Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

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What Does the Bible say About the Trinity?

The TrinityOne of the most difficult doctrines of the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is difficult because it is hard to imagine what it means for one Being to be a Trinity. We lack good illustrations of what the Godhead is like. We can catch glimpses of the Trinity in things around us, like an egg or water, but taken to their natural conclusions all these examples fall short of truly illustrating the doctrine.

I think a good place to start when talking about the Trinity is a quote from C.S. Lewis:  “You may ask, ‘If we cannot imagine a three personal Being, what is the good of talking about Him?’ Well, there isn’t any good talking about Him. The thing that matters is being actually drawn into that three-personal life, and that may begin any time – tonight, if you like.” (The Joyful Christian, p. 44)

The importance of the Trinity isn’t that we understand it, but that we experience it. Once we experience the life, love, and transformation that flows from God, then it becomes easier for us to accept. This is true even though we may not fully understand it. We are not saved by our understanding of doctrine, but through our trust in God.

With that being said, it is important to remember that what we believe matters, because our beliefs shapes our worldview and our actions. I like what Francis Chan wrote in his book Forgotten God, “But theology is still important—what you believe absolutely determines how you act. So while good theology at its best can lead us to live godly lives, bad theology will always point us in the wrong direction.”

Here are a few of my thoughts on the Trinity.

Through college and my first two years as a youth pastor I struggled with the doctrine. The reason that I struggled with it was because I had a difficult time visualizing it.

Not only is it difficult to visualize, but also it is not clearly taught in Scripture. If you look up the word “Trinity” in a concordance you will discover that it is not there. You will not find these words in the Bible, “And God is three persons, but one being.” I think if that phrase was in the Bible, then the doctrine would be easy to accept.

As a young youth pastor I taught that God was Trinity, because I understood that to be orthodox Christian teaching, but I struggled to understand it. That struggle finally led me to pray one day, “God, if You truly are Trinity, show it to me. I want to teach what is true.”

A few days later I began reading 1 Peter and verse 2 of chapter one jumped out at me:

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

May God give you more and more grace and peace. (NLT)

Peter didn’t use the term Trinity in this passage, but he makes the point to mention that the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus all played a part in our salvation. God is working as One to make our redemption possible. From that moment on I haven’t questioned the doctrine of the Trinity. I still have trouble explaining it, but I affirm the doctrine that God is One being and three persons.

While the Trinity is not explicitly taught in the Bible, I believe Scripture contains glimpses of the Trinity.

Isaiah 9:6 is one of those passages that gives a glimpse of the Trinity:

For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NLT)

In Forgotten God Francis Chan, commenting on this verse, wrote:

Right there in that oft-quoted verse we see the Son referred to as the “Counselor” and the “Father”! This passage (and many others) keeps us from oversimplifying a divine mystery. It is not easily broken down into three main points that just make sense, but it works. And it is beautiful. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are One.

In What the Bible Says about the Holy Spirit, Russell Boatman points to 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 as another glimpse of the Trinity:

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. (NLT)

In this passage we notice how the early Church was working out the reality that the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus are all God. To the ancient Jews, God was the Father. That meant to talk about “our Heavenly Father” would always refer to God. After the resurrection of Jesus, he was recognized as God. How do you teach that the Father and Son are both God?

This led the Church to refer to the Father as God and Jesus as Lord (which was a name for God used in the Old Testament). Our spiritual gifts come from the Holy Spirit for the purpose of service in the Lord, and it is God who is at work in all of this. The Spirit, the Lord, and Father are all one God.

Not only are there glimpses of the Trinity, but Scripture also affirms that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all divine.

  1. The Father: But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life. (1 Corinthians 8:6; NLT)
  2. Jesus: Though he [Jesus] was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. (Philippians 2:6; NLT)
  3. The Spirit: So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT)

Scripture teaches two truths that need to be reconciled. It teaches that there is only one God. It also teaches the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How do we handle this reality?

In my opinion the best way to reconcile these twin truths is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is complex and hard to understand, but it leaves us with the opportunity to ponder and meditate who God is, the love that He has, and the way He is working to bring redemption and salvation to His creation.

We don’t need to understand all the ins and outs of a doctrine for us to benefit from it. The Trinity is one such doctrine. I believe the more we will meditate on its truth and open up our lives to the love and work of the Father, Son, and Spirit the more we will experience the life God created us to live.

 

We need to be Enlightened

{Ephesians 1:18; NLT}
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.

Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” said our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand.”

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p. 5

Questions to consider:

  • Why do we need our hearts “flooded with light”?
  • In what ways do we have wrong thoughts about God? How can we start to think right about Him?
  • How have you experienced God drawing you to Himself?

Be Alone with God

Alone with God{Matthew 6:5-6; NLT}
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

A temptation that Christians face is to substitute following Jesus with living a religious life. The reason this is easy to do is because religion feels “spiritual”, and the purpose of religion is to connect us to God. Yet, religion often stunts the spiritual formation of our lives.

One of the ways we will know that we have a problem in our relationship with God is when our “spiritual” life is done entirely in public and for the show of others. We neglect using our private time to connect to God, but we use public moments to appear “spiritual” or “religious” so we can impress people. In my life the people I have wanted to “show off” my “spiritual” life have been my family and a small group of friends. Who has it been for you?

