Knowing who God is and what He does as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit affects how we live, love, and worship God. John Elmore dives into Genesis 1:1-5 to explore the Trinity and what it says about who God is and what He does.
Made for a New World | Isaiah 11:1-16
Made to Be Saved | Genesis 3:15, 21-24
Made to Work | Genesis 3:17-19
Made to Gospel Our Relationships | Genesis 3:12-13
Made for a World Without Shame | Genesis 3:7-11
Made for a Different World | Genesis 3:1-7
Made for Relationships: Marriage | Genesis 2:18-25
Made for Relationship | Genesis 2:18-20
Made to Rest | Genesis 2:1-3
Made to Flourish | Genesis 2:4-25
God’s Heart for The Nations | Revelation 7:9-17
Made in the Image of God | Genesis 1:26-27
Great Questions Q&A Panel + MADE: to Teach | Genesis 1-3, 2 Timothy 2:24-26
How to Hear From God | Genesis 1:1-31
The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit | Genesis 1:1-5
To Know God is to Worship God | Genesis 1:3-25
Is Your God Too Small? | Genesis 1:1-2
For believers to begin to understand God’s triune nature, we must look at the ontological Trinity (study of being), and the economic Trinity (God’s work in the life of every believer). Genesis 1:1-5 gives us a glimpse into these truths about God:
Who God Is: Ontological Trinity
What God Does: Economic Trinity
Good morning, Watermark Church, brothers and sisters in Christ, and those who are exploring the faith. Welcome here. This morning, I want to begin by telling you about someone you're actually strangely familiar with but don't know fully. In order to do that, I'm going to have us step into British royalty. In case you're like, "Oh my goodness. You too? Sellout," it isn't what you think. Today we're going to go back 350 years to 1667 under a different King Charles…King Charles II.
King Charles II was not a godly king. He appointed a man to be bishop, or a pastor, over the Church of England, the Anglican church. So, he's in charge of that. He's responsible. He appoints this man Thomas Ken (he was 35 years old) and five other bishops to rule over the Church of England. So, you would think, as he has appointed them, he's like, "All right. Now you're going to do what I say. I gave you your office. Now you're going to bend the knee to my office."
So, when he was rolling through Thomas Ken's hamlet where he lived, the king sent word to him. "Thomas, you need to vacate your house because I'm traveling out of town, and my mistress…" (Nell Gwyn, who was England's famous actor.) "She's with me, and she needs a place to stay so the people don't talk." Well, Thomas Ken, a God-fearing man, not a king-fearing man, said, "No. I will not vacate my house to aid and abet your adultery."
The king persisted. "I don't think you understand. I'm not asking this as a favor. I'm telling you, as King Charles II, dread sovereign over the land, get out of your house so that Nell Gwyn can stay there." Thomas then called a builder and said, "Rip the roof off my house." To his own personal loss, a person took a perfectly good roof and tore it to shreds so that his house, humble as it was, no longer had a roof. He sent word to the king. "My house is under repairs. I think Nell would be more comfortable elsewhere."
Knowing that his mistress, this famous actress, would not want to stay in an open-air chateau, he was like, "All right, but I will not forget what you have done." King Charles II didn't forget what he had done, because when he tried to pass an act of indulgences… Meaning, "You can pay for your sin. If you want to commit a sin or if you have committed a sin, all you have to do is put some money in the coffer. You just give a little bit of money, and your sin will be absolved."
Well, there was one person who paid for sin once and for all, and you can't monetarily pay for what Christ alone can pay. So, when the king said, "Bishops, pass the act of indulgences," these bishops said, "No." He said, "Fine, then. Throw them in the Tower of London," the bloody tower where people were beheaded. So they were thrown in the Tower, all six bishops, all of the pastors over the Church of England.
Then all of London rioted. All of the people are in the streets, like, "Let them out! Let Thomas Ken out." Because there was total mutiny in the streets, King Charles II again was like, "What is it with these men? Fine. Release them," and they pick up Thomas Ken and parade him through the streets of London. He's just this humble pastor. They're walking him through, celebrating, because he feared God and not this pagan king.
I began by saying I'm going to tell you about someone who you're strangely familiar with but do not know fully, and you're probably like, "I don't know anything about Thomas Ken. Everything you just told me about Thomas Ken is altogether brand new." Well, when Thomas Ken was alone, he penned these words. It's a hymn. It's called "Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun."
Because Thomas Ken thought, "Every day when I wake up, the second consciousness hits my mind." Rather than… They didn't check their phones. I guess they checked their scrolls or I don't know what. But he's like, "Set your mind immediately upon the Lord and worship him before the world crowds in, before the lusts of the flesh crowd in, before the worries of the day crowd in. Seek and worship God. Awake, O my soul, and with the sun." The last stanza of this hymn he wrote is:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Thomas Ken wrote the "Doxology," this incredibly God-glorifying hymn that we've sung for the last almost 400 years in the church. That's the song of the church that has been sung on repeat for almost 400 years, and it came out of that impoverished materially, though rich spiritually, man who would not bow to the king. That's Thomas Ken.
