Monthly Archives: December 2019

The Trinity and the Christian Life

While writing my recent post about the Trinity, I was stepping away from my usual approach on this blog. While I have devoted a lot of attention to doctrines in recent months, I usually try to keep things practical, down to earth, relating it to the lives of ordinary Christians. I realize people who want to read a systematic theology treatise will usually not log onto a blog to do so. After all, a blog is not really the ideal place to discuss heavy theology. Numerous books have been written about the Trinity, and some of them handle it much better than a blog ever can.

A diagram illustrating the relationships between the Persons of the Trinity. By AnonMoos (public domain), via Wikipedia Commons.

Nevertheless, the question needs to be asked: Why should we care about the Trinity? Can we not just worship Jesus and think that is good enough?

Today, I will share a few thoughts about why we should care about the Trinity.

First, knowing that God is Triune drives our worship. As I wrote in the previous post, “God is unique. There is nothing in all of creation that is exactly like the Trinity. We will not understand it fully in this life. We will finally understand when we get to heaven and see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together.” We worship a God who is “wholly other,” distinct from us and from the universe He created. There is nothing and nobody like Him.

Second, the entire Trinity is involved in our relationship with Christ. From salvation to sanctification and beyond, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are acting in our lives:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:1-2, emphasis added; all Scripture verses are from the English Standard Version).

While we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the entire Trinity is involved in our salvation and spiritual growth. Each Person is involved in our lives from beginning to end. The connection between them is so strong that the Bible says one cannot have a relationship with Jesus without the other two, nor can one claim to have a relationship with God without Jesus:

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:22-24).

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

So, why should we care about the Trinity? Because “a personal relationship with Jesus” is in fact a family relationship with the Trinity. The Trinity is more than a doctrine to make one’s head spin. It is a statement about God Himself and how He works in our lives. We are saved by the entire Trinity. We worship a Triune God.

NB: For the most detailed ancient doctrinal statement about the Trinity, take some time to read the Athanasian Creed, a fourth-century statement of faith detailing the relationship between the Persons of the Godhead.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas: The Love of God Revealed To and Through Us

Image provided by YouVersion.com.

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and followers of Darkened Glass Reflections! There is a popular seasonal song that proclaims “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” I usually find myself thinking it is the most busy and stressful time of the year. It is easy to lose sight of the birth of Jesus when your attention is drawn to the commercialized elements of the holiday.

As I write this post, my wife and I are preparing for friends and family to arrive, so this will be a brief post. In my devotions today, I came across this passage worth reflecting upon:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12, ESV, emphasis added).

The entire life of Christ—from conception, to birth, His earthly life and ministry, to His death, resurrection, and ascension—revealed the love of God. It was an invitation to unite the life of God with the lives of mankind. It is easy to view passages like this one as simply “Jesus came and died so we would not go to hell.” But, it is more than that. In Christ, God has revealed Himself to us and shown us what a true man or woman of God is like. This passage goes on to speak about how God sent us His Spirit (v. 13). The Spirit-filled life of a Christian is one filled with the life of Christ and the love of God in our hearts.

What does this love look like?

  • It is active. When mankind fell into sin, God did not merely throw up His hands in frustration and mumble, “Well, you guys screwed up; you’re on your own now.” Instead, He launched a plan to redeem us from the wages of sin. That plan demanded that Jesus take action to live and die as one of us.
  • It is sacrificial. It cost Jesus everything to come to earth (Philippians 2:5-11). He thought our souls and eternal lives were worth the price. He stepped down from his comfortable exalted throne to be born in a manger and die on a cross.
  • It is merciful and gracious. We did not deserve God’s love, but He loves us anyway. He does not hold back His love because we do not deserve it; instead, His love compels Him to raise us up above our sins and shortcomings.

Let the love of Jesus guide us as we celebrate His birth and life. Let our love be active, seeking opportunities to bless those around us. Let our love be sacrificial, seeking to bless others even if it costs us time, money, or comfort. Let our love be merciful and gracious; let us love others, even when we think they do not deserve it. Instead of letting the commercialism of Christmas interfere with the spiritual part of the holiday, let the active, sacrificial, merciful, and gracious love of Jesus motivate our gift-giving and gatherings.

Most of all, let us keep the message of Christmas in our hearts year-round. May the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace rule and dwell in our hearts through His love every day.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Nature and Personality, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Trinity: Trying to Explain It

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4, ESV).

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV).

Any discussion of biblical teaching about the nature of God is incomplete if it does not address the doctrine of the Trinity. While a handful of modern evangelical churches avoid using the word since it is not in the Bible, all true Christian churches agree with its basic tenet: There is one God Who exists throughout eternity in three Persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to get confused. Is there one God, or are there three? How can three Persons be one God? It is enough to make one scream, like a Monty Python character, “My brain hurts!”

People who have tried to explain the Trinity can fall into one of two extremes that should be avoided. Some will err on the “one God” side and say that Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They ignore or explain away any distinctions the Bible draws between them. On the other hand, I have known people who have tried to explain the Trinity and ended up making polytheistic statements. By focusing on the three Persons, they explain the Godhead as three different deities. (Note: Just because your three deities cooperate does not mean it is not polytheism; many polytheistic religions speak of gods who work together.)

