Beyond Comprehension

“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me”

John 14:11

The way we speak of the Trinity may sometimes give cause for others to think that we believe in three gods. The Bible is clear that there is but one God who created all that exists apart from Himself. He has revealed Himself as three Persons who are One but how do we understand that and can we explain it to others?

In the Bible God does use several aspects of creation to help us understand Him. John records seven of Jesus “I AM’s” that do that: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the door” (John 10:7), “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and “I am the true vine” (John 15:1). However, God does not give us anything in creation that helps us grasp the concept of the tri-unity of God. Many have attempted to use various physical things to explain this aspect of God but all fall short or may even be misleading.

In the passage John 14:7-11 Jesus does give us some important revelation concerning His relationship with the Father. Bear in mind that we can only know what God has revealed. We cannot discover truth that He chooses to keep from us. Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father (v 8) and Jesus’ response reveals that Jesus and the Father are inseparably one. We cannot have the Son and not the Father or the Father and not the Son. This also includes the Holy Spirit (v 16). Nor can we love One and not the other (15:23).

Jesus says that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (vs 10-11) and He told Philip that seeing Him is seeing the Father (v 9). Jesus speaks in these terms again when He says “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home in him” (v 23). The unity of the Godhead is not just one of kind or agreement of purpose and philosophy. We cannot receive Jesus without receiving the Father and the Holy Spirit as some seem to believe. We cannot give favour or focus to one member of the trinity to the exclusion of the others without distorting our view of God. There is but one God and through the new birth He has made a way for us to share in the oneness (John 17:20-23).


“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah 6:8

There are not many occasions in the Bible where God spells out so succinctly what He requires of us. Much of the rest of Scripture is given to reveal the myriad of examples of how to, and how not to, fulfil this requirement. Please notice that these are three things we are to do not to receive.

In this world we may want to be dealt with justly but the evidence is that this will not always be the case. Sometimes that is just as well! However, we are to always deal with others in a just and righteous manner regardless of how we are being treated. This is a description of the life of Jesus Christ in us.

Secondly we are to love mercy. When we are walking with Christ we will be as He is. He loved to show kindness to undeserving people and to forgive them when they wronged Him. We will know that we are spiritual people when we also gladly forgive those who have wronged us and no longer hold grudges. It is of no consequence whether the other person is merciful, kind or forgiving to us. If we are in Christ we will delight to show mercy and spontaneously forgive and show kindness.

To “walk humbly” is often misunderstood. In this context it is “walk humbly with your God.” This means to have a right perspective of the relationship between yourself and God. We can start by delighting in the fact that He is our Creator and Sustainer, Redeemer and Saviour. He is the One who is “all in all” and I am the one in need and who can do nothing of myself.

There is a counterfeit humility that parades itself but that has no place in the Christian’s life. Humility can never be consciously achieved because the moment we recognize it in ourselves, pride will sweep it away. Like all aspects of true Christianity the attributes of Christ are either in us spontaneously or they are not there at all. In reality we cannot manufacture Christ likeness. To say we can is to say that we can become a dog by acting like a dog. All that does is make us look foolish. The same is true in the spiritual walk with Christ, it cannot be faked and the fake cannot remain hidden.

The Bread of Life

“Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled”

John 6:26

It wasn’t long after Jesus had miraculously provided meals for five thousand men plus women and children from a boy’s lunch that many of the same crowd caught up with Him again. Jesus perceived that their desire was for another free lunch and not to hear His teaching. Sadly, their desire was only for what would fill their tummies and not their hearts.

We need to be on guard of our own hearts to ensure that we don’t default into only wanting what Jesus gives without wanting Him. This is one of the reasons many human relationships break up. People often enter a relationship with expectations of what they will receive. When those expectations are not realised or are no longer met, the relationship collapses. If we come to Jesus with incorrect expectations, when they are not met, we will cease to follow Him. We must be careful how we present the Gospel so as not to give incorrect expectations.

There are many temporal benefits Jesus Christ brings but they are all inseparable from Him. John wrote, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). The “life” is Christ’s life in us, that is, eternal life. Many people want heaven and eternal life who do not want Jesus but that is absolutely impossible.

To evaluate whether we really want Jesus or just the benefits He brings it would be profitable to evaluate our prayers. They may reveal that our main concern is for temporal matters such as food, clothing, comfort and health but not for the benefit of Christ’s kingdom or for Christ’s glory.

Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). When we are with Jesus in heaven we will realise the foolishness of many of our earthly pursuits and anxieties. Our highest priority is to know Jesus Christ. In contrast to pursuing Jesus for these earthly needs Jesus encourages us to pursue that which will never be taken from us. Following His lament that the crowd only followed Him for food He said, “Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:27).

Consequences Remain

“And the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die; for we have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves’”

1 Samuel 12:19

After suffering years of conflict with their neighbours, who had kings, the people of Israel thought that they should also have a king. The conflicts arose because Israel turned from following the Lord; but the conflicts were the means the Lord used to bring them to repentance and renewed faith. Each generation had to learn this anew.

Israel had God as their King, but they were not satisfied with the way things were going for them. They didn’t want the attacks from neighbours – and reasoned that a great king would prevent the attacks. They did not recognise that this was a spiritual war and that the physical wars were serving God’s objectives for Israel.

The Lord had warned them through Samuel on several occasions not to seek an earthly king and told of the costly consequences, but they persisted. We notice that this was a trait of Saul also (13:12). He felt compelled to act even against what he knew to be the command of the Lord (13:13).

In demanding a king, Israel was rejecting the will of the Lord. They were following the way of the world when they should have been leading the world in God’s ways. When Christians follow the ways of the world instead of leading the world in the ways of the Lord we sin in the same way as Israel.

What we observe in the verse above is that Israel eventually realised their sin and repented of it. In God’s grace He forgave them but He did not remove the consequences – and those consequences would bear a great cost to the nation. Samuel records that cost in 8:11-18. There would be great economic loss; there would be great loss in family relationships (due to the military and public service); and worse, there would be great spiritual loss, “The Lord will not hear you in that day” (8:18).

When we sin, forgiveness is available if we truly repent and confess that sin to God. Our fellowship with Him will be restored. However, the consequences of that sin will often remain. Remorse will demand that the consequences be removed; a contrite heart accepts whatever the Lord grants. Words spoken cannot be taken back and deeds done cannot be undone. Better to obey the Lord from the outset.

The Last Adam

“The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit”

1 Corinthians 15:45

The first Adam is the ancestor of us all and Paul had stated clearly that “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). This is indeed bad news and is why Paul could write that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also wrote that sin entered the world through one man and through him all his descendants inherited the sin nature (Romans 5:12).

The Bible is clear that sin entered by Adam, yet it was Eve who first took and ate of the forbidden fruit. I used to wonder why Adam was held responsible – until I read Numbers chapter thirty. Society has a habit of swinging like a pendulum on several fronts, perhaps many, and this is one of them. Not that long ago, in western society, women were not regarded well in comparison to men but now the pendulum is swinging the other way.

Adam was given the privilege and responsibility of authority and his wife was given to serve the Lord alongside him in the exercise of that authority. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit and offered it to Adam, what should he have done? At first I thought that Adam was forced to choose between his relationship with God and his relationship with Eve. In Numbers 30:8, however, we read that Adam had the authority to overrule Eve’s action. Had he done so, sin would not have entered the world at that time. Eve had been deceived by Satan (1 Timothy 2:14), but because he had authority to overrule her action, Adam bore responsibility.

Our society is the poorer when we do not follow our Creator’s instructions for relationships within family and society. It seems that just when the pendulum is swinging back nearer to the correct place it just keeps on going. God’s Word will keep us just right if followed. In Christ that is possible.

The good news is that by the grace and miracle-working power of God in Jesus Christ our ancestry can be changed. The “last Adam” is Jesus Christ, who gives eternal life to all who will receive it. “The free gift is not like the offense. For if by one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:15).

Sharing Life Experiences

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” 1 John 1:3

John wrote this several decades after Pentecost and we notice that he writes that his fellowship with Jesus and the Father is still current. His desire is that all believers grow in appreciation the abiding presence of both the Father and Jesus Christ. In his Gospel John records Jesus’ words, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). We know that on trusting the Lord Jesus the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer but we may be less aware that the Father and the Son also want, not only to indwell, but also to make their home with us. That means living together as one sharing life’s experiences.

The nature of pride will attempt to divert us from personal intimacy with Jesus in a way that may appear spiritual but is not. It is possible that we may hide behind Bible knowledge, theological correctness or even ministry enthusiasm so that we appear spiritual but in fact have little if any intimacy with Jesus Christ. Bible knowledge, theological correctness and passion in ministry are very important but they are not an end in themselves.