In order to now bridge over to another person we know in part but do not know fully, we're going to talk about God. We do know him in part, but we do not know him fully. In fact, here in this life he can't be fully known. Oren Martin, our senior director of equipping… We were talking about God, the Trinity, one eternal God in three persons, and he said, "Though you cannot know him fully, you can know him truly." I was like, "Oh! I am so going to share that on Sunday," because it is true.
So, today, the reason we're talking about God in three persons, the Trinity, is because to know these truths of who God is and what he does changes everything. It changes how you live, how you work, how you love, how you worship, and how you glorify God in everything. He changes everything, as you understand him more in three persons and how he is at work in our lives. As it says in Acts 17:28, "In him we live and move and have our being."
The totality of our existence when plugged in rightly with God, that God-shaped hole… When God comes in and we understand him aright, though not fully, it changes everything. So, today, as we continue in our series Made (made to worship, and we need to know who God is that we might worship him rightly), we're going to be in Genesis 1.
Now, you need to know, as we're talking about the Trinity, today we're going to be like looking up at a night sky. We're going to point to certain things and be like, "Okay. That's Orion's belt. Now over here is the Big Dipper, and if you follow the handle of the Dipper, you're going to see the North Star." We're going to be able to make out some of the constellations, some of the ordering, but you need to know that what we're talking about today in the Trinity…
This is an upper-level seminary course over the whole semester, and even then, you don't plumb the depths of the personhood of God…Father, Son, and Spirit. And we have 40 minutes, so, best wishes with that. Yet as we look at the stars outside of this room… If you go down any particular corridor of the Trinity…the Father, the Son, the hypostatic union of Christ (that he's fully God and fully man), the indwelling of the Spirit, or whatever it is…
That's like looking at the night sky and then seeing images from the James Webb Telescope that are just like Boom!…the awe and wonder if you go down any particular path to explore more of who God is. Yet like that telescope, even what you see, as mind-blowing as it is, still they haven't hit the edge of space and been like, "Okay. Now we've got it. It's all in a nice tidy box, and we're good." There's just more. We see dimly (1 Corinthians 13), and one day we will know in full.
Spurgeon said this regarding the Trinity. I think it's helpful. "It is not your duty to comprehend but to apprehend such truths as these." Because we can't fully comprehend. We can begin to know. God has revealed himself in the Scriptures and through creation and by the Spirit. You can comprehend some, but the real need is that we would personally apprehend these truths and apply them into our lives. So let's begin and jump into the text. Genesis 1:1-5:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day."
There is the creation account. In English, the fourth word that appears in the Holy Scriptures is God. We're four words in. "In the beginning, God…" We have to just stop, like, "Who?" The ancient Israelites were wandering through all of these pagan lands with pagan gods and this pantheon of false gods, of false teachings that people were worshiping, and they would have gotten to that word Elohim and been like, "Okay. Who? Who is this God who is leading us who actually created everything, and it wasn't all of those other false gods?"
So, know this up front. This is going to feel heavy, but in general, here's where we're going. We're going to talk about who God is and what he does. Specifically (this is so powerful), what he does in your life in a very personal and intimate way. Who God is in three persons and what each of the three persons does at work in the life of the believer.
For those of you who are theology geeks, we're going to scratch that itch today. Then for others who are like, "I am so far from a theology geek. Can you tell me a little bit about God in a way I can understand that I actually could apply to my life?" we're scratching that itch too. First itch we'll be scratching the first half, next in the second. Here it is.
Ontological Trinity. You're like, "Ah, yes!" That's the study of being, the study of personhood…ontos. It's who a person is. So, that's the first place we're going. Then the second one is the economic Trinity. You're like, "What? God, money, recession… Economic Trinity? What are you talking about?" It's a Greek term. Think like home economics, where you're trying to order a home. You're trying to order activities within the home.
It's oikos, which is home, and nomos, which is law or rule. It's a construct word in the Greek. So, this is the rule or the law governing the life of a believer by God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This, y'all, is the personal, eminent work of God in your life. The economic Trinity… When I began to understand and apprehend this, my eyes were so open and my life was so changed as I yielded to each of the three persons as one God. So, that's where we're talking: who God is and what he does. Let's begin.
Who God is…ontological Trinity. Now, what I'm not going to do is talk about the egg and how there's a shell and the white and the yolk; or the apple; or H2O, that it's water, vapor, or gas; or light, that it's particle and beam and heat. Frankly, you can't take the created in order to describe the Creator. You can't take what's finite in order to understand and apprehend the infinite. I, as a human, can't fully explain deity, but he has revealed himself, so we're going to move toward that, but we're not going to do it with an illustration.
