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I'll get round to responding to comments soon.  Here's the second part of yesterday's trinity sermon


Trinity Sermon part 2:  Galatians 4:4-6 (audio here)

...The trinity is the good news that God is love. 




On the other hand: - the imaginary, solitary, self-centred god is nothing but bad news. 




The difference between these two ideas of God comes out very clearly when we ask ourselves - how would I go about serving these gods? 

Let's think about the false, self-centred god first.  How would you serve such a god? 

Well if God was just one person and if he desires any kind of service, who's going to have to give it to him?  Well it has to be us.  There's no-one else to do it.




So in terms of serving God, it's all about what I can offer God. 

This god might demand obedience and religious service and sacrifice and prayer and elaborate worship. But with this god, the only sacrifice is our sacrifice, the only obedience is our obedience, the only prayers are our prayers.  This is the way of all human religion.  There is some kind of deity who requires some kind of payment because 'they're worth it' - and religion is about us paying it to God.  Horrible!

But the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit has other ways of getting the job done.  Look with me at chapter 4, verse 4:

4 But when the time had fully come, God [the Father] sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

 At just the right time, Christmas time to be precise, the Father sends His Son and v4 says He is born of a woman. The eternal Son of God joins the human race.  He enters into our family tree and becomes our brother, one of us.

And as our strong older brother, Jesus sticks up for us.  He steps into our shoes and He does for us what we could never do.  V4 says He is 'born under law'.  That means that He put Himself under the obligations of God's commandments. So whatever God wants from human beings, the Son of God gives.   Jesus paid to His Father the debt that we owe...

All the worship, obedience, devotion, prayer, love and sacrifice which the Father demands, the Son performs.  God wants human obedience.  But our human obedience is paltry, pathetic, perverted.  So the Son comes born of a woman to do in our place what we should have done. 

And then v5 tells us He does this that we might receive the full rights of sons. Now we don't have any right to be treated as sons.  We don't have any rights to inherit the blessings of God.  But THE Son of God has that right.  And so He works His perfect obedience in our place and then gives us all the rights that belong to Him. 




In the diagram you're meant to get the sense that the Son overshadows us.  We are in Him. (It worked better in Powerpoint).

Imagine today a champion runner, entering the London marathon under your name and running in your place.  And they win and suddenly all newspapers tomorrow go with 'Glen Scrivener wins marathon.'  And I receive a gigantic cheque and am hailed as a star athlete.   I'm not a star athlete, brushing my teeth is about as aerobic as I like to get.  But imagine the full rights of the winner are given to me because a champion ran in my place.  That's what this is like.  Someone has run the race of obedience in your place and then given you all the winnings.  

Chapter 3 verse 29 describes it as belonging to Christ - so that His vast inheritance becomes ours.  I like that image, but I like the image of chapter 3 verse 27 even better: I am clothed with Christ.  I am wrapped up in Jesus while He offers the perfect worship, obedience and sacrifice to the Father.  If you belong to Jesus, the Father looks on you and sees Jesus.  He looks on you as His beloved child and says 'here, have my fatherly love, have my verdict of 'holy', have the whole universe.  It belongs to Jesus and you belong to Him. 

Now if that weren't good enough, chapter 4 verse 6 tells us we don't only have the Son of God wrapped up around us, we also have the Spirit of God in us.

6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

The Father sends the Spirit of the Son into any who belong to the Son.  Do you belong to Jesus, do you trust Him, then you have the Eternal Spirit of God living in you.  And the Spirit calls from within us 'Abba, Father'.  Abba is a very intimate term, it means something like 'daddy' or 'father dearest'.  It's something so intimate that only the Son of God could ever get to call the Father Almighty 'daddy'.  But now, if we belong to Jesus, we get to do what Jesus did and call the Most High God - Abba - Daddy. 

