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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The Trinity: A Doctrine of Delight
Text:LD 8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Trinity
 
Preached:2023
Added:2024-02-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 3:1,2

Psalm 111:1,2

Hymn 4

Hymn 1

Hymn 3:3-5

Scripture readings:  Deuteronomy 6:1-9; John 17:20-26; Ephesians 1:1-14

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 8

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

We all know what it means to delight in something or someone.  Some of us will take delight in a beautiful piece of art hanging in a gallery.  Others will take delight in well-crafted writing or music.  You can take delight in seeing the face of your wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend.  There are all kinds of things in this world which can give us a sense of delight, joy, and pleasure.

But do we take delight in God?  We might know about God, we might say we believe in God, but what about delighting in him?  The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s first question and answer says, “What is the chief end of man?”  Answer:  “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  “Enjoy him forever” – that’s what we were created to do and we glorify God when we do it.  When we enjoy him, when we take delight in him, we’re showing how he’s to be treasured and valued for who he is and what he does.  That’s the essence of what it means to glorify God. 

There are benefits attached to delighting in and enjoying God.  Let me just mention a couple.  One is that delighting in God gives us confidence about our relationship with him.  In a healthy relationship, you enjoy and delight in the other person.  It’s a sign of a healthy relationship.  Another benefit is that delighting in God makes our service to him not a burden, but a joy.  If we delight in God, and if we know that our service pleases him, then living for him will just seem like the natural and appropriate thing to do.

My purpose in this sermon is to help you delight in God more.  Specifically, we’re going to learn about how there is delight to be found in the Triune God.  God is Triune – he is a Trinity, one God eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In this biblical teaching, Christians can find beauty to admire, wonder to behold, and mysteries to astound.  The Trinity is a doctrine of delight. 

We’ll learn about how Christians delight in:

  1. The works of the three Persons
  2. The unity of the three Persons

As our Catechism states, God is three distinct persons:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  By persons, we mean to say that each of them is a distinct ‘someone.’  Not only that, but each of them is God.  The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  Yet there is only one God.  That’s the basic form of the doctrine of the Trinity taught to us in the Bible.  This afternoon we’re not going to go into all the biblical proofs for the Trinity.  If you want, you can look up the proof-texts in the Catechism for yourself later.  Instead, to help us in delighting in the Trinity, we’re going to look at the works of each of the three Persons.

We just sang from Psalm 111.  Psalm 111:2 says, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.”  All God’s works are great and those who delight in God are those who study his great works.  I’m not going to even try to cover all the works of God.  Like our Catechism does in QA 24, we’re just going to focus on a few.

When it comes to God the Father, our Catechism only mentions his role in creation.  When it does that, it doesn’t mean to say that the Son and the Holy Spirit weren’t also involved in creation.  Just think of the words of John 1:3, speaking about the Son of God:  “All things were made through him…”  Nevertheless, when it comes to creation, the Father receives top billing. 

God the Father created all things out of nothing, merely by his Word.   Reflecting on this definitely leads us to delight.  We see his work in creation and it’s beautiful and impressive.  Psalm 104 starts off by saying, “Bless the LORD, O my soul!  O LORD my God, you are very great!”  Then it goes on to speak about all kinds of different parts of creation and how God made them all so beautiful and delightful.  So Psalm 104:24 says, “O LORD, how manifold are your works!  In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” 

Do you ever just stop and admire God’s creatures?  Christians ought to be those who take the greatest delight in nature and the natural world.  Stop and admire the birds in your neighbourhood.  Look at their many colours, their different shapes.  Listen to their songs.  Delight in them and let that then pour over into delight for their Creator, for God the Father.

We read from Ephesians 1 and that chapter leads us to delight in another awesome work of God the Father.  This section that we read is just baptized in praise for God.  In the original Greek, verses 3 to 14 is just one big run-on sentence.  Paul is so excited at what God has done, he just goes on and on.  Our English Bible translations tidy it up and break it into smaller sentences for easier comprehension, but in the original it’s really obvious how Paul is delighting in God, worshipping as he writes.  You can see it with the words he uses too:  verse 3 starts with “Blessed” or “Praise be to.”  Verse 5 speaks about “the praise of his glorious grace.”  Verses 12 and 14 speak about these teachings being “to the praise of his glory.”  It’s all what we call doxological – which means it’s all oriented to worship, to delighting in God the Father and what he’s done.

What he’s done specifically here is election.  Election refers to the fact that God the Father has chosen some human beings to be rescued from their sin by Jesus Christ.  God the Father made this choice before the world was created.  He made his decree of election not based on what people would do off in the distant future, but out of his good pleasure, out of his grace.  No human being deserves to be chosen by God.  We all deserve to be left in our sin and misery.  But the fact that God does choose some to be saved brings us to worshipful delight, just like happened with Paul in Ephesians 1.  What an amazing thing that God would choose me to be his child when I know I don’t deserve it!  What an amazing thing that God would decree Jesus Christ to be my Saviour, that he would decree for the Holy Spirit to come and give me faith in him.  Loved ones, do you ever reflect on this?  When you do, it’ll lead you to the same place it led Paul:  delight, worship, rejoicing.

