Our reading comes from 2 Corinthians 13:14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Sound familiar? We begin each worship service “In the name of the Father, Son, and (+) Holy Spirit.” After you confess your sins, the Pastor assures you: “You are forgiven in the name of the Father, Son, and (+) Holy Spirit.” You sing (in more than one hymn): “Holy [is Jesus]! Holy [is the Father]! Holy [is the Holy Spirit]!” Every single prayer may address God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit, or all three at once! Even at the end of service God triply assures you that (1) he fills your life with blessings, (2) that he deals kindly with you, and (3) that you have peace with him.
Our entire worship service constantly reminds you of one central truth: you have a Triune God. That’s right: “Tri-une.” Two Latin words put together with “tri” meaning three and “une” meaning one. This one word [Triune] expresses the truth that your God is three individual, distinct persons, each with a different set of responsibilities, but at the same time, God remains one united God with one same set of responsibilities!
Understand that? How can one individual being be, at the same time, three separate persons? That doesn’t make sense to our minds! That is alright. God does not reveal himself as Triune so that you can somehow figure it out. That’s not the purpose behind this truth. The purpose is to reveal and remind you how your Triune God blesses you.
This makes the teaching of the “Trinity” something more than just a classroom exercise. I’m not preparing you to answer a jeopardy question. God reveals himself as Triune for the simple assurance: God Is with You! You are Joined through grace, Bound to him by love and United in fellowship.
Did you notice how this Bible verse is laid out? Paul the missionary (who wrote 2 Corinthians) could very well have ended this letter with: “God be with you, good bye.” But he doesn’t, does he? Instead, Paul breaks apart how each person of the Triune God fills your life.
He brings you to the very foundation of your faith. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ[…] be with you.” So, how can you be sure God Is with You? How do you know God still cares for you even when your recovery from surgery is taking longer than you thought? How do you know God listens to your prayers for guidance when you have to make a major life decision? How do you know God is not livid-mad with you for failing him again? Well, God Is with You because you are Joined to him through grace.
The word “grace” means: “undeserved love.” This kind of love is entirely dependent on your decision to do selflessly love and does not come as a reaction to how someone treats you.
Imagine that your neighbor grabs his chainsaw, trots into your backyard, fires up the saw, and cuts down your favorite flower tree. Then he splits the wood in plain sight, hauls it over to his yard, and tosses it into his wood burner. You would be pretty upset, right? He walked onto property not his, cut something down he did not own, and then used your possessions for his personal benefit! He (1) trespassed, he (2) vandalized, and he (3) stole! He wronged you! His behavior does not deserve you observing his health. His character has not earned your friendship. You would probably never talk to him again, never help him again, never look at him again. His actions rightly earn your wrath!
Yet, you demonstrate grace when you still love your neighbor, still treat him with full respect, and offer him all your help in spite of the fact that he did hurt you. “Grace” is “undeserved love.” “Grace” joins you to God.
Our Old Testament reading says it pretty clearly: God creates an absolutely perfect world and sets Adam and Eve to fill it with children! (Genesis 1:1-2:4) God did not create the universe because you are a pretty good person or because you are so cute and cuddly. God chose to create all things. God chose to make the universe perfect. God chose to put people in the world. With one rebellious act life in paradise became a shattered dream.
God gives a crystal clear command: “You shall not have no other gods” (Exodus 20:3). Yet, how often the heart scrounges for a reason of entering heaven: “I’m going to heaven because I’m in church and my neighbor is not!” Giving an offering can feel like you are losing your entire wealth: “Well, that money is for me to go to Michigan’s Adventure!… or buy the five-burner, infrared grill!… or upgrade my car!”
That heart within the chest pounds: “Me! Me! Me!” No wonder guilt flares up when selfishness is unmasked! No wonder fear creeps in when recovery takes a little time! No wonder anxiety washes over when you wait for God’s answer! When comparing our thoughts, words, and actions to God’s high demand of love, we realize it falls far short of his standards! And if we would grow furious at a neighbor cutting down our tree, we know God could seize his Bible from life, ignore our prayers, and never ever look at us again. He could whip into heaven, slam the door shut, stop looking down, and just leave such rebels alone! Yet, he does not, does he?
