Theme: Not until we come face-to-face with all Three Persons of the Trinity do we fully understand how our lives relate to God.
Purpose: Foster unencumbered usefulness of GPC members’ in the kingdom as they seek to respond to God’s call.
Today is Trinity Sunday.
You may have heard that Emporer Constantine, in a desperate attempt to bring unity to his diverse kingdom, brought together all the bishops of the Christian church in 325 A.D. who were disgruntled over the Arian controversy and made them sit down and get their theological story straight so he could move on with his political agenda and this group of church leaders thereby produced the Nicene Creed which claimed the full divinity of Christ and was the foundational piece for what we know of today as the Doctrine of the Trinity.
Isn’t that inspiring? Makes you want to just shout out praises to Jesus, doesn’t it?
Well, for the record, councils might try to explain the nature of God, but they don’t reveal it.
No, God reveals the nature of God, and he does it through His actions in history – by what he does through his people.
There are three basic acts in history that initially introduced us to the three Persons of God
a. Formation of nation of Israel – God the Father
b. Resurrection & ascension – God the Son
c. Pentecost – God the Holy Spirit
Doesn’t mean all three persons of the Godhead weren’t around before these events took place. It’s just that their fullness had not yet been unveiled.
Peter is the first one to speak after all three of these great acts have occurred.
He gives a sermon following the Pentecost event. It is the sermon we just read.
It’s an amazing sermon – the first Christian sermon. In my estimation, to date, the BEST Christian sermon ever preached.
And apparently, the most convincing. Billy Graham may have gotten people to walk down the aisles but nowhere on record did an entire stadium full of listeners all stand up and in one voice yell ‘what do we do???’ Apparently, that’s what happened after Peter’s sermon in Acts 2.
Why is Peter’s sermon so compelling?
What I hope to show you today is that his sermon was compelling not because of great rhetoric, or eloquence or intellectual brilliance, or because he had an organ playing ‘Just As I Am’ in the background.
No, it was because his logic is so sound. His life was wrapped up in the middle of God’s mighty act and he had the wherewithal to stand in the middle of it and interpret for us.
Why is the doctrine of the Trinity so rock-solid? Because it’s logic is airtight.
Given the reality of what God did in history, it just makes sense.
I’m convinced that not until we personally come face-to-face with all Three Persons of the Trinity like Peter did will we fully understand how our lives relate to God.
Most of us have a pretty good handle on one or two Persons of God but have only a vague perception of the other or others. Which member of the Godhead you cling to usually depends on how you came to a saving faith or how your faith journey has developed.
So let’s re-trace how Peter’s understanding of the fullness of the nature of God was shaped.
Like most Jews of his day, Peter knew God the Father.
You can tell ‘cause he’s quoting scripture right and left.
You may think this passage is primarily about Jesus or the Holy Spirit but actually there are nine references to God as Father in this sermon.
No scholar could possibly deny that most Jews at this point in history were convinced of two things:
1. God was up to something in history.
2. Whatever God was going to do, He would use His people to do it.
They knew this because they knew the character of God the Father. They understood how he worked. They had seen him act in history, they knew his style, they knew his intentions.
So when Peter started quoting Old Testament prophecy, you didn’t hear people yelling ‘oh, that’ll never happen!’ It would – they knew it. God said it, they believed it. God kept his word. He had in the past and he would in the future.
Because of the formation of the nation of Israel in history, Peter knew God as the One calling His people to redeem the world; God’s purpose in history is REVEALED by God the Father.
Do you know what God is doing in history right now?
Do you know what God is up to in your life right now?
It doesn’t take a conversion experience or a baptism in the Holy Spirit to figure this out. Just read.
Read your Bible and find out what God has done in the past and you’ll have a good handle on the sort of thing he might be up to right now.
Do you remember who said this?
“... Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.
Longevity has its place.
But I'm not concerned about that now.
I just want to do God's will.
And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.
And I've looked over.
And I've seen the promised land.
I may not get there with you.
