The Glory of God and Human Worth
† IN the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit †
May the Holy Spirit make us more and more like Jesus Christ, causing us to reflect His glory into our broken world.
A precious lesson to remember
I’ve been doing a bit of thinking since I realized that this summer will make it 30 years since I was a pastoral intern. Some of that pondering has been in awe of what God has done, other moments have brought tears. It has been especially rough as this year has seen some dear people pass away at each of the churches I’ve served at. Nor does it help that in my devotions I’ve read Job recently, and presently am reading Ecclesiastes, where Solomon’s chorus seems to be,
All is meaning-less.
And there are days that I hear this!
Over the thirty years I’ve also learned to disregard that attitude, to know that even when I don’t see how everything will work out, that I am assured of God’s promises, and can rest secure knowing He is faithful.
That’s not where this sermon on Psalm 8 is going, well, not directly, but that is part of the background. Thirty years ago, actually thirty-three years ago, a phrase was drummed into my mind. It took 3 years to make sense, and a lifetime to implement. It is a great guideline for theologians and preachers, and it helps those who listen to sermons and try to apply it to their lives.
These are those words,
You cannot fully understand any Biblical truth until you have reduced it to a corollary of the idea of Covenant.
or to put it in the way I came to understand it,
You can’t clearly understand any doctrine, in Christianity until you understand it in view of the relationship God calls us into with Himself, as described in the New Covenant.
Which includes the incredible glorious mystery we celebrate today, that God is One, and God is, simultaneously three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What we call the Trinity the merger of the words Tri and Unity. Until we understand that in view of God’s relationship with us, His relationship that He calls us into, the result is meaningless.
Failure to Understand the Relationship
So how does this work? Why can’t we understand the idea of the Trinity, the doctrine that God is Triune, if we don’t include our relationship with God in contemplating it? Why is understanding the Covenant necessary to understanding this?
The answer is somewhat simple, we can’t understand the Trinity until we are actively involved with it. To understand the Trinity, we must move and live in unison with God, in sympathy with God. It is as if we are dancing with Him, moving as His partner.
And if we don’t understand this, it is as if we are standing in the corner of life, just observing His glory, yet not able to understand it.
We end up with a partial picture of Psalm 8,
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers, – the moon and the stars you set in place – what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
From a distance, this is how we see God, all the incredible beauty he creates, the skies, the mountains, a smile a joy filled laugh. It is glorious for sure, it is beyond the scope of our ability to describe, but we still don’t understand God, we still don’t know Him. We think we know all about Him, but we do not know Him, and we cannot see the fullness of His glory, His majesty, His love.
It is as if we are a high school freshman, at his first dance, looking at an incredibly beautiful girl. He can describe her dress, her beauty, but until he is dancing with her, looking in her eyes, he really doesn’t understand her beauty.
Neither can we understand the Father, Son and Holy Spirit until we are moving with God. Our lives lived in Him, and He dwelling in us. Until that point it is an academic exercise, one were we put ourselves in the place of judgment, as if we are the experts in judging His glory, because of our great understanding. The understanding that is merely theological, that is merely from a distance.
Which means we read this psalm and say -God doesn’t think about us, He couldn’t care about us! He has a universe to run! Like desists we think that God is far off, that He isn’t involved, and that it is up to us to run our own lives.
That gives us freedom, to go after what we want, to do what seems good to us. It means we can justify our sin, thinking it doesn’t really matter to God, that He doesn’t really care, and that we should just enjoy life.
Ultimately, sin is nothing more than choosing to remain in the corner, distant from God, unengaged with Him. We refuse to walk with God, preferring to stay at a great distance, able to describe Him, and creating explanations for what we do not understand. Explanations that encourage sin, and encourage living life to what we think is the fullest.
That separation leaves us unfulfilled it doesn’t satisfy the hunger, it just makes it greater, and it enslaves us. And once enslaved, with sin pulling us further and further away, our “expert” view of God becomes more blurred, and often more hostile.
Until we agree with Solomon, that all is simply meaningless.
Sure, God is three, and He is One, but what does that matter if my life is spent against the wall, alone with my speculation and philosophy and theology books?
Trinity understood through Covenant.
When we reduce the doctrine of the Trinity (not the Trinity itself) to a corollary of covenant, when we see this incredible mystery of Three in One from the point where we engage God, when we see it defining who we are, we begin to understand this,
This is my God, and I am His child!
