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You ever notice how some people are in love with the idea of being married? They are in love with the months of attention, the pampering, the dress, the flowers, the cake, the status, the approving looks of the parents, the envious glances of their friends, the fairy tale ending. It might not be too out of bounds to ask if the groom is even an essential part of the day, or if they are just another accessory, like a corsage or the veil. God help the person who happens to be standing in their path as they direct themselves down the isle come hell or high water. This modern conundrum was depicted in the movie, Bride Wars, in which to best friends seek to sabotage each other’s weddings before one of them realizes that she is in love with the idea of getting married rather than the man to whom she was engaged. The modern divorce rate suggests that we are a people in love with the idea of getting married, but not doing as well in loving the person to whom we marry.
The same phenomenon occurs in the church. Some of us like the idea of God. We like the perks: the forgiveness, eternal life, peace, the family of likeminded believers in which he places us. We like the idea that someone hears our prayers and works all things for our good. We enjoy the benefits of the gospel but do we boast and glory in God Himself? That is, strip everything else away, the ceremony, the benefits, the blessings, eternal life, and what’s left is you and God. Pastor A.W. Tozer, speaking of this simplicity of faith that marks the true pursuit of God, cautions:
When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from seeing God in full revelation. In the “and” lies our great woe. If we omit the “and” we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.
A passage that has impacted me more than any this year is Exodus 33-34. Moses has been called to lead God’s people away from the Mount Sinai into the promised land. Moses has concerns of course with leaving this mountain of Revelation. He asks of God four things:
1) If I have found favor in your sight, please show me your ways that I might know you in order to find favor in your sight (33:13).
2) If your presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here (33:14) Is it not in your going with us that we are distinct from every other people on earth.
3) Show me your glory. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
God, for his part, calls out to us, not to love him solely for his benefits, but for his sake.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.” (Jer. 9:23-24)
This is the essence of our first “essential”: God’s gospel originates in and expresses the wondrous perfections of the eternal, triune God. To put it another way, as Pastor John Piper has preached, “God is the Gospel”. [prayer] So … who is this God. [read together]
Who is this God?
1. We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
God is Love:
Theology that does not move the soul is simply empty propositions. In this potentially dry statement about God’s attributes and nature, one word shines forth light and life, quickening the rest of the phrases: loving. We serve a loving God: a God who, as 1 John 4:8 says, is love. God loved before creating anything to love, for he loves within himself, and has loved within himself since before time began. Those who truly know this loving God will by necessity grow in love, for “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). That the loving God has revealed himself is the only metaphysical basis for true love. No other worldview so connects the virtue of love with its supreme being, so that it might be said that only the Christian truly knows what love is, for it is only the Christian who knows the loving God. Two Truth’s today: God Loves Within Himself and God Loves Beyond Himself
God Loves Within Himself: This is the essential truth of the Trinity – that the One whole upholds the universe relates within himself in a perfect and unadulterated love.
Our loving God is a loving unity of diverse personalities: three, yet one. The Statement of Faith upholds the traditional language describing the Trinity. God is one in essence, having revealed himself in three equally divine Persons as a complex unity.
[italics below from Driscoll, “Doctrine”] While the word Trinity does not appear in Scripture, this One-who-is-three concept clearly does … the doctrine of the Trinity brings together three equally essential biblical truths without denying or diminishing any. These are the load-bearing walls we talked about last week.
1) First, there is only one God … the thunderous chorus of scripture from beginning to end is that there is only one God. The schema, recited in every Jewish home: Deut 6:4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. The t-shirt: there is one God, and you are not Him.
2) The Father, Son and Spirit are equally declared throughout scripture to be God.
- The Son is God: Jesus is also repeatedly declared to be God throughout scriptures by both others
- The Spirit is God: Most clearly in Acts 5:3-4: Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit – you have lied to God!
