June 22, 2003
[Ed comes on stage carrying a box of popcorn, a box Raisinettes, and a soft drink]
One of the things that Lisa and I have been doing for a long time is having a regular date night. We encourage all couples, husbands and wives, to go out on dates. Guys, what you used to get her is what you use to keep her. When we go out, we like to see different types of movies. When we’re at the theater, we will kind of go off the “Body for God” lifestyle. We’ll order popcorn, without butter, and a soft drink. I probably drink about two cokes a month. I’ll also get these because I love these things, Raisinettes. Lisa and I like to watch mysteries. We like movies that make us think. It’s pretty cool, because when you watch a mystery, you get to see a character develop that was revealed at the beginning of the movie. You ask yourself, “I wonder what’s going to happen? I wonder who they are? What’s their essence or the nature of their whole persona?”
As you jam more popcorn into your mouth and you sip more soft drink, you say, “I see it now. They are starting to develop.” Then, when the credits roll, you say, “Whoa. Now, I know about this character. This was great development. This movie took me somewhere.”
Well, just for a second, think about the Trinity in those terms. Because, God has revealed himself to us like a holy mystery. He said, “Here I am. I’ll just show you a shadow, just a little bit of who I am. As you sit back and watch my holy mystery unfold on the silver screen of scripture, you will learn more and more about me. You’ll see my nature and my essence.”
After all, some of the most important questions we can ask are, “What is God like? Who is God?”
God is Trinity — one in essence and three in persons. If we are going to know God, if we are going to allow God to transform our lives, then we must understand who he is. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one in essence and three in persons. So, right now, we have the opportunity to sit back, and vicariously, through me, eat some popcorn, sip a soft drink and watch, frame-by-frame, God’s redemptive show unfold in scripture.
Right up front, I want you to notice something. God has progressively revealed the Trinity throughout scripture. Did you hear that? God has progressively revealed himself to us throughout the scriptural record. Once we download that and think about that, we can see God, and we can see more and more of who he is. Look at the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is sort of like a black and white movie. In the New Testament, it becomes Technicolor. One of my professors in seminary once told me, “Ed, the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”
How does God reveal himself as the Trinity? Well, let’s look at the Old Testament, for example. In Genesis 1:26, we see this black and white image of God. “Then God (that’s singular) said, ‘Let us (plural), make man in our (plural) image, in our likeness.’”
What’s going on there? First, look in the Bible in Genesis 1. God is talking about “us” and “our.” Again, it’s a shadow. He’s revealing himself to us. It’s like a holy mystery.
Look at Genesis 3:22, “And the Lord God (singular) said, ‘The man has become like one of us (plural)…’”
In the Old Testament, in this black and white movie, we remember Jacob wrestling an angel of the Lord – plurality –Trinity. Do you remember the three asbestos boys — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They were tossed into the fiery furnace. The king looked into the furnace and said, “Wait a minute. There is someone else in there!” A lot of theologians think that the “someone else” was a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. In Genesis 18, God appeared to Abraham in three forms.
The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The Old Testament is black and white. The New Testament is vivid Technicolor.
Check out what Jesus said. In Matthew 28, he said these words right before he ascended to the Father: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It’s the Trinity — family names. So, the more popcorn we eat, and the more soda we sip, the more God reveals himself to us.
The last time, in our opening session, I mentioned three statements. I said that these statements would be the foundation that we build this entire series on. Now, I’m not going to go back and repeat what I said last time. If you missed last time, please pick up the tape, because every message builds to the next. The three statements are statements that we have got to understand and play out in our minds.
The first one goes like this: The Trinity consists of three persons. When you talk about the Trinity, each of the persons of the Trinity is separate. Each of the persons is separate.
Here is the second big statement. Each of the three persons is fully God. They are each fully God.
The third statement goes like this: God is one. God is one. Right up front some of the mathematicians and accountants are saying, “Wait a minute, Ed, the math doesn’t work. I’ve got my palm pilot here. I’ve got my laptop, or I’ve got a calculator and it doesn’t make sense.”
See, the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, one in essence and three in persons — transcends numbers. We have got to realize that we are finite and God is infinite. We are never going to get our arms around the essence of the Trinity, not on this side of the grave or in heaven. That’s how big, that’s how deep, that’s how huge, and that’s how massive God is.
