Encountering God in Three Persons

Asbury Free Methodist – February 11, 2024


            This morning, I want to talk about encountering God in three persons. As you encounter God the Father he will confirm your identity. As you encounter God the Son, he will apply his work to your life. As you encounter God the Spirt, he will empower you to live out the life of God in you.

            Come with me in your imagination to the first century desert region of Palestine. There is not much there. There are a lot of rocks and hills and sand. There is very little vegetation, there is very little anything. The dead sea isn’t that far away, and not much grows there.

            There are some towns like Jericho, and a religious community called the Essenes from whom we have retrieved the Dead Sea Scrolls. But there isn’t much in this desert. Running through this desert is the Jordan River. Now in your mind, don’t imagine the Ottawa River, or the Rideau River—- those are rivers. Imagine the Tay River running through Stewart Park – except a lot muddier. The Jordan River is more like  a big creek, by Canadian standards.

            So, with Rocks and sand and cliffs and creek as a back drop we come into Mark Chapter 1, and we find a guy by the name of John the Baptist. Verse six tells us that John wore the same get up as the prophets from the Old Testament. He wore clothes made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. He ate a diet that had enough nourishment to sustain him, but it wasn’t exactly fine dining – Locust and wild honey.

            In this inhospitable place, on the backside of nowhere, with not much of anything around, John starts to preach, and God shows up. Isn’t that just like God. He has a way of showing up, in quiet places, away from the hype, away from the noise.

            Jerusalem was the religious capital of the times. He could have showed up at the temple, but that was a noisy place full of money changers and people so busy doing things for God, that they probably would miss God even if he did show up there.

            As an aside, some of the most profound Christian writing in the last 2000 years came out of the desert. There were a number of Christians in the early centuries that would live as hermits in the desert to meet with God. Some of them did and wrote wonderful books on the spiritual life. We know these people now as the Desert Fathers, because they have had a profound influence on our faith.

            God has a way of showing up in desert places. He has a way of showing up in remote areas. Sometimes the desert places are not geographical but found in our souls.

Some of you are very familiar with the wilderness experience. Your soul is dry. It seems like there isn’t much life. But here is the thing, God has a way of showing up in the desert. God has a way of meeting us in uncluttered places. God has a way of connecting with us, in places where we would least expect him to. Remember the Words of Jesus. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

            Come back with me to that 1st century desert. John didn’t just show up at random. Verse 2 and 3 says this camel hair wearing, grasshopper eating, desert living prophet was sent by God as a messenger to prepare the way for the Lord.

How does one go about preparing the way for God to show up?

When you are in the wilderness, where do you go to find water? How do you prepare to meet with God?

            John the Baptist was preparing the way for the people of Israel to meet with God. This is how he did it.

Mark 1:4 (NIV)

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

            This was not Christian Baptism. In Christian baptism we are baptised in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We are baptised into Jesus. We are re-enacting the death and resurrection of Christ and saying that this applies in our life.

            In Acts 19 you have this curious story of Paul going to the city of  Ephesus. Here is what it says,

Acts 19:1–6 (NIV)

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

            There are all kinds of cool things about this passage. But the one I want you to notice is that John’s Baptism wasn’t a Christian Baptism, and so the people who had been baptized by John were re -baptised.

            So, what was John doing in the wilderness. He was preparing the way for the Lord. How was he doing that.

Mark 1:4 (NIV)

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

            Repentance means a change of mind. It means a change in how I perceive what I was doing. Luke tells us a little about this preaching of John the Baptist. It said,

Luke 3:10–14 (NIV)

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

            Repentance means changing your mind about your behaviour. Repentance means doing things differently. Repentance isn’t a feeling, it isn’t a religious ritual, it is about going a different direction in your behaviour. And it is the way you create a road for God to come.

            But here is where the Baptism comes in. John’s baptism was a way of driving a stake into the ground and saying things are going to be different. So, look how the Baptism took place.

Mark 1:5 (NIV)

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

            The people who were baptised confessed their sin. They knew what they did wrong, they acknowledged what they did wrong, and they were baptised as monument to the commitment that they were going to do right. In this whole process some where there was forgiveness of sin.

            Here is what I want you to know. The best Christians I know, the people who are further along in their Christian life, who have a deeper intimacy with God than most, who know how to walk well – without exception have this discipline of confession and repentance down to an art. The people I know who are constantly encountering God are people who are totally at home with repentance.

