No One Like Him - Part 7

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  May 9, 2004
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Well, we're talking about why God is praiseworthy, and that is because there's no one like Him. Now, I did make (several of you requested, and I'm asked the office staff if they could make copies of the handouts from the last few weeks and of tonight. So, they're in the back if you want to pick those up as you leave, or if a couple of you men want to sort of pass them out now that'd be all right too. I'm not going to touch on every passage that is on the handout, so I want you to get one of those if you'd like because we don't have time to touch on every one of them.

I was admonished, as we finished last week, by several of you that I kind of rushed the ending, and I did because I had so much to try to cover. My wife laughed at me when I said to her, "I thought I could get through it all. I thought I had enough time." She chuckled just as you did, and I don't know why, but for some reason she didn't think I would. And I didn't. So, we're going to go back tonight, and we're going to look in a little more detail at a couple of issues that I just raised at the end last time.

Let me just remind you that we're talking about the true nature of our God. We started by saying that He is a being, that is, He's distinct from His creation; He is living; He is infinite – that is, unlimited in His Being; He is spirit; and He is personal; and then, finally, we discovered that He is Trinity. And we've been talking about this whole issue of God as Trinity.

There is a reality that I would call "cultural whiplash", some of you have experienced it. I experienced it once when I travelled from India, after a couple of weeks in India and travelling throughout that huge country, and got on an airplane and travelled, in just a few hours' time, to Singapore. I've often described it as "cultural whiplash" because of the huge difference between the two cultures.

I also experienced it recently when we moved here. Not because of Texas, but we went straight from Los Angeles, we came here, landed for a couple of days, and then got in our vehicle and drove to where I'm from, Mobile, Alabama. And as we drove to Mobile, we got into a small community that I think is called "Wilmer." Now that tells you something about the community, just that. But as we drove through Wilmer, it is a suburb of Eight Mile, Alabama, which is a suburb of something else, which eventually is a suburb of Mobile. And so, it's a tiny little place with one road going through it, and I think a blinker light, if I remember correctly.

As we drove through Wilmer, it was an evening on a Friday, I believe it was, as we drove through, and there were all of these people sitting out on their front porches watching us pass through. Our Honda Odyssey didn't exactly fit Wilmer. I think they were used (primarily) to old trucks. And so, they were friendly, they waved, but I found myself almost instinctively reaching over to hit the lock button on the side of the car. And then I thought, "Why?" It's because it was such a cultural whiplash from where we had come.

We'd come from a place in Los Angeles where, honestly, there're so many people just in the San Fernando Valley, where Grace Church is and where I'd ministered, there were, I think, around five million people just in that valley. And so, there're so many people that you can't say "Hi" to everyone, and so, over time there becomes this sort of insulation from the fact that there're other people there, and you just sort of ignore them, and you live almost in isolation among five million people.

But I didn't see that in Wilmer. You know, in Wilmer, everybody was sitting out on the front porch. Everybody noticed you, everyone made eye contact, and everyone waved as you went past. The stark contrast made me realize that there is a notable difference in this way, Los Angeles and Wilmer have this very important distinction between each other: Wilmer focuses on people, Los Angeles does not.

As I thought about that as sort of a microcosm of our culture from where we've come, I was reminded of the fact that we have become more and more isolated. I read an article recently, perhaps you saw it in a major, in a major publication that said that there is a growing tendency for individuals to be isolated. They go to work, they work in their little cubicles. They go to the store on their way home, they go home, and they sit in front of the television. Their family is there and isolated, and they're there until they go out the next morning to go and do what they do. More and more people live in isolation.

What we saw last time as we closed the doctrine of the Trinity was that the Trinity stands in stark opposition to that sort of pursuit of privacy and secrecy. There is, in the Trinity, this issue of relationship. Why is relationship so important, why are people so important?

