Holy Trinity Sunday, 31 May, 2015.
Holy Trinity – personal, communal and free.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Media file: do you believe in God?
What do people in Nuriootpa really believe when it comes to God and church and life?
Christians around the world have long chosen to marvel at the beauty, the mystery, the astounding reality revealed in God’s Word that God is One but Three – Holy Trinity, Holy community; a perfect loving relationship that freely includes forgiven sinners in the holy circle.
But does anyone know this and marvel at this, and so reap the great benefits of bring in God’s circle of life and hope?
I came across some research done among around 3000 young adult Americans that said that my generation and their kids living in wealthy Western counties like America and Australia, seem to have “faith” – of sorts….
The researchers concluded that the vast majority of their respondents have arrived at what they named “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. They mean that young people and probably a lot of adults believe these kinds of things.
- “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” (Deist – There is some kind of “Deity” or “God”)
- “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” (Moralist: whatever this Deity is, it wants us to be Moral)
- “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one’s self.”
- “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” (Therapist – God is like a Divine Butler who tends to my every need and gets me out of trouble to make sure I am always happy)
- “Good people go to heaven when they die.” (Moral again – what qualifies anyone for anything is being good
What do you think? Do you see these beliefs at work among people? I do.
Someone said that God has become “something like a combination of Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process”. click here for full article
Along comes God in his Divine Word revealing that these beliefs have very little to do with him.
How did we get so far off track? The researchers suggest among everyday Aussies we are witnessing a radical transformation of Christian teaching and belief replacing “the sovereignty of God with the sovereignty of the self”.
But God, the Holy Trinity, the divine loving creator, saviour and sustainer of life still loves and still speaks into this and says,
“I did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. John 3:17
The God revealing himself in the Bible is no mere divine butler or cosmic therapist. He is the only One who has the power and authority to condemn us all but doesn’t. Instead he speaks. He speaks himself to us as loving Creator, Life-giver, final judge and committed Saviour of our lostness.
1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”
We hear and confess that God indeed did create all we are and know and understand and he does indeed watch over all of his creation – but not from a distance.
He is involved, up close and personal. So closely associated and interested in his creation is God that when it broke and the relationship as severed between he and his beautiful creation, he moved to fix it; first through a people and then through a Person.
The Person, Jesus of Nazareth, is the one who claimed to be God himself with us: In the muck and brokenness of a broken world up to his armpits – which were spread eagled on a cross for the life of the world and then raised in triumph as he rose to rule in forgiveness and grace.
2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
God’s expressed intention is not that we be good, nice and fair to each other but that we be resurrected to new life with him and all creation because he is good and fair and just.
Our life as church and families and people does not have the goal of being nice or good and fair but about of being made new by the God of all justice and love.
This new life within is all grace. By his grace through simple faith in this Jesus his Son who has poured out love and forgiveness into us so that we live in him and his Word results in not being nice but being loving – tough love, kind love, self-sacrificing love, love with action and integrity.
3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about one’s self.”
Happiness is a human invention, the gift of joy is God’s gift. Happiness is fleeting. The acceptance and love of the Holy Trinity given in Baptism and God’s community at worship is real and long and beyond separation (Romans 8).
God’s expressed goal for all of us is him – a loving living relationship with him. As we are loved and named by him as a dearly loved son and daughter adopted into his community – his family, we then are only too pleased to serve him by serving each other in love and kindness and forgiveness and we know joy and peace and hope and we are transformed inwardly which leads to outward generosity.
4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
Try telling God this! He will not be relegated to the bench. God refuses to put on the green vest and be subbed out of our lives and his world.
God is our heavenly Father and our loyal, loving advocate, defending us, guiding us, shaping us, fighting for us, challenging us when needed, enabling us to live fully and freely in the good news that he is all grace when it comes to sinners.
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
This is so convenient and yet so deflating. Convenient: because all responsibility for faith and actually following and obeying and trusting God in the suffering of life is removed. Deflating: because how would anyone know whether they have been good enough?