When a young man is attracted to a young woman or a young woman attracted to a young man they would never be satisfied with just gaining knowledge about the other person. Knowing their likes and dislikes and other personal details may be helpful in the relationship but they are only a means to knowing the other person intimately, not the goal. An intimate relationship will require sharing time and experiences together and this will be the desire of their hearts.

I have known several Christians who are genuinely born of God and have a love for Jesus but when the conversation comes around to intimacy with Jesus they revert to Bible knowledge, doctrinal accuracy or ministry enthusiasm in an attempt to express their spirituality. These are the people to whom John has written this letter. No marriage would be at all satisfactory if the two parties never spent time together and shared life experiences. Neither will Christians be satisfied unless they are walking with Jesus, spending time and sharing life experiences with Him.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). This is only possible by spending time together and sharing experiences. We must resist the temptation to hide behind Bible knowledge, theological correctness or passionate ministry when we claim spirituality. They are not the measure. Abiding in (sharing our lives with) Christ is the measure (John 15:5).

“And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).

A Hearty Amen

“Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23)

There are some verses in the Bible that we can admire because we take them rather lightly but when we look more closely at them we might wish they were not in the Bible at all. It is the other ‘bookend’ of another such verse: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (v 17).

We may have no problem giving a hearty “Amen” to these two verses but the heartiness may diminish when we look at what is between the ‘bookends.’

The context of these verses are our relationships with other people with special highlighting on the more intimate and built on love – the same kind of love that God has for us (vv 14-16). They presuppose that the love of God flows out of us through Christ in us (1:27c).

As he does in Ephesians Paul first mentions the marital relationship. Our thoughts, words and deeds within the marital relationship are our service to Christ and a witness of Christ’s gracious working power.  For both husband and wife that means living together as God planned.

Apart from having “Christ in you” there is also another prerequisite for this to be possible: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (v 16). It is up to us to discover what the Bible teaches about how we live in a marriage. Paul goes on to say how we can know what the Bible teaches on this and any subject, “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

It is all very well to leave it up to the preacher but that is not what Paul or Jesus had in mind.

The other relationships are children to parents, fathers to children and, dare we acknowledge it, our work place. Can you believe that Paul says that all our thoughts, words and deeds at work at school or in the home are our service and witness to the Lord Jesus Christ? No wonder some don’t want to acknowledge to work mates (or school mates) that they are Christians!

Paul writes that our work is our service, our parenting is our service and our marital relationship is our service for Jesus.

The more we meditate on this passage and those like it the more we realise that it is infinitely beyond us to conform to it in practice. When we realise that fact we finally know the truth: We cannot live it, only Jesus Christ in us can live it. Let us stop getting in the way and let Him do so.

Stresses in Relationships

“Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God.” Psalm 56:12

Some non-Christians are honest enough these days not to have their wedding in a church. They do not believe, as David did, that God exists and that they are accountable to Him for the vows they make. However, this will not remove their accountability before God. Some non-Christian couples choose a church wedding in which vows are made to a God in whom they do not believe.

The sad thing is that all too often Christians do not accept responsibility for the vows they have made. We may make many vows and promises throughout our lives but how we manage them will reveal our character. Beginning with our relationship to God in Jesus Christ, relationships are the most important things in life.

When (not ‘if’) stress comes into a relationship the character of each person in that relationship will be tested and revealed. Like a rolling giant ice-berg that which is beneath the surface will be exposed. This is something we work hard to avoid but that God works to achieve.

The ungodly may renege on their vows in order to seek respite from that stress. When a Christian does the same it is still an ungodly act, perhaps more so, because they have, in Christ, the resources to not only work through the problem but come out with an even stronger relationship.

When strife in a relationship appears it is not God’s intention that we break the relationship. Instead it is so that we can mend the underlying but previously hidden problem. This is true in all relationships be it marital, parental, family, business and in the church. We cannot mend a relationship when we don’t see the problem or we don’t want to see the problem.

It is one of the gracious actions of God that He intervenes to expose our relational difficulties because then He can begin to correct our thinking and ways. He will go to great lengths to achieve this, if necessary, but we will need to work with Him if He is to have any measure of success.

In this way crises reveal our character – what we are made of. Character is developed by making moral choices. In the case of relationships it is never morally right to run away from a relationship because of a problem. The problem will always go with us to other relationships.

The Bible shows us the way to put things right and God is always willing and able to cleanse us and renew us in our minds. Wrong thinking produces wrong behaviour which in turn produces problems in relationships. God is working in us to correct our relational problems but we must work with Him. He will not change us against our will.