But I want you to know tonight,
that we, as a people will get to the promised land.” MLK Jr., April 3, 1968
Somebody knew what God was up to in their time.
Do we know what God is up to in our time? It’s really not hard to figure out. You just have to know your people’s story. Like Peter did.
But as one who had just participated in this remarkable event called Pentecost, Peter discovered a new, never-before-revealed piece of the nature of God.
There was nothing new about God’s Spirit dwelling inside a human being. It happened all the time in the Old Testament.
What was different about the Pentecost experience was having some 30 – 50 – or maybe 100 – people all filled with the Spirit at once. But they weren’t all doing the same thing: they were speaking different languages, going different places, explaining in different styles. They were using different gifts, but in a coordinated, unified way.
How do you explain that?
It wasn’t God putting His Spirit on one person.
It was a group of people filled with A Spirit, one that seemed to have a life of its own.
It wasn’t just a force or a power, for it had an agenda and a goal all of its own, namely, to declare the good news of the gospel.
And it was the fulfillment of Scripture; God had wanted this all along.
The Old Testament Scriptures are full of hints that ultimately God wants to get inside of us, to be the spark that lights us up, to fuel our spirits and mobilize us for good works on this earth.
Because of Pentecost, Peter knew God as the One who set on fire the hearts of his people; God’s passion to carry out God’s purpose is RELEASED by the Holy Spirit.
Have you never longed to know what God is thinking, to feel his feelings, to see what he sees?
Believe me, God is the One who is longing to have that kind of relationship with You.
Now I think if you were a first-century Jew who had just left your carpentry shop because of the commotion outside and found all these spontaneously-multi-lingual Galileans running around and heard Peter quote the prophet Joel as he does at the beginning of his sermon in vss. 17 – 21 . . .
I think you would be inclined to say, yeah, he’s right! This IS in fact the end times, Joel’s prophecy is fulfilled, God’s Spirit has been poured forth - I want a piece of that!
And I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them thought: I really want that spirit in my life. If this is REALLY God, and if He’s REALLY moving in our midst to fulfill HIS purpose on earth, I want to be a part of it.
Then comes vs. 22.
You see, as far as a typical first-century Jew was concerned, Peter could have stopped with vs. 21 and they would have been very happy. They would have said, ‘yes, God, give me that Spirit!’ and that would have been that.
But Peter’s not finished. In fact, he’s just getting started.
He says, OK, now listen: you remember that man Jesus of Nazareth?
You can almost see the audience getting ready to leave and then stopping in their tracks: “yeah?”
And Peter goes on: you remember how he did all those incredible miracles which were so amazing that must have come from God, right?
And Peter says: “And remember how you got the Romans to crucify him?”
“OK, where are you going with this, Peter?”
Peter reasons with them. And here’s his reasoning. Now follow this carefully – it gets a bit heady, but it’s good logic.
1. In Psalm 16, David prophesies about resurrection (vs. 25 – 28)
2. Clearly, he wasn’t prophesying about himself because we know where his tomb is and he never came out of it (v. 29)
3. No doubt, David was talking about one of his descendants, namely, the Messiah. (v. 30)
4. Well, every one of us here saw Jesus alive after his death and then watched him ascend into the clouds. (vs. 32)
5. If He is the Messiah and God raised him up, it stands to reason that he is with God the Father now esp. because in Psalm 110, David mentions two “Lords” talking to each other. (v. 34)
6. If He just ascended and this Spirit has just been poured out, it only makes sense that this Pentecost event was authorized by Him. (v. 33)
7. Thus, we can logically conclude that that guy Jesus is now YOUR Lord. (vs. 36)
8. Oh, did I mention you crucified him? (vs. 36)
And here, the first-century Jew would be confronted head-on with the reality of the 2nd person of the Trinity.
Who walked right into the middle of human life and declared himself Lord . . . over all.
Over your faith.
Over your heart.
Over your spouse.
Over your family.
Over your pocketbook.
