In 38 years on this earth, I’d never once sat in first class. Then came those magical words from a gate agent: “Mr. Dirks, you’ve been upgraded. Enjoy your flight.” She directed me to the red-carpeted boarding lane; I tried to conceal my giddiness as I waltzed past the mob of tired and frustrated travelers in the economy class queue.
The flight attendant looked at my ticket, and smiled as she welcomed me and pointed me to the left. I’d never turned left before, and I couldn’t remember the last time a flight attendant smiled at me. I quickly found my wide leather seat, and couldn’t have been there more than 15 seconds when another attendant appeared to offer a pre-takeoff glass of champagne.
I was in.
We all want to be in somewhere. We’re all looking for approval. Even Harley-riding rebels who trumpet their independence through deafening exhaust pipes feel the need to wear matching leather vests as their herd ambles down the highway. It’s a basic human desire hardwired into us: We need to belong somewhere. But sometimes, we’re just not feeling it.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Jesus addressed this reality the night before he was killed. He had only hours to live. The disciples, who’d given up everything in life to follow him, were about to lose their leader and watch their whole world collapse on them. Despite the danger and dread, Jesus wanted to spend the last few hours of his life teaching a theology class about the doctrine of the Trinity and its relationship to humanity.
When most Christians think about the Trinity, they come up with analogies to make sense of it: the parts of an egg, the different states of water, and so on. But Jesus never bothered trying to explain the structure of the Trinity. What’s most important about the Trinity is implied by the very names. It’s the relationships. A father is only a father if he has a son. And a son has to have a father. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been enjoying one another forever.
When Jesus prayed to his father that dark night, out loud in front of the disciples, he said, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). They learned God has been perfectly satisfied within himself forever. He didn’t create humans because he was lonely or bored. If that were the case, he should’ve just made puppies and quit while he was ahead. Puppies are a lot more fun and cuddly.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have always had perfect fellowship together, and the unbelievable thing—the really crazy thing—is we’re invited into that relationship too. Look at what Jesus prayed:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:20–24)
Think about that for a minute.
Remember being in middle school, always wishing you could be part of the popular crowd? And if you were popular, wishing you could be part of the ultra-popular crowd? Some never shake that sensation for the rest of their lives. They always feel on the outside of things, never feeling accepted.
But Jesus says you’re not alone anymore. If you’re trusting in him, the Holy Spirit has brought you into the most exclusive society in the universe: the fellowship of the Trinity. The finest first-class cabin in the sky is a rusty tin can compared to this clubhouse.
Neglecting Our Membership Privileges
The problem is, most Christians don’t get that perspective. The disciples sure didn’t. Twenty-four hours after Jesus prayed these things, after he’d been executed and their world had imploded, they weren’t looking to deepen their relationship with the Godhead. They weren’t looking to cash in on their membership benefits. They were just looking to not die.
Maybe you’re in a place where it feels like your world is caving in on you. You’ve been stressed out at work, with your boss piling on project after project. All you can see in front of you are unreasonable deadlines and unmet expectations. Or you’re in a season of marriage where it’s just not working. You and your spouse bicker all the time for no good reason. You feel alone in the relationship.
Maybe you have small kids driving you crazy, and you’ve caught yourself daydreaming about dropping them off in the Salvation Army donation box. You’ve even calculated how many fruit snacks and sippy cups they’d need before the workers found them in the morning. You feel overwhelmed and alone in your struggles. You’re not thinking about the glorious Trinitarian fellowship you’ve been welcomed into; you’re just thinking about survival.
When we don’t embrace the love, acceptance, and affirmation of the Trinity that’s been extended to us through Christ, it’s easy for us to keep spiraling downward into anxiety, despair, inertia, and ineffectiveness. And when we fail to take advantage of our membership benefits, we’re not the only ones who lose out.
Jesus says a big reason why we’ve been brought into the fellowship of the Trinity is “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). God loves us like he loved his Son so that the people around us will see it and seek the same love for themselves. Bizarrely, the mission of this hyper-exclusive club is to keep cramming more and more people onto its membership roll.
That’s why TGC Hawaii is planning a conference in Honolulu this October called “This Is Love.” Featuring speakers Paul Tripp, Eric Mason, J. D. Greear, Ryan Kwon, and Jeff Louie, we’ll spend a weekend drinking in God’s love for us and learning how to invite those around us into the same experience.
Our kids, neighbors, and coworkers are all counting on us to take full advantage of our membership.
Editors’ note: Join speakers Paul Tripp, Eric Mason, J. D. Greear, Ryan Kwon, and Jeff Louie for TGC Hawaii’s fall conference, October 28 to 29 in Honolulu. Spread the word and register today.