Behold Your God: The Mystery of the Trinity | 2 Corinthians 13:14
Brian Hedges | September 27, 2020
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles this morning to 2 Corinthians 13:14. We’re going to ground all of our thoughts in this verse this morning. Last week we began a new series called “Behold Your God,” and in that inaugural message for this series, which will take us up through Advent, the basic idea of that sermon, if I could put it in one sentence, is simply this, that our God is too small; that is, our vision of God is too small.
I think, no matter how accurate our theology is, the truth is that we do not really plumb the depths of who God is. Scripture tells us that God is great and that his greatness is unsearchable, and there is something that theologians call the unsearchableness of God, or the inscrutable aspect of who God is, that he is unfathomable, that he is impossible for us to fully comprehend or fully understand. God is an ocean to which there is no bottom, and at our best, we’re just like children who are splashing around on the shores of what he has revealed himself to be.
Nevertheless, while we cannot have comprehensive knowledge of God, we can have a true knowledge of God. We can truly know him, because though God is transcendent and infinitely far above us, he is also imminent, and he has made himself near and has made himself known to us through the gospel.
This morning, as we continue with this series, we’re going to look at how it is that God has made himself known. He has made himself known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; he’s made himself known as the Triune God.
You might wonder why start with the doctrine of the Trinity? Why not go straight to, say, the holiness of God, or the power of God, or the love of God, or some other attribute of God? I think a lot of people, when they think about the Trinity, they think, “This is a confusing doctrine, it’s a mysterious doctrine, this is something for the theologians but doesn’t have much use for the ordinary believers.” We might think of this as the appendix in the body of Christian doctrine. There probably is a purpose for it, but it doesn’t seem like a vital organ, it doesn’t seem particularly useful, and we can pretty much live without it.
But actually, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that without the doctrine of the Trinity there would be no salvation. Without the Triune God there would be no prayer, there would be no worship, there would be no love, no joy, no holiness in our lives. The Trinity is not an appendix to the body of Christian doctrine; it is the pulsing heart of the Christian gospel.
Herman Bavinck, in his excellent Reformed Dogmatics, says, “In the confession of the Trinity we hear the heartbeat of the Christian religion.” He goes on to say that “every error results from, or upon deeper reflection is traceable to, a departure in the doctrine of the Trinity.” That’s a profound statement. He’s saying that all errors in Christian doctrine somehow are traceable to missing it here, to not fully grasping what Scripture reveals about God as triune.
I do think it’s important at the very outset of this series to talk about not just the character of God, but the very being of God, that God is the Three in One God. Otherwise we may begin to misconstrue God and think of God even in terms of the greatness of God in ways that are not distinct from, say, Islamic views of God or Judaism. We may miss the very heart of Christianity if we don’t start with the Trinity. This is, I think, a first step for us.
The passage I want to read and kind of ground our thoughts in is 2 Corinthians 13:14. This is a familiar verse because we end every service with it every week here at Redeemer; it’s a wonderful benediction at the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, but it is a trinitarian verse, one of the clearest trinitarian verses in all of Scripture. Let me read it, and then I want to proceed by giving a brief definition to the doctrine of the Trinity, and then walking us through three aspects of this doctrine that I think are so important for our understanding of Scripture.
2 Corinthians 13:14; it says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
This is God’s word.
When we’re talking about the Trinity, we have to be careful with definition. Honestly, we could spend an entire message just on this. I’m not going to do that, but I want to try to give you in just two sentences what I think will be a somewhat clearer definition of what we mean when we talk about the Trinity.
When we’re talking about the Trinity, we mean that there is one God, who exists as three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. They are one in being, united in essence, power, purpose, and glory, yet they are distinct in personality and function.
This God is one in being—there’s only one God. We don’t worship three gods, we worship one God; yet this God is plural in personality. Three personalities. These personalities are co-equal, co-eternal (always existed). God has always existed as a community of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet there are not three gods, there’s only one God.
I think sometimes people think that the doctrine of the Trinity is contradictory. How can God be both one and three? But it’s not contradictory. We’re not violating any laws of logic here, because God is not one in three in the same sense, in the same ways. He is one in being; there is one essence that is God. But within this one being of God there are three centers of personality. They’ve always existed: Father, Son, and Spirit; yet these three are united in all essential attributes, united in essence, power, purpose, and glory.