Well remember, we were made in God's image. And because we were made in God's image, we reflect certain things that are true about God. There is, within the Trinity, constant fellowship and companionship. I don't know if you've ever thought about that. But there is a relationship between the Persons who make up the Trinity, the God that we worship. And we are created in God's image. Therefore, the relationship within the Trinity s-should serve as the basis and pattern of our lives and, specifically, of our relationships with each other. We're made for relationship.

I want to look at that tonight, the fact that there is this pattern that the Trinity sets for us. What exactly is the nature of that relationship? Some of the following list I have borrowed and modified from Stuart Scott's book, as I mentioned last time, The Exemplary Husband, but I've also added to it a great deal, and that's why I wanted you to have it. And I've sort of reorganized it in some ways as well.

The rest of what's here came from a study of the gospel of John. This week, I just went through the gospel of John and began to encapsulate some of the truths about the relationship that exist among the Trinity. And, for reasons that I don't know, the gospel of John seems to have more of that recorded than just about anywhere else in the Scripture. So, let's look at this pattern. But, let's look first at the nature of the relationship. Before we can sort of see the implications for us, we have to see what the nature of the relationship is that exists in the Trinity. We're going to see it under three headings.

First of all, we're going to look at the extent of the relationship; that is, what are the sort of boundaries around the relationship that exist in the Trinity? What are the attitudes that the various members of the Trinity, or Persons of the Trinity, display toward each other and toward relationship? And then, what are these, sort of, outward manifestations of the concept of relationship in the Trinity? And when we've done that, then I want to gather that all together and look at the implications for our relationships with one another.

So, let's begin to do that. Let's start with the extent of relationship. And I'm not going to look at all of these in detail, I'll look at some of them as we go along – since you have them there on your sheet, you can look at them in more detail as you choose.

First of all, there is, even though there is close relationship, there is uniqueness of personhood. In other words, there are three distinct Persons in the Trinity. Relationship does not erase the distinctions that exist between us, nor between the members of the Trinity, and you can see that in the text there; we're not going to turn to those. But I do want you to turn to this next set, or at least a couple of them. There is, within the Trinity, the relationship is characterized by unity. Turn to John 10, and we're going to look a lot in John tonight. There're other places in the Scripture where these issues are documented and recorded, but again, the book of John just seems to be filled with them – these inner relationships, inner workings among the Persons of the Trinity.

In John 10 Christ is asserting His deity, beginning in verse 22: "At … [the] time of the Feast of the Dedication … [in Jerusalem.] it was winter [time]," verse 23 tells us, "[He] … was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews … gathered around Him," [and He begins to talk about His relationship to God.] In verse 29 He says, "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater,'" [that is, the sheep, "has], is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of … [My] Father's hand.'" And then He says this incredible thing in verse 30:

"I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered and said, "I have many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered…, "For a good work we are not stoning You, but for blasphemy; because You, being a man, make yourself out to be God."

And then, verse 38, He emphasizes it again, He says,

"… that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." Therefore, they were seeking again to seize Him, and He eluded their grasp."

What is Christ saying here? He's saying that between the members of the Trinity, between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is an inherent unity. It characterizes the relationship that they enjoy. You see it again in chapter 14; in fact, let's turn there, 14:10. On the night of the Last Supper, He says to the disciples, verse 10,

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?" Verse 11, "Believe … that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me." He wants us to understand that there is this cohesion, there is this connection, this intimacy. They are equal, but there is also unity between them, and you see it in the other text as well, down in verse 23: "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.'"

There's this unity that characterizes the Trinity. In fact, it's interesting, isn't it, that the most difficult part of the incarnation for Christ was, what? The three hours on the cross when He was separated from His Father. Now, I can't explain the details of that to you. All I can say is this: o-obviously, Jesus didn't cease to be God, so He continued in the s-, in the sense of being a member of the Trinity. But somehow, the eternal fellowship and communion that He had always enjoyed with His Father and with the Spirit was, for those three hours, severed, and that was the most difficult part of the incarnation. That's why in the garden, He was praying, not for the physical suffering. He realized that He would endure the wrath of God, and, because of that wrath, be separated from His Father. Unity characterized, characterizes the relationship in the Trinity. Mutual interdependence, mutual interdependence.

