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.
The Puritan theologian John Owen (1616 –1683) wrote in a letter, “I pray God with all my heart that I may be weary of everything else but converse and communion with him” We need to join Owen in this prayer because we so easily find ourselves growing weary of seeking communion with God while rarely growing weary of seeking every other pleasure.
Owen expressed his intense desire for communion with God as a response to God’s desire for communion with him. And that’s the right way around. For the gospel is the good news that in Christ God has established union with us and now eagerly desires communion with us. He wants to enjoy close love relationship with us and gives both his Son and Spirit with that in mind.
We must be fully attentive to God’s strong desire for fellowship with us. Only then are we responsive drawing near to the Father in freedom and confidence. It is vital that we see this! We so easily switch attention to our own desires for communion with God or lack of desire. We may even believe that God will only desire fellowship with us if we truly desire fellowship with him. That is a big mistake! We keep all our attention on the Father’s constant desire to draw close to us through Jesus and his Spirit. And as we do so, desires for communion with God arise within us. So we must always see that our desire for communion with God is a response to God’s desire for communion with us.
Before God even created he had a purpose and plan for the whole cosmos. This plan emerged within the communication of the Triune Communion. And the Father sent both his Son and Spirit on mission to make it all happen. So the actions of God’s Son and Spirit in the drama of redemption are the space-time expression of all that God freely decided in eternity.
In this drama of redemption, God rescues us from the rule of Sin, Death and Satan so that we are no longer under these powers. He rescues us in order to bring us under the rule of Jesus, his dearly loved Son. As Paul says, “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). God accomplished this dramatic liberation in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus dies to the realm of sin and death and we died with him. Jesus rose into new creation as king over all and we rise with him. Jesus is exalted to his Father’s side as the Royal Man and we are seated with him in heavenly places.
As King Jesus encounters us personally by his Spirit we pass from the reign of sin and death into his reign of life, light and love. The old is gone; the new has come. We now live under King Jesus as his kin.
Before anything existed, Father and Son decided in the unity of the Spirit to share their own life with us. They wanted to create a new family unit, thereby enlarging the scope of their own familial relations. This is the deep background of the Triune drama unfolding before us in the Jesus’ story.
The Son’s lowly appearance in history wasn’t a surprise. Nor was it a Plan B following Israel’s failure. The Son came as Jesus because of a joint plan conceived in eternity between the Father and Son in the Spirit. In love, the Father decided to send his Son and in love the Son consented to being sent. The Son who always existed in the “form of God” wanted to serve his Father in the “form of a servant” among us. And so the Son’s identity as lowly servant-son among us is identical with his identity in eternity. For the Son’s way of being God is to be the one sent as lowly servant. And to be sent as the dearly loved Son who does all things joyfully in response to his Father’s love.
Hence it should come as no surprise that the Son’s mission on earth is “to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4.34; cf. John 5:30; 6:38). This is who he always wants to be in response to his Father’s love for our sake. And let us remember that this mission is what Father and Son decided on together because they want a large family of son’s and daughters in union with the Son.
John often records personal communications between Father and Son in the Spirit. These communications open to us God’s inner life. One of the most significant conversational topics is the mutual glorification of Father and Son in the Spirit. Jesus is the dearly loved Son who lives in his Father’s love and responds by loving his Father and doing all things to glory his Father. All through his ministry, Jesus wants his Father to be truly honoured. And he wants this to happen in and through all his actions as the Father’s Servant-Son.
When Jesus realises that his hour has come he says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12.27, 28). Even in deep distress, Jesus expresses more intensely his desire for the glorification of his Father. And he wants this to happen in himself as dearly loved suffering servant so that the Father will be glorified in the Son. As the hour moves even closer, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1).
Father and Son love each other so deeply in the Spirit that each one desires the glory of the other. And soon their mutual glorification happens in Jesus’ humiliation on the cross followed by his exaltation with the name above every name to the glory of God the Father.