People have tried to devise different illustrations to picture the Trinity. A popular one is the egg: a shell, a white, and a yolk are three parts that make one egg. One of my seminary professors, Dr. Gary McGee, tried a similar illustration with a cup of coffee (an important tool when trying to discuss the trinity during a systematic theology class at 8:30 AM!) containing hot water, sugar, and the precious caffeine-laden holy oils of the coffee beans). While the illustrations provide some help, they have their flaws. I can throw out an egg shell and scramble the white and yolk into a single substance; we cannot do that with the Trinity.

A diagram illustrating the relationships between the Persons of the Trinity. By AnonMoos (public domain), via Wikipedia Commons.

Another professor, Dr. Stanley Horton, offered very sound insight on this topic. During one class session, he pointed out the examples fail because God is unique. There is nothing in all of creation that is exactly like the Trinity. We will not understand it fully in this life. We will finally understand when we get to heaven and see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV).

Someday, we will understand fully. Until then, we live with our limited understanding mixed with our trust in an unlimited God.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

St. John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul and Knowing God

This post is written for the commemoration of St. John of the Cross (December 14).

“In order to come to union with the wisdom of God, the soul has to proceed rather by unknowing than by knowing” (St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591).

St. John of the Cross. Painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664; public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

After posting two recent articles about how our Lord is a personal God who can be known and reveals Himself to us, I found the above quote by St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century monk, mystic, and poet. (Some traditional churches commemorate him on December 14.)

Modern people, living in a society powered by science and technology, assume that we can figure everything out. We have questions; we desire answers; we pursue the information we desire (scientists may conduct experiments or perform other controlled observations); and we draw conclusions. We know stuff because we sought information.

However, the Bible tells us that we can know God not because we figured Him out, but because He found a way to reach us. God chose to reveal Himself not as an abstract concept but as a man, Jesus Christ, who lived and died as one of us.

The dark night of the soul is a term that is often associated with St. John of the Cross. The title of one of his most popular poems, it describes the soul’s journey towards knowledge of God. He believed that one comes to know God only through painful experiences and struggles. He had his share. As a member of a strict order—members would not even wear shoes in an attempt to avoid worldly comforts—he faced persecution, opposition, and even torture: sometimes from people who thought his ideas were too radical and at other times by people who thought he was not radical enough.

What is the lesson in all of this? Whatever you are going through, ask “Where is God in this situation?” He is there. What is He doing? What is He showing you about Himself? What is He showing you about yourself? He is always there; He may just be doing something that you are not expecting.

Some writers speak of the dark night of the soul as a struggle with doubt. St. John of the Cross struggled with his faith. St. Teresa of Calcutta (aka Mother Teresa), despite decades as one of the world’s most beloved examples of faithful service to people in Jesus’ name, often admitted in private correspondence to decades of doubt. When you face doubts or questions, do not avoid them. Ask God for wisdom and faith. Continue to follow Him, expecting the answers to follow. Faith grows through testing.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:2-6).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Personal God Who Makes Himself Known

“The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth” (Psalms 145:18, ESV).

As a personal God, the Lord seeks to be personal with His people. Psalm 145 praises God for numerous ways that He reaches out to His people, showing them His mercy and love. Take some time to read the entire psalm when you have a chance.

God intimately cares about the people He created. He did not merely create the universe and sit back to watch the show. He intervenes in the lives of His people. He wants us to reach out to Him in faith so that He can respond to us in love and mercy.

In the Old Testament, He revealed Himself to His people through His mighty acts of deliverance and provision. The Exodus from Egypt is a great example of this. So is the restoration of the Jews following the Babylonian exile. The Old Testament records His miraculous acts by which He revealed Himself to His people, along with laws and prophetic messages that revealed His will.

However, He wanted more. He is a personal God. An invisible God performing visible miracles was not sufficient. God wanted to draw a people to Himself personally and intimately.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:1-3, ESV).

The ancient Jews of Jesus’ time would have thought that God’s highest revelation of Himself was the Law of Moses. The Bible did not offer philosophical explanations about God. It contained stories about what He had done in their lives, laws to explain His will, and prophetic messages announcing what He would do in response to people’s choices. However, in Christ, God went beyond that. God most fully revealed Himself by becoming a man and living among humans as one of us. To know what God is really like, we no longer need abstract concepts. We have a living human God/Man. To know what God is like, we can look to Jesus.

When Jesus was born, God the Son became a man so that we can have a relationship with our Creator. “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst (ca. 1622, public domain, via Wikipedia).

Through Christ, God invites us to share in the relationship that exists between the Persons of the Trinity. The Father and the Son live in an eternal relationship. They were united and working together at creation. Jesus upholds the universe by the Word of His power. The Father has appointed Him heir above all things. By becoming part of a human family, living as part of a human society, and uniting Himself with all mankind, Jesus invites us to join in that relationship with Him. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created mankind in His image. Philippians 2:7-8 tells us that Jesus assumed human form and likeness. God and man became one in the person of Christ, so that we can experience the full intimacy with God that He originally intended.

Because of Jesus, we can echo the words of Job:

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5, ESV).

Maybe we do not physically see Jesus walking around now, but we have a living human illustration of what God is like. We can leap beyond knowing about God (like some distant celebrity or historical figure), because He wants us to know Him personally (like a family member or friend). A personal God wants to be known personally, and He invites us to come to Him by faith.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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