Trinity Inc.

The trinity is a difficult concept to grasp. One God, three persons. Not three forms or manifestations of one person, not three functions of one person, but three actual persons making up One God. Three in one. Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

There’s no scripture that actually says “Trinity.” The concept is developed in and evident throughout the scriptures. I often think about the Trinity and its implications to the Gospel and to my life. And as I go through life, I notice analogies that I like to use in my own head just to help me make sense of things.

Major Disclaimer: This is not supported by scripture. This is not a theology. This is merely an analogy for illustrative purposes.

The Trinity as a Corporation

If The Trinity were a Corporation, I think God the Father would be the CEO, Jesus would be the PR Representative, and the Holy Spirit would be the Executive Assistant.

The Father being the CEO was the rather obvious choice. The Chief Executive Officer creates the policy for the company, organizes and dispatches programs to execute the policy, and understands and oversees the “big picture” of the organization. His spoken word is the final word in all questions and disputes on the policy. In the creation story of Genesis, God is the ultimate CEO. He speaks and everything comes to be. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:3. God is the greater Steve Jobs.

Jesus as the PR Rep may seem to downplay his role (but as I said, this is an analogy and of course it breaks down) but I thought of this position because the Public Relations Representative is the “Face of the Company.” They are the ambassadors of the company to the public. Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:7) The closest glimpse of God the Father we ever get in scripture is Exodus 3:18-23 where Moses sees the backside of God – and even that overwhelms him. But when we think about what God “looks like” we think of Jesus. He is God’s representative of himself to us. He is our Great High Priest who came to sacrifice himself once and for all and now sits at the right hand of the Father mediating for us (Hebrews 2-12). It was a gracious God that humbled himself to come in human form, sympathizing with all our weaknesses, to become our righteousness in him.

The Holy Spirit is the Executive Assistant because he is always there in the background working out all the messy details in people’s hearts. You know, the one that “really makes it all happen.” He’s there in Genesis 1 (as is Jesus, we learn in the prologue of the book of John) it says, “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.” Executive Assistants work diligently to make sure all of the particulars of the CEO’s big vision are accomplished. Philippians 2:13-14 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Executive Assistants must also be good multi-taskers to handle to volume of work required. The Holy Spirit is our helper and our comforter that has been left here on earth since Jesus ascended, and thank God he can be everywhere at once!

Photo Credits: graur codrin and jscreationzs

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Postmodernism and Christianity

Last week I listened to a teaching from a Ligonier Ministries conference that absolutely destroyed me. I mean “destroyed” in the best possible sense. I had to listen to it twice to really let the implications soak in and allow the Holy Spirit to pinpoint conviction in my heart. It was awesome.

The title of the teaching is “Postmodernism and Christianity” given by Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. at their 2007 National Conference. You can download and listen to the full teaching for FREE here. I highly recommend it. In fact I highly recommend any and all content from Ligonier ministries, they are a goldmine of Gospel knowledge. Credit for all major thoughts and themes in this post goes to Dr. Sproul.

He begins by suggesting that the craftiness of the devil is often craftier than we’d like to give him credit for. We think that the devil is out to trick all the non-Christians in the world into staying non-Christians by deception and temptation. But he suggests that the devil is not so much out to keep lost people confused, but to assault the church. He says, “The serpent is not interested in taking blind, unbelieving humans and gouging their eyes out.” The serpent is after the bride of Christ. I think this is supported biblically. Paul says in 2 Cor 2:11 that we should forgive one another “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” And Paul tells the church in Ephesus to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). The serpent has schemes and it is our responsibility as Christians to be aware of them, not so that we can writhe in fear or hide out within our churches, but to be able to stand firm in the faith (1 Cor 16:13) and contend for truth when deception starts to creep in and confuse God’s word, like the serpent did with Eve in the garden.

We (I) shouldn’t be content to sit in our churches as if they were grand stands from which to watch how confused and hopeless the world is and not do anything about it. This was one of the points on which I was very convicted. I feel like I can see very clearly how modernism and postmodernism is rotting the minds and the faith of the upcoming generation, but this doesn’t give me a license to simply talk about it, blog about it, and do nothing. Our awareness of the serpent’s devices should prompt us to action on the offensive, not just the defensive.