We'll just look at one text here. Turn to John 8, and you can see this in the other passages as well, but we'll just look at John 8. John 8:28: "So Jesus said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.'" Now there is within that statement, an element of the incarnation, because Jesus is now the God-man, He has purposefully subordinated Himself to God. But, (and this is important to understand) the description, or I should say the titles, of the Members of the Trinity, "Father and Son" do not describe the same relationship that we have with father and son. They're not exactly the same. In other words, it's not that Jesus was somehow born of a relationship between the Father and some woman, as the Mormons would teach. It's not the same kind of relationship.

However, we believe, and the Scriptures are clear, that Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, always shared a relationship with the first Member of the Trinity, the Father, that can be described as Father and Son. There was an eternal subordination, if you will, not in being – they are equal in being – but there was a willing and voluntary subordination. There was this mutual interdependence that goes on, and so Christ does nothing of His own initiative. You can see it again in verse 42: "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.'"

A mutual interdependence characterizes the relationship. This is an interesting one: companionship. Turn to John 16:32. Again, on the night of the Last Supper, He's shortly to be in the garden and be arrested, and He says this in verse 32: "Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to your own home, and to leave Me alone….'"

Jesus is predicting that soon, at His arrest, every one of the disciples are going to scatter, they're going to spread, they're going to run. They're going to leave Him alone. But then He makes this very interesting statement: "… yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."

There is, in a way that, again, there are, there are depths here that we can't plumb, but there is in the Trinity companionship, companionship. Isn't it interesting that soon after God created man, He said what about man? "It is not good for him to be alone." It reflects the character of our God in the Trinity of His Person: companionship.

There is submission – I've already mentioned this one, we won't take time on this one, you're aware of this reality. Submission to an order of authority; even though equality exists, yet there is willing submission to another. You can see, again, reflected in this: the relationship between man and wife in marriage. Full equality exists in terms of spiritual value, abilities, skills. Sometimes the wife is more skilled, more intelligent, more good-looking than the husband, as would certainly be true in our family. But there is a willing submission to authority, just as there is to reflect the Trinity, the nature of the Trinity. There is intimate knowledge of the other Persons. This defines the relationship. Notice John 8, John 8:55. Let's start at verse 54. You're familiar with the context here, this is where Jesus makes the great "I Am" statement. Verse 53, they say,

"Surely You are not great than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died; whom do You make Yourself out to be?'" Verse 54, Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and [I] keep His word.'"

You see this, I didn't even put the reference here for John 1, but you see it again in John 1, when we're told that Christ, the only begotten God who came out of the bosom of the Father, He does what with God? It's one of those verses that always comes up because it tells us what Christ did in reference to God. It says, "He explained God." Literally, "He exegeted God." He knows, He knows Him. There is an intimate knowledge in the relationship. I have to have you turn outside the book of John one time because this verse just begs to be examined. First Corinthians 2. Here is, of course it, the middle of the passage about revelation, how the Spirit reveals the truth of God. And notice what He says in verse 9:

"… just as it is written, 'THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN, EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE THAT LOVE HIM.' For to us God revealed them through the Spirit;" [Watch the end of this verse:] "for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among man knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God."

There is, within the Trinity, a deep, intimate knowledge of the other Persons. Christ makes similar claims about His Father. There is a depth of knowledge and relationship.

Well let's move on. Let's look at the attitudes, should be plural, the attitudes toward relationship that we see among the members of the Trinity. There's, first of all, a desire to please. John 8:29, a desire to please the others: "'And He who sent Me is with Me;'" Christ says, "'He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that please Him.'" You see it in chapter (– by the way, that should be 15:10, I believe; a little, stutter on my computer there.) John 15:10: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." In other words, I desire to do those things which please God. This is the essence of relationship, folks.

