Monday, June 8, 2009

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday
John 3:1-17
Bror Erickson

[3:1] Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. [2] This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him." [3] Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." [4] Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" [5] Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. [7] Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' [8] The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
[9] Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" [10] Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? [11] Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. [12] If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? [13] No one has ascended into heaven except him who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. [14] And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, [15] that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
[16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
[17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:1-17 (ESV)

For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son, His only begotten, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the World to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
In order that the world might be saved through Him.
In order that the world might be saved through Him! I love reading John. I especially like reading Him in Greek. His Greek is simple, straightforward, and generally easy to read. It makes me feel like I actually know Greek well when I read John in Greek. But I also like how he emphasizes things about His beloved Lord. I like how he emphasizes who He was, (His Son, His only begotten” is how it reads in Greek.) and what He came for. Jesus is eternal God, and He came to save the world. How privileged John must have felt to have leaned on Him at the Last Supper, as He leaned and rested on Him His whole life for salvation. For the Son came, not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved THROUGH Him!
This is why Jesus came. He came because God loved His creation. God loves you, and wants you to be saved. He wants you to be saved through His Son Jesus Christ who was lifted up that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. That is believes in him with the same faith that Annie will confirm today in front of everyone here, as she affirms the faith she has been taught these last three years. Because faith in Jesus Christ, and faith in Him alone is what saves, because God desires to save the world THROUGH Him. Through Him, that is not through Moses, nor through works, nor through anything we do. Rather God saves the world through His Son, not “after all we can do,” but despite all we have done, and will ever do, whether we think it good or bad.
We need to be saved through Jesus Christ, His being lifted up like the serpent in the desert. That is, we must be saved by His crucifixion, because it is impossible for us to save ourselves. It is impossible for us to keep the law. We are all sinners in need of salvation. Yes you are a sinner. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” And without Christ’s death, without the death of God, the author of life, we are left to die in our sins condemned to hell. Only the death of God, the murder of the Author of life, can save us.
This is why Christianity is about Christ. Annie today confesses Christ. She does not stand before us today, and confess in her abilities to live a perfect life. She stands before us and confesses the perfect life that Jesus lived for her, the perfect life that Jesus lived for you, and for the world, that He might die the perfect death for us, and be the perfect sacrifice the propitiation for all our sins. So all theology in the Christian church, comes back to Christ, who is He? What did He do? And how did He do it?
The answers? He is God. He died for us. He did it by becoming man, so that the blood of this man would be the blood of God, and would have the infinite value of God to redeem all man.
Today is Trinity Sunday, a day that we put aside to celebrate the doctrine of the Trinity, the Triune God, the doctrine that explains and safeguards our salvation. We celebrate this doctrine, because without it we have no salvation, and are doomed to the fires of hell. Too often the doctrine of the Trinity, the Triunity is treated in an abstract manner that has no real value. You get a text book treatise on the Biblical passages dealing with the matter, but it is never really linked to the gospel. The Gospel needs the Trinity. Without the Trinity the forgiveness of sins is impossible. But it is in reaction to these text book treatises that you hear over and over that these terms are not used in the Bible. I’ve even been accused of being unbiblical for teaching it. But when I asked these questions I received no answer, but a deaf silence. The person knew I was right. I simply asked. Which one isn’t God? Is the Father not God? Is the Son not God? Is the Holy Spirit not God? Is there more than one God? Indeed, from the very beginning of the Bible all three are shown to be God. And the Bible is always very clear that there is but one God! And God said “let us make man in our own image. “Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4) Or as Paul says in Galatians “Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.” (Galatians 3:20 (ESV)
You see, to answer the question as to who Christ is, you have to answer the question: who is God? The answers are intertwined, because Jesus is God, as Thomas so well pointed out when he dropped to his knees in the locked upper room and confessed “My Lord and my God.” And mind you Jesus did not contradict him, Jesus by not correcting him admitted to being God, as the name the angel gave him, “Immanuel” testified “God with us.” Or when Jesus Himself says of Himself. “Before Abraham was, I am” quoting the burning bush as to His true identity.
So in order to know who Jesus is we have to know a little about who God is, what we mean by the name God. When Christians speak of God, we speak of the one true God. God is one. We speak of the God who created the world and us. Created us, did not beget us. In truth it is the fact of creation that makes God who He is. We owe our existence to God, who created us and gave us life. We owe to Him absolute, absolute obedience. Only the God who created us deserves our devotion. In truth He is the only God, all others are false. Yet it is God, who created heaven and earth, who most often receives our scorn. Rather than obey we disobey. Adam and Eve ate the apple, and it has rotted us to the core. We eat barrels of forbidden apples everyday. God says thou shall not covet, and we are overcome with envy the root of all the evils that plague us. It is the great American pass time, coveting. Can we go a day without watching T.V? Would that I could. Yet the T.V exists to foment coveting, with commercial after commercial. I am really beginning to wonder if there is anything on that thing that is healthy for one? Don’t tell me you have that thing for watching the news. I’m here to tell you, there is a difference between propaganda and news.
God tells us to not bear false witness, and we spend our time gossiping.
God tells us to not steal, and we waste hour after hour gossiping with our friends at work, texting on company time.
God says though shall not commit adultery, and we covet our neighbor’s spouse, or perhaps merely wish that our spouse was more like McDreamy.