In our passage, Genesis 1, we had "In the beginning, God…" Full stop. And it's who. Who is God? The word Elohim is plural in noun, which is a little bit of a head scratcher. Plural. Yet, when you get to the verb tense after Elohim, it's singular. So, you have a plural noun using a singular verb. It's the first hint and inclination and revealing of, like, "Wait. We are talking about someone altogether different here. That's not typical Hebrew grammar. What's going on here with Elohim?"
Genesis 1:26 says… We're not there yet. This is day six, creation of humans, but it says, "Let us make man in our image." Now, sometimes people have tried to explain that away and be like, "Well, he was talking about the angelic realm, the heavenly beings. 'Let us make them in our image.' He's talking about angels," to try to explain away the Trinity. It's like, well, hold on. Angels don't create. God creates. God alone creates.
Secondly, nowhere in Scripture are we said to be made in the image of angels. So this is God saying, "Us," yet another hint toward the Trinity and the revealing of it. The more Scripture you read, the more the lights come on and you see the fullness of who God is. Then you have, in verse 2, the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the water. The Spirit seems to be there present over all. So, we have Father, Spirit… You're like, "Wait. Where's the Son? Why would the Son have been left out from the Trinity?"
I have my Bible open two-thirds of the way. I'm in John. You're like, "Wow. You skipped a lot from Genesis to John." I skipped a lot because the exact same phrase is used. There's an echo, a 4,000-year-old echo of "In the beginning…" You know that the Jews who were the first Christians, when they trusted in Christ, messianic Jews… They would have read "In the beginning" and been like, "Okay, John. I see what you're doing there. We're talking bereshit, the Hebrew beginnings. That's a throwback. What are you doing, John?"
Here's what he was doing: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…" They would have stopped right there and been like, "Hold on. Hold up. So, we have a deity with deity, a person with a person. We know the Shema, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one.' So, this is not two Gods, because Scripture interprets Scripture. So we have one God, yet Word with God." Then they would have continued. "…and the Word was God."
Okay. Now their minds just blew a little bit more. Jesus was with God in the beginning. Jesus is God. There they would have understood Father, Spirit, and Son in a more full way, their Trinitarian theology beginning. It says, "He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."
J.C. Ryle says this. Think, like, the same kind of Puritan era in Britain. "It was the whole Trinity, which at the beginning of creation [Genesis 1] said, 'Let us make man.' It was the whole Trinity again [think now John 1], which at the beginning of the Gospel seemed to say, 'Let us save man.'" "Let us make man; let us save man," the Trinity at work in creation…who he is, what he does.
In the first three verses of the Bible, you have the Trinity, which is a finite word. It's a "man's attempt" word to explain the inexplicable God we know who has revealed himself in Scripture. So we use the word trinity. Around the second century AD, as various heresies were creeping in, Athanasius, Tertullian, Philo, early church fathers, were starting to introduce this as a word that could be used: tri (three) unity (one), three in one. So trinity is a word.
Now, some people will say, "Hey, look, you Christian, silly Christian. Don't you know trinity is not even in the Bible? You can read every page, every word. Trinity is not even in the Bible. You believe something the Bible doesn't even teach." If this were a Muslim saying this to you, for instance, because they don't believe… They say, "Allah is one, and he has no son." They will argue this to try to deconstruct a Christian's faith.
You could say, "Well, as a Muslim, surely you believe Allah is one. That's monotheistic. Right? That's monotheism." They will absolutely say, "Yes." "You do know that monotheism is not found in the Qur'an? Nowhere in the Qur'an does it say monotheism. It is a human term to describe the indescribable." And so it is…God in three persons.
The definition of the Trinity… I want to emphasize a definition of the Trinity, not the definition of the Trinity. This is an attempt, and there are many. I think this is an orthodox one: The one true God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is fully God, and there is one God. Now, with that in mind, I think these are going to be helpful handholds that we can hang on to as we think about the Trinity and some of the aspects and qualities of him.
Think of the acrostic DUE, as in, give God the worship due to him. D is for distinction. Distinction means there are three persons, and those three persons are distinct. They have different roles in creation and the life of a believer. They are not identical. They're distinct, and yet (unity is the U) there is one God…three persons, one God. Then the E is equality, that each is fully God. DUE.
The team is going to throw up an image of the Trinity the church has used for over a thousand years. Now, this is not an illustration of the Trinity. This is a visual way to define the Trinity. I'm sure it's incomplete in various ways, but the church, for a thousand years… If you Google "Trinity image," you'll see this, and you'll see in ancient writings, people would scrawl it in the margins of their books. They were trying to put their human minds around this infinite God.
What this represents here… You have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Inside the triangle, there is a bridge, for the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet you see in the middle there is one God. Also, you see the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father. One God, three persons.
Now, there were heresies that crept into the church, and the first one I'm going to mention… Frankly, this is the one I think Christians are most susceptible to believing. This came under Sabellius. He introduced this heresy called modalism. Fancy word. Here's all it was. He couldn't comprehend the Trinity; therefore, in a human way, he was like, "Well, this must be what it means. I can't understand that, so I'm going to tell you something I can understand."
