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Showing posts with label God the Holy Spirit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God the Holy Spirit. Show all posts

Monday, March 20, 2023

Christians Worship the Trinity. Amen!

The Bible is the Word of God and contains everything necessary and sufficient for our salvation. The Bible is primary way Christians understand God and faith and what we teach and how we act. Amen!

Some things the Bible teaches are clear and straight forward and easy to understand.  Exodus 20:13 is pretty clear, "Do not murder."

Other teachings from the Bible require you to think a little bit more.  Among those deeper doctrines the Bible teaches is the Trinity.  So today, I’m gonna do my best to mine the depths of God’s Word to show you that Christians worship the Trinity.

Matthew 3:16-17
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

These verses may be familiar.  They’re from the story of Jesus’ baptism by his cousin John in the Jordan River.  What I want to point out for you today is how the Trinity is embedded in the story. 
Who is being baptized?  Jesus.
What descends upon Jesus?  A dove. The Spirit of God.  The Holy Spirit.
Who speaks from Heaven?  God.  The Father.
So in this story all three persons of the Trinity are revealed.  

Now that word—Trinity—is never written in the Bible. It’s never literally written, but it’s definitely there. It’s embedded throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.

Genesis 1:26
From the creation story in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”  The original Hebrew words were plural, which shows the plural nature of God's character.  That's why English translations use the plural pronouns "us" and "our".  This indicates that God is a plurality (like a trinity).

Isaiah 48:16
In Isaiah, the Messiah speaks to Israel, “And now the Sovereign Lord and his Spirit have sent me with this message.”  So in this Old Testament passage, we see all three person's of the Trinity.

John 10:30
In John 10:30, Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.”

2 Corinthians 13:14
2 Cor. 13:14 reveals the trinitarian greetings use by early Christians like Paul , “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

I won't try to list all the passages in the Bible that reference or allude to the triune nature of God (there are over 100 in the Old Testament alone).  You can search them out yourself.  So thought the word "Trinity" is not there, the Trinity itself is a reality in the Bible.

Initially, no one in the Christian faith questioned or tried to define the trinitarian nature of God.  It was just assumed.  Jesus, the Son of God, taught in terms of his relationship to God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The 12 Apostles carried on this tradition.  And in the beginning, the early Christians had some very pressing problems to deal with—trying to spread the Good News about Jesus while also facing severe persecution, imprisonment, and death.

But eventually, some people began accusing Christians of worshipping more than one God—
that Jesus was a God, the Father was a God, and the Holy Spirit was a third God.  Others tried to rank the three persons of the Trinity—maybe saying the Father was the supreme God, but then God created Jesus and the Holy Spirit as lesser gods or angelic like figures.  however, 
these ideas are contrary to Scripture.  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus the Son] already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Eventually, Christians needed to define the Trinitarian nature of God to dispel  misunderstandings and wrong teaching.  They said:

There is only one God.  The Bible is clear there is only one God and His followers must not worship any god but the Lord (Ex. 20:3).  So it cannot be that Christians worship three Gods.  

God is three distinct Persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Bible clearly teaches The Father is God and Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God.  Therefore, somehow, mysteriously, There is one God who is revealed as three different persons.  When Jesus prays to His Father, Jesus is not talking to Himself.  He is talking to a distinct Person.

Furthermore, Christians discerned, God is not created. God is eternal.  God has always existed.  And since God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all Three have always existed.  In other words, God did not create the Son or the Holy Spirit.  They were always part of God (Genesis 1, John 1)

All Three at All Times
Undoubtedly, someone will approach me and say they have a simple way to understand the Trinity.   They may say, "There is this example of water.  Water can be ice or liquid water or steam.  It is all three, yet it is still water."  This can be a helpful illustration (I’ve even used it before), but it still doesn’t fully capture the nature of the Trinity.  This is because water is either ice, water, or steam.  It is not all of them at the same time.

There were some Christians who tried to argue that God is one, but appeared in different forms at different times.  This is actually a heresy called “modalism”.  A right and biblical teaching is that God is all three forms at all times.  We know this because there are clearly times in the Bible when God was all three forms all at the same time.  The baptism of Jesus is a perfect example.  In the story, The Son is baptized, The Father speaks from Heaven, and the Spirit descends like a dove.  So all three Persons of the Trinity are present in the story at the same time.  

Reasons The Trinity is Important
Now, this is deep stuff; some people might wonder if this trinitarian stuff really matters.  It does. If a church does not accept the Trinity, they’re not really functioning as a Biblically Christian church.
Let me share some reasons why.

