This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series A Place to Call Home

Read at beginning of message:

John 17:20-23 (NIV)

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.


While Jesus was here on earth a certain argument tended to break out among his disciples over who was the greatest.

I think it was last year or two years ago around this time of year, Will Smith was starring in the movie “Ali,” based on the life of the famous boxer Muhammed Ali. Ali is famous for repeatedly proclaiming, “I am the greatest.”

Ancient disciples and heavyweight boxers aren?t the only ones who focus on their own greatness. We tend to struggle with it as well. The bug of self-interest infects families, small groups, congregations and denominations today.

“Whenever we insist on our own way, take credit for a group?s accomplishment, or walk away hurt because we weren?t consulted, we?re struggling with this form of self-centeredness and self-glorification.” (John Ortberg)

By contrast, listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6;

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Do you know what God?s favorite word is?

God?s favorite word is: ONE

Deuteronomy 6:4 says,

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIV)

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

This is foundational to what we believe. There is one God and only one God. Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, holy and ever present. There is none like Him.

God is set apart, but does He stand alone? Does He live as one being in isolation?

Before Jesus ascended back into heaven he gave his disciples a statement commonly called the Great Commission:

Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

God does not live in isolation because God exists as three in one. He lives in perfect unity. He lives as something that is commonly called “The Trinity” ? a word that doesn?t appear in the Scriptures but is used because, as Donald Bloesch says, the Trinity is “the immediate implication of the fact, form and content of biblical revelation.” (from God the Almighty, quoted in “Adding Up the Trinity,” by Christopher Hall, Christianity Today, 4-28-97).

Much of what I?ll be sharing with you this morning comes from a message by Matthew Rogers who is the pastor of Christian Church of Clarendon Hills in Detroit Michigan. I came across his message when I was preparing for today and his words were very inspiring. In fact they resonated with what is already in my heart as I think of the kind of church that God is transforming us into, “A City on a Hill” ? a place to call home – a place where no one stands alone!

John Ortberg, a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, writes: “Think about life within the Trinity. How do Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to each other? Are there a lot of arguments about who?s the most omniscient, the most omnipresent, or the oldest?” (“The ?Shyness? of God,” Christianity Today, 2-5-01).

No! We just don?t see that kind of behavior manifested in God?s relationship to Himself.

TRANSITION: So what is life like in the Trinity?


The Spirit –

Ortberg cites an essay by Dale Bruner in which he begins with the person of the Holy Spirit and says:

“One of the most surprising discoveries in my own study of the doctrine and experience of the Spirit in the New Testament is what I can only call the shyness of the Spirit?

[Ortberg says]

What I mean here is not the shyness of timidity but the shyness of deference, the shyness of a concentrated attention on another; it is not the shyness (which we often experience) of self-centeredness, but the shyness of an other-centeredness.” (In Ortberg, ibid).

Think about the ministry of the Spirit. His goal isn?t to draw attention to himself, but rather to point to the Son. John tells us the Spirit comes in the Son?s name, bears witness to the Son, and glorifies the Son (cf. John 14:26, 16:13).

John 14:26 (NIV)

26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 16:13 (NIV)

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Bruner says the ministry of the Spirit could be pictured by drawing a stick figure (representing Jesus) on a blackboard. Then to express what the Spirit does, I stand behind the blackboard, reach around with one hand, and point with a single finger to the image of Jesus. “Look at him, listen to him, follow him, worship him, be devoted to him, serve him, love him, be preoccupied with him.” (Ortberg, ibid.)

That?s what Bruner means by the shyness of the Holy Spirit.

The Son ?

But when we look at the Son, oddly enough, we don?t find him parading around saying, “I am the greatest.”

Instead he said,

John 8:54 (NIV)

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.

The Son submitted to the Father. The first three Gospels tell us it was the Spirit who sent Jesus out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. And when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that crucifixion was near, He told the Father, “not my will but yours be done.” Jesus, too, has this same shyness.

The Father –

Then there is the Father. We hear his voice on two different occasions in the Gospels. Once at Jesus? baptism and again at the Transfiguration.

Both times the words are a variation of this message: This is my priceless Son. I am deeply pleased with him. Listen to him.

It is worth noting, Bruner writes, that this voice does not say, “Listen to me too, after listening to him; don?t forget that I?m here too; don?t be taken up with my Son.”

Because “God the Father is shy too. The whole blessed Trinity is shy. Each member of the Trinity points faithfully and selflessly to the others in a gracious circle.”

So Ortberg states: “God exists as Father, Son and Spirit in a community of greater humility, servanthood, mutual submission, and delight than you and I can imagine. Three yet One. Oneness is God?s signature.” (Ortberg, ibid.)

God exists in community throughout all eternity.

God is set apart, but He does not stand alone. He models perfect community.

We learn what authentic biblical community is by the way God relates to Himself.

TRANSITION: It is not just in relation to each other that God ? Father, Son and Holy Spirit displays an astounding humility. In relation to us, God offers a?