When it comes to God the Son, our Catechism focusses on his work of redemption.  The Son of God took on a human nature.  He came into this world as one of us.  Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience in the place of all who believe in him.  Jesus went to the cross and suffered the penalty and curse we deserve for our sins – he took our hell.  Then he rose from the dead with victory over Satan, sin, and death.  All of this is at the heart of the gospel, the good news of the Christian faith. 

It’s so easy to take it all for granted.  The work of Christ in our redemption can lose its shine.  We’re not impressed with it the way we should be, and then we’re not delighting in Christ and his work anymore the way we should be.  Well, let me try to revitalize that delight here this afternoon again. 

Let’s think about the redemptive work of Christ in relation to the doctrine of election from Ephesians 1.  God the Father chose a certain number of sinners to salvation.  The Bible teaches that God the Father gave these specific sinners to the Son.  In John 10, Jesus was speaking about the sheep, his people.  He said in John 10:29, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them from out of the Father’s hand.”  The elect, chosen by the Father, have been given to the Son.  But it gets better.  Christ says in the same chapter, in John 10:11, that he lays down his life for the sheep. 

Loved ones, listen carefully.  This is what can delight you again in the redemptive work of the Son.  When Christ died on the cross, it was personal.  What I mean is that you had been given to him before he had even been conceived and born.  As he entered this world, he already had your name, even before you were conceived and born.  He knew you and he knew what he was going to do for you out of his great love for you.  And when he was suffering and dying on the cross, he had your name on his heart.  Jesus didn’t die for a bunch of people he didn’t know.  He didn’t die on the cross for an anonymous mass of humanity, whoever it was who might believe in him further down the track.  No, he laid down his life for the sheep, for those whom the Father had given to him.  He died for the elect.  Jesus died for you personally, with your name on his heart.  As you think about that, that’s got to lead you to delight.  What an awesome thing that your Saviour died to save you personally, to be your personal substitute on the cross, to take your hell.  He took away the curse that lay on you because of your sins.  This is why we worship Jesus.  This is why Christians delight in him.

Then there’s also the work of God the Holy Spirit.  Here too there’s abundant reason for delight.  Our Catechism mentions his work of sanctification and I’ll come back to that in a minute.  For now, I want to focus on what our reading from Ephesians 1 says about him in relation to our election. 

The Holy Spirit is mentioned in Ephesians 1:13-14.  Paul says the elect have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance…”  In time, the Holy Spirit comes to each one whom God has chosen and each one for whom Christ died.  In time he comes and he first of all causes that elect person to be born again, to be regenerated.  The Holy Spirit gives a new heart and then that person comes to believe in Jesus Christ.  This is only possible because of the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit doesn’t just come and do his work for a little while and then leave the Christian.  No, the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian and he seals us.  This means that by continuing to sustain our faith in Christ, he assures us that we do belong to God.  Like a seal, he authenticates the reality of our salvation from sin.  But he’s also a guarantee of our inheritance.  The Holy Spirit will ensure, guarantee that we are preserved in our faith, so that we persevere to the end.  With him in our hearts, we can be sure that we’ll make it to the finish line.  Here’s why we delight in the Holy Spirit:  we don’t have the strength in ourselves, but he gives us the strength.  Therefore, we can be sure we’re going to reach the Promised Land.  This certainty, this confidence, is our delight.  What a beautiful, precious thing to be able to say, “Not because of me, but because of the Holy Spirit living in me, I’m confident that I’ll reach my heavenly home, the home won for me by Christ.”

But as we live in this world, the Holy Spirit also continues to work in our lives.  This brings us back to his work of sanctification.  Sanctification is the daily process by which the Holy Spirit makes us look more and more like Christ.  Sanctification is about how we grow in living as Christians.  Because he dwells in us this is specifically and most directly a work of the Holy Spirit. 

You see, God doesn’t save us because of what we’ve done.  We’re saved by grace without any consideration of our works.  We’re saved as sinners, just as we are without one plea.  However, it’s not God’s intention to leave just as we are.  Part of his plan for us is to change us, to change us more and more into the image of Christ.  God does that through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  The Holy Spirit works with the Word of God to change us from the inside out.  When he does and we see that, we can delight in his work. 

Every true Christian, after some period of time, should be able to look back over their life and see change, see growth.  If you’re 60 years old, are you the same person spiritually speaking that you were when you were 30?  Or if you’re 30 years old, are you the same person spiritually speaking that you were when you were 20?  You might have to think about it carefully.  You might have to ask others who know you well.  But if you’re really a Christian and the Holy Spirit is really living in you, you will see change.  It doesn’t happen quickly and sometimes we need a good stretch of time to see how he’s worked, but he does work.  And it’s when we see this that we can take delight in his work of sanctification.  I’m not the same person I used to be.  I prayed for him to help me change and he did.  That’s a wonderful thing, a precious thing to behold, something that give us joy and leads us to worship.

