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Showing posts with label Trinity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trinity. Show all posts

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.

Monday, April 20, 2020

God the Father

There are certain times in life when you tend to pause and ponder everything. It may be when you are a senior in high school and about to graduate and start a new phase of life. You may contemplate who you are and who you want to be and what you want to do with your life.  Perhaps it is when you’re nearing the end of your life and you realize you will die soon; you may reflect on all your years and what it was all about—your joys, your regrets.  There are other times too—maybe when you become a parent and hold your baby in your arms or after a divorce or when someone you love dies.

God has given us all time to reflect over the past several weeks. Never in the history of the world has there been a time like this. Oh yes, there have been plagues before, and plagues that killed far more than COVID 19. However, never before has the whole world, all at once, been so affected as we have been in this time, a time when the whole globe has been disrupted all at once.  It is unique in the history of the world.  And this has given everyone a chance to think about things in a way we might not have thought about before.  What insights have you gained?

The Disciples and earliest followers of Jesus had a special time of reflection too. Jesus was arrested and tortured, crucified and buried.  On the third day he rose from the grave in victory!  Jesus spent 40 days with His followers, proving he was really alive. Then, Jesus gave His followers their mission and He ascended to Heaven to be with the Father and His followers were left to contemplate all these things.

One of the most important commands Jesus gave before He ascended in found in Matthew 28:19.  His followers were left to ponder these words as they waited to be filled by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 28:19
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity
This statement, known as the Great Commission, is Jesus instructions to His followers (and to us).  We are on a mission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Now, there is something for the Disciples (and us) to think about. The mission, though it may be grand and overwhelming—is not hard to understand—“Go make disciples.”  But what about the part: “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”?

Jesus helped us understand God better than anyone else who ever walked the face of the earth.  This is because Jesus is God. In Jesus, God took on human flesh.  John 1:1 says, “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Jesus and God one and the same. But wait, I thought Jesus was the Son of God?  John 3:16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  Yes, Jesus is the Son of God, but somehow also mysteriously Jesus is God. And who is the Holy Spirit?

You see, the Disciples and earliest followers of Jesus had a lot to think about!  Very early on, they recognized and began to teach the triune nature of God.  We know that there is only One God, for this is what Jesus taught from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  Christians don’t worship three Gods.  We only worship one God.  However, the One God exists as a Trinity.

Though the word “trinity” is never used in Scripture, we see the Trinity of God expressed throughout the pages of the Bible.  We see God and the Spirit of God at work in the creation in Genesis 1:1-2. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” And John 1:1 tells us Jesus, the Word, was also there. “In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Genesis 1:26 even uses a plural form when speaking of God at creation.  “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” You find this in the NLT, NIV, and KJV as well as the original Hebrew.  And when Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3:16-17, we see all three persons of the Trinity. “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. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  Did you see them?  There is God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus the Son.

So there is only One God, but He is a Trinity of Three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Still confused? That’s Ok? The Apostles began to teach this triune nature of God as soon as the Holy Spirit filled them at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 (40 days after Jesus ascended to Heaven), but it took several centuries for the Christian Church to work out all the details of the Trinity as a formal  doctrine. How do you verbalize the mysterious nature of an infinite God in feeble human language? The Trinity is the best we can do. There is One God, but He is three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

So pray for me!  My task over the next several weeks is to write about the mysterious, infinite, inconceivable nature of the Trinity.  Pray that God gives me the words.

God the Father
Let’s look at God the Father today.  God is our Father.  Of course, God is Jesus' Father.  His Spirit overshadowed Mary and she conceived a child in her womb who is Jesus.  God the Father is the Father of Christ.

God also created us. In a grand sense, God created us all because He created the human race. Genesis 1 tells how God created male and female in His own image. So God is our Father in the macro sense. However, God is also our Father on the micro level Jeremiah 1:5 gives us this sense as God said, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart.” And as our Father, God provides for and protects us before we even know about Him.  I have three children and each time I held them as newborns, I was struck with the overwhelming sense that I was their father and my job is to protect and provide for them.  I supposed that's the way God designed us to be.  There is something in our DNA that compels us to shelter our offspring.  That's probably a good thing, because it's a lot of work and children (especially as infant) do nothing in return.  They don't even realize what you are doing, let alone show any gratitude.  On the contrary, infants are incredibly needy.  They need you to do everything for them--feed them, clean them, protect them, sooth them, nurture them.  And this is what God does for us; even before we have any awareness of Him, God is our protecting and providing Father.

