The self-giving of God always moves from the Father through the Son and in the Spirit towards us. We respond to God’s grace through faith, but even this arises from the movement of Grace. For our response of faith moves from our hearts in the Spirit through Jesus to his Father. Yes, even our faith is the gift of God. From both sides of the relation, Triune Grace acts. This shatters any idea of religious self-effort.
This same double movement of Grace continues throughout our whole lives. For the God of Grace who encounters us in Jesus is now personally present bringing us into personal transformation through life in the Spirit. Jesus gave himself for us once and for all and now, in the Spirit, he continually gives himself to us in order to live out his own life in and through us. So now I no longer live but Christ lives in me and the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
We easily slip into seeing grace as “something” we need in order to live the Christian life. So we must continually acquire grace in order to live well as Jesus followers. If we receive grace we will perform better. We really need to see that Grace isn’t a commodity for us to make use of in our own lives. Grace is God continually giving himself to us through Jesus and the Spirit setting us in a completely new world as new humanity.
We sometimes talk about Grace as if it were “something” that God gives to us. T F Torrance reminds us that Grace is never a quality transferred to us so that it becomes our “private possession”. Grace cannot be thought of apart from God himself. For Grace is simply God giving HIMSELF to us through Jesus in the Spirit. Concerning Jesus, John says, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The fullness of grace that John saw now comes to us in union with Jesus. Through the Spirit, the Father gives us to Jesus and gives Jesus to us. We are joined to Jesus so that we are in him and he is in us. And now “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Everything you ever lack is found in him; all you will ever need is given to you in him. For the Father has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
Jesus is just what we need, and he is all that we need: Are you dead? Christ is life. Are you weak? Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Are you crushed under the sense of guilt and condemnation? Christ is our righteousness. Are you troubled? Christ is our peace. From beginning to end, therefore, Grace is all about Jesus. When he fills the horizon of our vision, we find ourselves drawn to him, embraced by him and enjoying God with him.
The Old Testament Zephaniah wrote,
The Lord your God is in your midst,
A mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17)
Now, in union with Jesus, we can say that our Father is exulting over us with loud singing. Nevertheless, we may not dare to think so. Maybe our gaze is fixed too much on ourselves as unlovely and unlovable. Or maybe we are in the habit of looking past rather than at the love of our Father. But with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will see the Father’s love that is demonstrated in him. Only then shall we hear our Father’s loud singing over us.
As we hear our Father’s loud love song, we will find ourselves returning his love. And, just as Jesus is the One through whom the Father’s love comes to us, so through him our love is returned to the Father by his Spirit. The Father’s loud and joyful song over us is returned though our loud and joyful song to the Father. For through Jesus, we now rejoice over our Father with singing as we rest satisfied in his love.
It should not escape our notice that all takes place in the Spirit. The Spirit brings the Father’s love song down from heaven into our hearts as God’s love is poured into our hearts by the Spirit. And then, by the same Spirit, our love is returned to the Father through the Son.
God demonstrated his love for us through his Son who loved us and gave himself for us. We experience this love personally as God pours his love into our hearts by his Spirit. And we are now called to live in love for God. However, our love for God must always be understood as a response to his love in Jesus. We don’t love God so that he might love us. As John says, “We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).
If we put our love for God before his love for us we might mistakenly believe that his love for us depends on our love for him. So when our days become crowded and God ends up neglected, we may feel we are not worthy of his love. We then start to avoid God. We even imagine that God is waiting for us to get ourselves together before we can again enter his presence.
Such thinking betrays our failure to grasp that God’s love for us is constant. Any increase in our love for him cannot increase his love for us. Any decrease in our love for God cannot make him love us less. Nothing we do can make him love us more; nothing we do can make him love us less. While it is true that our Father sometimes disciplines his children (Heb. 12.6), he does so as an expression of his love for us. His love for us is always free, lavish and constant. The God who IS love does not drive us to the duty of love in guilt and shame. No! In love, he draws love out of us in response to his immeasurable love.
Paul says those who worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” That is how we all were before Jesus came to us. Now, in union with him, we live in the truth and that truth is Jesus himself.
However, we might still exchange the truth about God our Father for a lie. The lie is this: The Father doesn’t really love you. We may even see him as the enemy of our freedom and joy. So our hearts are closed to our Father because we think his heart is closed to us. This warped view of our Father may constantly disturb our anxious hearts.
Where do we find the truth concerning our Father? Jesus is the TRUTH of the Father’s heart towards us. For to see Jesus is to see his Father. Jesus is the new and living WAY into communion with his Father as our Father. Through him, we draw near with confidence sharing in Jesus own communion with his Father. Jesus is the LIFE and our life hidden with him in God. So with him we share in the life of his Father as dearly loved children. Yes, Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and we come to the Father through him.
So if the lies concerning the Father remain within us it is simply because we have taken our eyes off Jesus and lost connection with him. So let us always abide in Jesus. Then we see the love of our Father and rest in the high privilege of being his dearly loved children in union with The Son.
