to live by the Spirit

“…for Paul ‘knowing God’ comes by way of ‘knowing Christ’ (cf. 2 Cor. 4:6); and ‘knowing Christ’ comes by way of ‘the Spirit’s wisdom and revelation’ (Eph. 1:17). At the heart of all this is Paul’s conviction that Christian life means to ‘live by, walk in, be led by’ the Spirit. Living the life of the Spirit means for the Spirit to bear his fruit in our individual and corporate lives; and that fruit is nothing other than God’s character, as lived out by Christ, being reproduced in his people.

“Hence to be a Trinitarian of the Pauline kind means to be a person of the Spirit; for it is through the Spirit’s indwelling that we know God and Christ relationally, and through the same Spirit’s indwelling that we are being transformed into God’s own likeness ‘from glory to glory’ (2 Cor. 3:18)” (“Paul and the Trinity: The Experience of Christ and the Spirit for Paul’s Understanding of God” by Gordon Fee, 71-72).

I remember sitting in a women’s Bible study when I was in my late 30s & lamenting the fact that I was trying SO very hard but I didn’t see any increase of the fruit of the Spirit in my life. In my day-to-day life of parenting four young children, I felt more frustration, anger, & tension than joy, peace, & gentleness. One older woman patted my hand and said, “You need to have more time away from the children,” & several others nodded their heads. But I knew the children weren’t the issue.

I’ve often wished I could go back to myself as a young mom—or even earlier than that—& tell her that her understanding of the Trinity was a great part of the problem. The Spirit as an actual person of the Trinity was not real to her, so she generally assumed the work of sanctification had been given to her much like homework in a distance education course. At regular intervals she was supposed to check-in to give a progress report, resulting in feelings of either shame or pleasure (generally shame) at her progress (or lack of it).

But to know the Spirit as a Person, a Person constantly present in her life—IN her like breath in her lungs, constant and life-giving; as the One who joyously offers wisdom, who comforts her in the difficulties of life and doesn’t see them as “small”; as the One who gladly takes on the work of forming fruit in her life and who longs to help her experience the glory-to-glory of knowing, more and more deeply, the beautiful love of God for her and the entire world…

She had no deep knowing of this, of the Spirit’s presence with her.

I wish she had, but as I look back at that woman, I SEE the work and presence of the Spirit in her life. I see fruit and growth and an expanding heart.

I see the Spirit at work even when she was unaware.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of our God and the fellowship–the communion and intimate friendship–of the Holy Spirit be with you all–with US all.

Amen

NOTE: This post is from a series of assignments I am doing for a class on the Trinity that I am taking at Northern Seminary. (It’s AWESOME!!!) Each week classmates and I post reading reflections on Instagram. If you’re interested in checking out more thoughts on the Trinity, go on Instagram and search using the hashtag #trinityclassNS (or just click on the link!)

*The quotes at the beginning of this post are from an article by Gordon Fee (his daughter, Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling is teaching the class) in which he is exploring the Trinity in Paul’s writings. Here are a couple more from that same article that I want to share.

“God sends the Son who redeems; God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, so that we may realize God’s ‘so great salvation’—and the experienced evidence of all this is the Spirit of the Son prompting us to use the language of the Son in our own relationship with God” (56)

“…salvation in Christ is not simply a theological truth, predicated in God’s prior action and the historical work of Christ. Salvation is an experienced reality, made so by the person of the Spirit coming into our lives. One simply cannot be a Christian in any Pauline sense without the effective work of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (57)

“Fundamental to Paul’s Judaism is that God’s people are expected to ‘know God,’ which of course has little to do with doctrinal articulation and everything to do with knowing God relationally, in terms of his character and nature. Paul carries this fundamental understanding with him, but insists on putting it into perspective: our knowing is preceded by God’s ‘knowing us’ (Gal. 4:9; cf. I Cor. 13:12). (71).

 

 

 

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Nicene Creed, first line

quote for Dan

This is a quote by Victor Hugo that my daughter Em lettered for her Uncle Dan.

“We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” 

The above is the first line of the Nicene creed. What is below is a response on the above that I am writing for a course I am taking at Northern Seminary.

Not long ago I read a short devotional by Richard Rohr in which he was lamenting the fact that the Nicene Creed can be read as doctrinal truth without any directive as to our behavior and attitudes. I don’t want to misrepresent what Rohr was writing about, but I felt that at least part of what he was saying was this: the creeds include statements that can be held mentally as beliefs while having no impact on the ways we treat other people. Therefore, though we recite them as the main beliefs we hold to in orthodox Christianity, we can recite them in such a way as to make Christianity a belief system rather than a way of life that looks like Jesus.

I think there is a great deal of validity in what he was saying. As a member of a denomination that recites the Nicene or Apostles creed at our weekly service, I wonder if perhaps we shouldn’t also recite the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and Love you neighbor as yourself. This would remind us not only of what we believe but of the actions that those beliefs should lead to—the actions they require.

