The minister gave his Sunday morning service, as usual, but this particular Sunday, it was considerably longer than normal. Later, at the door, shaking hands with parishioners as they moved out, one man said, “Your sermon, Pastor, was simply wonderful – so invigorating and inspiring and refreshing.” The minister of course, broke out in a big smile, only to hear the man say, “Why I felt like a new man when I woke up!”
Actually, I can understand if you do happen to fall asleep during my sermon this morning (and hopefully you won’t!!!!!!!) because the topic is very “dry” and hard to understand. We’re doing something a little different today. Instead of talking about Jesus and his parables or teachings, we’re talking about one of the key doctrines or teachings of the Christian church. Why talk about doctrine? Simply put, the doctrine of the Christian church is the substance of our faith. If we do not show any interest in biblical doctrine, then we do not show any interest in our roots.
The Trinity is a difficult concept to understand let alone preach about, and part of the reason is because the Trinity is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the Scriptures, even though the concept of the Trinity is mentioned throughout the Bible. There is always a danger when a man-made concept is introduced into something God has created. The early church introduced the concept of the Trinity to explain how God works in our lives to restore our relationship with him.
In essence, the Trinity is the belief that God is one in essence, but distinct in person. In other words, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are somehow distinct from one another, yet at the same time they are completely united in essence, will and tasks. God has a life in which all three members of the Trinity relate to each other, give to each other, and love each other.
This is the concept behind the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed. The intention of the creeds was to affirm these three core beliefs:
- The essential unity of God
- The complete humanity and essential divinity of Jesus
- The essential divinity of the Spirit
Christians affirm the unity of all three members of the Godhead. We worship and glorify the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The three members of the Trinity-God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit-are three unique “individuals” (for lack of a better word), but they are one in that they are part of God’s master plan to restore our relationship with him. God is dynamic and unpredictable, just like the wind, and just like the wind comes from all directions, sometimes God convicts us of our sin, sometimes God denounces us and our sinful nature, and other times God opens Christ to us, yet at all times God still loves us.
God created the plan of salvation, Jesus put the plan in place, and the Holy Spirit implements it in our daily lives. The Holy Spirit is the invisible force that allows us to accept Christ and what he did for us. The Holy Spirit allows us to walk with God along the straight and narrow path in our new relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit reminds us of what Jesus did on earth. It tells us what God is thinking. The Holy Spirit is infinite and indefinite. It can be everywhere and with everyone all of the time. In contrast, Jesus could only be with a few people in one place and at only one time because of his finite, human form. Only through his death on the cross does he disclose what it means for him to have been the mind and will of God in human form.
Like Christ, we have to suffer a form of death and resurrection when we allow God to enter our lives. When we do, we die to our own sinful nature and rise again into a new life that is energized by the Holy Spirit. To be born again means that we see things in a new and different light and in a way that is broader and deeper than we can understand now, and to be energized by God’s power-a power that is greater than ours. The only way we can gain this new insight into God’s kingdom is to be born again with the Holy Spirit through God’s grace and truth. We receive the Holy Spirit through baptism and acceptance of Christ in our lives. The water of baptism washes away our sinful nature and allows the Holy Spirit to enter and teach us all about what Jesus said about himself and God the Father.
The transition to our new relationship with God can be painful and full of conflict. It involves letting go of our sinful earthly life, which can be difficult. After all, change can be uncomfortable. The status quo is like our favourite pair of shoes-it just feels so darn good! Change is sometimes necessary. We need to be shaken up if we want to walk with God. Just like we trade cars when they wear out, we have to trade in our old, sinful life for a new one modeled on the life of Christ. Faith heals our sinful nature when the Holy Spirit is born in us. It also heals the conflict that results from our change to our new life. It also heals our relationship with God, and relationships are the foundation of our lives.
God is so vast and so infinite that we can’t even begin to understand him on our own-the gap is simply too great. God bridged this gap by sending his son Jesus. In other words, God became human so that he could understand our human nature. Only by becoming human and by understanding our human nature could God bridge the gap between him and us and begin the process of restoring our relationship with him.
A good analogy is the trips our Canadian Prime Minister takes to visit foreign leaders who can’t speak English. When you see pictures of the two leaders sitting down and having a conversation, you often see more people with them, and one or more of these people are translators. They translate what our Prime Minister says in English into a language that the other leader understands and vice versa. When God became man, not only did he bridge the gap between him and us, he was able to translate the mind and will of God into terms that we can understand. That is also why Jesus often spoke in parables. He used ordinary experiences that his audience could understand to teach them about God.