The Spirit sweeps us up into the Son's relationship with the Father.  If you're a Christian, the Spirit has swept you up into the Son's relationship with the Father.  Everything that the Son has by rights, you now have through Him.  Everything that the Father feels towards His Son, He feels towards you who are clothed in Him.  If you're a Christian, the Spirit has gathered you into the circle of divine love.  By the Holy Spirit, you know Jesus as your Brother and the Almighty Father as your 'Daddy'.  You now belong to Jesus, and He belongs to the very life of the Trinity.  Our privileges in Jesus couldn't be greater.  As 2 Peter chapter 1 says, we 'participate in the divine nature.'

I started with a mental test, let me give you one more.  Christians here, if I were to ask you 'how is your prayer life going?' How would you respond?  If you belong to Jesus, you can look me in the eye and tell me 'my prayer life is unimprovable'.  How's your prayer life? 'My prayer life is divine.'

I am clothed in the Son of God and His prayer-life is pretty darned good.  What's more, chapter 4 verse 6 tells me that His prayer to the Father is a prayer that is placed in me by the Spirit. The Spirit prays the perfect prayer of the Son in me and through me. I'm not just invited to pray, I am already caught up in the prayer life of God.

All our little prayers are the 'Amen' to Jesus' perfect prayer.  He's prayed the perfect prayer and we say 'Amen, Father.  What He said, Father.  My Brother Jesus couldn't have prayed it better. Amen, Father'  And as we go on in the Christian life, the Spirit of the Son will help our little prayers to become more child-like, so that we call out "Daddy" in reverent love.  That's so important because nothing kills a prayer life better than praying to God like you're a slave and He's a slave-master, like you're a soldier and He's a commanding officer.  Jesus didn't teach us to pray 'Our Sergeant-Major in Heaven' or 'Our Line Manager in Heaven'  - instead: Our Father in Heaven.  We need to be little children in prayer and thankfully the Spirit of the Son makes us exactly that and helps us to pray child-like prayers where we depend on our heavenly Dad.  Our own attempts at praying won't be very good but, wonderfully, the Spirit takes even our most rubbish efforts at prayer and wraps them up in the Son's perfect prayer and lifts them the to the Father.  

I hope you can see that the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unlike any god ever imagined.  He is the living, loving, working, worshipping God who invites us into His life of other-centred love. 

But, finally, if you don't belong to Jesus, you are shut out of this life.  And you cannot get in.  No amount of your own religious works and moral deeds will earn your acceptance into this divine family.  The only way in is through Jesus, who offers to be your older brother, who offers to clothe you in His righteousness, who offers to give you His inheritance.  Maybe today you need to say Yes to Jesus - to say 'I want in.  I don't want to live my solitary, self-centred life any more, I want in on your life Jesus.'  Maybe for some of us, today is the day we join the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their life of love.


Let's pray.

 Heavenly Father, thank You that we can call you Father.  Thank You that Your Son has become our Brother and so You have become our Father.  Thank You for inviting us into Your family.  Thank You for sending Your Spirit into our hearts. If we are Christians here, may each one of us know that we are clothed in Your Son and loved with an everlasting love.  For those who don't yet belong to Jesus, would you draw them, would you woo them, would you claim them as your own.  May we all live in your love, Generous Father, Gracious Son and Powerful Spirit.  Now and always, Amen.




We're in the middle of a mission at the moment (prayers always welcome!).  One of the things we're doing is door-knocking our neighbourhood and we've seen people turn to the Lord even on the door-step.  Praise God!

In our morning meetings there seems to be one kind of prayer that recurs more than any others - that God would prepare hearts so that when we arrive they are open to the gospel.  Now I'll give a hearty Amen to all such prayers and, in His grace, God may well grant this.  But when we think about hearts opened, wouldn't it be better to pray that the word itself will open hearts, conquer unbelief, awaken faith?  Is it possible that we're separating word and Spirit by conceiving of evangelism in these terms?  Is there a danger that the power is thought of as separate from the gospel and not as the gospel itself?  (Rom 1:16).

I think I'd rather pray, "Lord, though the people we meet be stone-hearted, blind and lost in sin and blackest darkness, bring life and immortality to light through your gospel.  May your word do its almighty work and bring life from the dead."

