A few years ago, Facebook sent me an Oculus Quest (now it’s called Meta Qeust), a virtual reality headset, to review. I love it because it takes you to another world. Among many apps and games in there, I enjoy the National Geographic Explore VR because it takes you to exotic places as if you are there in person.
I am sure many of you have played some VR games, or your kids might have let you try it out. It’s somewhat like a 3D movie, but you can interact with what you see. That’s just the infancy of what you hear in the news these days—metaverse.
In the future, you will be able to attend church without leaving your home but will get the same experience and feel as if you are sitting in the pews. You might even be able to appear in two or three places simultaneously because your avatars are there for you. You might be at the gym, classroom, and church at the same time, exercising your body, mind, and spirit simultaneously. You can become a trinity—sort of.
So, when I tell the younger generation that God is a Trinity, they say, “Cool!” They don’t argue with me because it’s not hard for them to imagine God being a Trinity. But if I talked about Trinity with the baby boomers or older, they thought it was absurd. Some would even argue with me.
A while back, someone commented on one of my sermon videos, saying the concept of “Trinity” is unbiblical and that the Bible never mentioned the term Trinity. Growing up, I have heard various arguments against Trinity. Some say, “You Christians are bad and math. How can one plus one plus one be one?”
I understand the difficulty of describing and explaining Trinity, but I am glad I didn’t dismiss it just because it’s hard to understand. Mysteries like this humble us and make us even more curious to explore the wonders of God’s nature, which pays off because it helps you understand life.
Contemporary science also has proven that the more we discover, the more we realize that we know so little about the universe. Quantum physics also has opened a can of worms against linear thinking. As we enter the age of metaverse, Trinty becomes even easier to imagine.
What’s most valuable about decoding the mysteries about God’s trinitarian nature is it enriches our lives. The more we understand God, the more we understand ourselves. The more we understand the Creator, the more we understand the creation and vice versa.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the only Sunday in the year designated to discuss a doctrine. Other Sundays focus on the stories of God’s salvation process through Jesus Christ. The good news is I have discovered that understanding Trinity can help us enjoy life even at a greater level. So, today, let’s explore the wonderland of Trinity!
[Hi! In case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper. You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today is Trinity Sunday, and the scripture lesson is from the Gospel according to John 16:12–15. [Listen to the Word of the Lord.]
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12–15).
[This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
As always, John is good at articulating profound ideas into simple sentences. This short passage is loaded with information about the triune God. Only about 20 verses in the Bible mention all three persons of the Trinity, and verse 15 is one of them.
“All that the Father has is mine (Father and Song). For this reason I said that he (the Holy Spirit) will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15).
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all included in this verse. Jesus talked about them as if each is a distinct person, yet he was not promoting pantheism because together, they are one God. How can something be of one substance and in three persons simultaneously?
It sounds like a quantum physics phenomenon that is beyond logic but can be observed. The more you try to explain it, the more convoluted it becomes, risking heresy. There are various heresies about Trinity. One of them is called modalism, which believes God is only one person revealed in three different modes.
Modelism believes that God is no longer in heaven when He is on earth as Jesus. After Jesus left, He returned as the Holy Spirit. So God shows up only in one mode at a time. It’s like a pot of water. It can become ice when it is cold and turn into vapor when it is hot. So, water can show up in the form of liquid, ice, or vapor. All together, they are called water. It’s a nice example of one substance in three modes, but it does not fully explain Trinity.
Sometimes, we hear describing Trinity as the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer. The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Sustainer. While it tells us the functions of the persons in the Trinity, it could lead us to a pantheist mindset, as if we worship three Gods.
Sometimes, I like to use human nature to explain Trinity. We may also be a trinity since we are created in God’s image. We have body, mind, and spirit. Jesus is like the body—the physical presence, and God is like the mind since He is invisible, and the Holy Spirit is like our spirit. Sometimes, our body is in one place, our mind is in another place, and our spirit (or heart) is still somewhere else.
People ask me, “I understand the body and mind, but how to understand the spirit?” The body is obvious. We know we have a mind because we can think. How do we know we have a spirit?
The best way to describe our spirit is by using our hearts because our spirit is revealed in our relationships. For example, we know the fruit of the Holy Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” All these fruits are relational words.
So, we have a body to work with, a mind to think with, and a spirit to relate with. When it comes to relationships, we often use the term heart. We say, “I love you with all my heart.” So, I would say the heart can represent the spirit because they are what we use to describe our relationships. Since we use the heart to talk about our emotions, so we can also say our spirit is revealed in our emotions.
Our physical health determines how well we function, our mental health determines how well we think, and our spiritual health determines how well we relate. Jesus’ Great Commandments say, love God and love people. It is all about relationships, and our relationship reveals our spiritual health.