First of all, Christianity believe in only one God. 
Some religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism that believe in many gods, express appreciation for Jesus.  They will say he was a great teacher or they may even say Jesus is one of the gods (one among many).  But Christians cannot accept this.  We believe Jesus is God and the only God.  Jesus said in John 14:5, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  So true Christian teaching says, Jesus isn’t just one of the ways; no, Jesus is the only way, the only truth, the only life.

Christians believe in only one God. There are other “one-god-only” religions, and it is sometimes said if there is only one god then we must all worship the same one-god.  However, Christians are different from the other monotheistic religions like—Judaism and Islam.  Jewish and Muslim people also believe there is only one God and those religions will sometimes express admiration for Jesus.  However, they reject the idea that Jesus is God.  For them, Jesus is a good man or a prophet.  But Christians believe Jesus is God.  Furthermore, we also believe the Holy Spirit is God.  And yet we also contend that the Trinity is One God.  The Trinity sets Christianity apart as distinct from other monotheistic religions.

There is a second reason for acknowledging the Trinity, one that is even more important.  The Trinity shows how God really is love.  You have to understand, God is and was and will always be fully complete without us.  Some people have this notion that God created people because He was lonely.  However, God wasn’t lonely.  God was already in a full and complete relationship before humanity.  In God’s trinitarian unity, He was already whole.  He lacked nothing.  He didn’t need anything.  He was already in a perfect relationship.  So, God created humanity (and all creation), not as a means to fulfill some longing within Himself, but rather as an overflowing expression of His deep, eternal love.

We struggle to understand God's kind of love because we often think of love as a longing within us.  We “love” someone or something and we need (them or it) to complete us, to fulfill us.  God love doesn’t work that way.  God is self-giving love, not a longing, consuming love.  God didn’t created the universe for his own benefit, He created us out of an overflowing love.  We are an expression of His self-giving love.  Because God was already a trinity in relationship, He was not lonely.  Your life is a gift—free and clear—no strings attached.  Your existence is an expression of God’s grace.  Thus, we learn the true nature of love from God’s trinitarian nature; and we are made in God's image.  We are made for love and by love.  Love is giving, not consuming.

Third, the trinitarian nature of God means we can truly be saved.  Jesus is not a creation of God.  Jesus is not an angel (or a created being). The Trinity reveals Jesus is fully God and fully human.  

Why is that important?  Well if Jesus wasn’t fully man, then He couldn’t truly understand our situation.  (How can a perfect, infinite, all powerful diety understand anything about living as broken mortals in a broken world?)  Thankfully, in Jesus, God became fully human.  The all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe compressed Himself into the limited time and space and perception of a human body.  As Philippians 2:7-8 says, “He gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave, and was born as a human being.  When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”  Hebrews 2:17 says, “It was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.”  Jesus knows what it’s like to be you.

Yet if Jesus was only a man, He wouldn’t have the power to save us.  Our problems are too big.  Thankfully, Jesus is also fully God.  That means He has the power to save you.  No matter how terribly lost you are.  No matter how sin sick is you soul.  No matter how awful your problems, nothing is beyond the control of the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present glory of our God in Jesus Christ. 

Jesus’ ressurection from the grave is the ultimate sign of God's ability to save you.  If Jesus can rise from the dead, He can raise you out of any deadly problem you face.  And He will if you will trust Him.

Maybe, I’ve given you a lot to think about today.  The Trinity is a very deep subject.  Yet, we can be thankful the Trinity is so hard to understand,
because it shows that our God is a Big God.  If God were easy to understand, He wouldn’t be much of a God.  (Listen, I can’t even understand myself a lot of times.  Why do I do the things do?  Why do I get upset or respond the way I do?  I don’t know.)  
If I can’t even fully understand myself, how can ever expect I will understand
the infinite nature of an eternal God who has always existed, and always will
who made stars and planets that are so far away from us
it has taken trillions of years for their light to reach us;
who made all the animals and plants and river and mountains we can see,
but also made microorganisms so small we don’t even o they are there.
(There were 10X more microbes in the breathe of air you just inhaled
than there are people in County where you live--and you inhaled another breathe, and another…)  Our God made all of this.

Let us take a moment to try and wrap our heads around the infinite nature of God.
And also to marvel that this Great God gave up the glory of heaven
to come to our broken world to die on a cross to save you and me.

Monday, May 4, 2020

God the Holy Spirit

The Trinity
Yesterday was such a beautiful day and I had a chance to enjoy it.  I spent the day working outside.  I'd work for a bit and then sit down and rest for a while.  The sun was out and the temperature was perfect.  A gently breeze blew through the tree leaves making them wave at the crystal clear blue sky while the birds and bees sang their songs.  Trying to describe it to you, words fail.

