A Trinitarian worldview will change everything you thought you knew about God

goose72Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday when we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit.  Sadly, however, many Christians don’t have a Trinitarian view.  For them, the story of Jesus is completed with his death and resurrection.  In doing so they see the point of God the Father (who sent Jesus) and of Jesus the Son (who revealed God to humanity), but they don’t know what to do with God the Holy Spirit.  In fact, they replace the work of the Holy Spirit (which Jesus said was to continue teaching us and applying what Jesus taught to our lives) with the Bible.

Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (Joh 14:26 NRS).

This popular Trinitarian omission misses the entire point of Jesus’s life and death – and leaves us with a “Jesus came so we could go to heaven when we die” mentality and a “the Bible is not only perfectly perfect in every way, but transcends culture and time” mentality.  However, Jesus didn’t come just to die and be resurrected so that we could go to heaven.  He came to give us eternal life, which begins long before we die.  He did this by giving us (something far better than even the Bible) the very Spirit of God to indwell those willing to be indwelled.

Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Joh 3:16 NRS).  Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Joh 17:3 NRS).

The work Christ did in his life, death, and resurrection enables humanity to receive the Holy Spirit and be in relationship with God.  Pentecost was the day the Holy Spirit arrived.  No longer would our relationship to God be mediated by a priest or a religion or a list of rules or even the scripture, instead we would have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. We would have God’s wisdom and power within us.

“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pe 2:5 NRS).

The problem is that so few of us allow the Holy Spirit to live within us.  We fail to give the Spirit permission to transform us.  We don’t take time to listen to the Spirit’s guidance so that we know how to be the hands and feet of Christ.  We don’t allow the Spirit to speak through scripture into our world today – instead we strap on words meant for another culture without interpretation.  We don’t depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to empower us.  We box the Spirit up and tell it to behave.  We make it impossible for the Spirit to talk to us, guide us, or empower us.  We have no wisdom or power to be the hands and feet of Christ.  We do absurd things in the name of God – instead of things that love, heal, and serve our world.

Because you are God’s children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6 NRS).

The Spirit longs to transform us!  Let it! The change we will see is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

***

April describes herself as a Red Letter Christian who writes about scripture and spiritual disciplines. See her latest book, James in the Suburbs: The Disorderly Parable of the Epistle of James. Great for group Bible studies!

9 thoughts on “A Trinitarian worldview will change everything you thought you knew about God

  1. I thought about this post today, and especially this line, ” He came to give us eternal life, which begins long before we die.”, when I read this verse in church today. It comes at the end of the parable of The Rich Ruler, Luke 18-29-30.

    “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God **will fail to receive many times as much in this age** and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

    I had never really noticed the starred part of the passage before.

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  2. I have a similar question. I believe in the Holy Spirit and have never totally accepted the view of inerrant scripture, but I do wonder how to navigate between the two. Many people who claim to hear the Holy Spirit do not seem to check up with my understanding of scripture – in a bad way. They believe they are lead by the Spirit.

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    1. It is too much for me to type here, but there is a chapter in my book, James in the Suburbs, that addresses the whole “how do I know if I am following the Spirit or not” question. I agree with you that there are people who mistakenly claim to follow the Spirit. If the fruit of the Spirit isn’t there – if they don’t truly love and serve others – then you can assume that they are missing something. Blessings!

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      1. Thank you for your prompt response. I enjoy your posts and get a copy of your books. I sometimes feel like neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. Too liberal for a conservative church; too conservative (in some ways) for the liberal church.

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  3. Excellent, thank you.
    The Prayer to the Holy Spirit
    Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.

    O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy your consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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  4. I find this idea very challenging.

    How are we to know whether it is true or not?

    We know about the holy spirit, pentacost either through the teaching of other Christians or the scriptures. Yet this teaching would imply that the scriptures are not what should be our ultimate guide us but rather the holy spirit.

    On one level of course the holy spirit should be our ultimate guide because the holy spirit is god after all. The trouble is we knows this through scripture. If we then doubt the veracity of scripture we have to base our faith on our relationship with the holy spirit.

    Again, of course but how. When I became a christian and I started to leave my old life behind many christian things didn’t feel right and many aspects of my old life still felt very right. Sometimes the holy spirit guided me (well always probably) and I could feel the spirits guidance on me, other times not so much.

    Without the support of the scriptures how is this teaching to be verified. Doesn’t using the scriptures to verify the idea invalidate it or at least undermine it?

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  5. Thank you. I have attended a church which was awash in the Holy Spirit and believed in an inerrant Scripture. I now attend a church that celebrates Pentecost, but other than that does not give much room to the spirit and believes in an inerrant scripture. I think you path makes much more sense. Why send an interpreter if everything is clear and set in stone?

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