The Trinity consists of three persons. That’s the first statement. What do I mean by that? I’m glad you ask. I mean several things. First of all, the Father is not the Son. Look at John 1:1-2, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
If you look at Verse 14 of John Chapter 1, it says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Take a wild guess who the Word is. You guessed it. It’s Jesus. The Father is not the Son.
The Son is not the Spirit. John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” When you hear me say the Counselor or the Holy Spirit, what is that? Who is the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do? The Holy Spirit does a lot of things. Let me list some activities of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches us lessons, convicts us of sin, leads us to wise counsel, and keeps us from doing things contrary to the will of God.
Sometimes people walk up to me after a message and they will ask, “Ed, have you been like following me around? Have you been reading my mail?”
I say, “No, that’s simply the Holy Spirit of God.”
The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. Here is something else. The Spirit is not the Father. 1 Peter 1, “To God’s elect… (that’s those of us who are Christ-followers.) who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ in sprinkling by his blood.” (I know we have many here who are investigating Christianity. You are not part of God’s family, yet. You are welcome here. Check it out. Listen to what I am saying because you need to know who it is you are seeking. )
See this first big honking statement about the Trinity. The Trinity consists of what? Three persons. Here’s the second big statement about the Trinity. Each of the persons — God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit — is fully God. Each is fully God.
The Father is God. 2 Thessalonians 1:2 says, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Son is God. John 8:58 says, “I tell you the truth (here is what Christ said) before Abraham was born, I am.”
This “I am” statement is the ego ”I am.” It’s the name that God called himself to Abraham in the Old Testament. God said, “I am.” Jesus used this same name — I Am.
In John 20, we meet Thomas. We get close to Thomas. Thomas, the modernist, the quintessential rationalist, heard the talk. He heard everybody saying, “Hey, Jesus has risen from the dead! He has conquered death!”
Thomas said, “I don’t believe that. I won’t believe it until I see it. When I can touch those nail prints and I can see him, then I’ll believe it.”
Jesus appeared to him and what did Thomas say in John 20:28? He said, “My Lord and my God.”
Also, the Spirit is God. Acts 5:3-4, “Then Peter said, ’Annias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit… you’ve not lied to men but to God.’”
See the linkage? Holy Spirit-God. God-Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God. The Trinity is three persons, but each is fully God. Each has all the attributes of God.
Here’s a third big honking statement about the Trinity. God is one. God is one. The Trinity moves in concert together. It’s unified. There is a oneness, and that is mysterious.
Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, o Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ.”
Now, when I pray, I conclude my prayers by saying, “In Jesus name, amen.” Why do I do that? Is that Christianese? Do I do it because I am a pastor? No. I do it because Christ is my advocate. He is my mediator. The Bible says God the Father commissioned God the Son to do the redemptive work on the cross for your sins and mine. It says God the Son has sent the Holy Spirit to actualize our faith, so we can live it out. I can pray directly to God the Father, because Jesus Christ is my priest. He’s my High Priest. Nowhere in the Bible does it say I have to go to a human priest to pray. You don’t have to come to me to pray. As Christians, and I am talking to believers now, we are in touch with something called the priesthood of the believer. That means any time, day or night, 24/7, we can go directly to God, through Jesus Christ. The Bible says that Christ can take our moanings and groanings, he can take our words that we can’t even articulate, he can take our thoughts and he can present them and articulate them perfectly to God the Father. Is that cool, or what? That’s great stuff!
In James 2:19, the half-brother of Jesus said, “You believe that there is one God. Good! (Good for you. Yeah!) Even the demons believe that — and shudder.”
You see, even the realm of the demonic believes in God. They believe in one God. Speaking of the demonic, isn’t it amazing how millions of people will wait with baited breath for the next Harry Potter book, a book that is all about sorcery, witchcraft and the realm of the demonic? Yet, people who have been Christians for years and years have never taken enough time to study the essence and the nature and the character of God. Why are so many Christians falling prey to cults and false religions? It’s because we don’t know who God is, and that is sad. We need to say, “God, forgive me for not knowing who you are.”