It was that the Father created, so here he is, and then redemption needs to happen, so he kind of morphs into the Son and dies on the cross and then is like, "Uh-oh. We have to fill and lead the church at Pentecost, so I'm going to morph again and now be the Holy Spirit." It's God morphing. It's not, therefore, three persons in one God; it's one God and one person, and he just morphs as the occasion fits. It's a heresy. It was condemned.
There's also no unity. If you remove the U, and you have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no longer do you have monotheism; you have tritheism. It's represented here on the screen. They are no longer unified as one God, but you have three, in fact, separate gods. This would be akin to Hinduism, which has 30 million gods. I don't know how they arrived at 30 million, nor how they counted them, but it's so. It's not so, actually. There's one God, but nonetheless. This is tritheism. This, again, is a heresy that was condemned.
Then, if you remove the E of equality, what you have is a large Father. So, to say that the Father is eternal, but then at some point in time, the Father was like, "Well, I'm going to create an avatar, an emanation, a lesser…not deity, because I'm going to make this the Son, Jesus…" Although there was a time that he did not exist, which makes him not God. He is now created rather than Creator.
That's why I represent with a little circle. Like, okay, he's kind of an offshoot little god. There was a time that he was made. Then the Holy Spirit as an elongated rectangle, because he's not God at all according to Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, and various cults. He's not God; he's a force (it is a force, according to them) that just kind of moves like gravity but is not a person.
So, you see the importance of distinction, unity, and equality and that to remove one you end up in a heresy. So, you have the Athanasian, Nicene, and Chalcedonian creeds. As people were saying, "Well, what about this?" they were like, "No, it's not that," and established these creeds to say what is orthodox, biblical, historical Christianity for the ages, which is what we're talking about today.
Now, let's step out of theology/seminary land. Every weekday morning, I sit at the table with the kids, and we have a little devotional. You're like, "Of course you do. Pastor and pastor's kids." It's not what you think. I'll describe. I sit with a little book, and it has a simple question. Friday's question was, "Of what advantage to us is Christ's ascension?" They're like, "What's ascension?" I'm like, "That's when Jesus raised up, when the disciples watched him and he went up into heaven, and he's seated at the right hand of God." They're like, "Oh, okay."
I said, "So what good is that for us? What benefit is that to us, as believers?" My 4-year-old, Judd, goes, "Cap'n Crunch and monkeys!" I'm like, "Okay. You can go watch TV. Penny, Hill, what benefit is it to us?" and we start to have this dialogue. It's really helpful, because instead of me being like, "Have a seat, children. The ascension of Christ unto the right hand of the Father is for him to intercede on behalf of men, and one day he'll come again to reign and judge," I ask them a question, and then they get to think about it. We're now having a dialogue. It's so helpful.
I'm going to invite you to do the same. In case you're like, "Where do I get a little book?" you're going to get a little book as you walk out if you have elementary-aged kids. If you have an elementary-aged kid, you will walk out with one of these books. It's The New City Catechism for Kids. It's an incredible resource that teaches theology that's super approachable. You don't have to think, "How do I have family devotion?" You just ask a question, and then you get to engage with them and read the answer.
In case you're like, "I'm getting ripped off. Because I don't have an elementary-aged kid, I don't get a little book?" calm down. You can get a little book. It's actually better than the book. (Now the parents are upset.) Here on the screen there's a QR code. You can get the book. You're like, "Oh, great. I have to buy it?" Calm down. It's a dollar or two, and the app is actually better than the book. The app is free.
The app has the question, but it doesn't yet tell you the answer, so you get to wrestle with it before you click to have the answer revealed. In the lower left-hand section of the app, it has the Scripture it's based on that you can click on. Then in the middle it has a commentary to help you understand. Then on the right it has a prayer that you can personally apprehend the doctrine and truth you just confessed. It's amazing.
So, as part of our strategic priorities this year that the elders have set… Two of them are we want to strengthen families, and we want to deepen theology. Well, I have this on my mind, so I go to the elders and am like, "Hey! Knock, knock. Um, we've got this book we do in the mornings. Could we give one to all of the families?" They're like, "Absolutely. Please do that, so that we can all deepen our theology." You need to know, if you're not a parent, get that app and start using it in your Community Group or your personal devotion because it's so, so helpful.
He is knowable, yet unsearchable, and all of the persons of the Trinity embody every attribute to the nth. This is important, as we now go from who God is to what he does. If you're like, "Well, the Father is the one who loves, and the Spirit is the one who leads…" The Father is 100 percent, ultimate, to the nth, full of love. The Son is ultimate, to the nth, full of love. The Spirit is ultimate, to the nth, full of love. All three (and there is one) embody all of those attributes without diminishing one, because the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God.
