The ONEness of God

Read Ephesians 4:3-6  (This is an old document that I dusted off from many years ago!  I am sure that some of the thoughts and references are not original, but the notations are missing.  So consider most of is quotation.)

What is the word that keeps cropping up in this passage?  ONE

Why so remarkable?  Paul here is talking the doctrine of the Trinity.  He is talking about how our God exists as three different persons – the Holy Spirit who came at Pentecost, giving life to the church; also there is Jesus Christ who is Lord of all, and there is God the Father.  Three persons, yet they exist as one in perfect unity.  There is a perfect oneness with them.

Today I invite you to think about what life must be like within the Trinity.  Within the Triune Godhead (the unity, three-in-oneness/one-in-threeness that is God the Father, and God he Son, and God the Holy Spirit) how is relationship experienced? 

When Jesus walked the earth, what was the number one argument among his disciples?  It was the argument about who was the greatest among them.  It was the argument over who was the best disciple. 

There are still those sorts of scrabble for power and recognition among us today.  You see it in Washington DC between branches of government, between political parties, and between ideological factions.  Have you ever notices how some people in congress have a hard time getting along with each other.  You see it on the international stage in the various wars and skirmishes that take place around our world.  You see it in business, in education, in families.  That is how it is withy us – always striving for one-upmanship; always striving to be king of the hill.

Now I want you to think about the relationships that exist within the Trinity.  Do you think that there is a striving for one-upmanship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  Do you think they ever battle over who is the most omniscient?  …or omnipotent? 

Think past week I came across some comments by a theologian named Dale Brenner.  The thing that really intrigued me was when he talked about “the shyness of God.” 

Brenner says this is not the shyness of timidity, for God is a being of power.  Nor is it the shyness of self-centeredness, of which we are all familiar.  Rather it is a shyness of other-centeredness.  It is a shyness of deference expressed in a concentrated attention on another. 

That’s a pretty good description of what relationship is like inthe Trinity. 

The Holy Spirit points to Jesus.  The scripture say that when the Spirit comes He will bear witness to Jesus.  The scripture says that the Spirit will cause us to remember all that Jesus said, taught, and did.  The scriptures say that the Holy Spirit comes to bring glory to Jesus, not to Himself.

The Holy Spirit does not clamor to have people pay attention to Himself, but his constant work is to have people focus their attention on Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is always seeking to withdraw from view and point people to Jesus.  This is the humility of the Holy Spirit.

When Michelle was about 5 years old, we took her to the Hampton Roads Convention Center to see “Disney on Ice”, one of those productions where Disney characters skate, sing, and act out various scenes from several Walt Disney movies. 

At one point in the performance, Snow White takes the stage and begins to sing, “Some Day My Prince Will Come?”  As she sang, I looked over at my daughter and tears started to drip down my face.  I thought, “Here I am with this beautiful five year old little girl who one day is going to grow up and her prince is going to come.” 

It was a strange moment.  All of a sudden, I started thinking about the dwarfs.  These guys had really risked everything for Snow White.  They supported her, they protected her, they sheltered her – and then when the prince came along, they got the shaft.   I felt this empathy with the dwarfs. 

The amazing thing is that they are not upset when the prince comes.  They are thrilled.  There is this selfless beauty and simplicity in the fact that the Prince gets the brides, and all they do is rejoice.  That’s how the Holy Spirit acts.  He just keeps pointing us to the Prince.  He keeps pointing us to Jesus.

Now lets look at the Prince.  Look at Jesus.  Oddly enough, Jesus does not walk around saying, “Look at me!  Pay attention to me!  I am the important one.”  As it turns out, there is a shyness to Jesus as well. 

Jesus did not seek to bring glory to himself.  Jesus said, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing.”  He says, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” 

Jesus submits himself to the Holy Spirit.  The scriptures say that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness and He went where the Spirit was leading him.  Jesus says that everything he did was because of the work of the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus also submits to the Father.  “Not my will, but thy will be done,” is Jesus prayer in the garden.  Jesus, too, has this same shyness. 

Then there is the Father.  Twice in what are called the “synoptic gospels” of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we hear the voice of the Father.  We hear the voice once at Jesus Baptism and once at Jesus transfiguration.  On both occasions the Father says, “This is my precious, whom I love dearly and with whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him!”

The major thing that God the Father wants us to know is about all we have in God the Son.  The Father points to the work of redemption being brought into being through Jesus the Son.  The Father does not say, “Hey, listen to Jesus, but don’t forget about me.  I am up here too.  I am important.  Pay attention to me!”  The Father does not act that way, but rather with an attitude of deference, points people to Jesus the Son.

God the Father is shy, too. 

The whole blessed Trinity is shy.  Each member of the Trinity points faithfully to and selflessly to the other in a gracious circle of humility and love. 

God the Father loves the Son.
God the Son submits to the Father.
God the Father sends the Holy Spirit. 
God the Holy Spirit points people to the Son.
God the Son says that it is good that the Holy Spirit will come to empower us.

This is one of the reasons why the doctrine of the Trinity is so important.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit exist in a greater community and servanthood and mutual submission and delight than you and I could ever imagine. 

That’s the core reality of God. Almighty God (Father, Son, and Spirit) experience and enjoy this unity, this community, this oneness so much that Almightu God created human beings (in the image of God) so that we could also enjoy this unity, this community, and this oneness with one another and with God. 