You remember when you first started dating? If you were dating – now guys, think about this for a moment – if you were dating, beginning to date, you really liked the gal that you were dating, and you developed a … your heart sort of started moving toward her. And you were in a conversation one time and she said, "I'm allergic to daisies." What happened? Well, a little bell went off in your head. "Note to self: don't get her daisies." Because you want to please her, you want to do what she'll enjoy. That's part of the nature of relationship, and that is merely the reflection of the reality that exists in the Trinity, desire to please.

Outside the book of John, I included this from, Stuart Scott's book: Self Denial. We've been looking at this, so I had to include it. Philippians 2, we won't turn there, but there was a willingness, a voluntary willingness on Christ's part to deny Himself to accomplish the purposes that would be for the good of us and the Father: the Father's plan.

There was also humility; you can see that in Philippians 2 as well, as we've been looking at it. There is humility, an absolute willingness not to hold onto or greedily clutch His rights and privileges as God. By the way, the John 16:14 reference shows the humility of the Spirit, because the Spirit isn't about puffing Himself, promoting Himself, contrary to a lot of charismatic doctrine. The Spirit isn't about promoting Himself; Christ says, "When the Spirit comes, He's going to do," what? "He's going to teach about Me. He's not going to promote Himself, He's going to teach about the things concerning Me." So, you see humility in the Spirit, and in Philippians 2 you see humility in the Son.

You see honor and respect, even though there is full, complete equality. John 8, turn there for a moment, John 8:49. You remember, they did in the name calling, here, when Jesus begins to speak to them about the truth of who He is, and "The Jews answered," verse 48, "… said to Him, 'Do we not rightly say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?'"

By the way, if you want to know when somebody has no leg to stand on in an argument, this is how you know. When they resort to what's called "ad hominem" arguments. That is, don't answer with an argument against your opponent's argument; attack the man. "Ad hominem" means "to the man;" you go to attack the person instead of arguing against the facts that have been presented. They had no leg to stand on, and so they just began to attack the person.

But notice verse 49: Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me." Verse 50, "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges."

And throughout the gospel of John, there're so many references, I didn't even put them all here. But there is a constant reference to the reality that Jesus is about bringing honor and glory to the Father, and the Father is constantly returning that and bringing honor and glory to the Son. There is, within the Trinity, this mutual honor and respect. And let me just pause here, because I'm not going to come back to this later, to say that any human relationship that's going to continue, that's going to grow, has to be built on the same foundation – mutual honor and respect. How does that, where does that begin? Where does that mutual honor and respect come from?

James says it comes from understanding that the person you're dealing with [they may be different than you are, they may be less intelligent than you are, they may be less attractive than you are, less skilled than you are] but they are in the image of God, and therefore they are to be taken seriously. Honor and respect for others comes from the reality that, while they may be absolutely different from me, they are made in the image of God, and therefore must be taken seriously: honor and respect.

Love, this is one you would expect and it's in abundance. John 3:35: "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands." 5:20: "For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing." Did you notice that? Turn to, turn to 5:20, I don't want you to miss this. Notice how love expresses itself in 5:20. "For the Father loves the Son," and the result of that is full disclosure: "He shows Him all things that He is doing." Again, folks, if there is a relationship of love, then there is open disclosure. You cannot have a relationship founded on love where one or both parties are a closed book to the other. Love opens up its heart and allows you to see all that's there: full disclosure.

You see the same thing in 14:21. "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose myself to him." True love opens up the heart and says, "Here's what I'm thinking, here's what I'm experiencing, here's what I'm doing."

I can't tell you the number of times I have seen, heard, or counseled couples who were in trouble, and they say they love each other, but they never talk to each other about anything that matters. Every conversation they have is on a trivial level about everyday life. It never gets below that. There cannot be relationship, there certainly can't be a loving relationship, where there is not the disclosure of your heart to the person with whom you have a relationship. It's true in the Trinity.

Chapter 15:15 makes the same point: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." He says, "I love you, and because of that I'm going to tell you everything."

You also see, and we're not going to look at these passages, but as sort of a sub-point to this issue of love, you see in the gospel of John that there is a verbal expression of that love among the members of the Trinity. They say there is love. In fact, you remember even at Jesus' baptism, there's a voice from heaven, and what does He say? "This is My beloved Son." Verbal expressions of love.

