Posts Tagged 'The Trinity'

Mystery of the Trinity, Part 5

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Human beings were created to need fellowship. As a matter of fact, as soon as God created the first man, Adam, He said this:

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet for him.” (Genesis 2:18 | KJ21)

But what does fellowship look like? A group of people hanging around together? Or eating together? We can learn about true fellowship by looking at the Trinity. There is no more perfect example of fellowship than how the three Members of the Trinity relate to each other.

Submit to the Father

The first Person of the Trinity is known as the Father. There’s a clue in this title as to how we should relate to Him. In the book of James, we read something so simple we miss it, but it’s the foundation upon which our relationship with God the Father is built.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:7 – 10 | TNIV)

The word is “submit,” and it’s a word we don’t like. It means to put our will under God’s. Often it means behaving or thinking in a way we don’t really like but we do it because we know that’s what God wants. But our submission is not the submission of a subject to a tyrant, but that of a child to a Father. There’s a difference. One is done out of fear of punishment, the other is done out of respect and even love.

There’s a chilling statement Jesus made that has to do with submission:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 | TNIV)

Anybody can claim to be a Cristian, but Jesus wants disciples, not Christians. There’s a difference. The test of true discipleship is not what you call yourself or what others call you, but rather the test is one of submission. And the true test that a person belongs in the Kingdom is not just words, but also deeds. Verse 20 amplifies verse 21, so we should look at it:

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:20 | TNIV)

Our Lord is actually referring to false teachers here, but He’s laying down a pattern. What is true of false teachers must also be true of anybody claiming to be a follower of Jesus. One can call himself a Christian all day long, but if his actions don’t pass “the smell test,” then he can’t be a true follower of Jesus; he can’t be a disciple.

So doing the will of God – submitting to God – is the very least you should be doing if you want to be disciple of Jesus’.

That idea of humble submission is exemplified, not only in how we are to act, but even in how we pray. The very words we choose to use show whether or not we have learned submission to God.

He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.’” (Luke 11:2 | TNIV)

Jesus began teaching His disciples how to pray by giving them an example. It’s not that He expected all of His followers to memorize and repeat this particular prayer all the time, but that we should take not of and appreciate the attitude in which it was prayed, and that means looking at the words Jesus used. For example, Jesus began the model prayer with using the title “Father,” which comes from the Greek, pater. So when we pray, we should consider the fact that we are praying to our heavenly Father and that we are His children. Again, that’s a relationship made possible by Jesus’ redemptive work on the Cross, and by praying like that – in that attitude – we are acknowledging what Jesus did for us and we are behaving in prayer as submissive, humble children.

Jesus also used an old fashioned word, “hallowed” in the prayer. That’s a word essentially unknown to modern readers, even though the TNIV, a very modern translation of Scripture, uses it. But what exactly does it mean? And do we need to use that word in our prayers? In answer to the second question first, no. Jesus probably didn’t mean for us to use “hallowed” in all our prayers. The idea behind the Greek word “hallowed” is found in many Old Testament prayers, like this one:

He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever—holy and awesome is his name. (Psalm 111:9 | TNIV)

It’s more of an act of worship than a statement of fact, though it is a statement of fact. When we pray, we ought to be worshipping God – the “holy and awesome” heavenly Father, and the fact that His name is “hallowed” should influence, not only the words we use, but our very attitude as we pray. He is “hallowed” and He is “holy and awesome” and we should pray in that attitude.

Follow the Son

We are able to have fellowship with God the Father because of what God the Son did for us. Our relationship with God the Son is slightly different than our relationship with God the Father. While we are to relate to God the Father as our Father, we are to follow God the Son. Jesus helps us understand how to do that.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25 – 30 | TNIV)

The first thing you should notice in verse 25 is how Jesus addressed God in His prayer, which is what part of this paragraph is. He is following the model prayer He gave His disciples! Our Lord refers to His Father as, “Lord of heaven and earth.” That’s another way to “hallow the Lord’s Name.”

He also reveals a vital piece of doctrine. Nobody can know that Father except those who know the Son because the Son reveals the Father to them. It doesn’t matter what a person may say, only followers of Jesus the Son can know God the Father.

