This collection of 50 meditations on the Trinity will help readers connect their theology to everyday life, encouraging them to turn to God for strength when facing doubt, fear, and temptation.
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About the Author
Joe Thorn (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois. He is an active blogger at JoeThorn.net, a contributor to The Story ESV Bible and The Mission of God Study Bible, and the author of Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself and Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. He and his wife, Jen, have four children.
Read an Excerpt
He Is Holy
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!
You don't have an Isaiah 6 experience with God very often. I'm not referring to prophetic visions; I'm talking about having an encounter with God as holy. I mean an intense and transformative interaction with the Lord who dwells in unapproachable light — the kind of experience that drops you to your knees in the fear of God and moves you to confess your sins. Do you even remember the last time you said, "Woe is me"? Have you ever said it?
Despite the books, sermons, and songs that highlight the holiness of God, this doctrine remains too infrequently on your mind, and it insufficiently informs how you approach and live for God. It's not enough that you properly define God's holiness. Reading Dr. Sproul's classic treatment of the subject is wonderful, but this central aspect of God's character must also be experienced. The less you are gripped with God's holiness, the less awe you will experience in your faith. A truer sight of his holiness will give you a truer sight of your corruptions. And it is only as you see both of these realities that you will find his mercy extended toward you in Jesus Christ to be soul-satisfying and worship-inspiring.
Awe of God proceeds from knowing and experiencing his holiness — his otherness. He is unlike people in many ways. He is high and lifted up in his sovereignty, justice, and goodness. He is pure. There is no darkness in the Lord. He is perfect in every way. To see even a vision of him, as Isaiah did, makes your legs weak and jaw drop. And if all you saw were his holiness in contrast to your sinfulness, you would despair and lose all hope of living before him.
But the holiness of God includes his mercy and grace. He is not only the Lord of justice, but also the Lord of compassion. He cleanses the filthy and pardons the guilty. He purifies his people and clothes them in the righteousness of his Son, Jesus, making them acceptable in his presence. The holiness of God lifts the soul in worship, for holiness is the sum of all he is.
Look to your holy God. Behold his glory. He is more than you can comprehend, and what he has shown you of himself is enough to forever change you. Behold his glory. The whole earth is full of it, but does his glory fill your mind and heart?CHAPTER 2
He Is Creator
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
That God created the heavens and the earth is one of the most important doctrines revealed in the Bible. It's a shame you seldom think so. God as Creator is not throwaway theology. It isn't just teaching for the kids. Yes, it's critical Sunday school instruction, but the church gives it to young people early so that they will hold on to it throughout their lives. To say God is Creator is to say he is the one in whom you find your identity and purpose.
Your God has not only created the world, but he has also created you. You exist because God chose to make you. And when he made you, he made you for himself. Meditate on this. You were made for your Maker's pleasure. You are here for the sake of Another. And this doesn't diminish your purpose or value in life. In fact, it heightens it. It's counterintuitive, I know, but stop listening to the world for a minute.
One of the lies the world continually presents is that you are not only in control, but that you indeed are your own master. You say to yourself, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." It makes for interesting poetry, but it also makes for a life that will fail in the most significant ways.
You did not create yourself, and you cannot re-create yourself. Your value is not found in your uniqueness or your individuality. It is found in the God who created you in his own image. Yes, you are special, sacred really, but this is because you, in amazing ways, look like the God who made you. And this is not your uniqueness. In fact this is what makes you common — like every other person on earth. You were made by God, for God.
Sadly, you do not live the life your Creator intended. You have often attempted to set the course of your life as if you were the captain. Such rebellion is what mars the image of God. You were created for a person and with a purpose, but you have often worked to undo much of that. But do not despair. The God who creates also re-creates. He has caused you to be born again. He has given you a new heart. He has made you something new.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5:17)
To know God as Creator is to recognize that you are his creature. As a Christian you are doubly his, for he has made you and remade you for his glory. You truly are his workmanship.CHAPTER 3
He Is Powerful
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
You often feel powerless. At times, your weakness and frailty overtake you so that you lose hope. It wouldn't matter so much if you weren't in situations that demanded power, performance, and perseverance, but that is exactly where you find yourself. You need to do something, and you cannot do it. Such powerlessness, such inability, is not only discouraging but also defeating. Take this to heart: you are weak, but your God is not.