God deals with you in grace. “Grace” is “undeserved love.” And you experience the undeserved love of Jesus.
Jesus chooses to endure the punishment selfishness deserves. His body is nailed to the cross. He suffers God’s wrath so that you will never endure God’s wrath in hell. God ignores Jesus so that you will not be forgotten from God’s mind forever. When Jesus cries out: “It is finished!” (John 19:30), he means just that. Guilt erased, forgiven, removed. Not: “It is finished on my end, now you need to behave.” Not: “It is finished, but you need to pay me back for my efforts. Grace means Jesus is not waiting for you to earn his love. Grace means Jesus loves you so much that he takes the steps necessary to erase your guilt.
Jesus makes grace a part of your life. Because he chooses to save you, you are joined to God. Being joined to God means God Is with You! He is bound to you by love.
That is why this verse continues: “And the love of God[…] be with you.” This “love” runs deeper than just emotional love (like joy or happiness). This “love” is more than just a friendship. When you hear God the Father “loves” you, it means he loves you in spite of your actions. He loves you because Jesus has made you pleasing in his sight. God Is with You! The Father is bound to you by love. Bound. Tied. Joined together.
Do you always remember that? Our world seems to view God as some Supreme Being who lives out in the universe and sits idly by as the globe spins in front of him. We can easily think God only steps in for life’s so-called “big” problems.
We can think God the Father is merely relegated to some helper role— that he pays attention only when things get really bad. “Oh, he has cancer; now I’m paying attention.” “Oh, she’s struggling with her friends, I’ll help.” “Oh, they are a couple hundred short this month. Ah, they’ll figure it out. It’s no big deal.” This is not true!
If Jesus joins you to God, then God the Father is bound to you! The entire reason Jesus spends his life on earth is to bring peace to your life! That means God the Father treats you in the same way you treat your own children. He listens to you, just as you direct your attention to the child tugging your leg. He provides food and clothing and house and home just as you automatically provide these things for your children. He protects you, keeping your body and soul safe just as you protect your daughter in the car or at home or watch over her right now! The love of God the Father constantly remains in your life!
He has not disappeared into heaven. He does live far away from anyone and everyone else. He is not unwilling and unable to help. Rather, he remains bound by love to help you. That means God Is with You! He unites you in fellowship.
Literally. Our verse ends: “And the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.” You have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). At first, that may sound a little odd. “In?” When we say “in” we mean that God put his name on you. He puts papers into your hand, stating that you are a member of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit brings this fellowship, this close relationship between God and you. God Is with You!
And he will remain with you always (Matthew 28:20). God knows your frustrations when your recovery from surgery is taking longer than you thought. He knows your anxiety when you have to make a major life decision. God recognizes the fear that appears when guilt creeps up in your heart. So, God the Holy Spirit unites you in fellowship with God.
This fellowship means you have access to God! No, not just a one-way access where God will someday choose to intervene in your life. It is a two-way access! You approach God in prayer and God answers. God speaks to you through the Bible and you trust in his ability to do the things has says he can do. God uses Jesus’ body and blood to strengthen your confidence that he (and not you) has fully removed your sin and that he (and not you) are the reason you’re entering heaven. You live confident that God Is with You!
Our entire worship service constantly reminds you of one central truth: you have a Triune God. Your God is three individual, distinct persons, each with a different set of responsibilities, and yet, at the same time, God remains one united God with one same set of responsibilities!
Understand that? How can one individual being be, at the same time, three separate persons? That doesn’t make sense to our minds! That is alright. God does not reveal himself as Triune so that you can somehow figure him out. That’s not the purpose. The purpose is to reveal and remind you that your Triune God blesses you now and always. God the Son deals with you in grace. You are a child of God—not because you feel it or because you earned it. You are his child because Jesus makes you his child. God the Father daily fills you with his undeserved love. God the Holy Spirit unites you through faith to God.
So, rejoice! Be glad! Live comforted now and always because God Is with You! You are Joined through grace, Bound to him by love and United in fellowship.
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