Now let's talk about what God does. This is so life-changing…what God does, the economic Trinity, God's work in the life of every believer. Don't take my word for it. Here it is. Peter by the Spirit: "…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…" Foreknowledge is not just like, "Well, I knew you were going to trust Christ one day, so I kind of knew you were going to make a decision for Jesus." No. He elected, adopted, ordained that you would be his.
That foreknowledge is a word with such a pregnant meaning. The Father specifically foreknew, adopted, elected. "…in the sanctification of the Spirit…" One of the roles of the Spirit is to sanctify, to shape you into the image of Christ. The root word of that is hagios. It's holy. His aim is to make you more and more holy as you're led by him.
Then, thirdly, "…for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…" One of the works of the Son here is that he reigns. It's obedience. There's a yieldedness to Christ in the commands of Scripture. And the sprinkling of his blood, that we place ourselves under him for the forgiveness of sin, not by works, but by grace through faith because of what he did.
Then there are other Trinitarian passages you can think about. Now that we're talking about it, as you're reading the Scriptures, you're going to be like, "Oh! There's the Trinity at work. Oh! There it is again." You have the enunciation to Mary. An angel appears. "Hey, you have found favor with God. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will be with child, and he will save his people from their sins." What? Father, Spirit, Son.
Or you have Jesus' baptism. Jesus comes up out of the water, and the Holy Spirit descends as a dove. The Father speaks, "This is my Son in whom I'm well pleased. Do everything. Follow him." So you have the Trinity there. You have the Great Commission where it says, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Trinity. The last verse of 2 Corinthians, the very last verse…you can flip to it now if you want…Trinitarian passage right there, God in three persons at work in the life of every believer.
So, let's talk about God the Father. This is not exhaustive. There's no way it could be, but I just want to give you two handholds as you're thinking about, "Okay. What work does the Father have in my life?" Great work. I would say the Father elects, and the Father loves. Election is a doctrine of he chose you. He adopted you. You think about adoption. Adoption is unilateral. It's not like a baby or a 2-year-old comes to the table, and they're like, "Well, what do you think? What do you want out of life? How does this relationship work? Do you want to move forward?"
There's no dating or whatever. It's just like a father, in this case, for the purpose of our illustration, comes in and is like, "That child is mine and will be forever, for life. They will take my name. I will provide for them. They will live under my roof. They will share in the inheritance of all of the children." And, P.S., spiritually all are adopted. There is no clearer picture of the gospel according to the work of the Father than adoption, which is why it says in Ephesians 1, "In love he predestined (or elected) us for adoption." It's adoption.
I think it was Thursday night. I'm sitting at the table. We're all having family dinner, trying to have some semblance of a conversation, because Judd is in a sports jersey with a cocked Santa hat like he's gangster. I look over at him, and I'm like, "What are you doing? It's September." He looks at his cup. He's like, "I don't want water. I want milk." I'm like, "Then go get milk." He's like, "Will you get me milk?"
I'm like, "Buddy, I've had a long day. You can go get…" Then I was like, "You know what? Yeah. You're my boy. That's what dads do. I'll go get you milk." So I went and got him milk. This ridiculous, Santa-hat 4-year-old is telling me, as a 46-year-old, what I am to do. I'm like, "How is it that you're…? What is happening here? How am I the one getting you milk?" It's because of my love for him. He's not only elect, adopted, and part of my family. I love him so deeply.
The neighborhood kids could never bust through the door with a Santa hat and be like, "Yo! Mr. Elmore, how about some Cheetos?" I'd be like, "You need to go home right now." But my son does, and should. I think, a lot of times, we treat God the Father like a neighborhood kid. We're kind of tiptoeing around, like, "Please don't be mad. I know I sinned last night, last week really badly, but if you could please find it in your…" He loves you. He elects and he loves, and his love doesn't end.
Romans 8: "Nothing can separate you from the love of God." John 3:16: "For God so loved the world…" First John 3:1: "How great the Father's love for us, that we should be called children, and that is who we are." He loves, but as a good parent, his love doesn't end with just love. There is also the aspect of love which is discipline. We tell our kids all the time, whenever they're experiencing discipline or we've taken away a blessing or given a consequence…
We're like, "Hey, our job is to raise you into adults. We don't want to send off 18-year-old children into the world. You will be an adult, and you need to be raised as an adult. That comes with discipline, and our discipline is sourced out of our love for you." It's an aspect of God's love that he disciplines. It's why we say, "Transformed by Christ to love like Christ." That transformation is not pleasant, but it yields incredible fruit.
Hebrews 12:9-10: "Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he [the Father] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness." The discipline is not punitive; it's unto making us and shaping us into the image of Christ, that the sin would fall off and sanctification would happen. Proverbs 3:11 says, "Do not despise the discipline of the Lord," but rather receive it, because he loves. He's not mad at you. He loves you.