Yet they relate to us—the Father, Son, and Spirit relate to us in distinct ways. They are distinct in personality and in function; that is, they do different things. The Father doesn’t do what the Son does; the Son does things that are unique to him only, not what the Father does or what the Spirit does; and so on.
Now, that’s the doctrine of the Trinity in a nutshell. Much more could be said, but I think that’s enough to get us started, and probably familiar territory for many of us.
Here’s how I want to unpack the message this morning, and I want to use three key words from 2 Corinthians 13:14. Those three key words are love, grace, and fellowship. Here’s the outline. I want us to see three things. I want us to see:
1. The Love of the Trinity Is the Fountain of All Love and Grace
2. The Grace of the Trinity Is the Foundation of the Gospel of Our Salvation
3. Our Fellowship with the Trinity Is the Key to Living the Christian Life
1. The Love of the Trinity Is the Fountain of All Love and Grace
Notice that this passage says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” When that passage talks about the love of God, he means especially God’s love for you. This is a benediction; it’s a blessing to the people of God. He means the love of God be with you. When you have the name God in the same sentence with Lord Jesus Christ and Spirit, I think the connotation here is God the Father, the love of God the Father be with you.
Of course, Scripture speaks a lot about the love of God. We might think of the most well-known verse in all the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
The Scriptures tell us that God is love. This is at the heart of his character. This is an essential attribute of God. 1 John 4:16b says, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
But listen, this is an important distinction to make. God’s love does not depend on the creaturely objects of his love. God’s love doesn’t depend on having creatures to love. He is love, and he always has been love. Before there was ever a creation, before there was ever a world, before you or I ever existed, before any of us ever existed or were ever redeemed, God was love; and he always has been.
Have you ever asked this question, or maybe one of your kids has asked you this question? “What was God doing for all eternity before creation?” Have you ever wondered? What did God do? I mean, eternity, he has always existed. What did he do before he created time and he created the world?
One theologian, perhaps to discourage such questions, said that “God was planning hell for the curious!” In other words, kind of a warning, don’t pry into mystery. But actually, I think it’s a reasonable question. Think about an eternal God and a point in time in which creation took place, what was God doing before he created the world?
The Scripture actually give us a very clear answer to this. This is found in John 17:24. This is in Jesus’s prayer the night before he was betrayed. He’s praying to the Father; it’s the most extensive, the longest prayer of Jesus recorded in Scripture. He’s praying to the Father, and he’s praying for his people. I want to just focus on one verse here, this marvelous prayer. One verse, and this is what Jesus says: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am to see my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Do you see it? Right there, Jesus says—what was God doing before the foundation of the world? He was loving the Son.
The hymn writer Frederick Faber said,
“When heaven and earth were yet unmade,
When time was yet unknown,
Thou in thy bliss and majesty
Didst live and love alone.”
Brothers and sisters, there are stunning implications of this, that this God has always existed in triune love and fellowship and eternal bliss; that this God has always been love, even when there wasn’t yet a creation to love. I means that the Christian God is not a lonely, solitary, needy figure. It means that the Christian God is not raw power. He’s powerful, infinitely powerful, but he is not raw impersonal power. The Christian God is not an impersonal cosmic force, like you have in Star Wars. The Christian God is actually more personal than any person you’ve ever met. He is tri-personal. He is Father, Son, and Spirit; and before he ever created anything, he loved. He loved! This is foundational to the good news; in fact, it’s what makes the good news good.
Let me quote contemporary theologian Fred Sanders, who I think has done a marvelous job in writing about the Trinity. Heads-up: I am going to quote a little more, even, than I normally do this morning. We’re doing some heavy sledding, working in this doctrine of the Trinity, and I want to call on the help of theologians both contemporary and ancient.
Fred Sanders, in his wonderful book The Deep Things of God, says this. “There is something even better than the good news.” Does that sound like blasphemy? It’s not. "There’s something even better than the good news, and that something is God. The good news of the gospel is that God has opened up the dynamics of his triune life and given us a share in that fellowship; but all of that good news only makes sense against the background of something even better than the good news, the goodness that is the perfection of God himself. The doctrine of the Trinity is first and foremost a teaching about who God is, and the God of the Trinity would have been God the Trinity whether he had revealed himself to us or not, whether he had redeemed us or not, whether he had created us or not.”
There’s something better than the good news, and that something is God, and the good news is good news because the good news is what brings us into connection, into relationship with this God.