3) Though one God, the Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons. The clearest exposition of this truth is found in John 14-17. Jesus is going to the Father, Jesus asks of the Father, Jesus prays to the Father, The Helper (Holy Spirit) is sent by the Father, The Helper is distinct from Jesus
Throughout history and even today, there are groups and teachings that would seek to erode or tear down these load-bearing walls. These would not be considered Orthodox Christian. There are also some teachings today that I find to be the equivalent of bathtub in the kitchen. You may find some of these in the free church, and if you're here and you think the shack was the greatest Christian book ever, you’re welcome to stay, but I’ll just warn you, you won’t get that teaching here, I’m not going to be bathing in the kitchen with you.
How do I teach Trinity to my Kids and Friends?
The Trinity is hard to understand – it is a paradox, a mystery that makes sense in God, but he happens to be greater than our understanding.
1) I worship Jesus, and Holy Spirit and allow them to be perplexed for a while. They see my humility before God and sense that God is beyond our comprehension. They see the Holy Spirit move and appreciate the compassion of Jesus.
2) I read the Bible to them, so they get to know Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I use Biblical illustrations:
3) I live in Trinitarian ways. While this so-called trinity is a mystery, it is at the same time the most practical truth in the universe. I often ask married couples, “which is more important, to understand that you and your spouse are a couple (unity), or to remember that you are distinct individuals (diversity). It is the unity and diversity of God that informs Christian ethics regarding marriage, relationships, giftings in the church, and society and government. Only by knowing the God who “eternally exist[s] in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons” do we have any hope for true tolerance and unity in our marriages, church and society, while maintaining respect for the individual.
People say the Trinity doesn’t make sense – I say it is the only thing that makes sense.
God Loves Beyond Himself
Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
There are two load-bearing walls here. Give you two theological words that are really important that simply unpack the statement, God loves beyond himself.
Transcendence [God is Beyond Us] He is greater than us and totally outside of our experience. He alone knows the end from the beginning and He alone has the power to bring his ends into being. God is beyond us. Dr. Peter Jones, professor at Westminster Seminary in California, has written a book called “One or Two” in which he defends the “beyond-us” existence of God.
At the heart of Jones’ critique is the concept of One-ism versus Two-ism. One-ism is summed up as the belief that all is one; that everything is a piece of the divine. This is the Avatar view of God. Avatar made it seem like souls are part of a pool and that the planet was their god (even though the planet was called Pandora, and their goddess was call Eywa). To pray or meditate, the people on Pandora would need to plug into the planet. And the planet had control over the creatures on the planet (as evidenced by Eywa somehow gathering all of the animals on the planet to attack the humans during the final invasion). This is the view of Eastern religions like Taoism or Buddhism. We are all the One. Two-ism, however, “believes that while all of creation shares a certain essence (everything apart from God is created), the Creator of nature, namely God, is a completely different being, whose will determines the nature and function of all created things.” (p. 17) In One-ism, this necessary distinction is lost, and as a result, humanity worships and serves the creature rather than our Creator. Life, spirituality, sexuality becomes inwardly focused—looking into ourselves to find meaning and purpose, rather than to the God who created us for His purposes.
It is because God is beyond us,
1) that he inspires worship
2) that he inspires trust in his purposes
3) that he can answer prayer
Immanence [God Loves Us] God is with and relates to his creation. In Ephesians chapter 1 it is clear that God’s plan from before the beginning of creation is to elect a people for himself with the end of uniting all things in Christ. God loves perfectly. And the perfect love of God demands that He show us His love in all its Glory. This is why God revealed Himself to us perfectly in Jesus.
That is, God’s exhaustive knowledge and power to bring about his purposes is the grounds of our Christian hope of redemption and ultimate vindication. We can place our trust in this God.
How Can I Know this God Personally?
1) Call upon Jesus to save you and reveal God to You.
2) Practice the presence of God daily.
3) Study God’s revelation:
- The names of God
- The “I Am” Statements of Jesus