God’s own life is a ceaseless activity of free and loving communication. The beginning and end of this communicating is triune communion. The Father communicates with his Son in the love of the Spirit. The Son communicates with his Father in the love of the Spirit. This personal, dynamic and relational communicating is unveiled to us dramatically in the Jesus story. We often hear Jesus communicating with the one he calls Father in love. In one place Jesus says, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” (John 5.20). In love, the Father showed Jesus what he was doing to heal a lame man. Jesus saw what the Father was doing and in love for the Father moved into action to do what his Father was showing him. This communicating in love was going on all the time during Jesus ministry.
In another place Jesus says to his Father, “you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17.24). God does not, therefore, become love in the events that make up the Jesus’ story. These events rather show us what God has always been as a communion of love. In eternity, out of the fullness of his love, the Father showed his Son all he was going to do in and through him by the Spirit. And in love, the Son saw what his Father showed him and gladly responded with a resounding YES!
Showing and seeing in the love of the Spirit are two aspects in an ongoing communication between Father and Son in the Spirit. Both in eternity and all through the Jesus story we see that “God is a communicative being” (Jonathan Edwards).
Within Scripture, we see the unfolding of Triune Drama. However, we are not simply an audience looking at the drama as it unfolded long ago. The drama continues today where we are. And we now participate in the drama personally.
This begins for us as the Living Word speaks to us personally, by his Spirit, in and through the drama portrayed in the written word. As the Living Word speaks to us faith is born within us. This is itself drama. Your experience of it may not have felt so dramatic, but the communication that brought you to faith was dramatic. And it was part of the ongoing Triune Drama today.
But this is only the start. The Living Word goes on encountering us today, by his Spirit, in and through the drama portrayed in the written word. The encounter is itself dramatic and through it we now live within the triune drama. We participate in the ongoing dramatic action as the Living Word continually communicates with us in and though the drama portrayed in the written word. This communication isn’t merely the transmitting of information but rather God communicating himself to us. The Triune God of the drama is the communion of joyful love and he brings us into the drama for the sake of communion. He wants to open his own communion to us so that we enjoy ongoing communion within the ongoing drama.
When we watch a drama on stage or TV we meet various persons relating to one another. Within Scripture, we see the unfolding of Triune Drama. The Father moves into action reconciling and renewing all things through his Son and by his Spirit.
As we look at this drama we meet God as three persons communicating with one another as a communion of joyful love. The Father communicates with his Son out of his love for the Son. He communicates with his Son in joy and delight as they move together in mission. The Son communicates with his Father out of his love. He too communicates with his Father in joy and delight as he serves his Father in mission. And both Father and Son communicate with one another in the communication of the Spirit.
Within the drama, this Triune Communion also communicates with us. The Triune communion has a purpose that they share in together. Their purpose is to include others within the communion. They want others to share in the joyful communication within the communion of joyful love. Of course, we humans don’t want this inclusion. We wanted to go our own way. Nevertheless, the Triune communion goes on and on speaking and acting with purpose to reconcile and restore humanity to the communion of love. This purpose is all worked out in a great drama that reaches its goal in a new creation with God and humanity together in God’s new world.
The Meaning of our Lives
As we live out our own stories here and now we want to know the meaning of it all. We discover this meaning in the climax of our stories and that is Jesus. All things, including ourselves, were created by him and for him. Even now, our lives are hidden with Christ in God. And hidden in God we share in Jesus’ communion with his Father by the Spirit. Furthermore, when Jesus appears at the end we shall appear with him in glory for our lives are bound up with his. In that moment, we shall become like him as we are totally transformed into his image.
Communion is the goal of the cosmos and our destiny in union with Jesus. And we now live in that ultimate meaning by the Spirit who is the presence of the future in us. In the Spirit, we now grow up in every way into Jesus. Moving ever deeper into Jesus we continually discover who God is for he is the human face of God. Moving ever deeper into Jesus we continually discover who we are for the meaning of our lives is bound up with who Jesus is as one of us. We so easily slip into looking at ourselves as individuals apart from Jesus and in that way lose the meaning of our lives. We are in him; he is in us. Our lives are hidden with him in God; indeed he is our life. Our ultimate destiny is Jesus and sharing the communion he enjoys with his Father in the Spirit. This is the meaning of our lives.