There're also visible expressions of love. Men, take note, and women. There is truthfulness in – that's an odd break isn't it? – and trustworthiness within the Trinity. And we won't look at those verses, you can look at them at your leisure. But there is this absolute truthfulness and also a trustworthiness in the relationship.

And then, finally, in terms of the attitude toward relationship, there is a concern for the honor of the other. Forever, Jesus is saying He's concerned about the reputation of His Father, and the Father is concerned about His reputation: concern for the honor of the other.

Now let's move on from there to the manifestations of relationship, the sort of outward manifestations. And these are just my divisions, it's just the way my brain works, trying to break down the various data that I discovered in my study here. But, sort of outward manifestations.

First of all, there is an involvement in cooperation. There's a working together. You see it all the way back in Genesis. Remember where we saw that little hint of the Trinity back in Genesis chapter one? And you see it in the gospel of John as well. There's a co-working to accomplish a common purpose. This is true of any true earthly relationship as well.

There's perfect communication; notice John 8 again. Many of these are found in the discourses of Christ, and John 8 is an extended, (actually, set of discourses). John 8:28, verse 27:

They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am He," [claiming to be God,] "and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father has taught Me." [He says, Listen, the Father and I have had communication, and He has communicated to Me, and I am now communicating that reality to you.]

Chapter 11:42. Notice that there is (and this is interesting) in this communication that takes place between the members of the Trinity, there is an eagerness to listen. As He's, notice, verse 38, let's start there, verse 38:

… Jesus, began again being deeply moved within, [we're obviously here at the tomb of Lazarus, and He's being deeply moved within.] [He] … came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, I don't think You want to do that because by this time there will be a stench, for … [he's] been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" So they removed the stone. … Jesus raised His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." He says, "I [know] … You always … [listen] when I speak, I know You'll hear Me."

This perfect communication, and you can see it in the other references here as well. There also are expressions of thankfulness. We just saw one in the previous verse, John 11:41, "Father, I thank You," and there're scattered throughout the gospels in other places.

And then, finally, there is public praise, public praise. Isn't it interesting that the Father finds it compelling, at certain moments in Christ's life, to just speak out of heaven and say, "This is My Son, and I love Him, listen to Him." So, those are the characteristics that describe the relationship among the members of the Trinity.

With that in mind, let's look at the implications, the implications for us.

We were, as I said, created in God's image, and one aspect of that is the desire for relationship, a relationship like that that the Persons of the Trinity enjoy. Now that has two major implications. The first is the simple reality that we were made for relationship. We were made in the image of God. There is, within the Trinity, relationship. We were made for that, first of all, with God. If you look at John 17:3, you remember that sort of summary verse where Jesus, in the high priestly prayer to the Father, says, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." That's what eternal life is all about. You know, so many Christians get all bound up in rules and regulations, and even to-do lists in their Christian faith.

You may be a champion lister. I don't think my wife would mind my telling you that she is a champion lister. She has lists of her lists, and that's okay if you keep it in the right perspective. But some people allow it to become what governs their Christian life. Listen, what is it about? As I said this morning, it's about loving God, it's about a relationship with God, "That they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." That's what it's about! We were made for that. Notice John 10:14. He's speaking of Himself as the Good Shepherd here, and He says,

"I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me, even also, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay My life down for the sheep."

Now, here's what I want you to notice in this, these two verses. Notice that the knowledge, the intimate knowledge of each other within the Trinity, according to Jesus, is the same in kind as the knowledge, the intimate knowledge that is to be between God and us. Not in intensity, not in fullness, but in kind. You see how He connects the two? He says, "The Father knows Me, and I know the Father, and that's the same kind of knowledge in which I know My own and My own know Me." That's what we were made for, that's why we've been redeemed.