What if you were in a dating relationship, or a marriage, and you said, “You know what? I don’t really want to know about your personality. Forget it. Don’t tell me who you are. I don’t want to know your nature or your character.”
People would say, “Man, you are an igmo! Have you lost your mind? A relationship is all about knowing the personality of the other individual.”
I want to know God. I want to know Him. We have got to know the Trinity — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — one in essence and three in persons. They are co-existent and co-eternal.
It’s popular these days, I mean it really is, to say, “Why do we get so hot and bothered about the Trinity? Aren’t we splitting hairs? I mean, what does it really matter?”
I’m talking to you, friends, about the crux of Christianity. I’m talking to you about the foundation of our faith.
What if I said, “Okay, here’s a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Go out and build a house.”
You wouldn’t say, “Who cares about the foundation? I’m just going to go ahead and build the house.”
Foundations matter, don’t they? They matter, especially in this area. They really matter. We are talking about something that is huge. We are talking about the very foundation of our faith.
[Ed is going to demonstrate, here, how just believing in something doesn’t make it true.]
You know what? I am very passionate about something. I have a strong feeling about something. Just stay with me for a second. I believe, I mean, I really believe that this stage from here [Ed runs to one end of the stage] all the way to here [Ed runs to the other side of the stage], is one yard long. If you challenge me, I’ll get defensive. I believe that it’s a yard long. I feel it, man. I get emotional about it. It’s a yard long.
You’d say, “Ed, what have you been drinking, man? What is in this? That stage is not a yard long.”
Now, this stage is 20 yards long. I have measured it.
What if I said, “But I’m sincere about it being a yard long.”
You’d say, “Well, that’s good. But do you know what, Ed? You can be sincerely wrong.”
There is always a standard. This is a yardstick. [Ed holds up a yardstick.] I don’t care how much I debate it, how much I believe it, how much I cry about it, how much I roll around the ground, how much soda I sip, or how much popcorn I eat. Do you know what? The stage is not a yard long.
People say, “Yes, but they are sincere about their beliefs. They really mean it.”
That’s fine, but that does not mean it’s true. We have this belief these days, this politically correct belief that God is like this big “smoothie” God. Anywhere you look these days, you will see a smoothie store on the corner — Smoothie King, Jamba Juice — we even sell smoothies at The Source. I love smoothies. Smoothies are good. You can customize your smoothie.
“I want the protein body builder special.” Or, “I want the weight loss this or that.” Or, “I want the peach passion, mango, and blueberry punch smoothie.”
There are all types of smoothies. We love smoothies, and we love having choices. A lot of us think God is a “smoothie” God. We think, “You can throw Islam, Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, astronism and all this stuff in the blender, and God could just push the button and blend them all together. They are all the same.”
Whenever someone says that, they are advertising their ignorance. They are saying, “You know what? I have never studied the world religions. I never have.” All you have to do is a little bit of study, and you see the difference of the world religions. Christianity is totally unique and totally different from all the other major world religions. In God’s blender, it’s God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You will never have another smoothie like it. It’s unique.
In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He said that. He didn’t say, “I’m an option.” He didn’t say, “I’m one of many different ways.” He said, “I am the way.” I didn’t say it. I’m just telling you what Jesus said. You see, the exclusivity of Christianity really bothers people in our pluralistic culture. We can’t take it.
We say, “Surely, God, you grade on a cosmic curve. Surely, God. I know people say it’s a yard long and it’s not a yard long. But, God, please…”
The Trinity – it’s unique. Think about Islam, for example. Muslims deny the Trinity. They see God as a sequestered god, a god you can’t really know, and an authoritarian god. Look at nations where Islam rules — you have dictators. Look at the Muslim family. There is a strong pecking order. The man is the man, and he is more important than the woman. Think about Mormonism. Mormons deny the Trinity. In Mormonism, everybody is a god. You’re a god. He’s a god. She’s a god. [Ed sings] Everywhere a god, god. I’m not saying that to make fun of Mormons. That’s a fact. They deny the Trinity. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity. They feel that God the Father created God the Son. One sect of Hinduism denotes over 330 million different gods. They, obviously, deny the Trinity. Buddhism is just a philosophy of life. So, to sit there and say, “Yeah, all the world religions are kind of the same…” Hello? They are not.