One reason this is so important for us is because it shows us that God, being this eternal, triune God of love, it shows us that this God is not a needy God. Have you ever asked this question: “Why did God create in the first place?” Why did he create anything?
Well, some people want to say, “Well, the reason God created is because God needed somebody to love. God was lonely and he needed somebody to love, so he created human beings, creatures that he hoped would freely love him in return.” But God has eternally existed in a community of perfect love. He didn’t create you out of any need for anything! God is not a desert who needs us to come give him water; he is a fountain who overflows from his fullness in life and in love to others. His love for us does not depend on our love for him; his love for us is the overflow of the rich fullness of love that has always existed.
The apostle Paul in Acts 17:24-25 says that “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
God doesn’t need you. God doesn’t need me. He doesn’t need our love, and that’s good news for us, because it means that the foundation of his love for us is not anything in us. The foundation of his love for us is the fullness of love within his own triune existence. He created and he redeems, and he does all things not because he needs us, but to display the glory of his fullness and to share his love with us out of the gracious overflow of his heart; and to invite us into the experience of this love and the experience of adoring this glory.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory,” Jesus says, “that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” The love of the Trinity is the fountain of all love and all grace. The reason God can show love and grace to you and me is because God is love, and he always has been.
2. The Grace of the Trinity Is the Foundation of the Gospel of Our Salvation
The love of the Triune God is the fountain of all love and grace, and the grace of the Triune God is the foundation of the gospel of grace. Again, our text, 2 Corinthians 13:14, says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The gospel is a gospel of grace. Of course, Scripture speaks about grace as coming to us from all three persons. Here in this benediction and this blessing it’s grace that proceeds from the Lord Jesus Christ, and I think it is true to say that Jesus Christ is the channel through which all the streams of grace flow to us.
The gospel, the good news of God’s saving grace, has a trinitarian shape, and it is the work of the Triune God, who saves us by his grace.
Let me call to the witness stand John Owen, who is probably the most formative theologian in my experience. John Owen was a 17th-century Congregationalist pastor, kind of in the Puritan era, and John Owen said, “When God designed the great and glorious work of recovering fallen man and the saving of sinners, to the praise of the glory of his grace, he appointed in his infinite two great means thereof.” God did two things in order to glorify himself through the salvation of sin. “The one was the giving of his Son for them, and the other was the giving of his Spirit to them. Hereby was way made for the manifestation of the glory of the whole blessed Trinity, which is the utmost end of all the works of God.”
What Owen is saying here is that God, in order to glorify himself through the salvation of sinners, gives two things. He gives his Son and he gives his Spirit; his Son to redeem us, his Spirit to indwell us.
Now, if we had time we could go through all the works of God and we could show that each work of God has a Trinitarian shape. We could show this in the doctrine of creation; we could show this in the doctrine of Scripture, the inspiration of the Scriptures; we could show it in the incarnation of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the church. Let me just show you a couple of places—we don’t have time to do nearly all, but let me just show you some passages.
Think, first of all, about the cross. Most of the time we think about the cross we’re thinking about the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and that’s right. The Son is the one who died on the cross, not the Father, not the Spirit. Jesus the Son, the God-Man, died as an atoning sacrifice for sins on the cross. But when Jesus died on the cross, the whole Triune God was at work. Listen to what Hebrews 9:13-14 says, verse 13 talking about the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament, and then verse 14 about the work of Christ. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ—” there’s the Son “—who through the eternal Spirit—” there’s the Spirit “—offered himself without blemish to God—” there’s the Father “—purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
Right there you have the whole Triune God. You have the Son making an offering, but how does he do it? He does it through the eternal Spirit. And who does he make the offering to? He makes the offering to God. When Jesus died on the cross, he was dying in order to offer himself to the Father, to vindicate his justice, to appease, satisfy his wrath, to demonstrate his love, and to secure the salvation of his people. He made this offering in the power of the Spirit.
Take another text, Galatians 4. This was our assurance of pardon this morning. Paul says in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent for his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”
Again, you see that God does two things. He sent the Son to redeem those who were under the law, and he has sent his Spirit into our hearts, by which we cry, “Abba! Father!” He’s given us adoption as sons.
That, incidentally, embraces both men and women. In the ancient world, only male heirs could receive an inheritance, so Paul is using here legal language according to that time. But he’s already said in Galatians that there is neither male nor female in Christ. He’s actually dignifying all believers by showing that all believers receive this inheritance, this adoption as sons, as legal heirs.
