May 28, 2016

May 22, 2016 - Trinity Sunday

Theme: God’s Sequence for Your Life
1) The Holy Spirit receives from the Son who received from the Father
2) The Holy Spirit declares to you through the Word of God.

John 16:12-15 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”

I’m sure many of you have played the game, Sequence, before. It’s a well-known game, easy to play. We play the Sequence for Kids version at our house. The basic objective of the game is clear, there’s a board with different cards from a normal deck printed, and you try to get a row, or sequence of cards. First one to get a sequence wins.

The idea behind Sequence really isn’t new. There are plenty of other games that follow the same form. Another example would be the simpler game of Connect Four. But no matter which game you’re talking about, if it follows the same basic rules, you must find the proper order to win. Without order, not only can you not win the game, it won’t make any sense to begin playing at all.

In our short text for today, God reveals a much more important sequence for our lives. This isn’t some trivial game, this sequence is a matter of life and death. Moments before His death, Jesus took great lengths to make sure the disciples understood this sequence and how important it was for their lives. We review it today because we are reminded of how influential the Holy Spirit is in this process and how, without Him, would have no standing before the Father. 

But what we start with is what is behind the scenes in this text. We don’t often look at these verses in this way, but it’s interesting to note that they provide proof of God in Trinitarian form. We have clear testimony about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the importance of each in our lives. It’s very fitting that we would think of this on this Trinity Sunday.

But it’s precisely with the Trinity that we see God’s first sequence in our lives. Jesus is speaking here but if we jump ahead to verse 15 He tells us where He gets His message from. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” In that verse alone, if we properly follow the context, we have a clear reference to the Trinity. Let’s follow the point that Jesus is trying to make. He wanted the disciples, and through inspiration all others who would read this, to know that His (Jesus’) message was not His own but that it came from God the Father and was agreeable to God the Father.

We just concluded our Bible class study on the Gospel of John, so this is fresh for many of you, but we must remember how many people viewed Jesus. They didn’t understand or accept that He was God, even though He was continually pointing them to the fact that He was. They thought He was a man only. That’s actually why Jesus was killed. The Jews understood His claims to be God but rejected them; and therefore accused Jesus of blasphemy, the sin of putting oneself in the place of God.

Because of this inability for the majority of the populace to get to the point where they could believe that Jesus was God, Jesus had to explain His rightful claim to authority in terms that they would understand. He explains it from the perspective of being just an ordinary human like the rest of them, because that’s what they were stuck on, even though He was also God. This is where the sequence comes in. Even if Jesus was just as regular human, those who rejected Him would still have to get around the fact that what He spoke came from the Father and was given through the Holy Spirit. Jesus wasn’t coming out and directly saying, “I am God, so listen to Me.” He knew the majority would write Him off immediately if He did that. He tried a different approach; tried to get them to think about it differently. And so He describes that His Words come from the Father and that Jesus has the right to send forth the Holy Spirit to help people trust and understand those Words. For the disciples, they may not have had the stumbling block of denial in their lives, but this explanation was just as important for them. It gave them something to help build around the foundation of Jesus as the Messiah, a concept that they accepted already. For them, it helped describe how Jesus was the Messiah and how He would influence their lives in service to God.

So that’s where the first sequence comes in. Jesus had a lot more to tell the disciples, both for their faith and for those that they would minister to when He was gone. But, time was running out. God’s eternal plan of salvation was reaching its completion point very soon. The task of continuing education would be taken up by the third member of the sequence, of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And that process is still going on today in our Church. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts through the Word. He blesses our attempts to minister through the Word. And He continues to build and sustain the universal Church here on earth.

Part 2

The first sequence tells us source of the information. If the message we hear and believe is not from God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit, we’re being misled. But Jesus also talks about the sequence God uses to transmit the information of salvation to you. And we shouldn’t be surprised that the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit, plays a major role here too. This sequence is as follows: The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God, to bring the message of salvation to your heart. 3 parts, just like the 3 parts of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, The Word of God, and You. Take out either of 3; the sequence is broken, and you lose hope and truth.