Over your mortgage payments.
Over your dreams for a better life.
Over your frustration at not being where you wanted to be at this point in your life.
Over the respect you have carefully carved out among your colleagues and friends.
Over your attitudes, your actions, your outlook, your self-esteem, your municipal government and your national government.
Over your country’s foreign policy.
For that matter, over your understanding of who God is.
There was nothing timid or small-minded about the extent of Jesus’ claims on this earth.
Jesus conquered everything. And if God, your Father, maker of heaven and earth, appointed Him Lord over all, he’s not really the guy you want to mess with.
But you did, so you’d better backpedal really fast!!
Because of the resurrection and ascension, Peter knew God as Lord over all principalities; God’s primacy by which His purpose is passionately carried out is RECLAIMED through the Son.
That word ‘primacy’ threw me a little. So I looked it up. It means “the state of being first in order, rank, or importance.”
So after all this heady logic and reason, Peter’s message is pretty straightforward: God the Father is leading you through the Son to the Holy Spirit.
And my question to you, in turn, is rather simple: Which Person of the Godhead don’t you get?
Maybe you had a powerful conversion experience where God brought you to your knees and you were subsequently struck by His power and might in your life and a deep sense of His presence all around you and an awareness of His love and His grace and His mercy but it’s all sort of getting stale and not going anywhere and you’re beginning to wonder what it’s all for, what you were created for - your striving for a sense of meaning and purpose and direction in your life and how it relates to your job, your community, to history, to your environment.
You need to go back and GET the First Person of the Godhead, God the Father.
What do you do to re-discover your Creator, the Author of your life, the Master of Your universe?
Read. Read, Read, Read. Read the stories, the prophecies, the promises which Jesus Christ fulfills. Read about the sort of things God’s Spirit lead His people to do. Find out what you were created for and what God is up to in 2009.
Maybe, on the other hand, you grew up in a strong Christian home and became familiar early on with God’s mighty acts in history and you learned that you were a part of it and needed to serve Him faithfully but were told that you had to confess your sins first and give your life to Christ, which you did, and now you feel like a stakeholder in God’s work at GPC or in your business and are very conscientious about recognizing how unqualified you are, as a sinner and prone to error, to accomplish such work . . . and there it sits. You are the frozen chosen: happy to admit your depravity and more than willing to let God do His redemptive work in the world and sit back and watch it happen.
You need to go back and GET the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.
What do you do to get the Holy Spirit in your life? Ask for it. Ask him to fill you up. Ask him to regenerate your passion for him, ask him to give you the desires of His heart, to create in you a hunger to declare His goodness and His mercy and His justice in the midst of a broken and lost world.
OR, maybe you have such a passion. Maybe you have been itching to serve God for a long time. You have that sense like the first-century Jew in Peter’s audience that God is going to do something right now and you would do anything to be a part of it. Maybe you sense that God is going to do something wonderful at GPC when our Senior Pastor is selected and you want to be first in line to become a part of whatever new movement of God’s people that His Spirit will engender. But you’re worried: because you’ve been in these sorts of situations before and it’s never really worked out; for some reason, the Spirit seems to pass over you and use other people; you always seem to miss the wave or get left behind when it comes to the great things God does in the world.
You need to go back and GET the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ.
What do you do to get Jesus Christ?
Humble yourself. Get off your hobby horse and take a deep hard look at your life.
Take an inventory.
Swallow your pride and get a personal and painful close-up look at who you really are.
Look your faults, your hang-ups, your resentments, your fears, and your addictions square in the face and get in touch with the distance between who God created you to be and who you’ve become.
Then ask Jesus to re-create you from the ground up.
By the way, you’ll need a lot of help doing this so make sure you join a Bible study or adult ed. class or some support group before you do this.
When we come to know and understand God in all His fullness, God will give us
a clear sense of destiny with what He is doing in history,
a humble acknowledgement of power of evil and our tendency to comply with it,
and a passionate desire to proclaim His name in word and deed.