The heaviest conviction that came from this teaching was the point where Dr. Sproul pointed out the very subtle ways that modernist and postmodernist thinking has crept into the church. He says:

To the modernist the greatest sacrament is education. If we teach our children all the right things, then we will have paradise on earth. The postmodernist just puts a new twist on this and says, “We want everyone to believe that it doesn’t matter what you believe because we believe that will lead us to paradise.” Despite Romans 1, we think people are lost because they don’t have enough information. We embrace the idea that stringing together sound arguments will change the world, when our book tells us something different.

How true this is! Just this weekend I was speaking with a lady in our church about marriage and how difficult it is when you’re first starting out to know exactly what to do. She adamantly asserted that what needs to be done is for someone to write a book about how to be married – a Marriage Manual. She is going to write this book and is convinced that it will help a myriad of people. I’m not saying that education is bad, or that discipleship within the church shouldn’t happen, these are good things. The problem was the overarching thought process that educating people alone would solve their problems. This lady is a nurse and made the statement, “I went through almost 6 years of schooling to be a nurse, and went to 6 weeks of pre-marital counseling to be a wife.” In the church if there is a problem, we tend to throw education at it. But the Bible doesn’t say, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything start an educational program.” (misquote of Philipians 4:6). No friends, we are supposed to be praying, seeking the Lord, and leaning on our hope in Christ. Knowledge is not our savior. R.C. Sproul Jr. says it this way, “I’ve checked the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 multiple times. Smart is not one of them.”

Another point that Dr. Sproul made that rocked my world was the fact that postmodernism makes uncertainty and humility synonymous. He is absolutely right, and I had never thought about it before. In all my secular education, the more uncertainty a teacher allowed in the classroom, the more “down-to-earth” the he was. The more a teacher defended one side of a moral or ethical issue or stood for a single worldview, the more “arrogant” he was. I noticed it most in my education classes, when we had entire units devoted to diversity and tolerance. The point of the unit was not to understand that we must respect the diverse cultures and backgrounds of students, but that we must accept, encourage, and promote any and all lifestyle choices of our students and their parents. Tolerance, to the postmodernist, means embracing all worldviews – which of course is impossible because they conflict. Even though it’s irrational, a postmodernist says, “We won’t say we know which way is right, so we will include all ways. And that makes us right.”

The way the all-inclusive postmodern mindset slips into the church can be through Bible studies where everyone explains what a Bible passage “means to them” rather than exploring what the text was originally meant to say and then applying it. This is a pretty obvious irrational mistake. A text cannot actually have multiple meanings. Also, our testimonies tend to focus on the story of our lives more than on the person and the work of Christ. Postmodernism says that everyone has a story and so no ones story can be false. If we depend only on our story to win unbelievers to Christ, we are coming at evangelism from a postmodern perspective. Finally, we are postmodern when we shy away from standing up for the truth of scripture because we don’t want to appear arrogant for having “cornered the market on truth.” This was the point that really convicted me. I have shied away from standing up for Biblical truth because I didn’t want to be arrogant. And that’s the crazy thing, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to appear arrogant – it was because I truly believed that saying I thought I knew what was true actually did make me arrogant. And I knew the Bible says not to be arrogant or prideful. I had bought into the lie of postmodernism.

But it is a lie. Standing firm in the truth of the Gospel is not arrogant. Ok, you can be a jerk if you try hard enough (don’t do that). But the point is that in the garden when the serpent asks, “…Has god indeed said?” It would actually be pride and not humility that would say, “I’m not really comfortable with answering definitively. I don’t want to behave as if I’ve cornered the market on truth. I don’t think Jesus would want me to present the truth all tied up nicely with a bow.” And when people ask us what we believe about God, Christ, the church, heaven and hell, abortion, and homosexuality, we ought to stand firm in the truth and say, “Yes, God has indeed said.”

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:14-15

Why the Pair?

Ever wondered why you call it a pair of pants?

A pair of jeans. A pair of trousers. A pair of overalls.

I understand full well that a “pair” refers to a set of two.  And indeed, pants have two holes – one for each leg. But when asked how we put our pants on we say, “I put my pants on just like everyone else, one leg at a time.”

We never refer to the singular “pant” or “jean” or “trouser.”  No one would ever buy just one pant or one jean, it’s just silly.