We might naturally ask, well, where does the Word of God come into the picture? The first sequence is clear, since the Father, Son, and Spirit are all mentioned. But Jesus never talks about God’s Word. He never uses the terms “gospel” or “Holy Scriptures.” That’s true, but the Bible comes out in the way Jesus describes this sequence. He said to the disciples:
·         The Holy Spirit will speak God’s truth to them.
·         Twice He says, The Holy Spirit will take from Jesus, who takes from the Father, and declare it to them.

When Jesus says that the message comes through speaking and declaring it quite naturally fits with the Scriptures. God has ordained the use of His holy Word for the express purpose of helping us know, with certainty, that we are saved. The Holy Spirit must reveal this Word to us. He is caretaker of this timeless message that has come from the Father and fulfilled through the Son. The reason we need this revelation is because we are lost on our own. By nature we have no indication that God loves us; we know only His righteous standards by the law, obligations that we cannot keep. The Holy Spirit is absolutely essential to the sequence of our understanding because He shows us the love of Christ.

Paul explained the Holy Spirit’s role in detail to the Corinthians by saying, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. These things we teach, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches.”

Take out the Holy Spirit and you remain lost. But the same applies to the other two parts of the sequence, too. Take out the Scriptures, the declaration of God’s truth, and it doesn’t matter how much you think or feel like you have the Holy Spirit, because you don’t. And take yourself out of the equation through rejection or unbelief, and it doesn’t matter how powerful the Holy Spirit works through the Word, because you have chosen to reject it.

It’s simply fascinated to stop and ponder how each person of the Trinity takes an active role in your salvation. The Father created you with purpose so that you might seek and find Him in this life. He ordained salvation through the promise of His covenant long ago. He preserved that promise throughout history down to the perfect moment for His Son to enter time and space for you. The Son then took up the mantle and lived perfectly in your place. He carried the burden of His Father’s law for you; that great debt that held all people hostage. Not only this, He carried that burden to the cross and died under its weight so that it would never be held against you ever again. He put the finishing touch on it all by rising from the dead so that you too could share in that gift one day. And finally, the Holy Spirit took up His active part in history on Pentecost Sunday. He continues to work with Christians everywhere, when the Word of God is taught in truth and the Gospel is freely shared through proclamation and Sacrament.

That is the sequence that your God, Father, Son, and Spirit went through and continues to work through to bring you hope of life eternal. Take out either of the three parts and the game is over. Paul actually explained the Christian faith to people in this same way. Writing to Titus he said, There are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith (Titus 1:10-11, 16, 13).

Paul clearly says that those who exalted themselves over Jesus were insubordinate, deceivers, dishonest, and ultimately, disqualified. Very literally they were losers. They had lost the right to stand before God because they rejected the sequence of God’s salvation. He wrote similarly to the Corinthians: Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-- unless indeed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).

Same thought here. Reject God’s plan. Try to achieve salvation with your own sequence of truth and you lose the game, you become disqualified. This is obviously true of those who deny God outright, but it is also true for those who deny God’s way of imparting His truth. The way in which God gives salvation is just as important as the way He has achieved salvation. These are the two sequences that Jesus taught the disciples. Break either one and you end up in the same place, disqualification.

We should not be discouraged by this, even though we break God’s truth often. Because the entire purpose behind God’s plan is that He is always in control. From our perspective it seems that there are so many things we have to do to earn God’s favor. This is partly true because we are obligated to keep the entire law. But, that’s not the whole story. God comes to you in your fallen condition and lifts you up by His grace. He does not cut corners. He does not shortchange His righteous demand. But He says, I will work in you the will and power to do what I command. I will save you by grace, an underserved gift. And therefore, He takes care of it all for you. You should not be worried about this, but you should rejoice and be at peace! Your future is not dependent upon you. Someone greater than you takes care of it all. Both the cost of earning it and the work of getting it to you. Both sequences, from God, by God, for you. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. 

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