God says thou shall not murder, and we sit idly by as babies are sucked out of their mothers’ wombs, chopped up, hacked and thrown in an incinerator. We make excuses for those who do it, whether it be the abortionist himself, or the mother who goes to him or her. He’s helping them we say. Really? Since when is helping someone murder an honorable thing? The Mothers we say are desperate and have nowhere to turn? How often is a murderer not desperate? The child we say would not have any quality of life, and live in poverty. If I walked through the slums, and shot people digging out of trash cans would I not be a murderer? And the people say who am I to judge, who are you to judge then? Get off your soap box. Seriously, quit blaspheming our Lord. Quit taking His name in vain, as you misquote His “judge not lest ye be judged.” (Really, people, if you think that is the sum total of all Jesus ever said on the matter, you need to read your Bibles more. And I find it ridiculous that you only use that when you disagree with the judgment made. Yes, I’m telling you take the plank out of your own eye!) You judge me for calling a murderer a murderer? You want me to feel guilty for that? Yet you think this child ought to die because he may not be able to live in a house with a three car garage? If you are so concerned that the child won’t have a good life, then give her one. Jesus doesn’t say if you have two coats, and you see that your neighbor has none, go and shoot him in the head because his life isn’t worth living. He says, “give him your coat!”
And I have to say I haven’t always been the best at that stuff. Have you? We live in such opulence here it is amazing. It would make kings of the past blush with envy. We complain about welfare, yet rarely if ever give to charity. We drop a can of about to be expired bean soup in the post office’s food drive, and think we have done something great that God should be proud of. See how sick you are? See how incapable you are of following God’s law. No, I haven’t been the best at that. We will never be able to fulfill God’s law in that regard. We love ourselves too much, fear poverty more than God. Though in my meandering depression this last week, brought on by the blow to the pro-life movement that was the murder of Tiller. I tell you I have been depressed. It has come to my attention that we as a congregation could, and should do more in these regards. A monthly food drive, and maybe a door offering for the Pregnancy Resource Center of Salt Lake? It may not change the world, but it may change someone’s world and show them the love of Christ, who came to save the world.
Do you see why God had to become man to save us? Do you see just how sinful we are? And so He did. God, He became man in the person of Jesus Christ, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Just “I am.” He is pointing to His eternal existence. He quotes the burning bush, “I am.” “Ego Eimi.” You see one of the things about God is He is eternal. That means outside of time, no beginning no end. Time is His creation. Jesus and Jesus alone had a preexistence in eternity, the only begotten Son of God. God begat Him in eternity.
You see, you really are no god at all if you are not eternal. You are no god at all if you are not responsible for the creation of the world. God is. That is the essence of God. He is, or as he says, “I am.” Man can’t become that. If you aren’t God from the very beginning, from eternity, then you aren’t God and never will be God, or even a god. It is a complete impossibility.
But in eternity God begat God, begat the Son, eternal and infinite as the Father, of the same substance. And the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit were there at the beginning creating the world, and creating us in their image, which does not tell us anything about what God looks like in the mirror. What a blasphemous thought that would be. God is Spirit. John 4:24 Jesus tells us that “God is spirit,” and He is speaking not of the Holy Spirit, but of the Father, whom we are to worship in spirit, now that the purpose of the temple has been completed in the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We don’t need a temple in Jerusalem, and we don’t need one anywhere else. For we are the temple. “Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16 (ESV)
God is spirit. In essence, God is spirit, so at one time Jesus was spirit. Jesus looks like man, not because He created man in His image, but because the Only Begotten Son of God, the word, became flesh. That is He took on the form of a servant, humbled himself, was born in the likeness of men, and found in human form. (Philippians 2:7) He had to do this because He did not have flesh from the beginning. He was not begotten as a man from all eternity, because His Father who begat Him was spirit, and that which is born of flesh is flesh, but that which is born of spirit is spirit. So He was begotten of the Father in eternity, conceived in time by the Holy Spirit, and born in flesh by the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to her Creator. That is the amazing testimony of the apostles. Mary gave birth to God, the Author of Life. And in Jesus Christ God became man, so that when the Author of Life, died in place of you, and was raised from the dead. You could know for certain, that despite all your sin, despite all you could do, when Jesus Christ was lifted up, as Moses lifted the serpent in the desert, we who believe in Him, who were born of the spirit and given faith though His word, and the work of the Holy Spirit in baptism where the water and Spirit are inseparably joined, were given eternal life in Him. Because when God dies for you, what else is there to do but thank and praise His name, the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?! Thank and praise His name confessing it before the world with your confirmation. Thank and praise His name in love for your neighbor. For what could you possibly add to His salvation? With what imperfect “good” work would you like to blemish the perfect sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us on the cross? What sin could you doubt He has forgiven? There is none He has not forgiven, to think otherwise is a blasphemous thought. He has even forgiven your feeble attempts to earn your own salvation, to meet Him half or even a quarter of the way with the selfish hypocrisy of your works. So we care for our neighbors, we show love for our fellow sinners not “to do all we can do” so that after we have done that Christ will make up for our shortcomings. No, we care for our neighbor, we donate to the Pregnancy Resource Center, we give to the Food Bank with nothing else but gratitude for the salvation that He has given us, a love that issues from a pure heart washed with water and the Spirit, and a good conscience knowing that all our sins have been forgiven, even the inadequacies of our thanks. For when God dies for you, what else is there for you to do?
And that my friends, is why the Trinity is important, so that you will know it wasn’t just some man you are to imitate that died on the cross. (Funny, the people who advocate that rarely if ever crucify themselves.) The doctrine of the, the teaching of scripture, assures us that it wasn’t someone showing us how we too could become a god. The doctrine of the Trinity makes it clear that it was God who died for you, that you may have eternal life, when your faith looks to Him.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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