We love Muslims. We love Buddhists. We love Hindus. We love Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are to build bridges of love to them at Fellowship Church. But, we are going to draw lines in the sand. We are going to say, “Here is our standard. Here is truth. Here is how God has revealed himself to us in this holy mystery.” As believers, we need to understand this. We don’t need to argue people into the kingdom. We need to love them by speaking the truth cloaked in compassion.
Just for a second, think about yourself as a 9-year-old. Just for a second. Let’s say you are at the local swimming pool — the community swimming pool. You are 9 years of age, and you are there with your mom. You are swimming in the shallow waters, and you still have your floaties on. Let’s say you look at your mom and say, “Mom, my friends are jumping off the high dive. Today, Mom, I am going to jump off the high dive. I really am, Mom.”
Your mom says, “Good! Go for it.”
So, you rip those floaties off and you climb up the ladder.
“Wow,” you say to yourself, “I didn’t realize it was this high.”
You wait your turn while your friends are jumping off.
Your friends say, “Come on, man. It’s easy!”
You say, “I am. I’m going to do it.”
Now, it’s your turn. Everybody in the pool is watching. You make your way to the end of the diving board. You curl your toes over the end.
“Mom, I’ll do it. I’m going to do it, Mom.”
All of a sudden, you realize, “Man, look how deep it is! It’s deep. Look how high I am. This is freaky!”
You start hyperventilating. Then you say, “I can’t do it, man.”
You walk back down the diving board, “Excuse me. Excuse me, man. I’m sorry.”
Your friends start teasing you, “Man, you’re a baby, man.”
“Sorry I can’t do it, Mom. I’m going to put my floaties back on.”
Then, you go back to the shallow end.
Throughout history, starting specifically in the second and third century, a lot of people have treated the Trinity that way. A lot of people have walked to the edge of the high dive, looked down and gone, “Whoa, look how mysterious, look how big, the Trinity is. Look how vast God is. I can’t do this.” They back off the diving board and they scale down the ladder. They have given shallow water solutions to the nature and the character of God. They have “dumbed down” the Trinity.
Modalism – that’s the actor God. It sounds like no problem. Modalists say, “God is just one by himself. He wears certain hats. Sometimes he wears the Father hat. Sometimes he wears the Son hat. Other times, he wears the Holy Spirit hat. But, he is just one God wearing different hats.”
Some people may say, “Ed, what’s the big deal about modalism?”
Modalism was rejected as heresy by the church in the second and third century. It’s known as sibellionism or monarchionism. I won’t go there, but let’s just call it modalism.
Why is modalism wrong? Why doesn’t it hold biblical water? I’m glad you asked. Modalism rips the heart out of the atonement. If you are a modalist, what do you do with the atonement? God the Father sent God the Son, God the Son paid the price on the cross for your sins and mine, and then he sent the Holy Spirit. Was God just kind of acting there? Was he just kind of messing around?
If you are a modalist, what do you do with the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3? Christ was baptized and the Father said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” The Holy Spirit descended on the Son in the form of a dove. If you are a modalist, what do you say? Do you say, “I guess Jesus was like this cosmic ventriloquist. He wasn’t really there…he was just one.”
If you are a modalist, what do you do with Christ’s prayer in the garden? Jesus was praying to the Father, “Not my will. Your will.” Was he, like, faking everybody out? “Here, let me pray to myself. That’s what I am going to do.”
Modalism — a shallow-water solution rejected as heresy in the second and third century. We see modalism today — a shallow-water solution. I understand why they did it. They just backed off the high dive.
Another heresy is called subordinationism, or the “pecking order” god.
Some say, “God is like the ‘flow chart’ god. God the Father is ‘the man.’ He is the CEO in the corner office. He has the private jet with all the perks. Now, the Son is lesser than God. The Father created the Son, and the Son is not really fully god.”
Uh-oh. You just denied the deity of Christ. A creature does not have the rpm’s to be a sin sacrifice for your condemnation or mine, so you are in serious trouble there.