God is absolutely sovereign, having all power and controlling all things. He can do as he pleases — and he does. To say that God is sovereign is one thing. You say it often. But to know that your God is sovereign should be a great encouragement to your soul when you face what looks to be impossible.
Consider your great enemies. The world, the flesh, the Devil, and death. They are terrible foes, yet God is sovereign over them and has overcome each one through the work of his Son Jesus Christ. Consider the calling with which you have been called: believe in Jesus; take up your cross and follow him; forgive your enemies; give generously; be content with what you have. This and so much more of what you are called to do is simply too much. Own that. You cannot do it. Not on your own. But you are not alone. Your God is with you, and until you embrace your weakness, you will never experience his power.
Those who are in Christ are brought near to God and know his power. He has given you his Spirit who comes upon you with power to bear witness to the Savior (Acts 1:8). God has given you a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). He gives you grace in the midst of your weakness to make his sovereign care known (2 Cor. 12:9). God guards you and guides you in such a way that you are empowered to persevere (1 Pet. 1:5). And God's sovereign power is at work in weak people like you when you pray — when you seek his help in your time of need (James 5:16).
Yes, you are weak, but the sovereign God of the universe is with you. The Holy Spirit is in you. Jesus himself says that he is ever with you. Whatever towers before you is small before your all-powerful God.CHAPTER 4
He Is Present
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
God is omnipresent. This attribute is an essential part of his being as the eternal God who fills all time and space. But there is a great difference to God being everywhere and God being with you. It is this latter truth that will conquer your anxieties and comfort you in your loneliness.
God's presence in your life is one of the great gospel promises given throughout Scripture. God has always held this truth out as one of the great blessings of being reconciled to him: "The LORD your God is in your midst" (Zeph. 3:17); "I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people" (Lev. 26:11–12). Jesus ended his earthly ministry with this promise: "Behold, I am with you always" (Matt. 28:20). With such promises, why are you so often going at life as if you are alone?
Sure, there are times when you face something alone — when friends are gone and you cannot find help from a brother or sister. But the absence of a worldly companion does not leave you without hope or help. For even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with you to protect you, strengthen you, and accomplish his good purposes through you. You are never really alone, but unless you are seeking communion with the Lord who is there, you will feel alone. You will carry the burden. And in doing so you will remain afraid and collapse under the weight of your afflictions.
Rest in the reality of God's presence. If God is with his people, then as a Christian you can rest assured that he is with you. And if God is with you, to uphold you, you have the promise of perseverance. The presence of God the Father will grant you rest and hope in the midst of all things that drive fear into the hearts of men and women.CHAPTER 5
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
The Lord is a God of providence. He governs all things and is intimately involved in all that happens in the world. This means that he is "all in" when it comes to the details of your life. There is never a moment of your day when God is inactive. He is there and he is involved. The grace of God abounds to those who have trusted in Jesus Christ, and his providential and spiritual care of you guarantees that all of your needs will be met.
The uncertainties of life, the accompanying worries connected to the what-ifs, can be settled in this great truth: come what may, God will never leave you or forsake you. Rather, he promises to supply you with whatever you need in this life and in the life to come.
I know your mind goes quickly to those believers who have starved to death or who suffered great and unjust affliction. You wonder, "How did God provide for them?" But that question reveals that your understanding of what is needed is far narrower than what God knows is needed and best. He will provide, but you can miss his provision if you're waiting for him to give only what you are looking for.
