In the year that King Uzzia died, the prophet Isaiah went into the temple to pray (Isa. 6:1-3). There, in a vision, he saw the LORD. He saw the LORD sitting on a throne. The train of His robe filled the temple. Then he saw the seraphims, fiery, burning angels. Their wings covered both their faces and their feet. The seraphims cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory.” Then the foundations of the temple shook at the voice of the LORD. The temple was filled with smoke.
Isaiah experienced the presence of God. But He did not cry or fall to the ground or laugh or joke around or go home and browse the internet. Instead, he pronounced a curse of death upon himself. He said, “Woe is me! Woe is me!” To declare, “woe,” to yourself is to declare a curse of death to yourself.
He said, “I am undone!” He was saying, “I am unraveled! I am broken! I am shattered!” Then he added, “For I am a man of unclean lips; and I live among a people of unclean lips.” The reason he declared a curse of death unto himself, the reason he was undone, is that he had unclean lips. Unclean lips are caused by an unclean heart. Unclean words come from an unclean heart. Isaiah saw that he was a sinner before a holy God. Thus, he confessed his sin before a holy God.
That is what happens when you experience the presence of God. You become conscious of your sinfulness. You see the holiness of God. Then you see yourself—undone, unholy, unworthy, undeserving.
That is also how Peter reacted to Jesus one day. The disciples had been out in the sea fishing. They come back with their nets empty. There is Jesus and he speaks to them. Why don’t you throw your nets on the other side of the boat? They said, “Lord, we’ve been out all night but there was no fish. But since you said it, we’ll try it again.” They obeyed. What happened next was that every fish in the Sea of Galilee jumped in! They jumped into the net till the net was about to break!
Peter looked at Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I’m a sinful man!”
Jesus didn’t given a sermon on repentance. He just said where to throw the net. But the same one who could command the wind and sea, now commands the fish to leave the sea.
The same response is there, absolute terror. In the presence of the holy, Peter is only conscious of his sin.
The thing my cousin failed to understand is that to invent a religion of a God who protects us from our fears, you will have to invent a God who is nice to you all the time. But why would we invent a God whose character is far more terrifying than the things we fear—the winds, the waves, or the lack of fish? Why should we invent a God who reveals our selfishness and exposes our sinfulness?