It is like looking into the eyes of your beloved as you dance together. You may not be able to describe what you see, heck, you may not be able to speak. Eloquence evades you, but you know your beloved at a level that transcends truth. This is when we begin to understand how much God does think of us, how much He truly cares.
It is when the Psalmist begins to understand the answer to his question,
what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them?
You made them only a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.
The answer is simply understanding the Trinity in view of our relationship with God.
For we see the Trinity involved with us from the beginning, as God makes us just a little lower than Himself, making us in His very image. In our creeds, as we describe this glorious Trinity, we see God the Father, the Creator at work,
And then God crowns us with glory and honor. This is the work of Jesus, the Son. of the Father, and our Lord. It is His redeeming us, pulling us out of the corner, bringing us to dance with God. This is Jesus, our righteousness, whom we are untied to in baptism, made one with, as He cleanses us from all sin and all unrighteousness. His very birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension affect s our lives, from redeeming us to being our advocate, proclaiming us Holy and deserving of the crown and righteousness.
And then the Spirit sanctifies us, setting us apart, conforming us to the image of God’s son. We are revealed to be in Christ Jesus, the Spirit dwells in us, and gives us the role of God’s trusted children, trusted enough that He puts all things under our authority, our responsibility, as we walk with Jesus. This is what it means to be holy, to be sanctified, to walk with God,
And so we see God, in all of His glory, working in our lives. Creating us. Redeeming us, Sanctifying us. Making us His people. That is what the creeds describe the Trinity doing, simply engaged with us, thinking about us, caring about us so much that God invests Himself fully in our lives. His is what we confess; it is what we believe. It is our Credo – why we depend on upon God.
It is a description of our faith in God who reveals Himself in this way to us,
This is why Paul can preach as the He describes in Colossians,
For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing in His glory. Colossians 1:27 (NLT)
This is how we are to understand God, not with high minded philosophy from afar, but moving in unison with God as our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us, and the Holy Spirit who will bring to completion our transformation into the children of God. He thinks about us, He cares for us, HE LOVES US!.
As we come to know the Trinity this way they share with us the peace that surpasses all understanding and will share the glory of eternity. For this is true!
We are His people; He is our God… AMEN!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (TEV)
7 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. 8 Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ 9 and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. Philippians 3:7-9 (MSG)
“You wrote to me: “To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries—even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions—and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself— “to get acquainted!”” (1)
For the last year or so, I have been toying with the idea of going back to school, to get a doctoral degree. I’ve thought about which degree to get, for there are a number of fields that interest me – from worship, to sociology, to counseling, to homiletics and other pragmatic areas of ministry. Yesterday I went back to where it all started, 30 years ago this fall, as I entered a “non-denom” Bible College – in a very accidental “God-thing” type moment.
Combine with that preparing to preach this weekend – “Trinity Sunday” we call it, a day to meditate upon how God has revealed Himself to us, as three distinct, yet …..One. One of the greatest, most complicated theological doctrines there is, and yet, still so far out of ability to comprehend. ( Read the Athanasian Creed – an incredibly beautiful explanation of God, yet each phrase, raises more questions, leaves us more in awe. And for a theologian, albeit an amateur one, (as all pastors are – as serving others takes precedence…always… over such deep thoguhts) I love to just sit back and plumb the depths of the minds who wrote far more comprehensively than I can think.
But then I come to St. Paul – a man who was a first rate theologian in his day, prior to His conversion, who wrote the quotes above. It doesn’t matter how much I know, I’ve got to realize I am loved, I have to understand why Paul so desired to be embraced by Christ, why everything else took a back seat to knowing, not the details.
Which is where Theophilus – the person Luke writes his gospel for comes in. The name in Greek is Loved by God/Lover of God. But it is that relationship that matters, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed that we are the beloved, that we never walk alone, that we have been cleansed and healed and are loved. It is starting from there, realizing the miracles our being justified and sanctified are only to deliver us, the children of the Father, the ones Jesus calls His friends, the ones who are the Home of the Holy Spirit. We must be Theophilus, before we ever become Theologians..
I would never say to not study theology, but first, come to know God, as St Josemaria says – get acquainted with Him in prayer. Talk to Him – about everything and anything. Listen to Him, hear Him tell you of His love, of His mercy, of His grace. That is what matters, in a way, it is ALL that matters….. for knowledge even all the data we can generate about Trinity – without that love… is nothing….empty…worthless.
I pray for you (and ask you to pray for me, as the apostle Paul did for the people of Ephesus…
14 For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16 I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18 so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19 Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 365-368). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.