To say that God will always provide for you is not to say that he will give you every earthly thing you desire. It's not a guarantee that you will receive what you need for a long and comfortable life on earth. It is the guarantee that wherever you are, God remains present; that whatever you go through, God has a sovereign purpose; and that whatever your affliction or difficulty, God will provide you with the grace you need to persevere in faith and find satisfaction in him. God provides what is best, and sometimes what is best is that which you would never choose. Sometimes that which is painful for a time will yield a greater blessing later, even if you must wait for it until after death.CHAPTER 6
He Is Good
Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
The doctrine of God's goodness is at the heart of some of your struggles. You affirm that God is sovereign and present, but you still fear and doubt his goodness. God is good, which means that he always does what is right; this stems from his very character. He is not good according to the standards of man. He is far better than that. He is trustworthy.
Because God is who he is, you can trust him in all things at all times. He is good and upright, and he instructs sinners in the Way. Do you see that? He instructs sinners. He doesn't abandon them, but he teaches them. Such an education is often painful. He convicts his children of sin; he afflicts their consciences that they may better see the ugliness of their corruption. But he does this with care and from a caring heart. It is his goodness that moves him to care for them in these ways.
Understanding that God is absolutely sovereign will do you little good if you do not also understand his goodness. He is not simply calling the shots, ordering the days of your life in some arbitrary way. What he does with and to you is always good, even if it doesn't seem that way. The question is, do you believe that, or are you quick to question what God is doing, as if he isn't good? As if he isn't good to you?
The goodness of God doesn't guarantee ease, but it does ensure that he will not act carelessly, or out of frustration or fatigue. He is guided by his own perfect nature, and all his interactions with his people are good. He works for their good — for your good. This can be hard to see. The psalmists sometimes struggled to see what they knew to be true (see Psalm 73). The key is to look beyond what you can see with your eyes to what God has told you is true. Only then can you begin to see things as they really are, not just as they appear. You can be certain that where you find yourself right now is a part of God's good plan for you.CHAPTER 7
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
One of the earliest truths you learned about God was that he knows everything. He is not a God who guesses; he knows. He is omniscient. He knows all things that are and all things that are possible. He is unlimited in his knowledge. And yet there is a profound gospel-truth you seem to forget concerning God's knowledge. It is a truth that can steady your soul in days of turbulence and trouble. The fact that he knows all things means that he knows you.
This is actually one of your greatest desires. You want to be truly known — to be understood, to be seen for what you are in all your ugliness and beauty. God the Father knows you like this.
He knows your life, circumstances, fears, anxieties, doubts, and afflictions. He knows your frame and your frailty. He knows you personally. And one of the reasons this is so important is because of God's power and willingness to help his children. Yes, God is both sovereign and good, but such attributes would prove potentially disastrous to you if God did not also know you so well. He knows what you really need, not just what you ask for. He knows what will break you and what will help you. He knows what you can handle and what is too much. So when you seek God's help, power, provision, or intervention, you do not have to worry about his response. He will not get it wrong. He knows you, and therefore he knows exactly how to answer you.
This means that he will sometimes give you more than you can handle so you will be led to rely on him and his grace. Sometimes you need to be overwhelmed in order to see how dependent on grace you really are. Sometimes he will break you in order to heal you, that you might once again know how sweet his restoring grace is.
God has searched you and knows your heart. Because of this, you can rest. More than that, you can have confidence in whatever God decides to do in your life. He has taken you, your desires, your needs, and your limitations into account. Whatever has come, and whatever comes next, is not happenstance but the careful plan of the Father who knows his child better than anyone.CHAPTER 8
He Is Patient
But you, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
The character of God is revealed, preached, and heralded throughout Scripture. So why are you slow to hold on to it tightly? If you don't know God to be gracious, merciful, and slow to anger, you do not know his patience. And it is his patience that has led to your salvation and continues to lead you in the life of faith.
