There’s this beautiful moment in the Gospel of John where Jesus speaks of all three persons of the Trinity in one or two sentences. Throughout this series, we’re heard from people who feel closest to Jesus, to God the Father, and to the Holy Spirit; we’ve also heard from people who questioned the question—and said, “how can we talk about only one person of the Trinity?”
The mystery of who God is and how we come to know God more fully is one that we will never solve because, as we’ve said throughout this series, no one person can know God fully because God is so much greater than we are. He is beyond us in time, in space, in knowledge, and in ability. Furthermore, God is more beautiful, more complex; he is more good (some might say better!) So we find this paradox at work—God is beyond our ability to know him fully, yet God continues to be the object of our worship, our study, and our attention.
We do not know God fully. We may not even grow much in our knowledge of God. Yet we continue to be intrigued by God, drawn to God, and in awe of God. What are we to do with a wider view?
THE WORST CASE SCENARIO
Let’s start with the worst case scenario. The absolute worst thing we could do with a wider view of God is nothing. We may see God in some new way; we may glimpse moments of awe and beauty in others and through others’ stories and testimonies. But then we have no response. Jesus explores this possibility in the parable of the sower. He says,
5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”Luke 8:5-8
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Then he explains the parable to his disciples:
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.Luke 8:11-15
Dallas Willard, in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, says that if we are ready to respond to the good news, three crucial questions will necessarily follow: (p.58)
- Does the gospel I preach and teach have a natural tendency to cause people who hear about it to become full-time students of Jesus?
- Would those who believe it become his apprentices as a natural “next step”?
- What can we reasonably expect would result from people actually believing the substance of my message?
To put Dallas Willard’s question in simpler terms, the good news of God’s kingdom requires a response. Do you really believe that you need to pursue God AND that you need to do it with people who are different from you? If so, what will you do with a wider view of God?
I would suggest that most of you are happy enough to do the first thing; but that the second falls somewhere between unnecessary and impossible. We do not give up on the things God calls us to because we think they are wrong. We give up on the things God calls us to because we think they are too difficult.
HERE IS WHAT GOD WILL DO
When we begin to gain a wider view of God and when we take our first steps of obedience, God will draw near to us. This is what Jesus says:
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
Have you ever considered that Jesus wants to reorder your home life (and your whole life)? When Jesus says this, he does not mean four walls and about 2-6 people. In the first century and a collectivist culture, “HOME” was the four walls and solid exterior door surrounding an inner atrium and a number of rooms where multiple nuclear families would live together. But home was also the centre of economic life! So When Jesus says, “we will make our home with you,” he means that God will enter into your personal life, your family life, your business and finances, your social activities, your religious observance—everything!
Jesus comes to live with Peter and Andrew in their home in Capernaum. Their spouses and children lived there, as did other siblings, nieces and nephews, and also their mother (and previously their father). You can read all about it in Mark 1 and 2. For Peter and Andrew, the family business was fishing. They did the actual fishing, but their wives would have dried the fish; younger children fixed the nets, and older children take the fish to market. It was a whole family affair, with each person of the family contributing something.
Mark tells us that Jesus comes into this home and begins to make HIS home there. Jesus upsets everything about Peter and Andrew’s normal family life and family business when he says, “come follow me, I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus reorders every part of his disciples ‘lives.
For God and Jesus (and the Spirit) to “come and make their home with us” means that they will be with us in the most intimate and important parts of our lives. But ALSO means that they will train us in every part of our lives to live as Jesus lives; to love as the Father loves, to share and give as the Spirit does. In other words, if we are part of the household (family) of God, God will intend to make us more like him!
This is a good thing! A single person—all family members are different; yet ALL can look like God. Diversity of family members is a good thing. Each person becomes more like Jesus as they become more who God intends them to be. Different experiences, energy, interests. These things coming together is very powerful! Each person contributes different skills and talents to the family business/purpose/vision.