Shirts have two holes, one for each arm, yet we don’t refer to it as a pair of shirts. Eyeglasses are referred to in pairs because of the fact that we have two eyes and there are two pieces of glass.  But I can get on board with this because there actually is such a phenomenon as the singular eyeglass. So in my world a pair of eyeglasses makes perfect sense. A pair of gloves works for me also following that same reasoning.

Someone come up with how to wear just “the pant” and I will come up with some kind of prize for you. And yes, these are the types of things I think about while I’m at work.

Peace that Passes All Understanding

There are certain platitudes that we all use when praying for other people. I mentioned in my first post praying for “God’s favor” in a certain situation. Another commonly used phrase is for the “peace that passes all understanding” to come to someone. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not at all against praying for others or for praying for peace or favor in their lives. I just think that there is a misunderstanding of the scripture behind this phrase.

Most people don’t think twice when they hear a preacher or a prayer leader say “God, please give them the peace that passes all understanding.” They pull this phrase from Philippians 4:4-7 which says:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV, emphasis added)

The point here is that the word is “surpasses” not “passes.” The Greek word is hyperechō meaning “to have or hold over one; to stand out, rise above, overtop; to be above, be superior in rank, authority, power; to excel, to be superior, better than, to surpass” (Thayer’s Lexicon). In my study of this phrase, I believe I have stumbled across the reason why many people pray or say “peace that passes” instead of “surpasses” (besides the fact that it’s less syllables and easier to say). Our beloved King James Version translates hyperechō this way, “…And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” I can see how King James readers might easily slip from “passeth” to “passes” in everyday vernacular. But check out some other translations of phrase:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension (NASB)

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding (NIV)

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (NKJV)

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand (NLT)

It’s clear that the peace Paul is talking about to the Philippians is not one that “brings understanding to pass.” It is a peace that transcends our understanding of the situation. God is not obligated to grant us full understanding of His motives for the situations we encounter in life. But He is willing and able to give us peace that “excels in rank” over our situation. He is the sovereign God of the universe and He is good. Understanding this should guard our hearts and minds in Christ.

In his book Knowing God J.I. Packer uses an analogy of a train station to illustrate how we can misunderstand God’s wisdom. He explains that standing at the end of the platform at York station will allow you to watch a constant succession of engines and train movements, but you’ll only be able to form a very rough and general idea of the operational pattern set out for the trains to follow. However, if you are allowed into the signal-box, you will see “a diagram of the entire track layout for five miles on either side of the station, with little glow-worm lights moving or stationary on the the different tracks to show the signalmen at a glance exactly where every engine and train is. At once you will be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of those who control it: you will see from the diagram why it was that this train had to be signaled to a halt and that one diverted from its normal running line…The why and wherefore of all these movements becomes plain once you can see the overall position.” (p. 102) The misunderstanding we sometimes have as Christians is that we think we are entitled to be allowed into the signal-box of our lives. We ask why did you allow me to lose my job, God? What is the real purpose behind my suffering? And I fear that this is what we are praying when we ask God for the peace that “passes all understanding.” As if to say, “God, I know you’re going to help me completely understand this situation someday. Hopefully you’ll give me this divine wisdom today.” Check out The Message’s translation of Philippians 4:7

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Where is the transcendence? Where is God’s superiority? It’s nowhere to be found. It’s covered up with “God’s wholeness” and a “sense of everything coming together for good.” This is very subtle, and of course I’m not saying that it is bad to have a sense of everything coming together for good. But the true “peace that surpasses all understanding” is not just a fuzzy wuzzy feeling, it is a very real hope for the Christian.

God’s peace is better than being in the signal-box. We would exhaust ourselves futilely looking for “meaning” in every hiccup of our lives. Trust that God is sovereign, that he has predestined to call you according to His purpose, that He loves you. And then you won’t have to pray for understanding because you’ll know in your heart of hearts that He is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28-30).

A Modern Parable

Comparisons and analogies can be helpful in teaching biblical principles. Jesus used parables, such as the sower and the seeds, to illustrate big ideas to his followers and disciples.  Jesus used natural phenomenon that the culture could relate to, to explain spiritual concepts.  In our 21st century world in the United States, farming is not always a tangible concept; not very many people are physically “reaping and sowing” in their fields, so to speak.  More people tend to work at desks with computers.  So hopefully this modern parable will strike a chord with some of you.

