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Take God Seriously

3 June 2012.  Trinity Sunday. Isaiah 6:1-8, John 3:1-17

To us, God is surrounded by mystery. Many of the questions that people ask about normal things come up very short when asked about God.

So tell me, who exactly is God? Tell me more about where God is? I want to know what God is like.

Even going more indirectly, to the activities of God, we still end up stopping short of where we like to be.

So how did God create the world? If God “sent” Jesus into the world, how exactly was that done? If miracles still happen, how does God do them?

Even in respect to God’s character we come up short by our own reasoning.

If God is all powerful and loving, why does he allow such suffering in the world? If God is all powerful and loving, why are only some people healed when we pray for them? Indeed why allow sickness in the first place?

In an era when answers are demanded before people will believe, it is no wonder so many stop and decide to go no further with God. I’m not saying it is right to do so, but it shouldn’t be a surprise.

The curiosity, of course, is that we are surrounded by cheap, over-simplistic and even devious truth claims every day, and people regularly believe these without proof, and in many cases even a track record of outright lying. Yet they believe because the truth claim is clear.

When we say that mystery surrounds God so there is much we cannot say, we are only telling the truth. We could lie and invent details, and present theories as facts, in order to satisfy the desire for certainty. We could do that and convince more people, but they would be lies still.

No, the truth is there is much that we cannot say about God that satisfies 21st Century enquirers.

Since very soon after Jesus it is evident that his followers understood him as the unique Son of God. Hence the early development of the understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is not a biblical formula to describe God, yet it is a biblically based description of God out of the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus.

  1. Because he referred to God always as his Father.
  2. Because he described himself as the Son of the Father, the one who came down from heaven.
  3. Because he promised the Holy Spirit; a promise that those first followers experienced directly.

And the specific belief that these three are all one God, not separate, is based on (among other things) …

  1. The over-riding and insistent belief that there is only one true and living God, pre-existent from the Old Testament and clearly affirmed by Jesus.
  2. That Jesus said that he and the Father were one.
  3. That Jesus promised never to leave his followers, yet did from the time of his ascension. It is understood that the Holy Spirit fulfils Jesus’ promise never to leave them. It is as though they are the same.

The belief that Father, Son and Spirit are in a real way identifiable from each other, somewhere between persons and personalities (there were almost endless arguments about exactly what, and the real answer is mystery), is based on …

  1. That Jesus lived on earth while God was still in heaven.
  2. Some of Jesus’ promises, like that he would ask the Father, and the Father would send the Holy Spirit; and similar references.
  3. That the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism.

The oneness of God is foundational. The three-ness of God is based on the world’s experience of Jesus, testified to in the bible.

In reality, the “Trinity” of God, so named, is an attempt to name some of the mystery of who God is and what God is like. “Trinity” – three in one – is a descriptive name for God that is just a little more than a title for a mystery story; only it is a true story; THE true story.

I encourage you to ask questions about God; to think thoughts about God; to wonder about possibilities in God.

But be warned – many people have gotten so carried away in their own thoughts and theories that they have little space left for what the Bible says.

The best testimony to God, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit is the Bible. Your own experiences are more personal and compelling but less trustworthy. Least trustworthy are our semi-connected musings.

The doctrine of the Trinity of God is not a strait jacket of rigid beliefs, but a framework around the invitation into the mystery of God.

So I invite you – read about God; talk about God; think about God; pray to God in all ways, times and places. But be guided in all things by what the bible says, and if you don’t know what it says then find out before you become deluded by all the other fantasies floating about.

The doctrine of Trinity claims that God is first of all about good relationships, so perhaps it should be no surprise that God wants a positive relationship with us.