A central theme in Paul’s writings is that we are “in Christ”––in fact, he states this 164 times. Authors like Neil Anderson have taught the church what this means in terms of our security and identity; as a former pastor, I recognize the value and deep need of these truths in the church. Ephesians 2:6 tells us that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Essentially, I understood this as a metaphor (as, ultimately, all language is) for the spiritual authority that I now have access to as an adopted son, and therefore as a co-heir with Christ.
As the mystery of the Trinity has unfolded, that understanding has radically changed––bigger, more inclusive and more participatory than I ever imagined.
In Part 6 of this series on the Mystery of Christ, I wrote about the Triune God, seeking to describe (albeit briefly) each Person. But how does this directly impact our relationship with Him and our lives?
Relationship begins before time, because it is from all eternity that the Father has known and loved the Son and the Holy Spirit. In fact, given this understanding, it could be said: “In the beginning was relationship.” (Jn 1:1) “To be the Father, then means to love, to give out life, to beget the Son. Before anything else, for all eternity, this God was loving, giving life to and delighting in this Son.”1 And from before time, the Son was receiving and giving back love to the Father. The Holy Spirit celebrates, receives and participates in the love between the Father and Son. And the Holy Spirit shares that life and love with us. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit that opens our eyes so that we may also love the Son. He takes the initiative. Therefore, our love for Jesus the Son of God is an extension and a reflection of the Father’s love. Through the activity of the Holy Spirit, the Father allows us to share in His enjoyment of the Son!
This is our highest purpose, our greatest privilege, and the only true and deep source of joy. This is true holiness. Not doing right. Not avoiding wrong. Holiness means loving the Son as the Father is eternally loving Him.
In my formative years in the church, I was often taught Rom. 8:29:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”This was always taught in the context of character development. Clearly, the Lord wants us to grow in good character, but I am convinced that this is too small a view of this verse. At the heart of being conformed into the “likeness of the Son” is to share in ever-deepening ways in the Son’s delight with His Father. In our love for the Father, we become like the Son.
Jesus promised that He would send the disciples the Holy Spirit (the Helper) who would never leave them. By sharing the Holy Spirit with us, the Father and Son share their own Triune life with us, and in us. It is because the Holy Spirit has united me with Christ that I am adopted into the Father’s family. It is because of the Holy Spirit that the Father sees me and loves me as His son.
OUR INVITATION TO THE DANCE
The early church fathers described the activity of the trinity as the divine dance, in Greek, perichoresis, from which we get the word “choreography” (thanks to Richard Rohr for this). A dance seems to be the best way to capture the ever-changing, joyful, participatory, celebratory activity of the Trinity. It is so important that we regain the revelation of the Triune God, that the Trinity moves from a somewhat ignored doctrine to our central understanding and experience of God. As I wrote earlier: God is Trinity. This is who He is.
What we believe about Him will always determine how we live our lives; we always become what we worship. In the Trinity we see perfect unity and perfect freedom since each Person allows the others to be themselves, yet remain totally committed and involved in giving to the Other. There is no domination of one Person over any other. Perfect submission. Perfect kenotic love (see Part 5). Complete celebration of the Other. May this trully penetrate our own lives, our churches, our national zeal. There is no domination in God.
Christ came to tell us that we are invited to the dance and that our participation brings joy in heaven (Lu 15:7). Dances are exciting, but they are unpredictable. The only certainty is that we have been included; predictability of what will happen is antithetical to the Dance. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus that this new life ”from above” is like the wind; you cannot know where it is going. All too often, we let our fear of the unknown keep us from the Dance.
We have looked at the Mystery of Christ over these past eight weeks, considering Christ’s timelessness, the complete human-God unity of His incarnation, His journey to the cross, and His glory revealed. I am deeply convinced that where this study has ended––the activity of the Trinity––is at the heart of “the unsearchable riches” (Eph 3:8). When Jesus invites us to follow Him, it is, ultimately, to the Triune love and life that He lives in before and outside of all time. This is the great dance that is the foundation, the center and the purpose of everything.
This invitation is the Gospel. This is the homecoming that our hearts long for. We were, and always will be created for glory. Created for the Dance.