But back to the point, God sent his Son and God sent his Spirit. There’s the Trinitarian work of redemption.
One other passage that I won’t take the time to read, but you could read this. Take this as a homework assignment. Go home and read Ephesians 1:3-14. It is a hymn of worship and of praise to God. It’s all one sentence in the Greek, broken down into several in our English translations, but it has a trinitarian shape.
Paul begins by praising “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ.” But as you look at this hymn of praise with its refrain, “to the praise of his glory,” you can see very clearly the work of the Father is portrayed in verses 4-6, focusing on the Father’s choice and the Father’s work in predestining people to be adopted into his family. Then you see the work of the Son in verses 7-12, as the Son is the one who redeems us, secures the forgiveness of our sins through his blood, and then who reveals to us the plan of God. He makes known to us the wisdom of the plan of God to unite all things in heaven and in earth in Christ and give us an inheritance in that final plan.
Then, in verses 13-14, you have the work of the Spirit. What does the Spirit do? The Spirit is the promise of the Father who’s been sent to seal us for the day of redemption, to secure us in our salvation. He is the guarantee of our salvation.
We could just go in passage after passage after passage and show this trinitarian shape to the gospel. It means that the Trinity is essential to the gospel of our salvation; it is the foundation. J.I. Packer says, “Let the doctrine of the Trinity keep your understanding of the gospel in good shape. Let it remind you to give equal emphasis in your thinking and your witness to the sovereign initiative of the Father, who planned salvation, the atoning sacrifice of the Son, who obtained salvation, and the mighty power of the Spirit, who applies salvation.”
He goes on to give as an illustration the great Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps the greatest preacher of the 20th century, and early in Lloyd-Jones’ ministry there was a fellow senior pastor who was listening to Lloyd-Jones preach, and he came to Lloyd-Jones and said, “I can’t tell whether you are a Quaker or a hyper-Calvinist,” because all he was hearing Lloyd-Jones preach on was the work of the Spirit (so he thought maybe he was a Quaker) and the sovereignty of God in election (so maybe he was a hyper-Calvinist). But what was absent at that point in Lloyd-Jones’ ministry was a sustained focus on the cross of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, these great central doctrines of the Christian faith. It was kind of a wakeup call for Lloyd-Jones. He then began to preach with more balance.
Couldn’t we all acknowledge and say that there is a tendency within churches, certainly within denominations and within movements, as well as within individual theologians and even ordinary Christians, to give imbalanced emphasis when thinking about our Triune God?
You have some movements, you have some churches or denominations, where the focus is all on the transcendence of God, the power of God, and the holiness of God, and the glory of God. Now, there aren’t many where that’s the only focus; it’s probably the missing thing with many churches. But there are some where that’s the focus.
Now, that’s a biblical focus, but if you lose the doctrine of the incarnation, if you lose the cross, if you lose an understanding of the work of Jesus and the Spirit, then the effect of that for people is that God feels cold and distant and far removed, and there’s not this personal, intimate relationship with God.
On the other hand, you have entire denominations where the focus is on the love of Jesus. There’s no holiness, there’s no transcendence, there’s no power, there’s no glory. In fact, even the cross gets emptied of its power because the cross gets reduced to an example of love without any substitution, without any atonement, without any necessity of appeasing the wrath of a just God. So the very love of God in Christ becomes an empty shell instead of the reality, because there’s not an understanding of the character of God, and understanding of the transcendence of God. We want to be Christ-centered in all we do, but Christ-centeredness should never mean the exclusion of the Father and of the Spirit.
Then, on the other hand, you have whole churches and movements where the focus is all on the Holy Spirit, and it’s all on our experience and on power in the present life and in the present moment, and are you experiencing God right now? Probably for a lot of us we need more focus on the Holy Spirit, but never on the Spirit to the exclusion of the Father and of the Son.
In other words, brothers and sisters, what we need is the full gospel. We need the whole counsel of God. We need the full work of this Trinitarian God, Father, Son, and Spirit; and only when we have all of it will we really have all the resources we need as believers in living out the implications of the gospel.