There’s also delight as we consider the unity of the three Persons of the Trinity.  Christians are monotheists.  That means we believe there is one God.  It’s a biblical given.  In Deuteronomy 6:4 we find the famous words, “Hear O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”  This verse is called the “Shema” after the first word in Hebrew.  It’s long been used as a confession of faith by Jews.  They recite it every day and also at synagogue services on the Jewish Sabbath.  “The LORD is one” means that there is only one God, but it also means that this one God is one.  He possesses profound unity within himself. 

When we confess God to be triune, we’re not saying he is three gods.  The language is precise and careful.  God is one in a way that’s different from the way he’s three.  So, we say God is three persons, but one essence.  Putting it like that, there’s no contradiction in the idea of the Trinity.  There’s still mystery, but there’s no contradiction or failure of logic.

We get some insight into the inner workings of the united Trinity from John 17.  This passage is known as the High Priestly Prayer.  Jesus prays these words as he’s about to enter into the worst of his suffering.  He prays as our Great High Priest, interceding for those who are his.  One of his intercessions is that all believers would be one.  Verse 21, “That they may all be one…”  And verse 23, “that they may become perfectly one.”  Our Great High Priest prays that his people would be united and the paradigm or pattern for this unity is the unity that exists within the Trinity.  Verse 21, “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us…”  Jesus is saying that he and the Father have such a deep level of unity that they are “in one another.” This is the closest possible unity imaginable for two persons.  This is the kind of unity for which Christ prays for his people.  They should be as close as possible. 

Now this isn’t a sermon about church unity or relationships with other churches.  Our focus is on the wonder of the Trinity, the wonder of who God is.  He is three persons in one God, and the unity that exists between those three persons is profound and beautiful. 

There’s a relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we can hardly begin to understand.  It’s deep.  But what we can understand from Scripture is impressive and delightful.  It’s beautiful and harmonious.  The early church fathers had a special word for this unity, this relationship between the persons of the Trinity.  It’s not a word you’ll hear often from the pulpit or read in books.  It’s a technical word taken from Greek.  The word is perichoresis [pronounced peri-kor-aysis].  Perichoresis literally refers to the endless going around and going between that exists in the deeply intimate relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Later theologians have described perichoresis as a dance between the persons of the Trinity within the Trinity. 

This is what perichoresis looks like:  the Father begets the Son.  The Son is begotten by the Father.  The Son is sent by the Father into the world to redeem the elect.  When he comes he says that he and the Father are one, they are in one another.  The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  Both Father and Son are in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is in both the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son into the world to dwell in believers, to form the link of fellowship between them and the Triune God.   While they have these distinct personalities and distinct modes of existence and distinct works, they are all together one in the deepest possible way.  What binds them together is the eternal love they have for one another.  There’s a mutual indwelling and a mutual interpenetration.  There’s an incomprehensible harmony between them.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in each other, they permeate each other, and yet mysteriously they’re still distinct from one another.  This is perichoresis.   

Loved ones, I know we’re swimming in the deep end here.  But if you can just begin to grasp the beauty of the unity between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you can’t help but say, “This is really impressive.  This is delightful.”  It’s like looking at a fine piece of art and appreciating not only the individual components, but also the way those pieces fit together in the whole.  When we contemplate God in his Trinity and unity, our hearts and minds are led to delight.

At the beginning of this sermon, I mentioned two benefits that come from delighting in God.  I mentioned confidence about our relationship with him, and the way it recasts our service to him as a joy rather than a burden.  One last benefit that I can mention is that delighting in God here and now prepares us for eternity.  When we reach our heavenly home, we’ll be delighting in God all the time, perfectly.  It’s something we ought to get ready for now.  If we don’t want to delight in God now, we won’t be delighting in him later.  Loved ones, it’s better to ask the Holy Spirit to help us delight in God and who he is each day.  Remember Psalm 111:2, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.”  AMEN.

PRAYER

Heavenly God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We praise you and take delight in who you are and what you’ve done.  O God, we delight in your unity, for the beautiful way that you as Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together and live together in love.  There’s such perfect harmony in you and we stand in awe of it.  But we also delight in your works.  Father, we delight in your work of creation.  You made this world and all its beautiful creatures.  It’s a testimony to your wisdom and genius.  Father, we delight in your work of election.  Thank you for choosing sinners before the foundation of the world, for choosing us out of your grace.  Lord Jesus, we delight in your redemption.  What a beautiful thing it is that you went to the cross with our names on your heart.  You loved us to death and we find that so amazing.  Holy Spirit, we delight in your works of regeneration and conversion.  Thank you that you bring dead sinners to life so they can and do take hold of Christ.  Holy Spirit, we praise you and delight in you for sealing us, for preserving us so that we persevere to the end.  And Holy Spirit, we rejoice in your work of sanctification too, how you continue to transform us into the image of our Saviour. 

O God, you give us every reason to delight in you.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to do this more and more.  We look forward to the day of endless delight in you.  Please bring that day quickly.                                                                        




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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