The doctrine of the Trinity is at the core of the doctrine of the church – of what it means to be the people of God in community with God and with one another in a bond of humility and love. 

This ONENESS that Paul writes about in the scripture is the signature of God. 

Now think about our world.  How is our world doing on this “oneness” deal?  How are we doing at loving and deferring to one other in a gracious community of humility?  Not so good!  Not so good!

Why are we so drawn to images of healthy families and marriages?  Why are we so drawn to stories of teamwork when men and women work together, pushing each other ahead, in order that they might together overcome great odds and experience victory?  The reason such stories and images draw us is because that’s the kind of thing we were made to experience.  We yearn and hunger for community.  We hate those stories about war, violence, crime, divorce, and child abuse because we know we were made for something better.  Yet what we yearn for we cannot create apart from the gracious activity of God in our midst.  

That is why Jesus came.  He came to express the gracious activity of the Triune God that made and makes it possible for us to enter into the oneness of God.  He came to invite us into relationship with the Trinity. He came that we might be adopted into the Divine family.  He came to so that in Him we could be a part of the perichoresis – the “Divine dance.” 

In the gospel of John, in Jesus final recorded prayer before going to the cross, Jesus prays these words. 

“I pray that they all may be one, Father.  Just as you are in me, and I am in you; may they also be in is.”

Think about this.  Here we are, lonely, broken, messed up, and alienated.  Then Jesus says, “Father… just as you are in me, and I am in you; may they also be in is.”

We are invited into the Trinitarian fellowship of the Godhead. 

What cost does God pay for us to be a part of this fellowship?

The Son says I will leave heaven and come to earth.  I will leave the perfect oneness I have known for all eternity and enter into human brokenness. 

The Father says I will send me son whom I love knowing that he will be broken, rejected, and killed on a cross. 

The Spirit says I will be poured out onto earth in mostly silent and invisible ways, never exalting myself.  I will be quenched, rejected, and denied. 

We have been invited into this fellowship by the graciousness of love at enormous cost to everything member of the Trinity. 

Because of this we should never be connected to disunity in the body of Christ.  We should never do things that lead to conflict and disunity.  It is utterly unthinkable to do anything that would lead to disunity in the fellowship of the church.  To do anything that sows seeds of disunity is to be fundamentally at odds with the purposes of God in human history. 

Paul writes that we should make every effort to maintain the gift of unity that God has given us.  Unity, oneness, true biblical fellowship is NOT our work, it is God’s gift.  It is God’s work – and it is so important a work that we should strive more than anything to maintain that gift.  Doing anything less is to reject the one great gift that every member of the Trinity has provided us at a tremendous cost to the Godhead.

Do it now.  Spare no price.  Hold nothing back.  This is serious.  Maintain the unity of the Spirit that is God’s great project of human community.  This is important.  Do not take it lightly.  Do not let stuff damage it. 

But we do.  We gossip.  We allow unresolved conflicts to continue.  We refuse to offer forgiveness though we have been forgiven.  We engage in petty arguments. 

It is interesting how many doctrines we have trampled on, allowing them to sever the body of Christ. 

Mode of baptism. 

Doctrine of the end times. 

The method of scriptural inspiration. 

Should women preach, teach, lead, etc. 

What translation of the Bible should we read from?

What is the right style of preaching. 

What kind of music should we listen to. 

Not long ago I visited in the office of a fellow pastor.  I invited him to join a group of other clergy who met weekly for prayer and fellowship.  I pointed out that we were of some differing traditions, beliefs, and practices.  I used, for example, this church which affirms that God can and does call women to preach, teach, and serve as deacons and pastors. 

His response was remarkable.  He said that for him there were certain doctrinal standards that were non-negotiable.  For example, if somebody does not believe in the inerrancy of the scripture, it would cause him to break fellowship with that person. 

I had two responses.  First, nobody was asking that any doctrine be negotiated.  I was simply inviting him to prayer and fellowship with other people who loved Jesus.  The second response was this, “If you believe in the inerrancy of scripture (which carries with it the notion that the scripture should be obeyed as God’s word), then you should never use that as a justification to break fellowship with anyone.

Let me ask you a question.  How many denominations do you think there are in the world today.  According to the most recent survey, there are 33,900 denominations – and every one of them is right. 

I heard a preacher one time talk about how great it will be when we all get to heaven and there are no more denominations.  He said,

“There will be Roman Catholic Christians in heaven, represented by the Pope.  And there will be Methodist Christians in heaven, represented by John Wesley.  Then there will be some Lutheran Christians, represented by Martin Luther.  And there will be some Baptist Christians in heaven, represented by Jesus.” 

In the end Jesus will not allow His people to be separated by denomination, differing doctrines and dogmas, or by differing styles of worship or practices of faith.  Jesus only has ONE church.  Together we are all God’s temple, and the scriptures say that God will destroy anyone who causes disunity and disharmony in the church.  God’s temple is sacred and we are that temple. 

This is what God is doing in the world.  He is taking our messed-up-ness and creating oneness.  The church is God’s vehicle for that work of reconciliation, unity, and oneness.  That is why my congregation (Patterson Avenue Baptist) exists.  That is why you exist.  You exist to experience and share the God news that through Christ all people everywhere can experience the fellowship they have with God Almighty.

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