It's not that you are completely unfamiliar with the character of God. You read of it throughout Scripture and you sing of it with the church. How many thousands of ways has the Lord been good to you in this life? He has been generous toward you. He is in fact so slow to anger that you have never once faced his divine justice for even one of your sins. In all of this his love for you abounds, and he remains faithful to all the promises he made to you in his Son Jesus.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Experiencing the Trinity"
Copyright © 2015 Joe Thorn.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 God the Father
1 He Is Holy 23
2 He Is Creator 26
3 He Is Powerful 29
4 He Is Present 31
5 He Provides 33
6 He Is Good 35
7 He Knows 37
8 He Is Patient 40
9 He Is Love 42
10 He Forgives 44
11 He Is Unchanging 47
12 He Is Jealous 50
13 He Is Listening 52
14 He Disciplines 54
15 He Is Father 57
Part 2 God the Son
16 His Humanity 61
17 His Deity 63
18 His Poverty 66
19 His Love 68
20 His Temptation 70
21 His Obedience 73
22 His Suffering 75
23 His Death 78
24 His Resurrection 81
25 His Reign 83
26 His Hold 85
27 His Help 87
28 His Presence 89
29 His Church 91
30 His Mission 94
31 His Priesthood 96
32 His Kingdom 98
33 His Prayer 100
34 His Glory 102
35 His Return 104
Part 3 God the Holy Spirit
36 He Regenerates 109
37 He Indwells 111
38 He Intercedes 114
39 He Fills 116
40 He Comforts 118
41 He Teaches 120
42 He Leads 122
43 He Convicts 124
44 He Points to Jesus 126
45 He Revives 128
46 He Gives Wisdom 130
47 He Sanctifies 132
48 He Grieves 135
49 He Gives Gifts 137
50 He Resurrects 139
What People are Saying About This
“All Christians believe in the Trinity, but most Christians, if we’re honest, don’t like to think about the Trinity that much. The doctrine seems abstract, dry, and distant from everyday life. This book will change that for you. Joe Thorn points us to the joy of a God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, showing us how this truth should prompt us to worship, pray, and trust. He applies this great doctrine without putting us out of its mystery. This book can better equip you to praise the God from whom all blessings flow.”
Russell D. Moore, President, The Ethics& Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
“Experiencing the Trinity will help us focus on God in the midst of the dark clouds and thundering waves that threaten to sink us. The book you hold now is short, but the truths contained therein are neither flippant nor light. It’s just the kind of ballast you need in life’s storms.”
Gloria Furman, author, Missional Motherhood and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
“Here’s gospel gold emerging from the furnace of affliction. Truth that’s been lived becomes life giving as Joe comforts others with the comfort with which he has been comforted by God. I hope and pray that these beautiful meditations will do you as much good as they did me.”
David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
“When we are confused and discouraged, where do we find and place our hope? Thorn has written insightful reflections on how knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit transforms us. Experiencing the Trinity gives us the framework for finding lasting hope in God and will leave an impression on your soul.”
Trillia Newbell, author, Sacred Endurance; If God Is for Us; and God’s Very Good Idea
“Are you weary, discouraged, spiritually dry? Joe Thorn has found a deep well of living water in the desert, and each reading in this wonderful book provides a glorious supply for the parched in spirit. Experiencing the Trinity is real medicine for the soul.”
Jared C. Wilson, Director of Content Strategy, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Director, Pastoral Training Center, Liberty Baptist Church, Kansas City, Missouri; author, Supernatural Power for Everyday People
“Joe Thorn is a pastor-theologian. He also, however, is a broken man. In this book he shares how Joe Thorn the pastor-theologian ministered to Joe Thorn the broken manhow reflection on the reality of all the graces of the triune God put him on the road to healing. Every pastor should want all of his church members to digest this book. It will encourage them toward a more profound dependence upon the grace of God. It will help them abandon all reservations they have to be grateful to God for all things. It will make them become better listeners to doctrinal preaching and will make the preacher himself a much more sensitive, reflective, and truth-oriented proclaimer of the Word of God.”
Tom J. Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, By His Grace and for His Glory