People have used songs and poems to try to describe a beautiful day and some have come close, but none can perfectly capture it.  Human language isn't capable.  If we struggle to describe a beautiful day, how can we ever hope to use feeble human words to describe God?  It’s impossible.  But God wants to be known and He wants us to try. So we do.

In the sixth century, the Church, trying to describe the Trinity formed the Athanasian Creed.  Part of that creed says:
 …we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
    neither blending their persons
    nor dividing their essence.
        For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
        the person of the Son is another,
        and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
        But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
        their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.

    What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
        The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
        The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.
        The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal.

            And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being.
            So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
            there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.

Do you see how inadequate words are to describe our triune God?  

A Picture of the Trinity
Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Somewhere about the 12th century, someone created a picture that tried to symbolize the nature of God.  It is called the "Shield of the Trinity" or "Shield of Faith" (Scutum Fedei).  In the picture, we see that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God; but the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.  There is One God, three persons, not three Gods.  Still confusing?  I know.  God is infinite and so far beyond the ability of our finite mortal minds to comprehend, but we try.

Today, I want to share a bit about the third person of the Trinity—God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told His disciples that after He ascended to Heaven to be with the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-17
15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

Jesus Promised the Holy Spirit as a Gift to Everyone Who Loves Him.
Do you love Jesus? Well of course, most people reading a Christian blog like this would say they love Jesus.  However, Jesus gave us a way to test our love.  Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments.”  Love is not a feeling; it's an action.  Jesus gave us commands and says if we love him, we will obey him. 

What were some of Jesus commands?  Well, the most important were to love God and love your neighbor.  Most religious people would say they love God.  Scripture says you can't claim to love God (who is invisible) if you don't love people (who you can see).  And Jesus also referenced the Ten Commandments (originally found in Exodus) that were given my God to Moses on Mount Sinai.  You know these--Do not worship any god's except the Lord; do not make idols of any kind; do not murder, steal, or bear false witness...  Jesus said we should obey these.  But he went further than most.  He said if you even hate someone you have committed murder in your heart.  And if you lust, you have committed adultery in your heart.  And who hasn't done this?  Obviously, we need a lot of grace. And Jesus gives it. But grace is not an excuse.  If we love Jesus, we will do our best to obey his commands.

And Jesus said "Be my witnesses..."  Some people say that religion is a private mater, that you should go around telling people about your faith in Jesus.  That's not what Jesus said.  In fact, he commanded us to "Go into all the the world and make disciples of Jesus, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  (See Matthew 28).  And Jesus said, "If you love me, obey my commandments.

Everyone who loves and follows Jesus will receive the Holy Spirit.

What is the Holy Spirit Like?
The Holy Spirit is eternal.  He was God in the creation as God's Spirit hovered over the water and God created the earth.  The Holy Spirit was with the Israelites during the Exodus as they traveled through the wilderness toward the Promised Land.  The Holy Spirit fo God would descend upon the Tabernacle as a cloud of smoke by day and a cloud of fire by need.  When the Spirit of God moved, the Israelites would pack of their Tabernacle and move with God, following His Spirit.  Through out the Bible, prophets spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, such as Isaiah who refers to the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 63 and how when people disobey God, it grieves His Holy Spirit.  And of course, then the Holy Spirit descended upon the New Testament Church in Acts 2, like tongues of fire above their heads, and filled them with power to preach the Goods News about Jesus our Lord.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit “…leads into all truth.” (John 14:17).  

Jesus said the Holy Spirit is an Advocate.  The original Greek word in the Gospel of John is “Parakletos”.  It means something like “the one who’s called to your side to comfort you and help you and fight for you.”  That’s who the Holy Spirit is.  It’s God’s Spirit who’s on your side.  Isn’t that an amazing idea!

The Holy Spirit is spirit, not physical.  Jesus, while he walked the earth, had a physical body just like you and me.  In other words, he could only be in one place at a time.  We understand this because we are physical beings with physical bodies.  Spirit is another sort of reality that is different from the physical.  During this time of the COVID 19 pandemic, people are taking the necessary precaution of social distancing to help control the spread of the illness.  However, there is also a great spirit of fear that has descended upon many in our world, a fear that drives people to panic and buy all the toilet paper so there's none left for anyone else.  And even if you are not a person prone to fear, if you watch enough hyped up, sensational news programming, the fer can start to permeate you.  A spirit of fear (or anything) can seep through walls and protective clothing and soak right into your soul.  That is the nature of a spirit.