The most vital and important relationship is our relationship to Jesus Christ. All other relationships have their origin and foundation in that one.

What a Friend

“You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” John 15:14-15

There are two different kinds of relationship in mind here; that of a master and slave and that of friends. In the religions of the world the master and slave relationship prevails but that is not the case in true Christianity. Unfortunately there are many Christians who have a master and servant mindset with regard to their relationship with God. That kind of relationship will provoke concepts of serving to gain favour or some other kind of reward. In the work force we call these promotion and higher pay.

The relationship of servant and master does not require love or even friendship. It is a commercial relationship. A person serves another for what they can get out of it. If they are not getting what they want they will choose another master. So we see that the master and servant relationship does not require loyalty or sacrifice either.

Is this concept contrary to Jesus words in verse 14, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you”? From this verse in isolation one may think that if they are an obedient servant that will make them a friend of Jesus. Indeed, that may be the very reward such a person desires. This is a wonderful desire but is it the way to obtain friendship of Jesus?

The nature of friendship is that of equals sharing their lives but how can God in the Person of Jesus Christ be considered an equal with a sinner?

On one occasions I was employed by a man who I considered a friend then – and still do. So far as being men before God we are equal but our roles within the organisation were very different. The same is true of my relationship with Jesus. He says that it is possible for us to be friends even though there is a great difference in our roles within His church. It is possible because of the incarnation. Jesus left His glory with the Father and took on humanity. In that, we are equally human. If not, then Jesus could never atone for our sin.

It is Jesus who declares that we can be friends with Him. It is not only possible but Jesus’ desire and that can been seen in His prayer in John 17 and especially verses 21-23.

The relationship of friends is very different to that of master and slave. Friends serve one another for what they can give not for what they can get. There is also love, involving sacrifice, and loyalty in friendship. Friends share the same interests and love being in company with each other.

Of course, among people there are degrees of friendship but as we read the broader context of this passage including Jesus’ prayer in chapter seventeen it is clear that Jesus desires that we have the most intimate of friendships with Him. As a friend of Jesus we will serve Him out of love and not out of duty or for some reward. As friends do, Jesus tells us His plans for the future. He warns us of what lies ahead so that we can allow Him to prepare us for them (cf. Genesis 18:17; James 2:23; John 16:13).

True Love

“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”  (2 John 6)

People have many ways of interpreting what it means to love another but John defines it in the one true and godly way. The way to show godly love to another, regardless of the kind of relationship we have with that one, is to be obedient to the Divine Nature. The Divine Nature is often revealed in the Bible in the form of commandments.

As we read the Bible we find directives and commandments regarding all kinds of human relationships. Not surprisingly they all have their basis in our relationship with God. The most intimate of these relationships is between husband and wife. Then there are our relationships with our children, parents, other Christians, employers or employees, those who falsely witness, the religious and with non-believers. For all these there are instructions and guidelines for our attitude and behaviour in the Bible. Living in this way, or “walking according to them,” is real genuine love toward the other regardless of what they may think or how they respond.

Years ago I met a man at work who said he was a Christian. I had been sharing the Gospel with another fellow worker so I asked him to share his testimony with him. What I didn’t know was that this man had backslidden. He shared his testimony and it gave evidence that he was truly born of God but the redness of his face told me something was not quite right. After work I apologised for embarrassing him but he saw it as Christ calling him back to renewed faith. He began again to walk with the Lord. He may not have wanted to hear that he was backslidden but it was the best thing for him.

On another occasion a fellow worker who claimed to be a Christian gave evidence in his words and behaviour that he didn’t understand how a person became a Christian or who really is a Christian. As I shared the Gospel with him he took offense claiming that I was not acting out of love toward him. Would it be love to let him live his life deceived only to find out on that fearsome day before the great white throne judgment that he was not saved at all? No! Love demands I tell him the truth. That man came to faith in Jesus Christ about a month later.

Perhaps we are slow to share the Gospel with our work mates because of fear that they will reject us or even become abusive. This will be our constant companion in the workplace if we show Christ’s love and share the Gospel with them.

If Christ’s love exists in us at all we will willingly and gladly carry this cross for the sake of the few who will receive the message. Some may not receive it right away but may later. If we have Christ’s love we will persevere.

The best thing we can do for any relationship is to live according to the directives and commands in God’s Word, the Bible. This is love and nothing else is.