I’ll get round to responding to comments soon. Here’s the second part of yesterday’s trinity sermon
Trinity Sermon part 2: Galatians 4:4-6 (audio here)
…The trinity is the good news that God is love.
On the other hand: – the imaginary, solitary, self-centred god is nothing but bad news.
The difference between these two ideas of God comes out very clearly when we ask ourselves – how would I go about serving these gods?
Let’s think about the false, self-centred god first. How would you serve such a god?
Well if God was just one person and if he desires any kind of service, who’s going to have to give it to him? Well it has to be us. There’s no-one else to do it.
So in terms of serving God, it’s all about what I can offer God.
This god might demand obedience and religious service and sacrifice and prayer and elaborate worship. But with this god, the only sacrifice is our sacrifice, the only obedience is our obedience, the only prayers are our prayers. This is the way of all human religion. There is some kind of deity who requires some kind of payment because ‘they’re worth it’ – and religion is about us paying it to God. Horrible!
But the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit has other ways of getting the job done. Look with me at chapter 4, verse 4:
4 But when the time had fully come, God [the Father] sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
At just the right time, Christmas time to be precise, the Father sends His Son and v4 says He is born of a woman. The eternal Son of God joins the human race. He enters into our family tree and becomes our brother, one of us.
And as our strong older brother, Jesus sticks up for us. He steps into our shoes and He does for us what we could never do. V4 says He is ‘born under law’. That means that He put Himself under the obligations of God’s commandments. So whatever God wants from human beings, the Son of God gives. Jesus paid to His Father the debt that we owe…
All the worship, obedience, devotion, prayer, love and sacrifice which the Father demands, the Son performs. God wants human obedience. But our human obedience is paltry, pathetic, perverted. So the Son comes born of a woman to do in our place what we should have done.
And then v5 tells us He does this that we might receive the full rights of sons. Now we don’t have any right to be treated as sons. We don’t have any rights to inherit the blessings of God. But THE Son of God has that right. And so He works His perfect obedience in our place and then gives us all the rights that belong to Him.
In the diagram you’re meant to get the sense that the Son overshadows us. We are in Him. (It worked better in Powerpoint).
Imagine today a champion runner, entering the London marathon under your name and running in your place. And they win and suddenly all newspapers tomorrow go with ‘Glen Scrivener wins marathon.’ And I receive a gigantic cheque and am hailed as a star athlete. I’m not a star athlete, brushing my teeth is about as aerobic as I like to get. But imagine the full rights of the winner are given to me because a champion ran in my place. That’s what this is like. Someone has run the race of obedience in your place and then given you all the winnings.
Chapter 3 verse 29 describes it as belonging to Christ – so that His vast inheritance becomes ours. I like that image, but I like the image of chapter 3 verse 27 even better: I am clothed with Christ. I am wrapped up in Jesus while He offers the perfect worship, obedience and sacrifice to the Father. If you belong to Jesus, the Father looks on you and sees Jesus. He looks on you as His beloved child and says ‘here, have my fatherly love, have my verdict of ‘holy’, have the whole universe. It belongs to Jesus and you belong to Him.
Now if that weren’t good enough, chapter 4 verse 6 tells us we don’t only have the Son of God wrapped up around us, we also have the Spirit of God in us.
6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
The Father sends the Spirit of the Son into any who belong to the Son. Do you belong to Jesus, do you trust Him, then you have the Eternal Spirit of God living in you. And the Spirit calls from within us ‘Abba, Father’. Abba is a very intimate term, it means something like ‘daddy’ or ‘father dearest’. It’s something so intimate that only the Son of God could ever get to call the Father Almighty ‘daddy’. But now, if we belong to Jesus, we get to do what Jesus did and call the Most High God – Abba – Daddy.
The Spirit sweeps us up into the Son’s relationship with the Father. If you’re a Christian, the Spirit has swept you up into the Son’s relationship with the Father. Everything that the Son has by rights, you now have through Him. Everything that the Father feels towards His Son, He feels towards you who are clothed in Him. If you’re a Christian, the Spirit has gathered you into the circle of divine love. By the Holy Spirit, you know Jesus as your Brother and the Almighty Father as your ‘Daddy’. You now belong to Jesus, and He belongs to the very life of the Trinity. Our privileges in Jesus couldn’t be greater. As 2 Peter chapter 1 says, we ‘participate in the divine nature.’
I started with a mental test, let me give you one more. Christians here, if I were to ask you ‘how is your prayer life going?’ How would you respond? If you belong to Jesus, you can look me in the eye and tell me ‘my prayer life is unimprovable’. How’s your prayer life? ‘My prayer life is divine.’
I am clothed in the Son of God and His prayer-life is pretty darned good. What’s more, chapter 4 verse 6 tells me that His prayer to the Father is a prayer that is placed in me by the Spirit. The Spirit prays the perfect prayer of the Son in me and through me. I’m not just invited to pray, I am already caught up in the prayer life of God.
All our little prayers are the ‘Amen’ to Jesus’ perfect prayer. He’s prayed the perfect prayer and we say ‘Amen, Father. What He said, Father. My Brother Jesus couldn’t have prayed it better. Amen, Father’ And as we go on in the Christian life, the Spirit of the Son will help our little prayers to become more child-like, so that we call out “Daddy” in reverent love. That’s so important because nothing kills a prayer life better than praying to God like you’re a slave and He’s a slave-master, like you’re a soldier and He’s a commanding officer. Jesus didn’t teach us to pray ‘Our Sergeant-Major in Heaven’ or ‘Our Line Manager in Heaven’ – instead: Our Father in Heaven. We need to be little children in prayer and thankfully the Spirit of the Son makes us exactly that and helps us to pray child-like prayers where we depend on our heavenly Dad. Our own attempts at praying won’t be very good but, wonderfully, the Spirit takes even our most rubbish efforts at prayer and wraps them up in the Son’s perfect prayer and lifts them the to the Father.
I hope you can see that the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unlike any god ever imagined. He is the living, loving, working, worshipping God who invites us into His life of other-centred love.
But, finally, if you don’t belong to Jesus, you are shut out of this life. And you cannot get in. No amount of your own religious works and moral deeds will earn your acceptance into this divine family. The only way in is through Jesus, who offers to be your older brother, who offers to clothe you in His righteousness, who offers to give you His inheritance. Maybe today you need to say Yes to Jesus – to say ‘I want in. I don’t want to live my solitary, self-centred life any more, I want in on your life Jesus.’ Maybe for some of us, today is the day we join the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their life of love.
Heavenly Father, thank You that we can call you Father. Thank You that Your Son has become our Brother and so You have become our Father. Thank You for inviting us into Your family. Thank You for sending Your Spirit into our hearts. If we are Christians here, may each one of us know that we are clothed in Your Son and loved with an everlasting love. For those who don’t yet belong to Jesus, would you draw them, would you woo them, would you claim them as your own. May we all live in your love, Generous Father, Gracious Son and Powerful Spirit. Now and always, Amen.