Our world is a world of broken relationships. In other words, we are spiritually sick. That’s why we have broken relations among family, friends, and nations. Any broken relationship traces to spiritual sickness. As long as we hear killings, fights, and wars, this world still needs salvation.
I knew a lady who attended church religiously, led Bible Studies, and preached better than an average preacher, but her relationship stunk; she couldn’t get along with anyone, including her family members. So, a person’s spiritual health is not determined by how religious they are but by how relational they are.
That’s why Jesus emphasizes loving one another as proof of loving God. John’s writings are uncompromising about loving one another. He said,
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (1 Jn 4:20).
I know it’s not easy to love everyone because we live in this fallen world and have to deal with fallen people. Sometimes, people would even laugh at us Christians for behaving like a doormat letting crazy people walk over us. Those of us on the East Coast have learned to appear aggressive as our defense mechanism.
When I was at the seminary in San Francisco, the Executive Presbyter from New York City came to interview the graduating students to fill the vacancies in New York City churches. He said to the staff person at the school that he couldn’t take me to New York City because I was so gentle that the New Yorkers would eat me alive.
I couldn’t believe it when the staff relayed that to me. Is New York City that scary? It sounded like a secular dog-eat-dog world. I wonder how the sheep could eat the shepherd. Well, I still ended up on the East Coast and am still alive. We don’t have to behave like the secular society to feel safe.
I told a church member in San Francisco that I was going to New York. They all tried to dissuade me from going as if New York was like Nineva. However, an Elder, a nice lady, took me aside, saying, “Sam, don’t believe them. I lived in New York City all my life and just moved here a few years ago. In New York, everyone behaves like a lion, but deep inside, they are like little bunnies. You’ll find them very nice and kind people when you get to know them. They look tough because there are too many people there.”
The point is this fallen world makes us defensive and divisive. Our spirit is hungry for healthy relationships, but we are afraid of getting hurt, so we build up walls. Jesus compares us to sheep, but we want to pretend to be lions. As the Lamb of God, Jesus shows us we can also be lambs. Don’t let the sick spirits make us defensive.
Most importantly, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to those who love one another. That means we cannot understand God’s truth if we have broken relationships. Jesus said,
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13).
Here, Jesus called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. Don’t confuse truth with facts. Facts answer the questions of how, when, and where. Truth mostly answers the question of why. Why are we here on earth? Why do we still have wars among nations? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Jesus said the Spirit of truth would guide us into all the truth. That’s the promise. As always, with every promise, there is a premise. The premise here is that the pronoun “you” is plural. That means Jesus was promising the Spirit of truth to come to a community rather than an individual.
That’s why there is no such thing as a lone-ranger Christian. Some people say, “I don’t go to church because my spirituality is private. I worship God by myself.” Your personal relationship with God is important, but without a community, you will miss out on the truth because that’s the premise for the promise of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth. Then Jesus said,
“He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14).
This truth about Trinity is the most important. When we read the Bible, we often find verses like, the Father glorifies the Son, and the So glorifies the Father. Now it says the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son. The three Persons of the Trinity glorify one another. What truth does it reveal?
It reveals the selflessness of God. The love between Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit is unselfish, and there is no place for ego in Trinity. It depicts a perfect and healthy relationship. If we want to live spiritually healthy lives, we must learn to be unselfish in relationships.
One of the signs of the fallen world is that people tend to glorify themselves. So, that triggers the question, “Do you live a life to glorify yourself or others?” We know the Bible teaches us to glorify God. That’s at least a step to selflessness.
However, based on the way the Trinity relates to one another, we need to learn to love to the level that we glorify one another. I know it’s a big challenge. I haven’t been able to do that. “Why should I glorify another person?” That’s the question our fallen nature would ask.
If every husband glorifies his wife, and every wife glorifies her husband, we will have fewer divorces in this world. If every nation glorifies another—though we can’t even imagine it—there will be no war in this world. That is the ultimate salvation. It has to start from a community of believers like this church.
Jesus expects us to become “one” through our love. So, if we are one, you are automatically glorified as you glorify others. Trinity has taught us what Oneness is like. So, if we want to live a godly life, we must learn to practice selfless love in this selfish world. The reward of living in oneness is that our eyes will be open to the truth.
That’s what church is for. As we gather every week to learn to love God and one another, we become enlightened because the Holy Spirit is among us, revealing the truth to us. That’s what small groups are also for because we can practice oneness on a small scale which is less overwhelming. Jesus said,
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Mt 18:20).
Let us draw inspiration from Trinity and stretch our love to glorify God and one another.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.