To quote Herman Bavinck one more time (this is so good), he says, “The work of recreation is trinitarian through and through. From God, through God, and in God are all things. Recreation is one divine work from beginning to end, yet it can be described in terms of three agents. It is accomplished by the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. We know ourselves to be children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and in communion with both through the Holy Spirit. Every blessing, both spiritual and material, comes to us from the Triune God. In that name we are baptized. That name sums up our confession. That name is the source of all the blessings that comes down to us. To that name we will forever bring thanksgiving and honor. In that name we find rest for our souls and peace for our conscience. Christians have a God above them, before them, and within them. Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity.”
The love of the Trinity is the fountain of all love and grace, the grace of the Trinity is the foundation of the gospel of our salvation.
3. Our Fellowship with the Trinity Is the Key to Living the Christian Life
Thirdly, our fellowship with the Trinity is the key to living the Christian life. Again, look at our text. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Here Paul commends the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Go to 1 John 1 and you’ll see that we also have fellowship with the Father and with the Son; we have fellowship with the Triune God. That word fellowship carries the idea of relationship; it’s the word for communion. It means a friendship. It means a relationship that is characterized by giving and receiving, this give and take relationship.
What Paul is saying here is that we have this communion, this participation with God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What I want you to see here is that this is the key to living the Christian life, and that if our Christian life is not consciously grounded in this, it will be impoverished to some degree.
Let me give you a couple of texts. Ephesians 2:18, another one of the most trinitarian verses in all the Bible. The apostle Paul is writing, and he says, “For through him [that is, the Lord Jesus Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” That may be the most important verse in the Bible on prayer and on worship, because it tells you how you get into relationship with the heavenly Father. You don’t get to the Father through your own works or your own strength or your own merits! You have access to the Father through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what shapes our understanding of worship, it’s what shapes our understanding of prayer.
C.S. Lewis has been very helpful in this. C.S. Lewis would not have called himself a theologian; in fact, a number of times he said that he wasn’t. He was a layman, but he was writing for laymen, and he wrote this book, Mere Christianity. It’s not a perfect book, but helpful nonetheless, and especially on the doctrine of the Trinity.
Lewis brings this down to the everyday practice of prayer. This is really helpful. Listen to what Lewis says. “An ordinary Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get in touch with God, but he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God, God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the man who was God, that Christ is standing beside, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying, the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on, the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal; so that the whole threefold life of the three-personal being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kind of life; he is being pulled into God by God.”
Listen, brother and sister, every time you say your prayers, if you are praying in line with the gospel, if you are praying according to the grain of the gospel, with the shape of the gospel, in your prayer life you are addressing the Father, and you addressing the Father because of what Jesus has done for you, and you’re doing so because of the Holy Spirit’s work within you.
That’s one reason I think it’s actually very important for us to pray in the name of Jesus. Those are not just throwaway words at the end of a prayer, and we shouldn’t just say them mindlessly. The reality is, the only way you get to God is through Jesus! He said so: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” which means if you don’t know Jesus, you don’t know God. If you don’t come to God through Jesus, you don’t get to God. There is no access to God apart from Jesus, but through Jesus there is a real relationship with God as our Father.
One more passage, John 16:13-15. Jesus here is speaking about the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s amazing what he says here; so crucial for understanding of the Christian life. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine, therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
I think that verse shows us the trinitarian pattern of our relationship with God. You can see this, again, on a chart on this next slide, kind of diagrammed out. The Father on the right side, the Father relates to us through the Son and through the Spirit. The Son mediates between us and God, and the Spirit is the one who comes and shows us the things of Christ, leads us into the truth of Christ.
The pattern of our relationship back to God is through the Spirit, through the power of the indwelling Spirit, through the priestly work of Christ, the Son, the mediator between God and men, to the Father; so that grace and strength and glory come to us from the Father, through the Son, applied by the Spirit, and our faith and prayer and worship come from us by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father.
If you remove that, if that’s not the fabric of the Christian life, if you remove that, the Chrisitan life gets reduced to mere moralism, that is, keeping the rules, trying to live by Christian principles and Christian ethics, but without power, without forgiveness, without a mediator, without a relationship; and it turns it into a cold and barren thing. In fact, it turns it into something that’s not really Christian at all. Christianity is about a relationship. Now, we say that all the time, but what does that mean? It means that it’s about a real, dynamic, interactive relationship of giving and receiving, and it is relating to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is true of every aspect of the Christian life. Faith. What is faith? It is the grace of trust by which we connect to God our Father, through Christ and by the Spirit. “Prayer is the chief exercise of faith,” Calvin says. “It is the primary means through which we worship the Father and express our trust in Christ and our dependence on the Spirit.”