Verses 28 – 30 are among the most beautiful verses in all the Bible. In spite of our sin and corruption, Jesus never said, “Get lost, you good for nothing bums!” Instead, He put out the invitation for lost, sinful man to “come” to Him. Why would those dragging around sins want to come to Jesus? It’s because that burden of sin is so heavy and the only One who can give relief is Jesus. It’s a measure of the wickedness of sin that it deludes the one it has control over into thinking it’s easier and more pleasurable to go on sinning than it is to come to Jesus and be set free. In comparison to the awful weight of sin, the “yoke” of Jesus is easy and the burden of following Jesus is so much lighter than that of sin. You can’t help but be reminded of the terrible words of Jacob Marley to Ebinezer Scrooge. Scrooge asked the specteral Marley why he was dragging around a very long length of heavy chain as he walked by night. Marley answered:

I wear the chain I forged in life! I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!

The crushing weight of sin, like the chains of Jacob Marley, can only be removed when a sinner comes to Jesus for the rest only He can give. But to receive that rest means to submit to Christ’s authority. That’s what is meant by “yoke.” There’s definitely a give-and-take here. The sinner comes to Jesus, Jesus takes his sin away, giving relief and rest, and the one-time sinner becomes a submissive follower of Jesus. The idea is you either follow the difficult way of sin where there is nothing but difficulty and drudgery or you can follow the way of Jesus, where there is rest and peace in His presence.

But there’s more to it than that, as those of us who have been following Jesus can attest to. It isn’t always easy to follow the Son.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even life itself—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, 27 | TNIV)

If you’re like me, you probably prefer the verses in Matthew over these found in Luke’s Gospel! It’s startling to read verse 24, especially. Did Jesus really mean that following Him means we must hate our family? Or even our very life? It’s really a matter of love in degrees. The Aramaic word Jesus used for “hate” simply means, “to love less.” To be a true disciple of Jesus means that you must love Him more than anything or anybody in your life, including your very life. That sounds good, and it makes a great deal of sense. But it’s not easy to put into practice. If you are on Facebook, for example, take notice of how mothers (it’s almost always mothers who write such things) refer to their kids. Often the phrase that accompanies the latest picture of their little darling is something like, “This kid…he’s my life/my whole world/I love him more than anything.” Now, we know what she means, but what sideways insult to Jesus! Not to mention it’s a terrible witness. Of course, social media begs for the use of hyperbole and exaggeration, but if you’re a Christian, your witness ought to be: “This Jesus…He’s my life/my whole world/I love Him more than anything.”

Loving Him more than your family is hard enough, but it’s hard to get all worked up about having to “carry your own cross.” We know Jesus is simply saying that being His disciple means that your life will be a life of submission (there’s that word again!). There may be times when you’ll have to deny yourself something because you are a follower of Jesus. You may have to put Him or an activity for Him ahead of what you’d rather be doing. It’s all part of “carrying your cross.” Jesus the Son submitted to His Father’s will – death on the cross – and so you must also submit to God’s will.

Rely on the Spirit

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15 – 17 | TNIV)

Very shortly before Jesus was crucified, bringing His earthly ministry to a close, He gathered His friends around Him to tell them that soon He would “give them another advocate.” Other translations use the word “comforter.” What Jesus was trying to tell them was that while He was their present Advocate and Comforter, when He left them He would send them another One to take His place. We know He was referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would take His place and do what He had been doing for them and in them. Think about what Jesus did with His disciples during His three years of ministry on earth. He taught them God’s word; He explained to them what all those verses meant. He showed them how to apply all those teachings they knew since childhood to their lives today. They saw Jesus working miracles – miracles of healing and deliverance, for example. They saw Jesus do amazing things, like walking on water and changing the weather and feeding thousands of people with what amounted to a snack! By using the word “another,” Jesus was telling His friends that the Holy Spirit would what He did.

Jesus began by talking to them about submission. If that seems to be a repetitive theme, that’s because it is. I began this study by stating that submission is the very foundation of a relationship with God the Father, so it’s natural that the notion of submission keeps popping up. Fellowship with Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives all begins with submission. You cannot get away from it. As a Christian, there is nothing more important than submission to God. You can claim to love Him, but if you can’t submit to Him, just how valid is your so-called love for Him?