Way back in 1895 a pastor by the name of Andrew Murray wrote:

If you are not willing to sacrifice time to get alone with him, and to give him time every day to work in you, and to keep up the link of connection between you and himself, he cannot give you that blessing of his unbroken fellowship. Jesus Christ asks you to live in close communion with him. Let every heart say: “O, Christ, it is this I long for, it is this I choose.” And he will gladly give it to you. (Humility and Absolute Surrender, emphasis added, p. 157).

I think Andrew Murray hits on one of the common experiences we all have as we follow Jesus: selfishness with our time. The older we get the less time we seem to have, and yet we seem to find the time to watch movies, hang out with friends, go to the mall, or skim through Facebook. What gets sacrificed in the process is our relationship with Christ, and thus our connection to the source of new life that will transform our lives.

The most important choice we can make each and every day is the choice to put aside good things and spend time with God through prayer, reading, worship, and meditation. God longs to give us life, but we must spend time with Him to discover it.

Questions to consider:

  • Why is it important to find time to be alone with God?
  • Has religion become an obstacle in your relationship with God?
  • What are some way you connect with God on a regular basis?

What Will the After Life be Like?

hard questionsOne of the things Christians often wonder about is what life after death will be like. This is one of the areas, like the discussion of the End Time, when much speculation creeps into the discussion. We need to be careful about making definitive statements that lack Biblical support.

I believe one of the things we must do if we are going to do justice to the topic is to have an idea of what 1st Century thoughts were about what happens after you die. This cultural context will help us understand the perspective that the authors of the Bible had, as well as, the perspective the original audience.

This sermon was sermon #6 in the series Hard Questions, Real Answers. I received several questions asking about heaven and what the Bible says about our eternal destiny. In the sermon I give a quick over view of what I believe the Bible says about life after death, or more accurately, life after life after death. You can listen to the sermon: What Will the After Life be Like? here.

Don’t forget to like Paul’s Ponderings on Facebook. If you enjoyed the sermon make sure you like Bethlehem Free Methodist Church on Facebook as well.

 

Leave Comfort Behind

Leave the GoodWhat most of us want out of life is comfort and security. We are not asking for millions of dollars, mansions, and luxurious vacations, but a life that is free from dangers and hassles. The hope for security and comfort is the reason many of us ask for God’s blessings.

I have recognized this reality in my life as I envision the life I want for my children. I don’t want them to face danger, poverty, persecution, or any of the other evils that exist in this world. My hope for them is to follow Jesus in the same comfort and security that I have. But is that what is best for them? Is that what is best for me?

It is in this area of comfort and security that many Western Christians clash with God’s will. Some how the lie of the enemy has infiltrated our teaching, and we have come to believe that God’s blessings equal comfort and security. The result is that we have worshiped God because of the blessings, and not because of who He is. Like the Israelites in the wilderness we only worship and follow God when He blesses us.

True faith follows God into unknown, even at that cost of our comfort and security:

  1. God called to Abram. The call meant Abram needed to leave his homeland and everything he knew to follow God to a land that He would give Abram. Abram left, and through the uncertainty he learned to trust God. For this to happen Abram (Abraham) had to leave the comfort of the life he knew and follow God into the great unknown.
  2. Nicodemus came to Jesus to ask whether Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to abandon the religion he knew, the religion that gave him comfort and security, and put his trust in Jesus. Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus meant, but he decided to follow Jesus, and his life changed. No longer did Nicodemus trust solely in the Law, but he trusted the Giver of the Law.
  3. A rich young man came to Jesus with a question. “How do I get eternal life?” Jesus gave him an answer that the young man didn’t expect. The young man was looking for a discipline or a ritual to add to his collection of good works, but Jesus said, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor, and then come follow me.” The young man went away sad, because he was unwilling to give up what was comfortable. He missed out on God, because he insisted on trusting his wealth more than he trusted God.

When God calls us into the unknown, it is imperative that we follow. It might be a call to physically move to another city, or it could be a call to change a dearly held belief, or it could be a call to serve the outcasts. Whatever the call, there is a reason God is calling us. Only by leaving what is comfortable and known and following Jesus can we experience God for who He truly is. It is my belief that we ultimately worship God by following Him into the unknown.

This means worship is more than singing songs. Worship happens through a life that is totally surrendered to God. God deserves more worship than singing a few songs on Sunday morning. God deserves our entire lives surrendered to Him. This is why worship happens best through our trust in God.

I also believe that it is by following God into the unknown that we learn the most about God. Study is very important. I love to study the Bible, and I think it is essential to our spiritual formation. We should never neglect to the study of God’s word. Yet, it is experience that makes what we know about God move from our heads into our hearts. Experience enables us to know God, and not just information about God.

We desire a life of comfort and security. Many of God’s blessings help us experience these things, but if we are not careful, these very same blessing can inhibit us from truly experiencing God in our lives. Often, the best way to experience God is to step out of our comfortable and secure lives to follow Jesus. We will rarely know where he is leading, but we can be confident that in the end we will be one step closer to becoming the people God created us to be.

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