Love: what is love? Vertically, it’s the expression of our love to the Father, through the Son, because of the work of the Son through the Spirit; and horizontally it’s the expression of Christ’s love to others, Christ himself loving others through us.
What is service? It is imitation of God’s love in Christ by giving your time, your attention, your energy in practical ways to meet the needs of others. How do serve but in the energy which God supplies by his Spirit?
What is holiness? Holiness is our imitation of the character of God’s holy, pure love revealed in Christ and given to us in the Spirit.
The fountain of all love and grace is the love of the Trinity, the foundation of the gospel of our salvation is the grace of the Trinity, and the key to living the Christian life is the fellowship of the Trinity.
Let me end with one more quote from Lewis and with an illustration. Near the end of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis has this amazing statement about our relationship with God. He says, “In Christianity, God is not a static thing, not even a person, but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of a drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance. The whole dance or drama or pattern of this three-personal life is to be played out in each one of us; or, putting it the other way around, each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. If you want to get warm, you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet, you must be get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, even into, the thing that has them. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty, spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry.”
Final illustration: A number of years ago, on a mission trip to Africa, I had the wonderful experience of going to visit Victoria Falls, which is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. This picture does not do it justice, as magnificent as it is.
Victoria Falls is known by native Africans as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders,” because even from miles away, when you’re approaching the falls, before you see the falls you see this smoke above the falls, you see this cloud, this fog, that’s just perpetually there by the falls. The closer you get, the louder it gets, because Victoria Falls really are thundering, this roar of water that’s continually crashing down the side of the mountain.
People told us before going to the falls, “You need to be sure to take an umbrella or a rain jacket or something like that, because when you take this tour,” this hike, you’re walking four miles on one side of the falls, on the side of Zimbabwe, where we were, “there will be places where you just get absolutely drenched, soaked to skin.” They weren’t kidding. So we did this one day, and we were just soaked to the skin by the time we were finished.
It was an amazing experience, and I can’t think of that experience without thinking of Lewis’s quote, and vice versa. The life of God is this fountain, this inexhaustible fountain, this supply of fullness, of love, and of grace, and of holiness, and of joy. You want to be happy. I know you do. Every person does. You want love, you want joy, you want to experience life to its fullness. The only way to experience that is for you to recognize that you’re not the center of the universe, but there is a center of the universe, the Triune God, and it’s in knowing him mand in worshipping him and in glorifying him that you experience the joy that is the joy of God wrapping you into his fellowship. If you want to get wet, you have to get into the water. If you want life and joy, love, peace—if you want it, you have to get close to the one who has it, and that person is our Triune God. That’s the invitation. Let’s draw near this morning. Let’s pray together.
Glorious and gracious God, our words fail to describe your incomprehensible majesty. Yet you have chosen to reveal yourself to us through words and through, supremely, the Word made flesh, your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. All we can do is step back in awe and wonder, awe of this mystery and wonder of this love and of this mercy, and say thank you that you have drawn near to us; that you, the transcendent one, have made yourself near to us through your Son in your Spirit, and then for us to draw near. The promise of your word is, “Draw near to me, and I will draw near to you.”
So my prayer this morning is that each one of us as believers would do that right now, that we would draw near in our hearts to the throne of grace, that we would do so through the work of Christ, who gave himself for our sins on the cross, who rose from the dead in power and in victory; that we would draw near in response to your Holy Spirit, who is calling and wooing people right now; and that we would draw near to you as our Father, to find grace and mercy and help in our time of need.
Father, I pray for any who do not know Christ, anyone for whom this is a mystery that maybe has never made much sense until this morning. Maybe for the first time it's beginning to make sense that there is a reality that is far removed from what we generally think of in our everyday experience, but something that’s really right at the heart of reality itself; that there is a kind of love and relationship that we are invited into, that we can participate in. So, Lord, I pray for the gift of faith and for your drawing power, to draw those who do not know Christ into a real, personal, ongoing, saving relationship with you.
As we come to the table this morning, we come to the communion meal, this meal that represents the fellowship we have with you in the gospel. May we come with hearts full of faith as we look not at ourselves, but at the Lord Jesus Christ. So draw near to us, Lord, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.