“Good people” don’t go to heaven. People made new by turning away from self and sin and trusting in God’s grace are already in it – “now in part, one day in full”.
People don’t receive heaven now and later in full because of their goodness. Sinners are placed in God’s everlasting community because HE is good and they have been made new by his relentless grace.
Friend, hear the Spirit of God calling you, inviting you, enlightening your very mind and heart and setting you free to live fully and freely, safe in God’s immeasurable grace to accomplish his unimaginable outcomes in our community.
And here is our challenge as church:
As a community in Nuri our young adults, teenagers and children have been listening carefully. They have been observing their parents, teachers, pastors, friends and mentors with diligence and insight.
They understand just how little their parents really believe and just how much many of their churches and Christian institutions have accommodated themselves to the dominant culture; these 5 beliefs.
Our community in general, and the young in particular, sense the degree to which faith conviction has been sacrificed on the altar of individualism and a viewing of truth as quite relative, or merely intellectual, without spiritual presence and power, and definitely a matter of personal understanding and choice.
They have learned from their elders that self-improvement is the one great goal of life; the expectation to which all people are accountable, and they have observed the fact that the highest aspiration of those who shape this culture is to find happiness, security, and meaning in life.
We parents, mentors, young people and pastors together now face the challenge of evangelizing a community that seems to still largely considers itself “Christian”; who believe in some deity, considers itself fervently good, but has virtually no connection to historic and biblical faith and the only wise God, Father, Son and Spirit and the new life he gives.
Our challenge is to repent and believe, repent and believe together. Our challenge is to then speak to each other.
Our challenge is to share and do God’s living Word with each other and all others in his love and power.
Our calling at St Petri is to listen to God’s Spirit Word with the ears of our hearts that we may help each other, and especially the young know Jesus better.
Carefully and deliberately read the text from John 3:1-17 noting down the good news words that are littered throughout this word to Nicodemus. Note what you hear as pure gift of God’s grace as you listen to this most famous text…. Share your reflections…
Use that list of 5 beliefs that the researchers suggest are common now and put them up against a non-church friend or colleague you know. In what ways do the beliefs fit or not fit?
Now go through my 5 responses to those 5 beliefs and share your agreements/disagreements with what was said. If you could imagine sitting at a kitchen table with this friend or even person you don’t know who holds these beliefs, what words from the Bible would come to mind as you shared your faith on each point? Share these as you go through each one of the five responses. This might become a very helpful resources you can keep in your head when conversations arise around the dinner table!
Notice how Jesus says he does not come to condemn people with wrong beliefs – but to love them (our text). How do we best ‘love people’ into faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour when the Lord has placed us? Share your experiences/ideas.
There is an idea around at the moment that the way to naturally and effectively share faith in Jesus with these who may hold the beliefs we have talked about is to simple “bring Jesus” into the conversation if possible.
So, when you come across a conversation and the person speaks of what is happening in their life, if it reminds you of a story you know of Jesus or a word in the Epistles or the Old Testament, then simply share what you know.
EG. “That reminds me of a thing that Jesus of Nazareth talked about…”, or, “I remember something similar happening in Paul’s life….”, or, “that something like that happened a long time ago and it happened to a man named Moses……” and etc…
Now, if the story just won’t come or does not match or the time is not right or you sense this is not the best thing to say, then you are free to leave it and leave the person to the Holy Spirit until the next time the Spirit might bring you together. In this way you have no guilt and all you need to know are stories of the bible – which you probably already know!
What stories/word would you bring to some of these beliefs you might find in a conversation with someone. Share you insights – they will be helpful!
I sensed God calling us to a challenge – to speak his Word into each others’ lives a lot more – and to do all we can to do this for the young.
We believe the Lord is calling us to fully engage in this very thing at St Petri for the next few years.
What do you think about this focus and what kind of things do you think are important as we gather families and mentor our parents and kids and grandkids in the Word? Share your thoughts.
PRAY: Open the eyes of our heart, Lord that we may know you better and give us the love and vision we need to speak your word to each other in love. Amen.