ testimonies, I often hear how it was some kind of hardship that initially brought them to the Lord:
- “My marriage fell apart, and I had nowhere to turn but God.”
- “I was diagnosed with cancer, and I cried out to the Lord like I never had.”
- “I lost my job of 23 years and was forced to trust in Him for my security.”
No doubt, God orchestrates difficult circumstances into our lives to bring us closer to Him. We are self-centered people who need “holy pressure” to move us away from the world toward God. So the Author of the Universe applies pain. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
However, we need more than to be brought to a place of weakness and powerlessness. We need to be brought to a place of wickedness and sinfulness. We need more than a good friend or divine Therapist or Financial Advisor; we need a Savior to rescue us from our God-dishonoring, hell-bent ways.
Isaiah had such an experience.
He saw of God “high and exalted, seated on a throne” (see Is. 6:1 ff.). He heard angelic beings calling out continuously to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” God is separate—altogether different—in a class by himself. He is overwhelmed by the splendor and greatness of God.
Isaiah is undone. He cries out, “Woe to me, I am ruined.” In other words, “I am damned!” He is broken; no, shattered. Like a glass jar breaking into a million pieces after being dropped on a marble floor. Then the prophet moans, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Dirty. Filthy.
Isaiah is wholly ruined.
This is the story of every true believer. This is how the process of redemption works. This is what true drug and alcohol rehabilitation looks like.
It begins with a vision of God. Seeing Him for who He is. We’ve got it all wrong when we think our problems are the result of low self-esteem. Self-image is not the primary issue; God-image is.
Seeing God rightly results in seeing ourselves rightly. Corrupt, contaminated sinners. Not merely people suffering from a disease or disorder. But people who are thoroughly evil, bad to the bone, needy of cleansing and forgiveness. Sight of God’s holiness exposes our true wretchedness.
One of the main problems in our evangelism is that while people have come to see their inadequacy, they have not come to grips with their true sinfulness. As Richard Lovelace writes, “The shallowness of many who are saved is the result of their never having known how lost they really were.”
This is watershed. Our pursuit of God is in proportion to the degree we understand our depravity. Healthy people don’t seek doctors; sick people do. And the sicker you see yourself, the more earnest you are in your quest for God.
Nobody is going to run to God for salvation if he or she hasn’t been traumatized by His holiness. Isaiah understood his need. He reckoned with his guilt: “Woe is me, it’s over, I’m done.”
Isaiah is not left in his ruined state, however. One of the angelic beings comes to him with a burning coal in his hand, touches his mouth with it, and removes his guilt and takes away his sin. From ruined to righteous.
Thankfully, God does not leave us in our condemnable state. “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10).
May God ruin us all.
He became sin who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross
Love so amazing, Love so amazing
Jesus Messiah, Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel
The rescue for sinners, the ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah, Lord of all
Thanks, Pastor Jeff! How well I remember my own “Holy Ruination” in 1992. I thank God for it and I pray that I remain fearfully aware of my own unrighteousness, my own depravity, without Him, so that I may seek Him all the more earnestly every day of my life.
John, Puritan writer John Owen (1616-1683) wrote, “Our earnestness for grace, our watchfulness, and our diligent obedience depends upon (our discovery of the evil within). Upon this one hinge the whole course of our lives will turn. Ignorance of it breeds senselessness, carelessness, sloth, self-sufficiency, and pride–all of which the Lord’s soul abhors. Eruptions into great, open, conscience-wasting, and scandalous sins are the result of a lack of due consideration of this basic law of indwelling sin.”