Sunday, May 31, 2015
Last Sunday was Pentecost which is the day we remember when the Holy Spirit came upon the first followers of Jesus. The Spirit of God appeared like tongues of fire, but more importantly the Spirit of God entered into the hearts and lives of the disciples giving them unexplained courage and the ability to share the truth of Jesus in ways they never thought possible. The day of Pentecost reveals that God is not just the unseen force that created the universe; God is also a Spirit that is present in our hearts, lives and world here today. God is not just spirit out there somewhere; God is spirit, the Holy Spirit, right here in our lives.
So God is seen in the Bible as the creator of the world and the one who sustains the world by his power. God is seen in the person of Jesus and in fact Jesus said that he and his Father are one and that when we see Jesus we are seeing God the Father and on the day of Pentecost we see God as a personal Spirit that engages each individual. We call these 3 persons or expressions of God the Trinity. While there is one God, there are 3 different and unique expressions of God.
The word trinity is never found in the Bible, but the concept or idea of the trinity certainly is. In some of Jesus’ final words on earth he said, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And in a book of the New Testament we don’t often read from, Paul’s letter to Titus, we see how the early church understood that God was at work through these different person. Titus 3:4-6
So while the word is never used, the concept of God at work as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is clear. Now because of our desire to understand how things works, most of our time is spent trying to define the trinity, but the truth is that we can never fully understand how God can be three and yet one. It is one of the divine mysteries of our faith and we shouldn’t try to explain it as much as we should try to understand what it means for our lives. If God is three-in-one, then what does that tell us about God and what does that say about how we are to live our lives and how we are to live out our faith.
The first implication of the Trinity is that if God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and if God has related to the world through these 3 persons, then God is relational. In deeply personal ways, God relates to himself as Father and Son. We see this in the life of Jesus. While Jesus was fully God, he prayed to his father. Jesus sought communion with his father, he poured out his heart and life to his father. God is relational and the implications of this are twofold. First it tells us that God wants a personal relationship with us, and it tells us that God wants us to be in relationship with one another.
Because God is relational, God wants to have a relationship with each of us God. God wants to know us personally and God wants us to know him. God wants to speak to our lives, our situation, our needs and our future. The problem having this personal relationship with God is that God is infinitely and completely holy, pure and perfect and we are not, which means that on our own, we cannot connect with God. But God loves us so much and so wants this personal relationship with us that God sent Jesus to take on our sin which separates us from God so that we can be forgiven and made pure and holy. God welcomes us into a relationship with him through Jesus Christ; in fact, this is what Paul says to Titus.
If we go back to Titus 3:4-6 we see that it is not just a passage that expresses God as three in one, it is also a passage that tells us that we are able to enter into a relationship with God through the love of Jesus which forgives us, and the work of the Holy Spirit which cleanses us and makes us holy. So through the work of God as the Son and Holy Spirit, we are able to enter into a personal relationship with God the Father, but it doesn’t stop with that relationship. God also wants us to be in relationship with others.
If we are created in the image of a triune God who is relational, then we are also relational beings. This means that God created us to be in relationship with one another. The Bible makes this clear from the beginning. After God made one person he looked and said, it is not good for this person to be alone so he made another person – Adam and Eve.
When God chose to work in the world, he chose to work not just through one person, Abraham, but his family. God’s desire was to build a nation that could reach out to the people around them. God called Israel to be a light to the nations which meant they had to be in relationship with those around them. Jesus chose 12 disciples to be in community with him, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on a group of people that made the church. God has always worked through people, which means we are called into relationship with one another and we are encouraged to stay in these relationships of faith where we help one another grow. Look at Hebrews 10:24-25.
The reason we stress and encourage people to be part of a small group is because it is the relationships that can develop through these groups that help us grow in our faith. Just this week I heard that testimony again and saw the power of those relationships in action. When Matt Christopher was in his accident, Dan and Trish called members of their small group who have continued to reach out to them. At the hospital I heard from both Dan and Trish how important their small group has been and how confident they are that their group will be there to help through this time. This is how God intends it to be. We were created as relational beings who need to have a relationship with God and one another. This is one of the implications of the Trinity.
