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June 3rd 2012 by Joshua Simons

Today the Christian Church celebrates Holy Trinity Sunday. In his message, Deacon, Josh Simons, emphasizes the importance of belief in the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Read or listen to find out more...

Holy Trinity Series B - "God" - John 3:1-17 - June 3, 2012

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, Jesus God, Lord of all, King of kings, The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Amen.

There are many clear passages in the Bible that serve as “Bible proof” of the Trinity (Jesus’ baptism comes to mind; the Great Commission, “Go therefore …). But probably not John 3:16, found in the gospel text today. It’s certainly the most well-known of all Bible verses, but do we think Triune God when we hear or recite it?

Words from the People’s Bible Commentary of John concerning John 3:16: “But here was God, revealed in his triune majesty. God the Father loved the underserving world so much that he sent his Son to save it. God the Son, present here in the person of Jesus, came to fulfill the Father’s will and win eternal life for all people. God the Spirit comes to work the faith people need to receive the gift of eternal life. He brings about a new birth. Believe and live.”

Believe and live. Today’s message is about belief leading to life. But belief in what, in whom?

The succinct, but complex, title of this message says it. Saving belief in God. And Trinity Sunday is about being specific … the Christian God, the Triune God, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

The sad thing is that “Christian” and “Triune” are even necessary. It’s not wrong for us to say “Christian God” or “Triune God”. These are true, blessed descriptors. But in the same way that describing “my blue shirt” implies that I have other shirts that aren’t blue, having to distinguish “Christian God” implies that there are other gods. See, that is the incorrect world view, that the God we worship is simply the one God – out of many – that we have chosen to worship.

But it’s not about what we’ve chosen; it’s about the fact that there is only one God. It’s not that our God is bigger and better than any other gods; it’s that only one God exists. Scripture is clear. God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, one God.

In this Gospel text, we see in Nicodemus what the world wants to know about God. He wants to understand it all … who God is … who Jesus is … what’s going on … he wants to figure it out. But Jesus doesn’t answer these questions directly, instead he tells him to believe.

Remember the commentary, “Believe and live.” Not “Understand and live.”, “Figure it out and live.”, “Explain it and live.” No, “Believe and live.”

And life-saving belief in God is not in what we have figured out about God; it is believing what God has revealed to us about himself. And he most clearly revealed himself to us through the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. We do not define God, God defines God, and he also defines us, again through Jesus Christ … through the Son crucified and resurrected, through faith granted by The Holy Spirit at our baptism.

But again, let’s be specific. Where and in whom is life-saving belief found?

We’ve all heard celebrities, athletes, and others give praise to God or even someone generic like “The Man Upstairs”. I think that most people believe in a God (we’re going to leave atheists out of this ‘cause that’s a whole other conversation). Most people believe that there is some supreme being, an intelligent designer, “the big guy” somewhere out there, up there, in the cosmos, making it all happen. Just look at the world and the way it works; it’s foolish to think this is one big accident. No doubt there is a God. But does that kind of belief get people into heaven?

Edward Koehler wrote in his A Summary of Christian Doctrine, “While nature tells us that there is a God, the Bible tells us who this God is.”

Now we’re back to Trinity Sunday. Life-saving belief is in … God; not just any generic god, but … God, the only God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Because God reveals to us in the three persons of the Trinity what he has done, and continues to do, that we may be saved.

This is what Jesus told to Nicodemus, the work of God as Father, Son, and Spirit that those who believe may have eternal life.

Nicodemus wanted answers about Jesus. Jesus told him to change his focus from trying to make sense of everything to accepting what was actually being revealed to him through signs and testimony … the incredible, beyond comprehension, work of God to save sinners.

Jesus told the work of God the Father; that his love for sinful man was and is so great he gave his Son to reclaim his children from the darkness of sin.

Jesus told the work of God the Son as he foretold in verse 14. Just as the dying Israelites were saved by looking at the serpent on the pole, so also those dead in sin are given life by looking to Jesus lifted up on the cross.

Jesus told the work of God the Holy Spirit. In baptism, “born of water and the Spirit.” we are given new life; we are made to believe that which we cannot understand.

The work of our triune God … John 3:16 – Believe and live.

The world isn’t comfortable with the Trinity; it isn’t rational. But we are given the same message in the Bible that Nicodemus heard from Jesus, the Incarnate Word. The Bible tells us who God is – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … three in one … God. We are to let go of reason and rationalization. God the Spirit grants faith that we believe and have eternal life. Believe and live.

Ok, so we’ve got it. We believe in God, the Triune God, the only God. So we’re good to go, right? We have the most important part – we believe in God, in Jesus’ death and resurrection. End of story, right? No.

Yes, we believe and have eternal life, but that life is now. We know the day is coming when salvation is completed, when we will be recreated holy and perfect for all eternity, but God calls us to righteous living now.

We are called to a life of worshiping the gracious God we believe in, a life of constant prayer to the loving God we believe in. And we are called to serve others so they may see the God we believe in reflected in us by our good works.

It then becomes about their belief. Believe and live. Live … that others may believe. We are God’s witnesses to the world, by sharing the gospel message of God’s Word and by living out the gospel as we bear our crosses. And in that we must be mindful. Does our life truly show sacrifice? Or do we just go about our business in our own world thinking that we’re doing pretty well? The enemy of belief is rationalization. Just as the world sinfully rationalizes who God is, we must be careful to not rationalize how we follow God’s commands.

“I can’t talk to her about Jesus; I’m not ready.” “I can’t take time right now to help him, someone else will, and besides, it’s just not a good time, I’m really swamped.” “That thing I do that I know is wrong, I don’t do it that much, not like some people.”

We believe in God, we confess God, but do our actions always reflect God? God loves. God gives. God sacrifices. God is all about others. Does that describe us? By the cross, we have forgiveness, but we are still sinful. Baptized into God’s grace, we seek to always change and grow in our faith.

And we don’t do this on our own. Let us follow Nicodemus’ lead … he went to Jesus. What a blessed night that must’ve been for him. We have that blessing too. We also come to Jesus, to God, here in worship and prayer. At the foot of the cross, we come to receive forgiveness and sustaining faith through the Word and Sacrament ministry of the Church. The Holy Spirit grows our faith through our daily prayers and devotion, through daily time spent in God’s Living Word.

Trinity Sunday is about God. But we praise him this day that he is not just up there, out there somewhere. We praise him for coming to us, for dying on the cross for us, for baptizing us in his name – Father, Son, Holy Spirit. He gives us faith that doesn’t make sense, belief in the irrational, and sustains it that we may have eternal life. Believe and live.

Born again of water and the Spirit, forgiven for the sake of the Son of Man lifted up …

Believe in God and live forever. Amen.

And now may the peace of God, that which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

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