            For them, repentance isn’t at scary thing. They see it more as a way that I can better get on the same page with God. They don’t see changing their mind with how they are approaching life as a bad thing, or an overwhelming thing, or maybe even as a big thing. They see it as a necessary thing to pursue God. They know how to prepare the way for God to come.

            If you really want to get to know God better, if you really want a closer walk with God, then learning to practice confession and repentance is where to start.

            Here is what I have come to believe. Most of us have the walk with God that we want. We probably don’t have the walk with God that we say that we want. Many of us would say that we want to have a deeper relationship with God, that we want to imitate Christ, that we want to be filled by the power of the Spirit, that we want to really know God. But whenever we find ourselves wanting this, without being willing to engage in the discipline of confession and repentance it is merely a wish. It is not going to happen. When we refuse to engage in repentance, we are really demonstrating that we have the walk with God that we want.

            We say, yes God I want to meet you. But we are not ready to do the heart work to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Yet Jesus would say to you from

Revelation 3:19–20 (NIV)

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

            Back to first century Palestine. Here is what John preached.

Mark 1:7–8 (NIV)

And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

            John is saying someone is going to show up, and I am not even worthy to be his slave, or to do menial tasks for him. Of course, he is talking about Jesus.

            But please note, there is a time lag between the confession and repentance and God showing up. There usually is. We live in such an instantaneous world, that we figure if we do something for a week we have demonstrated commitment. But timing is all up to God.

            But John says, he is coming. And when he is coming, he is going to do more than baptise with water, he is going to immerse you in the Holy Spirit. Again, the timing is all up to God.

            But here John introduces us to the second and third member of the trinity. Let’s focus on what he has to say about the third member of the trinity. God the Holy Spirit. John says, Jesus is going to come and baptise you, or immerse you in the Holy Spirit.

            It is the expectation of John, it is the expectation of Scripture, that you as a Christian should be immersed in the Spirit of God, or filled with the Spirit of God, or baptized in the Spirit of God. It is something that Jesus does for his followers.

            Now there are a lot of you who are here who are new enough to the faith, that you would not recognize this whole area as a theological mine field. There are others of you, who were in the middle of some major controversies in this area about 30 years ago. There were churches that split over this stuff.

            What it boils down to is this. The Bible is very clear, if you are a Christian the Holy Spirit is in you. If the Holy Spirit isn’t in you, then you are not a Christian. But the question is when the Bible says the Holy Spirit is in you, is that the equivalent of saying that you are filled with the Spirit or baptized in the Spirit. Or is there a place for a second experience with God of being filled with the Spirit.

            To make matters a little more complicated, Paul tells the Ephesians, “Be filled with the Spirit”. The tense of that would most accurately read, “Be, being filled with the Spirit”. So do we get the Spirit and conversion, and then we keep on getting more and more, and is there a place where we get immersed. Should we be looking for some experience of being baptized in the Spirit. I know many, many people who would testify to this experience. I know other good Christians who don’t believe in this experience as the norm. So, what are we to make of that.

            Here is what I have come to believe. We should never judge ourselves or others by the spiritual experiences we have or haven’t had. God treats us all differently, and so I am reluctant to handcuff God by saying, he has to give me this experience or that experience when he gives me His Spirit.

            But we are to judge our lives by outcomes. If I am immersed in the Spirit or filled with the Spirit, there should be a number of outcomes. The fruit of the Spirit should be plainly demonstrated. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

            The gifts of the Spirit should be empowered in your life. When you were given the Spirit, you were given spiritual gifts. But those Gifts are meant to bear fruit in the body of Christ. That fruit is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit.

            The Spirit is called the Holy Spirit. People who are filled with the Spirit live Holy lives. Not perfect lives, but holy lives. You know that their lives are God’s

            The other evidence of a Spirit filled life is that the Word of God dwells in us richly, and that we worship, and that there is a song in our hearts.  Ephesians and Colossians tell us this.

            I would urge you not to ask what experience have I had, but rather what is the fruit of my life. If the fruit isn’t there, then maybe you need more of the Spirit, or maybe the Spirit needs more of you.

If you want to be filled with the Spirit here is what you do. We have talked about repentance. Ask God, is there anything I need to repent of.

Then I would encourage you to pray for a filling or a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit. God wants to give good gifts to those who ask.