You and I as disciples of Jesus must rely on the Holy Spirit. He makes the Son and the Father real to us. But not only that, the Holy Spirit enables us to live for God in the world by making it possible for us to do some of things Jesus did while He was engaged in His earthly ministry. He does this through the spiritual gifts He gives us. There are several lists of the Spiritual gifts in the New Testament, but the most well-known one is found in 1 Corinthians 12 –

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:8 – 11 | TNIV)

By using the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are able to carry on the work of Jesus within the Body fo Christ. But there’s even more. With the Holy Spirit in our lives, it just gets better and better. He also enables us to live like Jesus. With the power of the Spirit, we can work like Jesus and live like Jesus!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22 – 25 | TNIV)

Letting the Spirit live through you will result in you living a life totally different from the life you lived before you became a Christian. Back then, you were controlled by your sinful nature, but now you are – or should be – controlled by the Holy Spirit. And to be in step with Him means living the kind of life Jesus lived – a life marked by things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Really, when you cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in your life, you will be simply living like Jesus did.

The Holy Spirit wants all of us to learn to rely on Him. Living the Christian life isn’t always easy, but when we submit to God we will be relying on the Spirit and we will be living the very best Christian life we can.

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Mystery of the Trinity, Part 4

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There are plenty of things people get wrong about the Holy Spirit, and I’m not talking about just Pentecostals. Christians of all stripes can’t seem to think rightly about Him. A large contingent of Christians seem to think the Holy Spirit is a gift. True enough, Jesus did put that idea in the heads of His disciples, but the Holy Spirit is so much more than just a gift. He is a Person; a divine Person. The Holy Spirit is a much a divine Person as God the Father and God the Son.

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of the most important doctrines in the Bible and is a major component of what the Bible teaches about Redemption. He is mentioned in every book of the New Testament except for 2 and 3 John. All the Gospels begin with a promise of His outpouring. So why is He so misunderstood? The fact is, the Holy Spirit is neglected by most churches because of either formalism or the fear of fanaticism. But the very simple truth is that when we have the Spirit in our lives, we have God in our lives.

His Work

By the time we get to John 16, the end was near for Jesus as far as His earthly ministry was concerned. Things were about to get very uncomfortable for the disciples, so Jesus warned them.

They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. (John 16:2 | TNIV)

Talk about getting it all backwards! The so-called religious leaders would stoop to persecuting and sometimes killing followers of Jesus Christ thinking they were doing God a favor! Sin deludes people into believing the craziest things, which leads to actions that are inexcusable and unthinkable in a sane world. To comfort His friends, Jesus said this:

but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. (John 16:5, 6 | TNIV)

Those are a curious two verses. It’s a little hard for us to make sense of them. The disciples were overcome with a sense of sorrow and dread, not so much because Jesus was leaving them, but because their world was about change. None of them had the courage to ask where He was going, probably because they had been down that road before and at least one of the bunch got an answer he didn’t care too much for.

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36 – 38 | TNIV)

That was bad enough for Peter, but now it sounded like everybody’s future was just a grim as his was going to be. They didn’t care where Jesus was going; they were concerned about their own futures. To calm their fears, our Lord mentioned the coming of an Advocate.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7 | TNIV)

Wescott remarked:

The withdrawal of His limited bodily Presence necessarily prepared the way for the recognition of a universal Presence.

Some Christians sentimentally think how wonderful it must have been to walk with Jesus, but they don’t understand that today His Presence is within them, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. One scholar noted,

The braver and more perfect disciple is he who can walk by faith, and not by sight.

That perfectly describes believers after Jesus left the scene and sent the Holy Spirit. We can have a far more intimate relationship with the Lord than the disciples ever had while He was with them during His earthly ministry. Not only is the Holy Spirit the abiding presence of God in believers, He has some very specific things to do for us and in us.

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:8 – 15 | TNIV)

In all, there are three aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work:

• To the world–conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
• To the disciples–direction and truth.
• To Jesus–revealing him more perfectly to and through those who represent Him.

