Why is it my spiritual growth seems so confusing or ambiguous at times? Is it because God enjoys being mysterious, like playing a game of Marco Polo, where I blindly wander and shout out, “God, what are you doing in my life?” and hoping He says something like, “You’re getting warm!”
The problem is not on God’s end though it seems easier to just ascribe blame. The issue is that I am viewing God’s growth plan for me through the wrong lens – my own. If the primary way of instructing believers is His word, which it is, then it would be to my great advantage to take the time to figure it out so that I can see the bigger picture of how God desires to grow me.
On top of that, the interaction among the Trinity as it relates to me has often been mysterious at best, confusing at worst. I recently finished teaching a weekly men’s group at church where we went through some key manly principles from the gospel of John. As we were cruising through chapters 15-16, the synergistic nature of the Trinity in my life gained a lot of clarity for me.
Yes, there is one God, but we must value and appreciate each distinct person of the Trinity and the unique role each serves. To not do so will lead to an improper view of God that will cast you into anger, bitterness, disillusionment, and despair.
From a macro view…
- God initiated the plan of redemption and ensuing sanctification process. It was His idea, not mine.
- Jesus carried out (willingly and joyfully, I might add) this plan of the Father to gather a bride to Himself, a people of His choosing.
- The Holy Spirit continues that work in each of our lives by indwelling us with the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
So what does this look like in the day-to-day for you and for me when it comes to the roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? To emphasize one over the other or minimize the function of a member is dangerous and leads to poor theology and dysfunctional living (i.e. brokenness).
Above all, know this
Before you understand the how you must understand the why. Why is the Trinity involved in the life of every believer? It is stated with clarity in Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Why the involvement with my life? One goal, one focus: to look more like Jesus. And so God uses the “all things” of our life to conform us to His Son Jesus. And God is super efficient. He makes “all things work together for good.” If you do not get this and buy into it, you will make accusations against God, get angry with Him, and push Him away.
But, if you get this, then the next step is to understand the distinct roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They work together – collaboratively and in concert – to aid you in this business of looking like Jesus.
The role of the Father
In John 15, Jesus presents this metaphor – “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.” Later Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” These were meant to show function and the critical nature of the relationship.
We are branches found in Christ. The Father tends both the soil around the branches as well as the branches themselves. And part of any husbandman’s role with those branches is that there must be pruning, a deep cutting that is often painful. “But God, I need that branch!” you might say. To which God replies, “Not if you want to bear a whole bunch of fruit and look like Jesus.”
His goal is maximum fruit bearing. You know, that fruit in Galatians 5:22-23 such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. He wants a lot because He deserves glory and bearing His fruit makes us a joyful and happy people.
That word “prune” in John 15:3 has an additional nuance to it that I find interesting. It also means that the Father metaphorically cuts off branches of guilt. Why? Because as sons and daughters of God, guilt has been removed. It is gone. We are adopted. And we are promised that
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Think about that: God cuts off branches of guilt because those branches hold us back. What a picture.
The role of the Son
Jesus reminds us in John 15:6 that apart from Him, there is no fruit bearing. None. Nada. If you read the book of John, you will find several “I am” statements that are designed to help us understand the “apart from me you can do nothing” statement.
- I am the bread of life
- I am the light of the world
- I am the door of the sheep
- I am the good shepherd
- I am the resurrection and the life
- I am the way, the truth, and the life
- I am the true vine
We are sourced in Him. He asks us to abide. And if you read John 15:9, 11 you will see we are to abide in Jesus’ love and Jesus’ joy. He says to me, “Antone, be connected to me and I will help you love what I love with the same love that I have. And, I will help you enjoy what I joy in with the same joy that I have.” We are not asked to somehow improve our own love or joy. It is the great exchange.
Read Ephesians 1 and note all of the “in Him” phrases to be found. I look to common bread – He is the bread of life. I drink the common water of this world – He is the living water. I try to make sense of this world on my own – He is the good shepherd. In Him I have redemption, forgiveness, and sonship.
Jesus puts my growth in a proper perspective.
The role of the Spirit
The Spirit’s role in all of this is also very unique. We can easily get a skewed view of the Holy Spirit and think of Him like this heavy-handed entity named “Da Hammah,” where all He does is wait for us to get out of line and leverage His divine discipline. That is an unfortunate view because it simply is not true.
In John 16 Jesus makes His disciples anxious with His “I am leaving” statements. How could He go away in their hour of need? But Jesus issues these words:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7-11)
The Helper. And in other places, He is called the Comforter.
If you do some study on the word “convict,” you will find that it also means “to convince.” Did you see in the verses above that the Helper was sent to convict of righteousness? Another way to say that is that the Helper convinces us of our righteous standing. The Holy Spirit does not exist to convince me of being a moron at times. Or a rebel. Or a loser.
He convinces me of my righteousness.
Do you grasp the weight of this? As I yield to temptation or begin to go my own way, the Helper is right there convincing me that Jesus is the better bread, the living water, the good shepherd. He is not condemning me. So a conviction of sin in our lives is a convincing of our sonship. Certainly, I am to be about killing sin in my life, but my response is what is either going to waylay me in despair or receive the gift of repentance and walk in my new identity.
It is critical that we understand these three distinct roles from a biblical framework. To not do so will leave you in despair and sensing God is at work in other people but is just not interested in you.
The plan that the Father initiated and the Son carried out, the Spirit now sustains within each of us.
I am thankful for the Trinity.