The Father of Jesus always relates to his unique Son in joyful love. And he relates to us in the same way. Jesus said his Father loves us just as he loves his unique Son. In union with the Son, we are now dearly loved children drawing near to Abba. In the Spirit, we enjoy the Father’s nearness to us and our dearness to him.
Unfortunately, many Christians often have a distorted view of our Father. While they imagine Jesus as the one who loves us, they may see the Father as hesitant towards them. Indeed, they may see the Father as distant at best and furious at worst. It is as if Jesus pleads with the Father to put up with them perhaps even against the Father’s desire. They fear that behind Jesus, the Father is actually distant and dark, even sinister.
Jesus told us that when we see him we see his Father. All the love the Son has for us is actually the Father’s love for us. The two are one in everything including love for us. The streams of love that come to us through Jesus flow from a fountain of love in the Father’s heart. And the Father has poured his own love into our hearts by the Spirit he has given us.
With Jesus and his Father in full view, we need to see that the greatest sorrow we can bring to our Father’s heart is not to believe that he loves us. And the greatest joy we can bring to Jesus’ heart is to rest assured in his Father’s love.
When Jesus first appears for baptism, the Father declares his love for him. A voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” All through the rest of the story we see that Jesus really is the joy of the Father’s heart as dearly loved Son. Towards the end, Jesus says to his Father, “I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). We are united to Jesus so whatever is true of him is now true of us. So, the Father loves you “even as” he loves his own son. And we now experience his love because “God’s love [i.e. the Father’s love] has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). The streams of love flow to us from the fountain of love in the Father’s heart.
We need to linger long over the Father’s love to appreciate its wonder. Consider, the Father’s love that stretches backwards into his eternal decision to adopt us as children in his dearly loved Son. Contemplate, the Father’s love that reaches downwards into time through his Son and in his Spirit. Mull over the Father’s love that cost him dearly, as he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us in order to fulfil his purposes of love for us. Ponder the Father’s love that adopted us as his own children so that we now say “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…” (1 John 3:1). Yes, we do need to linger long over the Father’s love so that we actually live in his love.
Through Jesus, the triune God has actually opened himself to us. So as we fix our eyes on Jesus, we may know what God is like within his inner relations. All through the Jesus story, we see the three persons loving each other as the One living God. We see the dynamic interplay of Father with Son, Son with Spirit, Spirit with Father, Father and Son with Spirit, Spirit and Son with Father, Father and Spirit with Son. The God revealed through Jesus really is the living God who loves within himself.
However, we do not simply see all this as detached spectators; we actually share in the Triune communion. For through his Spirit, God brings us into union with Jesus so that his life and ours are inseparably entwined. Within this union, we share in Jesus’ communion with the Father by the Spirit. So, as T. F, Torrance says,” God has established an intimate two-way relation between himself and us and us and himself, making himself accessible to us and giving us entry into the inner fellowship of God’s life by allowing us to share in God’s own eternal Spirit”.
So, in union with Jesus, we are drawn into fellowship with a deeply personal, indeed three-personal God. Each of the undivided three relating to us in special and distinct ways. This is at the heart of what it means to know God and to enjoy communion with Him.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27: 4).
David was a man after God’s own heart who loved to gaze on the beauty of the Lord. But did he enjoy the close communion now opened to us in Jesus? Jesus is the true king who now serves as priest in the heavenly sanctuary. There he beholds the beauty of his Father. And in union with him, we too behold the beauty of his Father as our Father. For in the Spirit, he takes us with him into the Most Holy place. There, with him we share in his communion with the Father in the Spirit.
Men and women of God in Old Testament times were not familiar with this. Even when drawing near to God there was always a distance from him. But now we draw near through the new and living way that Jesus has opened for us. ”Through him we have access by one Spirit to the Father”, (Eph. 2:18). In union with Jesus we draw near with freedom, boldness and confidence in the Spirit crying, Abba! Father! That is truly astonishing! We who were once far off and alienated from God are now admitted into communion with the Holy One in the Most Holy Place.
The Father’s Son united himself to us when he became one of us as Jesus. The Spirit of God unites us to Jesus so that we live with him in God. Nothing can affect or change this union with God. Our lives are hidden with Christ in God. That is an unchanging reality. Nothing we do will make us more united to God; and nothing we do will ever make us less united to God
Within this union we enjoy communion. However, while union with God in Christ does not ebb and flow, our enjoyment of communion with God does change. On a good day we may feel close to God. On a bad day we may feel distant. Then the accusations come (both from Satan and self) which can make us worry that there is something wrong with us. We may even begin to question our union with God.
But should we be so focused on our own faltering enjoyment of communion with God? Doesn’t the Spirit long to put the spotlight on our sharing in Jesus’ communion with the Father. The indwelling Spirit always wants to turn us upward and outward toward Jesus in whom our life is hidden. We are taken away from anxious self-striving to be “enough,” in our communion to resting in Jesus’ communion as always enough for us in the Father’s presence. Only then may we draw near to the Father with freedom, boldness and confidence. For our access into the holy place is always through Jesus in the Spirit, to the Father.