There is a third heresy — polytheism, or the “multiple-choice” god. Some people that dumb down the Trinity say, “God the Father is one God. God the Son is another God. God the Holy Spirit is another God. There are three separate gods.” Well, who do you pray to? The Bible never supports that. Who does what? Where is the unity? Where is the movement in concert together?
Does the Trinity matter? Is it important? Are we splitting hairs? Man, it matters. Yes, it’s important. No, we are not splitting hairs. We are showing you the uniqueness of the Christian faith.
What you are hearing right now will be broadcast all over the world. Also, by means of radio, New York City, Phoenix, Atlanta, Houston, and many other cities will hear this. Right now, I want to talk directly to those who are watching and those who are listening, because many people have never heard what we are talking about. We are simply talking about the truth of the nature and the character of God. We are simply talking about a God who is crazy about human beings. We are talking about a God who loves us so much that he did something to redeem us and buy us back. The Trinity, you see, should transcend everything we say, do, touch and feel.
Believers should be like tellers at a bank. Have you ever seen a teller at a bank? Have you ever seen these people handle money? It’s unbelievable to see them handle money. They can just … [Ed acts like he is shuffling and he makes the sound of shuffling money] behind their backs. They look like Alan Iverson with money. They can spot a counterfeit bill instantly. Do you know why? Because, they handle the real thing so much, when something counterfeit comes their way it’s like, “Whoa, counterfeit!”
As Christ-followers, we have got to know the basics of the faith. We have got to know them so well that, when a counterfeit comes our way, it just stands out like a sore thumb. So, this is the Bible. The Trinity is what makes Christianity, Christianity. It separates it from all other world religions. It also, and I’m talking about the Trinity now, is what makes truth, truth. The Trinity is our standard. God’s word is our standard. About now, many of you who are believers are saying [Ed is clapping while he says], “Ed, man, thanks for this message. I really know a lot now. I’ve got a lot of knowledge under my belt.” That’s great. We need to have knowledge. But, don’t miss this.
The most important thing is not the knowledge. I’ll say it again. The most important thing, the most vital thing, is not the knowledge. The most important thing is doing it. It’s living it out. It’s allowing the Trinity to transcend the areas of our lives. That is what is most important. So, gaining some knowledge is not going deep. Most of us don’t need another Bible study. We need to have a venue of ministry where we can do the stuff. We have got to know it, and we have got to do it. If you are a believer, then you are a Trinitarian. What are the implications of the Trinity? You know truth. What are you doing with truth?
What if I said, “You know what? I figured out the cure for AIDS. I’ve got it. I’ve got it, but I’m not going to tell anybody about it. ”
You’d say, “Ed, you are an igmo! Are you crazy? You’d better share it!”
We’ve got the truth. We’ve got the message of hope and love and compassion. We have got to share it. Do you really want to live out what it means to be a Trinitarian? Think about your finances. Jesus said that we should help the poor. Are you helping the poor? We have clothing drives, food drives, and mission trips here at Fellowship. Are you really helping the poor? Jesus said that we are to. Again, I’m just talking about going deep. People say, “I want to go deep.” Well, let’s talk deep. How about 10%? The Bible says 10% of everything you and I make, right off the top, should go to our local house of worship. It is a minimum worship requirement. Again, we are talking about the Trinity transforming your life. So, don’t give me this weak smack that you want knowledge without doing it, because the Bible is a book that says we should do it, and not just know it. How about your neighbor who is facing a Christ-less eternity? How about that person who works beside you in the cubicle who doesn’t know the Lord? Are you a Trinitarian? Are you serving them? Are you loving them? Are you sharing with them when you get a chance? Maybe your language keeps you from doing it. Maybe going to those topless clubs keeps you from the power that God wants you to walk in. Maybe your lifestyle and what you do really doesn’t sync up. Hey, husbands, are you a Trinitarian in your marriage? Love your wife like Jesus Christ has loved the Church. Children, honor your parents. I’m talking about deep stuff now.
The world is watching you and me. They are sitting back. They’re stuffing their faces with popcorn, and they’re sipping on soda. They want to see the holy mystery of the Trinity — not only in the church or in this theatre, but also in the theatre of the world. As they look at your life and mine, do they see a holy mystery?