That's God the Father. Now we have God the Son. God the Son in some of his work… I say some because this isn't all. He redeems and he reigns. We're going to be in the same passage for that, but before we get to the passage, I want to tell you a story. One of our previous teaching pastors, JP, who's down at Harris Creek, when cancer hit… If you haven't been with us, my wife got cancer. She's good now.
When cancer hit, he was near Dallas, so he made a beeline to our house and just walked in. When he walked in, this equally huge guy… JP is 6'3" and knows jujitsu and all sorts of stuff. So, here's JP and an equally big guy, but the big guy on the other side was angry and looking at him and moving toward him, and this dog (JP reminded me it was a Rhodesian Ridgeback) was snarling.
He has flowers, and he said, physically, he started backing toward the door while he got lower and lower, and he started saying, "Elmores! Elmores! I know John Elmore! I'm a friend of the Elmores!" This guy went from angry to like, "Oh! They don't live here anymore. They moved." He was like, "Okay. Okay. I remember now. I'm so sorry."
This is the work of the Son, that we would never be able to enter into the holiness of God and be like, "What's up, Pops? I'm here because I did some good works." We would meet the wrath and justice and holiness of God in that moment because of our sin and the holiness of God, but like the story, we get low and say, "Jesus! Jesus! I'm a friend of Jesus! I've trusted in Jesus!"
The illustration breaks down. He already knows who are his, but that wrath and justice has been poured out on the Son, so we can boldly enter to the throne of grace as children and just walk right in and be like, "Dad, because of the Son, here's what I need." He redeems. The only way to the Father is through the Son, his life, death, and resurrection. John 14:6: "No one comes to the Father except through the Son." He redeems.
This is the condescension of the Son. You think like… You talk to someone in a condescending tone, like, "You've been talking down to me." The condescension of Christ is the eternal Son condescending, going low to where we are to rescue us. It's Philippians 2:6-9. Listen for this theological term. This is the hypostatic union of Christ, that he's fully God and fully man. You're like, "Which is it?" "Yes" is the best I can do to explain that.
"…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself…" This is not that he was no longer God but that he veiled, in a sense, his glory for a time. "…by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." This is the taking on of flesh of God the Son for the purpose of laying down his life. "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
I think about it this way. When we were sleep training our oldest… (Don't send me emails and tell me that sleep training is crazy. We had our way. You have yours. So be it. It's a Romans 14 issue.) Sleep training basically means you let them cry themselves to sleep. They have to self-soothe. They have to figure out that you can't go in there and rescue them every time. They're like, "Mom and Dad will always keep coming back." Instead, you're like, "You're okay. You're okay." So you let them be.
You check them after 20 minutes, because they could be choking, or whatever, but after checking them in 20 minutes, you put them back, and they keep crying, but eventually they fall asleep. Well, it's our first kid, and Laura is telling me this parenting strategy. I'm just pacing outside his room, and Hill is just crying, wailing. I'm like, "Oh man. Oh man. Oh."
She said, "Don't go in." I can hear her like, "Do not pick him up. If you pick him up, it resets the whole thing. It undoes everything we're trying to achieve." I'm like, "Oh, forget it!" I open the door, and I'm like, "I hope this crib holds," and I get in the crib with him because she said, "Don't take him out." You can justify anything if you try hard enough.
So there I am. It's like a three-by-two crib. I'm like, "If this thing busts, I'm never going to hear the end of it." I put my arm around him, and the little boy falls asleep. He finds rest because I entered into it with him. He couldn't come to me. I went to where he was. It's what Jesus does for us. He says, "Come to me, any who are weary and heavy-laden. I will give you rest, rest for your soul." Because we couldn't go to him in our sinfulness, he came to us, and he entered into our mess.
I would say he didn't just enter into our mess; he took our mess. Every Friday, I get the simple pleasure… There's a little skip in my step because I'm like, "Yes!" All week, there has been this 100 degree incubation of trash that's happening in our garage. All of the bags are there…chicken parts, spilled stuff, dairy products. They're just baking in our garage. Don't look at me like that. You have it too.
On Friday, I take those bags and walk them to the curb in the back alley. I set them down, and the peace I feel is "I will never see that again. Gone! Somebody is going to come and get it, and I'll never see it again. It's not on me. It's gone." The Son redeems, and he removes your sin. Psalm 103 says he has removed your sin as far as the east is from the west. In case you don't know, that's infinite. It says as a father has compassion on his kids, so the Father has compassion on us.
It says, particularly in Colossians 2, that he has taken all of our sin and nailed it to the cross. The decree that stood opposed to us that said we were guilty… Friday is Sunday. Today is the day that you can be like, "All that is off me. Satan, stop your lies. I'm taking it. I'm dropping it off at the cross where it rightly belongs. It will not define me. I walked in here with my bags of shame and disgrace and condemnation and accusation, and I'm dropping them at the foot of the cross, because the one who redeems removes forever." That's what he does.