We looked at 1 John 2, I won't turn there tonight, but where the apostle spells out that sort of relationship, as a father-son relationship. And He talks about the growth of it, the development of it, until you reach a point where there's an intimate knowledge of the Father. That's what it's about, and it's a reflection of the knowledge that exists, the intimate knowledge that exists between the members of the Trinity.

Look at John 15:9: "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love." Now, again, notice the connection. Jesus is saying that the love that exists between the members of the Trinity is the model of His love for us, and ultimately, we're to abide in His love, it's to be our love for Him. So again, the Trinity becomes the model of the nature of our relationship with God.

John 17:23. Sometime we're going to study this high priestly prayer of Christ because it's so rich in so many ways, but notice what He says in verse 23, 22 rather:

"The glory which you have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."

Now, that's a little hard to unpack, but let's look at it carefully. Notice verse 24, He sort of puts the cap on it: "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." Now what's going on here?

Again, Christ is tracing two realities that exist in the Trinity. One of them is love, and the other is unity. And He's saying, those relationships that exist in love and unity in the Trinity are the foundation, the basis, for all Christian unity and for all Christian love. Love in the Trinity is the basis of Christ's love for us. But not only were we made for relationship with God, but we were made for relationship with others. John 14:20 says, "In that day," speaking of when He returns, you will, or, when He leaves rather, "you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Again, see what He's doing? He's saying, notice the unity in the Trinity, and notice that that is a pattern for human relationships.

John 17:11: "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are." Again, the unity in the Trinity that exists between the Father and the Son is the foundation of the human unity that we enjoy with each other. You see it again in verses 21 - 23, but notice verse 26: "And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You love Me may be in them, and I in them."

Again, Jesus is saying, look at the love that's in the Trinity. That is the basis (should be the basis) of our love for one another. So we were made for relationship. We were made with relationship, for relationship with God, and we were made for relationship with others. And our relationships, whether it be with God or whether it be with each other, is to reflect the kind of relationship that exists among the Members of the Trinity.

And then second: the second implication is our lives must center on relationships. We know that, first of all, because of Christ's command. Turn back to Matthew 22, Matthew 22.(I should say), God has helped us, through Christ, set our priorities. Notice Matthew 23, or excuse me, 22:15:

Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He had said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any."

And then they set forth this question to trip Him up. And there, there are a series of questions, but notice verse 34: "When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered … together." Now this is probably Monday of the last week of our Lord's life. He's taken over the temple grounds, and He's taking all questions, and so they're coming at Him with these questions. Notice verse 35:

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, [saying,] "Teacher, … [what] is the great commandment in the Law?"

Now, to us that seems like a pretty innocent question. It wasn't. You see, the Pharisees believed that there were 613 commands in the Old Testament, corresponding to the 613 letters Self-correction the Hebrew ten commandments. They believed that some of them were weighty and others were light, and so they say, "Okay, some are really heavy and some are really light, what's the heaviest? What's the greatest? What's the most important?"

In response to this antagonistic question, Christ cited two commands to summarize man's entire moral duty: love God with your entire being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Now think about that for a moment. God, through Christ, says there is nothing He has given us that is more important than those two commands, and what I want you to see about both of those commands is they both have to do with relationship. That means that the most important thing in my life and in your life are relationships if we're going to follow the commands of Christ.

He also showed us by His example. Not only did Christ tell us that relationships are important, but He showed it in how He lived His life. His life was all about two things: His Father and people. Everywhere He went, He was interested in people. And remember, the goal of our life is what? Christ-likeness. True relationship is not just hanging out together; it's the sharing of two hearts. But let's be honest.

Many in our culture, and especially men – guys, I hate to say this – are especially clueless about relationships. But let me say it as strongly as I can say it: you cannot be a godly Christian without being committed to relationships. How do I know that? What did Christ say? The most important thing in all the world is loving God, and the second most important thing in the world is loving people around you.