Have other people pray for you that you will be filled with the Spirit of God. Put yourself in a place where God can come to you. Prepare your heart to meet with God.

            Here is what I have come to understand about the Holy Spirit. He earnestly desires to fill our lives. But he is a gentleman. He will not force himself upon you. He goes where he is invited. He responds to faith and to invitation. But he really, really loves you. He wants you to know him.

            Lets get back to our passage in Mark. We have encountered the third person of the Trinity in John the Baptist’s words.  Let’s move on to Jesus.

            John says of Jesus, I am not worthy to untie his sandals. All of heaven adores him. The hosts of heaven bow down before him. The wonders of heaven are at his disposal.  None of us are worthy of knowing him. None of us are worthy of encountering him.

            But it is not our worthiness that matters, it is his grace. He really wants to know you. As we have just read, he stands outside the door of your heart and knocks. He wants you to open the door to real fellowship with Him.

            Jesus wants to meet with you. He wants to come to your shack. It is not based on your worthiness – it is just his desire.

Mark 1:9 (NIV)

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

            That is about an 80-kilometer journey.  He was baptized by John. He didn’t do it as a sign of repentance, but as a sign to us of the significance of baptism.  If Jesus was baptized, those of us who are followers of Jesus, need to be baptized as well.

Mark 1:10–11 (NIV)

10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

            The Spirit of God whom we have talked about descended upon Jesus. Some would say this was where he was anointed for ministry. Whatever the case, there was an encounter with the Spirit and with Father all at the same time. For the Father spoke from heaven and said,

: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.

            Here you have the Trinity of work. You have the voice of God the Father – you can tell by the sonship language, speaking to God the Son, as God the Spirit descends on the Son.

            This is what the Father speaks. You are my beloved son. God the father has a way of speaking love into the heart of His children. Here you see him confirming the identity of Jesus.

            Remember, until this time, to talk about being Sons of God, or to talk about having God as our Father, was thought of as sacrilegious. But here God the father confirms Jesus’ identity.

            Jesus, through his work on the cross has introduced us to His heavenly father, and he has now become our heavenly father. We have been adopted into the family. He invites us to encounter love of God the Father. God has a way of speaking into the core of our identity.

            I find it interesting that verse 12 says.

Mark 1:12–13 (NIV)

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

            He hears the voice of God confirming his identity, and then he goes into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. It is one of those things where when you face hard times, you need to know who you in the eyes of your heavenly father. Because who you are in his eyes, is who you really are.

            You may have named yourself stupid, or powerless, is ugly, or addicted, or small, or any number of other names that your family, your friends, your boss, or even Satan may try to label you with. But God the father has a way of speaking your true identity to you.

            I want you to know that he is still in that business. He still has a way of speaking who you really are into your life. He may name you strength, victorious, peace, grace filled, compassion – I don’t know what he will name you, but he has a way of speaking into the life of his children and saying – you  – you are my beloved.

            Jesus went out from this place and did the work of his father. And you and I have come to know the father through him and that work. He revealed God to us because he was and is God.

            You may be in the wilderness. But it is right where you are that God in three persons wants to encounter you. You may look at your heart and say, there is so much wrong, there is so much that is not here. God has a way of getting to remote places, and he often shows up in the wilderness. Get ready for him to come. Prepare for him by repentance.  God the Holy Spirit wants to fill you. God the Son wants to come in and have fellowship with you. God the father wants to name you and confirm your identity. Prepare the way for the Lord.

Sermon Questions – Mark 1:4-11


1. What are you celebrating today?

2. What are you praying about today?

Digging in

2. Read Mark 1:4-11. Where do you see the trinity in this passage of scripture?

3. Verse 4. Why do you think John preached in the wilderness?

4. What did John the Baptist’s baptism symbolize? Read Acts 19:1-6. What is the difference between John’s Baptism and Christian baptism?

5. John preached repentance. (Verse 4-5) What does repentance mean? How does Luke 3:10-14 inform our understanding of repentance?

6. Read verses 7-8. What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? The sermon gave four fruit of the baptism of the Holy Spirit

-The Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5)

-Empowered gifts of the Spirit

-Living holy lives

– Word of God dwells in us richly.

               How would these fruit look in a person’s life? What do you think of the idea that we should not judge our Christian life based on our experiences but our fruit?

7. Read verses 9-11. What is the role of each person of the trinity in these verses? What does this tell us about God?

8. Read verses 12-13. What does this tell us about God?