For instance the first line of the Nicene Creed has implications for our lives. If we believe that the ONE God we believe in is the Father of ALL people, then that greatly affects how we see and interact with other people. It means we are all related, and no matter how different one particular relative (or a group of them) may seem/be from me, they’re still kin! And they’re KIN through a VERY significant relationship!

The creeds are not truly creedal if we don’t plumb the deep depths of them so that they affect our living.

I’ll close with a quote from Gordon Fee. Referring to Paul’s writing about the Triune God, he reminds us that Paul’s “concern is primarily …with the way God’s people live in the world, so that even when he addresses their thinking it is to change the way they are living. May our own Trinitarian discussions never lose sight of this end as well.” (from “Paul and the Trinity: The Experience of Christ and the Spirit for Paul’s Understanding of God” p. 71)

(This is a post written for a course on the Trinity that I am taking at Northern Seminary. It was originally posted on Instagram. If you search the hashtag #trinityclassNS, you can read posts by other students in the class–they’re REALLY good and it’s fun to read the various perspectives on the same topics!)

Similes made in the image

screen shot 2019-01-28 at 11.25.11 am

NOTE: I am taking a course on the Trinity at Northern Seminary right now, & our assignments are Instagram posts with a picture and reflections/questions on our readings. I’m putting some of them here on the blog. If you would like to read posts from other members of this class, just search the hashtag #trinityclassNS on Instagram.

POST 1

“Made in the image of God but marred through sin, man is renewed in Jesus Christ who is the image of God in which man was first formed!” from Our Triune God by Peter Toon, p. 168

Christ IS the image of God. We are made IN the image of God. Using the language of literature, I am tempted to say Christ is the metaphor of God, but I cannot, for a metaphor is a comparison of two unlike things, and Christ is not comparison but IS God, one with the Father and Spirit in indescribable ways, yet also a person distinct from the Father and the Spirit. Yet Christ, like the very best metaphors, illuminates and makes clear an image that is hidden or unknown. Christ IS the image of God—revealed to us.

Can I say, though, that we humans are similes? I think so. Similes, like metaphors, compare two unlike things, but they are one step further removed, using the words “like” or “as” to make the comparison. A simile, like a metaphor, can illuminate an idea, but a bad simile can actually interfere with understanding an idea. As similes of God, we are capable of great good because of our being made in the image of our Creator. But since we are inept similes, the great capabilities for good have been damaged so that we are also capable of and prone to incredibly great harm. It is only in Jesus that the image can be renewed/made new.

How is this renewal worked out in our lives?

The Spirit, “from within the Christians’ own lives makes response to Jesus and the Father” (126, quote from Michael Ramsey). We come to know, through the Spirit’s work within us, the Father as “our Father”/“Abba” and Jesus as Lord and King. We become renewed in our identity as beloved children of God the Father and empowered citizens of the great, good Lord of the universe. And as this renewed identity works deeper into our souls, we are changed/healed/repaired, bit by bit, and we, as similes, become clear and helpful to those who “read” us so that we contribute to rather than hinder our readers’ understanding of God.

*the photo above is of a webpage with 56 bad and good similes found in high school student papers. Here’s the link (https://dysonology.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/56-bestworst-similes-used-in-high-school-exams/) so you can read all 56 of them if you want!

Post 2

The essay “God Crucified” by Richard Bauckham has SO much richness in it! In this post I’ll simply be pasting in some favorite quotes from the book and then closing with a question of my own.

“Jesus, the New Testament (NT) writers are saying, belongs inherently to who God is” (32). The Servant, seen in the Old Testament book of Isaiah “…belongs to the identity of the unique God. This God is not only the high and lofty one who reigns from his throne in the high and holy place; he also abases himself to the condition of the crushed and the lowly (Isa. 57:15)” (36). “(Christ’s) humiliation belongs to the identity of God as truly as his exaltation does. The identity of God—who God is—is revealed as much in self-abasement and service as it is in exaltation and rule. The God who is high can also be low, because God is God not in seeking his own advantage but in self-giving. His self-giving in abasement and service ensures that his sovereignty over all things is also a form of his self-giving. Only the Servant can also be the Lord. Only the Servant who is also the Lord receives the recognition of his lordship—the acknowledgement of his unique deity—from the whole creation” (45). “These (the exaltation and humiliation revealing God—being his identity) are not contradictions because God is self-giving love.. This is the meaning of the Johannine paradox that Jesus is exalted and glorified on the cross.” “In this act of self-giving God is most truly himself and defines himself for the world” (51).

My question: How do the implications of God being a Servant work out in the nitty-gritty of my life? What is one relationship or situation in my life in which I need to choose humility, choose to listen rather than speak, choose to not prove myself, choose to serve? #trinityclassNS