As far as the world is concerned, the Holy Spirit’s work is to “prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” That seems to be an awkward way to describe what other translations call “convict” or “reprove” the world in regards to sin, righteousness, and judgment. In the Greek, that all springs from a Greek word that refers to a legal term meaning to pass judgment on a guilty party. It’s not just that the Holy Spirit accuses man of sin, He actually brings to them a sense of guilt and helplessness before God. So the Holy Spirit is like a prosecuting attorney who presents God’s case against sinful man. By creating an awareness of sin in man, He places man in the position of being unable to justify himself before God. To help you understand this role, think of the prophet Nathan and his interaction with King David after exposing the King’s sin.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.” (2 Samuel 12:1 – 7 | TNIV)

That brought David to the place where he finally acknowledged his dreadful sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:3, 4 | TNIV)

The attitude behind a life of sin (or any sin a man may commit) is unbelief. This makes sense, for if a man truly believed in God and Christ, he would live accordingly. When that man continually rejects the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he is essentially telling Him that He doesn’t exist.

Also in relation to the world, the Holy Spirit convicts people of righteousness. That’s another way of saying that somehow, in a way that we don’t fully comprehend, the Holy Spirit enforces the standard of God’s character so that a man may compare his thoughts and actions against God’s standard. In other words, a sinful man knows deep down in his heart of hearts that what he is doing is wrong and that his life not what it should be. You may consider that his conscience talking, but it’s a subtle work of the Spirit. Paul in Romans advances this thought using other words:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of human beings who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:18 – 20 | TNIV)

And when man continues to reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit; when he continually turns his back on God, what results is not unlike what happened to Pharaoh when he kept refusing to release the Hebrews. Exodus says that, “God hardened his heart,” but Paul put in terms that seem a little more reasonable:

[24] Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. [26] Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. [28] Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:24, 26, 28 | TNIV)

With respect to the disciples, the Holy Spirit would enable them to grasp the teachings of Jesus that so far they seemed unable to. And that’s one of the wonderful things the Holy Spirit does for all believers, not just the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking. The Spirit doesn’t teach anything new, He helps us to understand the Word of God and its teachings. Furthermore, the Spirit, though His gifts, broadens the spirituality of believers, helping us to do things spiritually that we normally would be unable to do. He deepens our understanding of spiritual matters and helps us to discern the world around us, enabling us to have clarity of thought, especially in regard to the future.

And the last function of the Holy Spirit relates to Jesus Christ. The Spirit doesn’t draw attention to Himself, but rather glorifies Christ. He makes the teachings and the Person of our Lord real to us.

He lives in us

The Holy Spirit and His work in our lives is completely indispensable. It’s sad that He is so ignored and misunderstood. Paul, in writing to the Romans, did his best to illustrate the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. In discussing those who live by the sinful nature versus those who have been born again, he makes this crucial observation:

You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:9 – 11 | TNIV)

The non-believer is controlled by his sinful nature – the base desires that lead to sin. The believer, by contrast, is no longer controlled by his sinful nature but by the Spirit because the Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit – dwells in them. Your body may constantly feel the effects of sin, but inwardly you are made alive by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit is powerful; His power is the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

In fact, by using different titles to describe the Holy Spirit, Paul is teaching something very deep about the Trinity and the nature of the fellowship we have with it. He uses these titles interchangeably: “the Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” and “the Spirit of Christ” to convey the thought that with the Holy Spirit residing in believers, the Godhead resides there also. That’s an incredible thought showing the closeness of the relationship God wants with His people. It’s mind boggling to consider the singular privilege afforded only to Christians! To be able to daily live in the presence of the three members of the Trinity.

Many of us have been Christians for so long, we have forgotten how it felt to be outside of the family of God; we don’t remember being alienated from God because of our sin. We’ve been very comfortable with God’s presence – so comfortable that sometimes we take it for granted. In writing to the Corinthians, encouraging them to stay away from sexual immorality, Paul gave a piece advice that we would do well to practice, whether or not we are involved in sexual immorality.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 | TNIV)

 


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