Knowing God the Trinity

Like many people, I used to believe God is rather monolithic. I imagined him, as he is often described, as one God, a lone being handing out mercy or judgment as necessary according to his whim and our behavior. Learning about the triune nature of God completely changed my understanding of who he is and how he relates to us. A solitary god by definition must be alone, so when we talk about God’s love and his nature of love, it would follow that he needs someone to love. He can’t just love himself so he must have created man to fulfill his need. Perhaps he was lonely. But that doesn’t fit, because an all powerful, self-sufficient being wouldn’t be either of those things if he were lonely and in need. 

As I began to learn about God as three-in-one, my aha moment came when I discovered Father, Son and Spirit share an intimate, loving relationship, full of love, which means he wasn’t lonely or in need of anything. He never needed us, but he did want us. God is love and his love overflows. Creating the universe and all its inhabitants was a natural emanation of his loving, tenderhearted, compassionate and generous nature. 

A few years after that aha moment, I had another one. For a long time, I was unsure about having a relationship with God. I had no idea how to go about it, mistakenly believing it was up to me to somehow create it. At a silent retreat, with loads of time to pray and listen for what God had to say, he opened my eyes to see that it wasn’t up to me – all I needed to do was jump in. It seemed as if he were saying, it’s like a river, alive, flowing, moving; don’t just get your feet wet, go all the way in. Join us in the circle of life. 

God is so much more than a solitary being out there in space somewhere. He’s dynamic, 3D if I may, and vivacious. He is three-in-one in glory, light and energy unimaginable. All glory and praise to Father, Son and Spirit, in us, with us and for us.

Knowing God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is probably the most misunderstood member of the Trinity. There are all kinds of ideas out there about him and I used to have some of them. I believed he wasn’t God, rather an extension of God’s power, which made him an “it.” When I began learning more about the nature of God as Trinity, my eyes were opened to this mysterious third distinction of God. He’s still a mystery but we are given a lot of clues in the New Testament as to his nature and identity, which would be a good study.

I had to ask myself who he is to me, personally, in my life. Our relationship with God means we have a relationship with the Holy Spirit as well. For the most part, he points us to Truth, to Jesus and that’s good, because he is our Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit is the one who keeps me focused on Jesus – first in my heart. He keeps my conscience tender, tapping me on the shoulder when I do or say something I shouldn’t. He’s the one who is the light on my path through life. I’ve also started thinking of him as my “ghost” writer, my inspiration and muse. He doesn’t need special attention – when you pray to one, you pray to all because all are one. And he would only turn around and give any glory and attention we give him back to the Father.

One wonderful thing we learn in Acts 10:45 is the Holy Spirit is a gift. He is the third person of the Trinity, the one who was there at creation, the one who completes the divine circle and he is a gift to us. Most gifts lose their luster or are soon abandoned for something better, but he, if I may paraphrase the cliché, is the gift that never stops giving. He’s the one Jesus sent after his death to comfort, teach, guide and remind us of all Jesus did and all he is to us. How amazing to be given such a gift. May we never lose our wonder and awe at being his blessed recipients.

Knowing God the Son

I was a Christian for many years before I knew Jesus. I had a vague idea who he was but almost everything I thought I knew back then was wrong. I have a much better understanding now but I’m still learning. One of the most important things I’ve learned about him is that not only is he God’s son, he’s God too. He’s the Word, the Creator, the Lion, the Lamb and the Lord of the universe. And he’s so much more. 

I’ve learned something else about him that affects me deeply every time I ponder it – his humility. When he knelt down to wash his disciples’ feet at the last supper, he wasn’t just giving us an example of how to treat others. He was showing us how he thinks of us and treats us, even now. God in the flesh was willing to get down on the floor and wash the dirty feet of his friends. Then he went to the cross to clean our lives of the filth of fallen human nature. 

We still walk in the mud and muck of this life and we still get dirty. Our friend Jesus, who emptied himself to become one of us, continues to empty himself, and in humility, washes our feet. It’s hard for us, just as it was for Peter, to humbly accept his ministrations. But as he also told Peter, if he didn’t let Jesus wash his feet, he could have no part with him (John 13:8). At first, I want to vehemently protest just like Peter, but then dissolve in tears as I picture him kneeling on the floor with water and a towel, looking in my eyes as he cleanses, forgives and loves me – again. 

This is Jesus the Son, the one who stepped out of heaven to come to us in our deepest need – to be accepted, forgiven, cleansed, loved and brought into the circle of life with him, the Father and the Spirit.

Knowing God the Father

Many things come to mind when the word “father” is mentioned. One’s experience with fathers can determine how God is viewed. Human fathers can be anywhere on the scale from terrible to wonderful, fully engaged to absentee and every point in between. Unfortunately, we often project human characteristics onto God, based on our own and others’ experiences. 

Jesus knew his Father better than anyone and he told a story in Luke 15 to illustrate, first the way God’s kingdom works and second, to explain what his Father is like. It’s called the parable of the Prodigal Son but perhaps it should be called “A Father’s Love.” Our inclination is to focus on the bad behavior of the younger son and then we might be dismayed about the reaction of the older son. Yes, many of us see ourselves in the sons’ misdeeds, but if we look at the father’s actions, we get a good picture of God as a father was meant to be. 

We first see him acquiescing to the demands of the younger son – let’s call him Jack – when he basically tells his dad he wishes he were dead and wants his inheritance now. Dad seems to agree without argument or objection. When Jack comes limping home, hungry, dirty and broke, Dad abandons propriety, lifts his robe and runs down the road toward him. He barely lets Jack get his rehearsed apology out of his mouth before calling for a robe, ring and big roasted dinner. He tells his older son he should come to the party, to celebrate his brother who was dead but came back to life, who was lost and is now found.   

A more beautiful picture of a father’s love has never been painted. We are indeed like the brothers in this story, one or the other or both at times, but more importantly, God our Father is full of love and compassion, even when we go completely off the rails. Being welcomed into his arms, forgiven and even celebrated sounds almost too good to be true. No matter what we’ve experienced in this life, we can be sure God is a father like no other and will always welcome us home. He is our home, our safe place, the one who provides and nurtures, with unconditional love, unlimited grace, deep compassion and unimaginable mercy.

The Most Important Thing

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (The Knowledge of the Holy). He goes on to talk about the history of the world and religion, ending with the thought that: “Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” 

What we think and believe about who God is influences the way we live, the way we conduct business, what we do with our money and resources and all of our relationships. It also influences governments and as Tozer said, churches. Sadly, who God is doesn’t enter into many decisions and policies by most institutions today.  

What comes into your mind when you think of God? A distant, aloof being who wound up the world and stepped away? An angry judge/jury/executioner, waiting to lower the boom? A benign, helpless God whose hands are tied and just wants us all to get along? Or a loving, engaged Father who is active in the lives of believers. Or a Brother who laid down his life for every human being so all could enjoy eternity in peace. Or a divine Comforter who gently and lovingly guides, teaches and helps all who are in need. 

In keeping with the foundational purpose of this blog, over the next few weeks, we will look (briefly) at who God is in all his triune glory. Until then, I hope you will take time to ponder Tozer’s statement and what first comes to mind when you think of God.