We sometimes read about evil spirits in the New Testament that caused people to foam at the mouth or be violent or act crazy and do terrible things.  These people, it says, were "possessed" by an evil spirit.  These evil spirits seeped inside them and cause them to act out the evil spirit's nature.  I'm so thankful the Holy Spirit is not like that.  The Holy Spirit is “holy” and “good” and “pure”.  God is love and the Holy Spirit is love.  And when God's Holy Spirit seeps inside you, it makes you Holy and good and pure.

Look at how Jesus acted. He did good things and he was holy.  And Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to do everything the Father wanted Him to do.  So we can see how the Holy Spirit is good too and acts like Jesus did.

The Holy Spirit bears fruit in our lives.  And we can perceive what the Holy Spirit is like from the kinds of spiritual fruit He produces.  Galatians 5:22-23 tells us “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  The fruit that any tree produces indicates the character of the tree.  And the fruit of the Holy Spirit shows us the the Spirit is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And the Holy Spirit is full of power too.  The Spirit empowered the early Christians to overcome incredible odds to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ all over the world.  The very people who started out determined to kill Christians and wipe them off the face of the earth, soon found that they themselves were being convicted by the Holy Spirit and repenting of their sin and turning to Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit has the power to do that--to take an enemy and turn them into thebest of friends.

All who follow Jesus are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Some perform miracles. Some offer healing.  Some speak the truth boldly.  Some lead.  Some have incredible faith.  Some lead.  Some are exceptionally loyal.  All are empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And here’s what Jesus said about those who are led by the Holy Spirit.  John 14:12 - “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”  Isn’t that amazing!  You can do great things than Jesus, the Son of God, did!

The Holy Spirit is not limited by space the way physical beings are.  You see, while Jesus was on earth in the flesh with his disciples, he could only be in one place at a time.  That's why he could not be with his friend, Lazarus, when he was sick.  Jesus was not with Lazarus because he was in another place with his disciples.  He couldn't be in both places at once and Lazarus died.  Jesus had to visit his tomb four days later to raise Lazarus.  However, the Holy Spirit is not limited by the laws of the physical world and can be everywhere at once.  The Holy Spirit is in me and can also be in you and a million other people all at the same time! That’s how we can outdo Jesus, because there are so many more of us and there was on one Jesus.  And when we are directed by the Holy Spirit, we each have the power of Jesus in us and can be working the same miracles as Jesus.  And when we all work together as the Body of Christ it is incredible!

The Holy Spirit is always on the move.  We see this characteristic in the Old Testament as the Holy Spirit led the Israelites by descending on and ascending from the Tabernacle (which was a portable temple).  The Spirit was leading them to move through the wilderness toward a Promised Land.  And in Acts, we see the Holy Spirit leading Christians to spread the Good News about Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Who’s in the Driver Seat?
My grandma was a very devote Christian. She had a passion for sharing Jesus with everyone, everywhere she went. One day when I was a boy, she couldn't wait to show me one way she was going to do it. She took me outside and showed me the front of her car. She was so proud she bought a license plate that said "God is My Co-Pilot". And she was so proud of that; she wanted everyone to know. That is, until one day when the preacher came to visit and she proudly showed him. And he said, "Mrs. Wingo, I've got a problem with that. If God is your co-pilot, you're in the wrong seat. God wants to be the pilot, not the co-pilot." So the next time I saw her, she took me out and showed me the front of her car and she had taken a marker and scratched through the prefix so it read "God is my Pilot".

God the Holy Spirit wants to be the pilot of your life, but he won't push you out of the pilot's seat unless you ask Him. The Holy Spirit never forces Himself upon us. The Holy Spirit only comes by invitation and consent. Do you recall the Christmas story where the angel Gabriel visited Mary to tell her that God chose her to bear God’s Son? The angel said in Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” But the Holy Spirit did not force himself upon Mary. The Holy Spirit did not possess her until Mary gave her consent. Luke 1:38 - Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

When my wife and I drive on long trips, we take turns driving. I will drive a little ways until I get tired (or she gets tired of my driving) and then we will switch. Then, Kelly will drive until she gets tired (or I get tired of her driving) and then we will switch again.  Some of you never let anyone else drive.  You won't get in a car unless your hands are on the steering wheel.  Maybe you have to be in control or maybe you're afraid to let anyone else drive.  But I'm here to tell you, when it comes to life, you’ve got to get out of the driver’s seat and let the Holy Spirit take over.  You will never be able to get where God wants you to go safely unless you let the Holy Spirit be the driver.

So if you've never decided to follow Jesus, I hope you will today.  If you love Jesus, obey his commandments.  He will forgive all your sins and make you right with God.  Then you will receive the Holy Spirit and He will never leave you and will lead you into all truth.  Let the Holy Spirit take over your life.  You will never a better life than one directed by God's Holy Spirit.