John chapter 17 records a prayer of Jesus given on the night he would be apprehended by an angry mob. In preparation for his certain death we hear him say? (read at beginning of service)

John 17:20-23 (NIV)

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

We know that each member of the Trinity points to the others in a gracious circle. Now Jesus prays, “may they be one as we are one?may they be one IN US!”

It is absolutely shocking, but altogether true. God invites us into the fellowship of the Trinity.

The New Bible Dictionary says, “In his essential life, God is a fellowship. This is perhaps the supreme revelation of God given in the Scriptures: it is that God?s life is eternally within himself a fellowship of three equal and distinct persons, Father, Son and Spirit, and that in his relationship to his moral creation God was extending to them the fellowship that was essentially his own.” (Entry on “God.”)

This fellowship wasn?t free. We are sinful creatures and God is the perfect Creator.

What price did God pay for community?

The Son –

The Son left heaven and came to earth. It was no small thing to go from the oneness he had known throughout all eternity to the place of completely identifying with humans in their brokenness and aloneness. He even endured death on the cross. The place from which he cried, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

The Father –

The Father also paid a price. The Father offered his only Son, with whom He was perfectly one. He watched as the Son was rejected, beaten and nailed to a cross to die. He willingly experienced the broken heart of a father.

The Spirit –

And the Holy Spirit paid a price too. The Spirit would be poured out on the earth. And to a large extent He would be ignored or denied. On earth he would be quenched and even grieved.

All this was sacrificed to make sure we (you and I) didn?t have to stand alone.

Our invitation to community came at a tremendous price.

So to allow disunity in the church is to be at odds with the purpose of God in human history. It is to ignore or cheapen God?s sacrifice on our behalf.

TRANSITION: Some may think that the notion of the Trinity is of little practical value for anyone other than a Bible scholar or a theologian. Thomas Jefferson, frustrated by a doctrine that was too mysterious for his rational Enlightenment mind once wrote of “the incomprehensible jargon of (the) Trinitiarian arithmetic.” Some Christians may feel like Jefferson and wonder, “What significance does the belief in the Trinity have? Will it genuinely make a difference for the practical realities of daily life?”

Let me suggest to you two reasons?


1. It teaches us that reality does not lie in an isolated self, but rather in community.

Since God is the ultimate reality ? and because we are made in His image ? His existence will show us the highest good. However, we hold the individual in such high regard, that we may be blind to this.

We don?t see community as essential to life ? even in the church. We?ll go it alone, or disrupt unity without a second thought.

It is a matter of fact that churches sacrifice oneness over almost every doctrine. We tend to divide and split and wound and willingly live at odds with each other. This must grieve God, who in His very essence lives in oneness with Himself. And who paid a tremendously high price for us to be one.

Ask ourselves: Am I as attached to my church family as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are to each other?

If so, then you are in the center of God?s will for community.

If not, then ask God how he would have you become a person who refuses to stand alone.

Be it in a Koinonia group, a ministry team, or a ministry group ? there are plenty of opportunities here at HPC to come together.

Second, the doctrine of the Trinity matters because?

2. It teaches us that relationships in community are to be marked by selflessness and humble love.

How should we treat each other in community? Look t God. How does He relate to Himself.

What is our basis for relationships? Look to God.

God teaches us how to treat each other in how he relates to Himself. He is the foundation.

Ask yourself: Do I treat every member of my church family with the same gracious humility that Father, Son and Holy Spirit display in relating to each other?

If so, fantastic. You are in the center of God?s will for community. He will do great things through you.

If not. Ask God to change your heart. Ask Him to help you get in step with His will for community.

Ephesians 4:2-3 serves as a reminder of the kind of relationships we are to have in the steps towards being a place to call home ? where no one stands alone ? that sticks out like a “city on a hill”.

Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)

2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

That?s how God desires the church to look like. And remember the next words after those verses go on to talk about one Lord, one faith, one baptism, etc. These relationships are foundational to oneness.

TRANSITION: Becoming a church where no one stands alone won?t be easy. In fact, it will be very difficult. The very notion of community stands at odds with Satan?s goal of divide and conquer within the church. He would even like it if the thought of community made us scared or uneasy.


A three-year-old girl was listening intently to the children?s sermon one Sunday morning at her church. The minister explained that God wants everyone to get along and love each other.

“God wants us all to be one,” he said.

To which the little girl replied, “But I don?t want to be one. I want to be four!” (From Humor for Preaching and Teaching, Edward Rowell, ed., p. 42)

Some churches don?t want to be one either. They would rather be 4 groups or 5 groups or just simply stay as they are because oneness is so difficult.

But when they aren?t one they stand at odds with the purpose of God in human history.

The goal of our vision for a church where “no one stands alone” is not simply to get people into small groups, but to be guardians of what God holds most dear.

One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God

One family, One body, One church

One ? God?s favorite word

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