Stuart Scott in his book writes: "We must rid ourselves of the pride that says, 'I can do this by myself,' or excuses responsibility to love others with, 'Just let me, just me and the Lord is all I need.' To be like Christ, we must pursue involvement with others." He goes on to give a def-definition of relationship. It's a pretty good one, let me read it to you: "A relationship is simply a joint participation between two distinct Christian persons in which there is involvement, Christ-like love, good communication, appreciation, edification, and service, all in an attitude of respect and humility, all for God's glory and for the benefit of each other."

Let me put it to you like this. A relationship reflects what we have seen in the interaction of the Trinity tonight. If you went through each of the, those items in the list we made, that describes a relationship. And it starts, folks, in our families. In fact, Edith, Edith Shaffer – I don't know how many of you have read Edith Schaffer's book, What is a Family – it's a book I read a long time ago. And I remember one particular comment she made in that book that's stuck with me, and that is that family is the training ground for learning what relationships are and should be. At least, that's what family should be. That's where we develop. The family is the crucible in which the concept of relationship is learned and fleshed out. Really, it starts with your spouse. It starts with a deep, abiding relationship with your spouse; a deep, intimate relationship.

Most wives understand that, but most men are a little clueless. I had a wife tell me in counseling, with her husband sitting next to her, "We just don't have a relationship." You know what comes next. The husband gets this shocked look on his face. "What do you mean we don't have a relationship? I think we have a good relationship!"

Now, what's going on there? Two things, perhaps. One is, the wife may have a romanticized idea about what the nature of their relationship should be; she's, perhaps, read too many Harlequin Quinn novels, or similar. Two, the husband wouldn't know a relationship if it came up and kissed him in the face. Many men don't understand relationships, and they don't care. And some husbands have excused themselves from their God-given responsibilities with deceptions like, "Well, it shouldn't take so much effort to be together." Or, "You know, my wife should be thrilled. I mean, after all, I provide for her. Why can't that satisfy her?" Or, "You know, I don't really need relationships because I'm just not a needy person."

Are relationships just for needy persons? Be careful how you answer that question after our study tonight. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is a reflection of the character of our God. But the pursuit of relationship goes beyond the family to our fellow Christians, as we saw in our study of John's gospel. Let me take you to one last passage tonight; turn with me to Ephesians 5, Ephesians 5. We've learned a lot about the relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity. Paul isn't using this verse here to talk about the relationships that exist between the Trinity, but it's a broad statement and can be taken, I think, out of its context, in this case, legitimately. He's talking specifically, you'll notice the end of chapter 4, about being

"kind, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love."

But on the broader scope, it's fair to say if we're the children of God, it's our responsibility – even as we celebrate Mother's Day and are reminded how often our children copy us, sometimes to our joy and sometimes to our shame – it's right that we remember that we have a Father that we're supposed to be imitating. We've learned tonight about the nature of relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity; I would urge you, go and do likewise. Imitate, be an imitator, of our God in the nature of relationships. Make your life all about people, not about things, not about projects, not about tasks. I have to do this, and I must confess to you this is something that, that I'm prone of, a sort of pit that I'm prone to fall into. Take a look at your calendar and your task lists. Ask yourself, how many of those really have to do with relationship and people, and how many just have to do with stuff? It doesn't matter in eternity at all. Our lives are to be about people, and as we do that, we reflect the reality that we are made in the image of God.

Let's pray together.

Father, we confess to You that we are so prone to selfishness. Lord, we are so prone to live our lives in our own little comfort, pursuing our own peace, our own prosperity, our own privacy. Lord, forgive us. Forgive us for being task-oriented. Lord, if ever there was someone who had a right to be driven, it would have been our Lord in His life on the earth, and yet He always made time for people. Lord, we live such shallow lives. Our relationships are surface.

Help us to dig deep. Help us to reflect Your great character. Lord, may we be known as a church, as a people, that love like You love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May we be known as a people who are united like You are united, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And Lord, all of the other manifestations that we talked about tonight, help us to pursue that. We confess to You that we're so far from imitating You.

Thank You that You've made us in Your image. Thank You that You have, as part of that, given us the desire for relationship with You and with others.

Lord, help our lives to be about You and people.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.