And like any father, God loves us.  However, unlike any other father, God our Father loves us perfectly.  He always knows what to do, has the power to do it, and loves us perfectly so He does exactly what we need.  Love is not just warm and fuzzy affection.  Sometimes love requires discipline.  Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

God the Father grieves for us when we turn away.  It breaks our Father's heart when we turn our backs on Him.  If you've ever had a child who disappointed you, you understand something of what God feels for His own wayward children.  If you've ever had a friend betray you or a spouse be unfaithful, you know something of the heartache God feels for His rebellious children.  However, God feels it infinitely more deeply because of His infinite character and perfect love.

Thankfully, God our Father never gives up on us.  Jesus told a famous story called the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).  In the story, a man has two sons and the younger demanded the Father go ahead and give him his inheritance; in essence, he was saying, "I wish you were dead. Give me my inheritance now."  The gracious father gives the son his inheritance and he runs away to a foreign land where he wastes all the money on wild living. Finally, he hits rock bottom and is on the brink of starvation, longing to eat the slop he is feeding the pigs.  He decides to return home and beg his father to take him back as a slave.  He goes home, but his father runs out to see him and embraces him.  The father, puts a ring on his finger and a fine robe on his back and throws a "welcome home" party for him.  And this is what God the Father does for us.  He longs for us to choose to come Home to Him.  And He graciously welcomes us home whenever we repent and turn to Him.  God welcomes us home, cleans us up, heals us of the terrible wounds we sustained while we were running from Him in our rebellion.

There is another sense in which God is our Father.  God adopts us.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”  Adoption is a choice.  Society expects us to take care of our biological children.  It's against the law to abandon them.  Even if society didn't enforce this, nature itself testifies that we are obligated to care for our offspring.  The same is not true for a child who is not your own.  We may feel a tenderness for a child that doesn't belong to us, but we are not obligated to provide for them in the same way we are obligated to care for our own.  That is why we laud those special people who adopt.  We understand that they are showing extraordinary compassion by committing to expend tremendous resources to care for a child that is not their own.  It is a choice they make.  And this is what God the Father has done for us.  The Father is under no obligation whatsoever to care for us.  Because of sin, we have turned our back utterly on God.  Sin has effectively severed the parent child relationship.  And yet, because of His great love, God chooses to adopt us as His own children when we accept Christ as Lord.

And so God becomes our proud Father, just as He is the Father of Christ.  When God looks at us, He does not see our sin, our rebellion, our flaws or weaknesses.  Instead, because of what Christ did for us on the cross, God sees Jesus in us.  And it makes God so proud.  So we could apply what God said about His Son to our own lives.  In Matthew 3:17, when Jesus was baptized “...a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”  If you follow Christ, God is proud of you too.  And we can now live in ways that continue to make God the Father proud to call us His sons and daughters.

Have you ever known a father’s love? No matter how special your earthly father was, it was only a glimmer of the Love of Your Heavenly Father.  In fact, your earthly father was good only because he was copying the character of God the Father.  God the Father loves perfectly, powerfully, and infinitely.

Perhaps you have never known a fathers love.  It is an regrettable fact in our broken world that too many fathers do not act the way a father should.  They do not protect and provide.  They sometimes abandon or fail.  And I know many who read these words have never really known the love of a father.  And for you, it may be difficult to relate to God as a good father.  But please don't let that deter you.  Instead, understand that you may have a great blessing; for though you never knew a father's love on earth (or knew it imperfectly), God is your Father in the greatest sense.  You are not an orphan; you are not fatherless.  God is your Father and He s the greatest father of all.

And so, I invite everyone to turn to the Father today.  He created you, provides for you, protects you, loves you, chooses you, and wants to be proud of you.  Won't you turn to Him today?