There's so much more I could share about Jesus, God the Son, but the one I would share is his work that has changed my life so much, and it's that Jesus reigns. He not only redeems; he reigns. If you grasp this, you'll move from justification, which is all I wanted, where it's like, "You know what? I want you to save me from hell forever because that doesn't sound great. So, forgive me of my sins, and then I'm going to do what I want to do."
I stalled out, and I wasn't experiencing sanctification, because I was like, "You don't reign over my life. I reign over my life. I call the shots." He will not impose himself upon you. He is Christ (he will justify you), and he is Lord, Kurios, Master. He reserves the right to reign over you if you will allow it. He has given you everything, blessed you with everything in the heavenly realms. Will you then give him everything in the earthly realm, because his way is good and leads to life and peace?
This is the continuation of Philippians 2: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…" Here he is reigning. It's a majesty. "…in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ [the Anointed One, the Messiah] is Lord [Master over all] …" Will he be over you?
One of our values is to be fully surrendered to Christ and that you wouldn't stall out in your sanctification. Jesus is not your homeboy. He is your Lord. Bonhoeffer said, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." Luke 9:23. Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, you must take up your cross daily." Die daily and let Christ reign in every area, every circumstance, every thought, and follow him.
My dad was the VP of HR for a hospital network that had thousands and thousands of employees. As such, because he was VP, he had a parking space by the VP of finance and the VP of operations and the C-suite of all of the people. They parked there, and my dad's parking spot was empty every single day. He never parked there.
When I would go visit him at work, like if he was going to take me to a soccer game or whatever… I remember we'd leave his office, and we were walking through the laundry room. Then we'd go out by the dumpsters and the hazmat where they had the medical waste. I'm like, "What is…? Who designed these hallways? Why are we going out this way?" Then we'd go out to this really far parking lot.
It wasn't until later in life that I think my mom told me, "Your dad would never park in that spot. He didn't think he was better than anyone. He wasn't going to park there." Even though my dad could both hire and fire anyone in the entire network, from CEO to the most recent employee… He had that level of authority and yet wouldn't even park in that parking space.
My point is with Jesus, do not confuse his humility with passivity. He deserves to reign if he has redeemed you, and you will experience so much more of life as you come under the lordship of Christ and not just trust him as your Savior. Some of you need to go get alone and get on your knees and say, "I've trusted you as Savior. Today and ever more I'm trusting you as Lord. Be my Master. Be master of all."
That's God the Son. Now God the Spirit. God the Spirit indwells and sanctifies. Certainly he does more, but for today's purposes, he indwells and sanctifies. I'm going to give a little more here beyond just two, because, frankly, I think we can be at a deficit of our understanding of the Spirit and the work of the Spirit. I think we can fall into two errors. One is to believe too much of the Spirit and overemphasize him to the neglect of the Son and the Father.
We're just focused on the Spirit while neglecting them. We make too much. Then, alternatively, I think we can make too little. Like, "I don't want to do that, so I'm going to do this." Like, "I don't know. You're kind of different. We can't see you or touch you, and there's some strange stuff you do, Spirit, so we're just going to be over here. We're not going to make much of you, and we're not going to make very much of you at all, frankly."
What is right is to stay right in line with Scripture and to say, "This is the work of the Spirit, and though it is mysterious, he is not a mystery." I want you to know something. Let me start with this to tell you what I want you to know. This is a Civil War bullet. So, 150 or 200 years ago, this could have killed someone. Maybe it did. I don't know. That would be a little morbid, but nonetheless. It had the power to kill.
Right now, it's inanimate. It has no power. At best, it's interesting. You're like, "Oh, I've never seen a Civil War bullet. Can I touch it? Can I look at it? Can I inspect it?" It's interesting at best, but it has no power. That is the preaching of God's Word apart from the power of the Holy Spirit. Me speaking to you about God's words is interesting, at best, if it lacks the gunpowder of the Holy Spirit, which is able to pierce souls and move us from where we are into worship of God.
It is interesting at best, but I have no power. I am under no illusion that I have any power to move a single soul a single inch. God does that. God the Spirit does that. He convicts. It says in John 16 that he convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, that he's the one who presses upon the conscience, like, "I am a sinner in need of a Savior."
Let me say regarding the bullet… I plead with God. The work of preaching, frankly, happens outside of here. I'm pleading with God because of that. Like, "God, I have no power for someone who's dead in their sins to be raised again. I have no power for someone who is saved to be sanctified. I have no power for someone whose love has grown cold, though they're a mature believer, to stir them up. That's your work." So I'm begging with him, and I would invite you to do the same. Before Sunday hits, don't even necessarily pray for the preaching. Pray for the Spirit to move, and he will. It's what he lives to do. We need only ask.