Another implication of the Trinity is that just as God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all unique and have specific gifts and purposes, so are we. We are all unique and different. Look at God; we see that God the Father is the one who created the world, and God the Son, or Jesus, is the one who redeemed the world, and God the Holy Spirit is the one who sustains the world and gives people power. Each person of the Trinity is unique and has specific gifts and the same is true for all of us. We are all different and we all have different gifts and skills and abilities. We all have different temperaments, different opportunities and different perspectives and each one is needed if we are going to function well as a whole.
Paul talks about it as a body – we are one body, but we are each a different part of the body and each part needs all the others. The arms need the legs, the legs need the feet, the feet needs the brain the brain needs the heart, the heart needs the blood, the blood needs the lungs… Every part needs every other part and every part has its own special and unique gifts and purpose and it is the Holy Spirit that gives each of us the unique gifts we have.
Look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. It is the Holy Spirit that gives each one of us these gifts but we don’t use them for ourselves but for others, which means we need to be relationship with one another. We are personally gifted by the Holy Spirit, but we need to use the gifts we have with others to be all that God wants us to be. It’s just like the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all unique and yet they are one and work together for the common good.
Another implication of the Trinity is that God wants everyone to know him. By expressing Himself in 3 unique ways, God is giving more people the opportunity to know him. Some will experience God simply as God Almighty – the creator of all things and the power, mind and force behind the universe. Some will experience and connect with God more through the person of Jesus. These people understand the fullness of God as they see God living in the flesh and blood of this world. Some people experience God through the Holy Spirit or the power and presence of God in their own lives. These people have a deep sense of God’s presence in them and understand God more through spiritual dimensions and disciplines. We are all different and we all experience God differently and because God wants everyone to be saved, God came in three unique and different persons to draw in more people.
I want to encourage you to think about how you experience God most fully. Is it as Father, Son or Holy Spirit? This can be a helpful thing to know because it tells us where we can go deeper in our relationship with God and it can tell us where we might need to step out of what is comfortable for us so that we experience God in new ways.
I experience and understand God most when I look at the person of Jesus. I tell people that my faith is very Jesus center. I tend to pray to Jesus, speak to Jesus, and ask myself often, what would Jesus do? Through the years I have come understand that I relate to God most fully through the person of the Son, Jesus Christ. I was sharing this with a woman in my first church who said, yes I know. I can tell that when you pray. She went on to tell me how she relates to God more through the Holy Spirit. Her prayers are to the spirit of God; her connection is with the internal spirit and power of God that comes through the Holy Spirit. Her comments challenged me to try and lead prayers in worship that included God as Holy Spirit and include those references more often because that is how many people connect with God. Because God wants all people to know him and be saved, God reaches out to people through different persons because each one of us will connect with God differently.
And the last implication of the Trinity is that because it is something that we cannot explain, it humbles us. There are still parts of God that are beyond our ability to comprehend. As enlightened as our society has become, we can still echo the words of Job who said, How great is God – beyond our understanding (Job 36:26) and God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding (Job 37:5). The Trinity humbles us because God’s ways are beyond our understanding and the Trinity should cause us to stand in awe because it reveals God’s great power and his great love for us.
We can’t explain the Trinity, but we see it throughout scripture. God is three-in-one, God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the Trinity has implications for our lives. It means God wants a relationship with us, it means God wants us to be relationship with one another. The Trinity tells us we are all different and gifted with unique and personal gifts and it tells us that God loves all people and wants all people everywhere to be saved. We can’t explain it, but how amazing and awesome is our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Implications of the Trinity
1. While the word Trinity is never found in the Bible, God is often described in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How do these scriptures help us understand the Trinity?
• Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19
• John 10:30, 14:16-17, 14:26
• 1 Corinthians 6:11, 12:4-6 and 2 Corinthians 1:6-8
• 1 Thessalonians 1:3-5 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
• Titus 3:4-6
2. The Trinity implies God is relational. In what ways can you strengthen your personal relationship with God by growing closer to other people?
3. The Trinity implies we are all unique.
• What fruit of the Holy Spirit can you identify in your life? See Galatians 5:23.
• What gifts of the Holy Spirit can you see in your life? See 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and Romans 12:3-8.
• How can you use your gifts to benefit the church?
4. The Trinity implies that God wants all to be saved.
• Which person of the Trinity do connect to the most?
• How can you challenge yourself to connect to God in other ways?
• What person can you pray for this week to come to know the Lord?
5. The Trinity humbles us. We don’t know all the ways of God. Read Job 38-42 and be ready to be humbled by the ways of God.