We are never too old to accept the Trinity and what it offers. The Holy Spirit gives us a spiritual awakening. In John 3:1-17, Nicodemus thought that because he spent many years climbing to the top of the Jewish faith he could not change, but the encounter with Jesus changed him. How do we know this? It is because Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for burial after his crucifixion.
None of us can enter God’s Kingdom on our own, because we cannot measure up to God’s spiritual standards by ourselves. Why it that? It is because God’s spiritual standard is perfection. We need the help of all three members of the Trinity. We are and always will be sinners, but with the Trinity we become sinners saved by grace. Even though the Holy Spirit restores our relationship with God, and even though our sinful nature has been removed, we still have to accept the consequences of our past sins. God can’t overlook sin. Sin demands punishment. God took our punishment on himself as our substitute when he as Jesus died on the cross. When we accept him as out substitute, the Holy Spirit lives within us and reestablishes our relationship with God.
When we look upon the crucified Christ, like the Israelites who were bitten by serpents in Numbers 21 looked at the bronze serpent on the pole and lived, we are given a new life. In other words, we are born again. When we are born again, we receive the Holy Spirit. It encourages us to meet our needs in a way that honours God. It leads us to salvation, regenerates us, convicts us of our sinfulness, teaches us to live for Christ, and seals us for redemption. It also leads us in truth. The Spirit will guide us to remember the truth, reproduce the truth, receive the truth, act upon it and speak it.
God works at the highest levels of power and the greatest distance from us. He enters history uniquely identified with Jesus, who was fully human and fully God. God also personally encounters us in our ongoing history.
The most difficult truth for us to understand is that our sinful nature has made us spiritually dead to God. That is why we need to be reborn spiritually. Baptism is the sign of a new life in Christ. Baptism allows the Holy Spirit to enter us. Once the Spirit turns on the light in our souls, we can understand spiritual things. Our soul comes into union with God and gives us eternal life. God adopts us, makes us his own and promises to be with us forever. This is the heart of being born again.
When we re-establish our relationship with God, he becomes our Father by rebirth and adoption. God loves us because of his nature and he won’t stop loving us. The Spirit gives us rebirth and new life, and God gives us the Spirit because he loves us. God’s work in Jesus through the Holy Spirit is to save ourselves from our own foolishness and our destructive nature. In return, God uses the Holy Spirit through us as a voice of humanity in an inhumane world. We gain the confidence to speak out because the Holy Spirit has touched us like the fiery coal touched the lips of the servant in Isaiah 6:1-8. Life in the Spirit does not have the problems or temptations that exist in life in the world.
God is Father, Son and Spirit, co-equals united in mutual love and divine essence. When we remember this, we can understand what Jesus meant when he said that he and the Father and the Spirit are one. We can’t have one without the other. Jesus reveals God and reconciles us to God. He is the one through whom we are able to enter God’s kingdom, and the Spirit takes us there. The Holy Trinity is God (who is love) coming to us in whatever way we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we become new people who express God’s love in everything we do, say or think.
- Lectionary Homiletics, Volume XXIII, No. 4 (St. Paul, MN: Luther Seminary; 2012; pp.1-9)
- Craig Condon, “The Three Musketeers-Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. Sermon on John 16:12-15
- Craig Condon, “No Greater Love”. Sermon on John 3:1-17
- Alan Smith, “Both Born and Adopted”. Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gerrit J. Bomhof, “Wind”. Retrieved from email@example.com
- John Piper, “The Free Will of the Wind”. Retrieved from www.desiringgod.org
- Richard Innes, “Do Good People Go Into Heaven, Part II”. Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
- Steve Arterburn, “Never Too Late”. Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Anne Graham Lotz, “A Spiritual Implant”. Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pete Briscoe, “Is It About Your Behavior or Your Being?” retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, PCUSA, “The Threefold Nature of God”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Exegesis for John 3:1-17. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Jesus Christ, the Seeking Savior”. Retrieved from In_Touch_With_Dr_Charles_Stanley@crosswalkmail.com
- Jim Burns, “New Life”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- The Rev. Dr. David Lose, ELCA, “Like It or Not”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible software package.
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible software package.
- Albert Mohler, “Does Doctrine Matter?” Retrieved from Jesus.email@example.com
- C.H. Spurgeon, “Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle”. Retrieved from Biblegateway@lists.biblegateway.com
- Daniel Clendenin, PhD, “The Infinite God as Truly Intimate”. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
- Roland McGregor, “McGregorPage #820, Trinity Sunday, 6/3/12”. Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Long, PCUSA, “The Start of the Trail”. Retrieved from www.day1.org/3832-the_start_of_the_trail.print
- John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Year B, Season after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod,org