Developing a Relationship with God : John 3:1-17

Nicodemus was a Jewish Pharisee, and the Pharisees were well known for practising all the religious laws, of which there were many.

He asked Jesus a question;  ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ 

Jesus answered; ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.‘ (John 3:2-3)

This statement might not make much sense to us today, and perhaps it was an indication of Jesus’ disregard for the religious establishment of the day. 

Or maybe it was a challenge for Nicodemus to change his way of thinking.

Because Jesus then said; ‘You won’t reach Heaven unless you are reborn.’

Nicodemus was probably puzzled because the Pharisees believed they would go to heaven by performing good works.

Good Works or Born Again?

Today, some believe there are two types of Christians – the ordinary ones and the ‘born again’ who are often very expressive in demonstrating their faith.

However, in the Bible, being ‘born again’ simply means a spiritual rebirth, through an encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was teaching that there is nothing we can actually do to experience the Holy Spirit, other than present a contrite heart that yearns for a relationship with God.

This revelation may shock some, as they’ve been led to believe that good deeds or spirituality are the pathway to God.

Others may find it a relief, believing they could never do enough good works, or be spiritual enough to earn their place.

So if eternal life isn’t earned by good deeds or spirituality, does this mean anyone, regardless of their past can be in a relationship with God?

Yes, it does, and the door to Holy Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the first step on the road to that relationship.

Because Jesus tells us that God loves all His children and offers everyone the opportunity to draw closer to him.

I believe being reborn of the spirit is different for each of us

That we all have the potential for a unique relationship with God and will experience spiritual growth in different ways.

For some, it happens early in life, while for others, like me, it’s a slow process that unfolds later in life.

Like many of us, I was baptised as a baby, but while my family believed in Jesus, we didn’t regularly attend church. 

But I had a simple faith in the Jesus I was taught about at school, and who we talked about at home.

Then as a young adult, I really wanted to find a church where I could belong, learn more and develop a meaningful relationship with God.

And I did try diligently to find such a place, but it wasn’t until I joined this church that I finally felt on the right path.

Then quite alarmingly I felt I was being called to be a Minister, and even more surprisingly, after three years study, I was licensed to teach, preach and lead worship.

During my long search for a Christian home, I sometimes experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, which eventually guided me here. 

The theological study then enriched my relationship with God and still does to this day.

But I don’t believe I felt guided by the Holy Spirit because of any good works or extravagant displays of faith; rather it was by God’s power and my genuine desire and endeavours to understand more about Jesus.

Others will have trodden different paths to develop their relationship with God.

Trinity Sunday

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday which brings together all the events of the liturgical year gone before us, from Advent through to Pentecost.

At this time, as we reflect on Christ’s Birth, Death, Resurrection, Ascension to Heaven, and sending of the Holy Spirit – we wrap these events up with a vision of the Almighty Father who is Creator, Divine Son and Holy Spirit in a blessed Trinity.

Paul foresaw God eventually manifesting himself as three persons in one, as he demonstrates in his letters, and in particular the closing of his letter to the Corinthians with the Grace Prayer;

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And there, in that prayer of St Paul, we have the Holy Trinity, the three in one. 

Although Paul experienced God as three in one, I think it took some years for the early church fathers to agree what the Trinity was, and what it wasn’t.

But it was not only Paul who was anticipating a Trinitarian God. 

Isaiah told of a time in Isaiah 6, when he had a vision in the temple, in which God demonstrated he would eventually reveal himself in a Holy Trinity.

In the vision God was on his throne, and Seraphim (angels) were flying all around singing:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.

As the doorposts and thresholds of the temple shook, so too Isaiah was terrified as he knew that no mortal was worthy to be in God’s presence.

He was overpowered by fear and wonder.

One of the seraphim then retrieved a burning coal from the altar and touched it to Isaiah’s lips. Can you imagine the pain that must have caused?

Yet, the fire didn’t consume Isaiah. It purified him and cleansed him of sin. 

So too, God can use the painful events of our lives to purify us, and in our vulnerability, the Holy Spirit can guide and heal us.

After he was purified, Isaiah surrendered himself to God’s will and became one of the greatest prophets in the Bible as he went on to foretell of God’s Kingdom reigning on earth.

So what has the prophet Isaiah got to do with Trinity Sunday?

Every week, there is an important point in our service, possibly the most sacred part of the service.

It is called the Sanctus, in which we all sing together during the Preparation of the Altar.

The Latin word Sanctus in English is Holy, and we sing together, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, the Holy, Holy, Holy prayer of the Seraphims from Isaiah 6

These words were one of the ways the early church fathers came to understand the Holy Trinity because of the rare repetition of the word Holy it was recognised as a Trinitarian formula.

Why not listen carefully as we sing those words of the Sanctus shortly, maybe you will sense the presence of God amongst us as we sing these sacred words together. Amen

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