I'd certainly rather conceive of evangelism in those terms.  When we tell the gospel we're not basically hoping that some have previously enjoyed God's power.  Rather, we're going with the power of God which is unleashed upon all, every time we speak of Christ.




arf arf.

But seriously folks... Nick Cornell, fellow Eastbourne curate, asked us last night at our joint prayer meeting: What do you give to a people who already have everything?

Because Ephesians 1:3 says we are that people.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

We have it all.  So what does God our Father give to His children who already have everything?  Ephesians 3:14:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

That's what God gives His children who have everything.  A deeper understanding of what they already have.

Isn't that a brilliantly simple and powerful description of the Spirit's work?

Good one Nick.  Somebody give that man a blog.


The post is about something else, but I liked this from NT professor Ben Witherington.

[A] student... came up to class one day frustrated and said "I don't know why I need to do all this research, and writing and studying of the NT. Why I can just get up into the pulpit and the Spirit will give me utterance." I rejoind: "Yes, you can do this, but it is a shame you are not giving the Holy Spirit more to work with."


We have endless substitutes for the actual, dynamic, personal presence of the Spirit in our thinking.  Here's a sketch of just a few off the top of my head.

Of course, many or all of these are means by which the Spirit works.  Yet if they are cut off from the Source they have no life in them:


Doctrine of Omnipotence

An a-topic, abstract power is assigned to God, equivalent to a similarly ill-defined notion called ‘sovereignty'. This is all rather than the active and immanent Person who is God's Power - the Spirit of Christ.

Doctrine of Omnipresence

‘God is everywhere' becomes a substitute for the indwelling personal presence of the Spirit

Doctrine of Omniscience

This happens, for instance, when the living nature of the Spirit-breathed Word is replaced by a doctrine of God's omniscience in the original authorship of the Bible.  What is side-lined is a doctrine of the Spirit as the Dei loquentis persona (God speaking in person).  Instead the spotlight falls on God's omniscience in inspiring the text thousands of years ago such that it would speak to every generation.  A fossilization of the living word?


Assurance found in moral performance.

Romans 8:16 says ‘the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.' Few preachers I hear teach that we should seek our assurance in the fellowship we have with the Spirit.  Usually we're encouraged to look to our works.


Fellowship of believers

The fellowship of the Holy Spirit' (2 Cor 13:4) is not a Spirit-generated church-fellowship! Yet so many take it in this way. No, just as the love of God is an enjoyment of God in His love and just as the grace of Christ is an enjoyment of Christ in His grace, so the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is fellowship with the Spirit!

‘Now but not yet'. 

We often speak of this age (truly) in terms of absence and in-between-ness. We live in between the comings of Christ. This is all absolutely correct and vitally important. But let's not forget the presence! This is the age of the Spirit. The Spirit's presence is the 'now' in the 'now-and-not-yet'.  Let's remember Jesus said 'It is for your good I am going away... if I go I will send Him to you'! (John 16:7).


Fruit of the Spirit

At one time I was praying through the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5 and using these nine characteristics as a moral checklist.  I confessed my lack of fruit and prayed for more.  One day I was doing this and got a picture in my mind of the Holy Spirit coming to my door laden with a big basket of fruit and me saying to Him 'Thanks Spirit, just leave the fruit and I'll see you later.'  I was praying for fruit when I should really have been praying for the Spirit Himself.  These fruit grow organically from a relationship with Him.  Let's desire Him and not simply His gifts.


Application in preaching

So much preaching advice assumes that it's the preacher's job to bridge the gap between text and congregation.  Surely it is the Spirit's work to drive home the Word to our hearts!  How often preaching is thought to really live when the preacher 'applies' the text to Monday morning and the 'nitty-gritty' of life.  Yet the Spirit, in living power, makes the Word alive and applies it to our lives in ways more nuanced, powerful and incisive than any preacher could.


Human advice

In the realm of guidance

Human aptitude

In the realm of gifts


In the realm of evangelism


In the realm of Kingdom-work

Oratory skill

In the realm of preaching


Grammatical-historical method.

Text critical tools give the meaning of the Bible, not the Author Himself


Any more we can add to the list?


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