WHAT WE HAVE DONE (RESISTANCE)
We know that, in a family, you are accepted (regardless of ability, appearance, and action). Kids accepted and loved no matter what they do or how they look. Parents are loved and respected regardless of their income. We may experience tensions outside—but we come home and experience rest, healing, and safety. When we come home and we do notexperience those things, we long for them! We feel their absence. At home we are accepted. Loved. Healed. Encouraged. We find Rest. We are FORGIVEN!
Yet like all children, we always come to an age of maturity when we begin to resist the work of our parents. Either we actively push back or will passively pull away and try our own efforts. In short, “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” Every family cares for one another, protects each other, and supports one another. In a family, you can always look around and say, “this is how my father affected me.” And, “that is how my sibling or cousin affected me.” But in the family of God, I suggest to you that our relationships have become thin. That it would be more difficult for you to look around this room and say, “this is how she affected my life with God.” And, ‘this is how HE helped and supported me!” That challenge will become greater the more different we are. We might be able to say such a thing about someone in the same generational group as us—but what about someone in a different generation? Different social group? Different ethnic group? Does the familial love of God extend beyond our world’s dividing walls?
Paul says to the Corinthians, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me.”
Paul is saying, in effect, that you have many tutors and schoolteachers—you have ten thousand people who can teach you the basic things you need to know about growing up in the world and in the faith. Paul’s words are literally true today! Turn on any TV; connect to Wikipedia; watch any preacher on YouTube. There are ten MILLION tutors and teachers.
But we do not have many fathers. A father pulls you out of class and says, “stand and look over my shoulder.” Watch what I do.
Then later, he says, “Help me do what I do!”
Then still later, he says, “Do what I do while I help you and train you.”
Then, even later, he says, “Do what I used to do—you can do it now! I will remain with you!”
We feel like he is watching us, but actually he is helping us.
When Paul says, “Imitate me!” He is taking on the mantle of Father; exactly as Jesus did to his disciples. Paul invites us, just as Jesus did, into a more intimate relationship, where we participate in one another’s lives and care for one another not just in the abstract, but in the actual nuts and bolts of daily life.
All of this builds to two words that I want you to take home with you: COMMUNAL SANCTIFICIATION! When we think about a diverse family—when God put us together, his purpose is communal sanctification. He has given us to one another to learn from one another through encouraging encounters AND through difficulties and differences. MORE diversity means MORE learning; MORE Blessing. And an even MORE wide view. God can use people in our community even more! Communal Sanctification means that we grow closer to God when we pursue him ourselves AND when we pursue him with people who are different from us.
WHAT IF WE ACTUALLY FOLLOW?
We need both the perfect example of Jesus to follow and the living examples of others. In these post-COVID days, I am testing the hypothesis:
People have more need than ever of deeper relationships; but
People have less energy than ever for superficial conversation.
In other words, we have lost our willingness to wait around in superficiality—both with people who are very like us and with people who are different from us. We feel an urgency to our lives as we have been confronted with death, with limitations, and with barriers.
The only way forward to Christians is to join Jesus in making his family. I don’t mean this in a trite or simplistic wordy sense, but in a way that we actually commit to one another—a few of us over here and others over there, so that we become a church that is a collection of spiritual families where people find real protection, deep relationship, and practical purpose. A place where we come home and experience rest, healing, and safety. Where we are accepted. Loved. Healed. Encouraged. We find Rest. We are FORGIVEN!
A wider view of God leads to Joy. It leads to Peace. It leads to Hope. And it leads lo Love. These are our Advent themes. A wider view of God enables us to be a diverse family in which we are truly better together.
The perspective of a white church is very narrow. Likewise a Korean-only church perspective is also narrow. A Black-only church is also narrow. A church made up of ONLY women—very narrow perspective. A church made up of ONLY men—EVEN WORSE! Old people only? Not ideal. Neither only the young. On and on it goes.
God has made us diverse because he believes and intends that we be better together. And he desires to come and make his home with us—with all of us together! God is not making his home with some of us and leaving others to wait. He has revealed himself to all of us differently, then given us to one another so that we might encourage, strengthen, challenge one another—and build each other up.
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