After he convicts, having trusted in Christ, he indwells. This is altogether different than the omnipresence of God. That is an attribute of God. He is omnipresent. It says it in Psalm 139. "If I go to the depths of the sea, you're there. If I rise to the heavens, you're there. There's nowhere I can go to escape from your presence." That's omnipresence. That's altogether different than the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Of course he is omnipresent, but when you place your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, he indwells you, specifically and uniquely, different from the omnipresence. He is now… It's 1 Corinthians 6, where he says, "Do you not know that you…" Not the world…you believer. "…are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not your own. You were bought at a price; therefore, honor God with your body." He's saying you are a temple of the Spirit. Now, is God in the hills and the mountains and the rivers? Yes. Those are not the temple of God. You are, having trusted in Christ.
And he seals you. This is a picture of a king with a signet ring in wax. They would press down and say, "You're mine, and no one can snatch you from my hands. You're mine." One of our kids, when they pray at night, will sometimes say, "I'm just worried God will forget me." I'm like, "Do you think I could ever forget you as my son?" They're like, "No." "Then if you've trusted in Jesus, he'll never forget you. You're his. He's got you now and forever."
He indwells, he seals, and he sanctifies. This is important. I think we altogether neglect this. We talk about the fruit of the Spirit. We can all chant it together. It would be weird, but we're like, "What's the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control…" All that. We teach that ad nauseam. Good. We should. But it's to the altogether neglect of an additional work of the Spirit in which he bears the fruit of the Spirit and kills the fruit of the flesh. He is the sin-killer. He bears the fruit of the Spirit. He kills the fruit of the flesh. He kills sin.
This past weekend, we were out in the country, and on five different occasions, I heard a scream so loud I thought someone had knifed Laura. I'm like, "What in the world? What's going on?" I run over there, and she's like, "There's a black widow!" I'm like, "That's not a black widow. Whoa! That's a black widow!" So I took a stick, tangled it up in the web, put it down, and killed it. "Next!" Because my wife and kids… Black widows tend to kill people, but I kill black widows.
So it is with the Spirit. The sin kills us. You don't tangle with sin, but rather, you call upon God the Spirit, and he kills sin. It's his job. He lives to do it. It's Romans 8:13. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die…" If you do what you want to do, you're going to die. Sin leads to death. "…but if by the Spirit you put to death…" Not toy with, not contain, not try to reduce, not struggle with or wrestle with. "…put to death the deeds of the [flesh], you will live." He is the means by which… He is the sin-killer.
He teaches us to pray. He gives us words so we pray in the Spirit. This is Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20. Here's the model he gives us throughout Scripture, and not entirely, but greatly in part. You see it a lot in Paul's letters. He's praying to the Father in the name of the Son by the Spirit. Again, there's this Father. He's sovereign. He reigns and rules. We enter into his presence only by the Son, and it is the Spirit who's leading us in that prayer, carrying with us.
The last thing I want to mention… This is incredible, and I don't think we think about it at all. I think we think of this as inanimate Bible, 40 authors, 1,500 years, and various languages. It's like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Yes, but in the beginning… Second Peter has something a little different to say that unpacks it further. It says this: "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
If you have a Bible, hold it up. (Or you could use your phone because I know you have those apps.) Every word on every page in every chapter of every letter and book was given to you by the Holy Spirit. It says in John 17:17, "Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." He's the theopneustos,the God-breath of 2 Timothy 3:16. He gave us these words to reveal the Son, to glorify the Father…the Spirit's work. It's amazing. We are not Bible deists who believe he has spoken once and no longer speaks, but rather, as you read these words, uniquely, the Spirit will reveal the words, the spiritual truths to you.
Listen to this. This is what Oswald Chambers says: "The vital relationship which the Christian has to the Bible is not that he worships the letter…" We're not Father, Son, and Holy Bible. "…but that the Holy Spirit makes the words of the Bible spirit and life to him [or her]." Friends, we are made to worship the one true God who has eternally existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is fully God, and there is one God, this Trinitarian linchpin of Christianity.
You remember Thomas Ken, the one who wrote the "Doxology," the one who defied the king? Well, later in his life, King Charles II when he was dying… He's on his deathbed. He says to his adviser, "Go find me that odd little fellow." Thomas Ken became a personal chaplain to a dying king whose eternity came into view because of his mortality, and he was like, "I don't want anybody who's just going to placate me and patronize me anymore. I want that one who fears God. What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
So, Thomas Ken, not holding grudges, went. I bet that man had been praying for King Charles II for his life, and to have the honor to now come to his side and say, "Let me tell you about the God you do not know, but you can." I wonder if the same will be said of us, that as we are made to worship and as we worship this triune God who's worthy of all our praise and glory, that others might call us to them, neighbors and coworkers and family members, and say, "Hey, can we talk? Who is he, and how can I be saved?" Let's pray.
Father, thank you for revealing yourself to us. We're so lost and dead. Thank you for adopting us. Thank you for sending the Son to enter into our troubles, and not only to enter in, but to take them from us. Thank you, Father and Son, for sending the Spirit to convict us, to seal us, to indwell us, to gift us, to help us to worship in spirit and truth, to pray in the Spirit, and to live a sanctified life, because you're worthy. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, amen.