 

Once upon a time there was a certain girl who worked for a government agency. She collected field samples, cleaned stream gages, and other scientific collection-type work. Every time she made a visit to her sites, she was required to meticulously document all observations and measurements.  When she would return to her office she would input that information onto a computer database.  The software program she used required very precise inputs (like an old MS DOS program). Even a single wrong character, an extra space after a word or an ampersand, would cause an obnoxious error window to pop up and no data would be entered.   As she did her diligence processing the data, she became deeply annoyed with the software.  Sometimes the error pop-up would tell her how to correct it….and sometimes it wouldn’t.

Then one glorious day, an update to the software was created.  It came with a Graphic User Interface (a GUI) and all she had to do was click the “GO” button and the data went straight into the database!  It seemed too good to be true.  She was so thankful for the GUI software that she wrote to the programmers to tell them that it was so beautifully easy, she was only ever going to use it and would recommend it to all her friends.  The End.

Explanation of the parable:

In the parable the MS DOS type software is God’s Old Testament ceremonial law. In computer programming, every character matters. They are all tiny “on/off” switches telling the software what to do. One missed letter or grammatical error will cause the program to behave in an unexpected way.   It requires perfect precision or else you’ll get a “fatal error.”  The Old Testament law was very similar to this.  There were hundreds of laws in the Old Testament, and one was required to keep them all perfectly all the time if he was to be saved by his own merit.  James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”  Just like the tiny mistakes in the software would cause a “fatal error,” one tiny transgression of the law meant eternal damnation.  Paul says in Hebrews 7:19 that the law made nothing perfect.  In other words, the law could not save anyone.  It simply showed us how sinful we are (Romans 3:20).  Someone has to fulfill the whole law to be worthy to be saved by merit.

The GUI software represents Jesus.  GUI software fulfills all the programming rules needed to operate the program.  It performs the functions that the user would have had to type manually in an MS DOS type environment.  Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law with his life and then made us able to share in that by his death, burial, and resurrection.  Through faith and repentance, we can share in the perfect life of Jesus and be counted as righteous in Him.  Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant.  We no longer have to keep every jot and tittle of the law (although God’s moral and civil laws still stand, but that’s for another day).  So we, like the girl in the story, ought to be thankful!  Hebrews 10:1-10 is a wonderful summary of how Christ has fulfilled the law:

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,  but a body have you prepared for me  in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Grace to Speeders

Yesterday I’m driving along the road, minding my own business, when another driver races up behind me, tailgates me for a block or two before he shoots out around me and passes me at about 65mph in a 40mph area. “Oh, how I hope there’s a cop sitting right at that intersection he’s about to drive through,” I think to myself.

Isn’t it interesting how we always hope for justice for others, but never wish it for ourselves? This should tell us something about human nature. If you’re not willing to receive justice for everything you do, if the thought of retribution seems “harsh” to you – your nature is probably depraved. I hope the driver who sped past me receives justice not only because I feel he has injured me personally by disturbing my peaceful drive, but because I know it’s inherently wrong for him to be going 65 in a 45. What he deserves is a ticket and a fine. And what I deserve for my sin is death and eternal punishment according to God’s law.

God is not harsh, He is just. He will exact retribution on the day of judgement (\re-trə-byü-shən\ noun, something given or exacted in recompense – an equivalent or a return for something done, suffered, or given, compensation). Paul says in his address on Mars Hill, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17:30-31a) This man is Jesus. Jesus says in John 5:22 “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,” and in verse 27, “he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”

Jesus is both our judge and our savior. God’s perfect justice has been satisfied by the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. His perfect life, his righteousness, is imputed to me (\im-ˈpyüt\ verb, to credit to a person or a cause, represent something, esp. something undesirable as being done, caused, or possessed by someone, attribute). Justice is served. What I get is called grace. So I should wish grace upon the speeding driver, over his life anyway, because that’s what I’ve been given.

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Grace not Favor

The other day at church I was listening to my pastor preach (at Praise Church) and he made the point that the definition of grace is “unmerited favor.”  This is not breaking news to many of us in evangelical circles.  But it occurred to me that many times when I pray or when other people are praying they ask for “God’s favor” in this situation or that.  Isn’t “grace” the word we should be using?  When we’re asking God to help us pass the test or get the job or get the promotion, we shouldn’t be leaning on our own merit.  Everything we do in our Christian walk is done by God’s grace.  2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”  What we really need as Christians is God’s grace – his unmerited favor in our lives to do what He wants us to do.