Eric Huffman: Hey, Maybe God family. Eric Huffman here. I am here in studio to record yet another one of these weekly conversations we're putting out on our podcast and on our YouTube channel as well, just to connect with all of you with more frequency, and to put more content in front of you and keep you engaged. So we're really excited about our conversation today.
Now, first, I hope you've listened to our latest episode of the podcast. It's called Why Does God Allow Suffering? It's not an easy listen. I'm well aware of that. So I hope you'll grab that box of tissues and settle in and give it a listen because the stories that are told in that episode are so powerful, and they're going to change lives.
So I hope that you will listen and then let us know what you think by engaging with us on social media platforms or just shoot us an email at [email protected]. We would love to hear your questions and feedback on that episode.
Now I'm here today in studio recording this conversation with a good friend of mine, a relatively new friend, but one that I have quickly fallen in love with and just love him so much. I'm so glad he's here to share with all of you. His name is Jim Stern. For over 20 years, Jim has been making disciples of Jesus in Houston and beyond. He has a Master's of Divinity with Biblical Languages and Emphasis and has been a pastor since 1999.
One of his specialties, which we're going to dig into today, is the Trinity, the Holy Trinity, the very simple, easy to understand Holy Trinity. So Jim Stern, welcome to the Maybe God studio.
Jim Stern: Thank you, man. Good to be here with you.
Eric Huffman: Absolutely.
Jim Stern: Absolutely. Good stuff.
Eric Huffman: Thanks for coming. Why don't you start to just tell us a little bit about yourself, what our listeners and viewers need to know about you.
Jim Stern: What your listeners need to know. Was not born and raised in church at all. Did give my life to the Lord at 26 years old. Heard the voice of God for the first time or recognized the voice of God for the first time when I was in a bar. That began a journey of progressive awakenings and continues today in progressive awakenings because we believe in an infinite God who's not bound by anything at all. So there's always more. There's always more to learn. There's always more to discover. There's always more to enjoy.
So what happened at 26 began a journey of longtime discovery that there's a God in heaven who loves me and has life for me, and what in the world does that mean?
Eric Huffman: So what exactly happened with the bar?
Jim Stern: Oh. So I'm doing my thing, sex, drugs, and rock and roll hardcore, really enjoying life, doing exactly what the world told me to do, not knowing it was the world that was telling me to do it. And I'm at a bar and I hear a voice and it's very clear that it's not my voice, right?
How do you know when it's the voice of God in your life? There's a quality to it. There's a tonality to it. It's like the difference between an off-the-rack suit and a custom-made suit. There's just something different in the fabric of what it is that you're hearing. You know your own voice, you know the kind of wisdom you're capable of generating, and yet you're receiving or hearing something that is not from you. You're not that smart, you're not that good, whatever it is.
So this voice come and is asking me two questions. Very short conversations. It's one way. Ask me two questions. Number one, do you think that this is all that there is to life? What you're doing, do you think this is all there is to life? And are you really having fun? Are you really having fun? At some point time I started arguing with like, are you really having fun? And I would retort and say, "I would have fun if you would leave me alone."
Eric Huffman: Of course.
Jim Stern: But He wouldn't leave me alone. He hounds us with love. He hounds us with love. And then a buddy at work, he says, "Hey, come to this Bible study. Go this Bible study." Started to hear the name of Jesus, which I'd never really heard before. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And every time I hear His voice, there was something in me that was waking up. But I didn't even know this thing could be in me, in a place inside of me that I didn't even know was there. It just started kind of eking out and eking out and eking out. And I was like, "Okay, whatever this is, it feels so good. It feels so rich. There is a subjective experience to it that is like butter in your mouth, but it's in your soul kind of thing. And it's just like, "I got to have what is. I gotta have more of this, this Jesus." I gave my life to Jesus. Let's get it on. And I've been getting on since I was 26. I'm 50 now. So 24 years.
Eric Huffman: I'm always fascinated with stories of people that never really engaged with Jesus or knew about him and then in adulthood they come into faith on their own, more or less. As a child, you never accessed the church at all? Or was it sort of Christmas and Easter kind of thing or what?
Jim Stern: So raised in the military. My dad was born and raised Lutheran. We did a little bit, I mean, VBS. I think we did VBS when we were stationed in Germany one time. So vague, vague, vague memories maybe of some VBS stuff. My brother was confirmed in the Lutheran church, but I was born revel like my mom. My mom, just whatever, there was a rule she just didn't do it. And so when they were asking me, I'm like, "I don't want to have anything to do with this."
Sixteen, seventeen years old in high school, I go to FCA. I get invited by some friends to go to FCA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and I get some kind of appetizer, some little dip of Jesus. But other than that, no. I go to college, I'm hardcore, sex, drugs, and rock and roll hardcore, fraternity guys, stereotypical burn, and all that stuff up.
Get out of that, go into the corporate world and I'm blazing, man. I'm making good money. I'm blazing up the corporate ladder doing all that great stuff. And then here comes this voice, here comes this intersection, here comes this injection into my life that becomes, "Okay, there's something else is going on? What is this? There is actually something more to life." And that to me was my phrase. There has to be something more. There's something more to life than what I was experiencing.
Eric Huffman: So how long after that did you actually get into some kind of ministry as a pastor?
Jim Stern: About a year, year and a half. So I stayed in the working world, in corporate world doing great pursuing whatever. And I love my job and I love the company for whom I was working. And then about a six-month period, they became what I characterized as a holy distaste. Like before I was energized to wake up in the morning, now I was miserable to wake up in the morning. And God the Father was transitioning me out of the corporate world into ministry world.
So I'm at a national sales conference and I'm in the hotel room of the vice president of the company and I'm in tears, I'm crying after I had just given a demonstration. I gave a demonstration to the highest earner sales guys in the company, and it was pumped up and fired up and men were cheering and all that kind of stuff. And 30 minutes later, I'm crying in the Vice President's hotel room because I have to quit.
Eric Huffman: Wow, dude.
Jim Stern: So I left that and became an Associate Student pastor, an Associate Student pastor, which is a glorified, you know, [crosstalk 00:06:53]. I was the number two guy in an office of 60 people having teenagers look at me like I didn't know anything about nothing.
Eric Huffman: They still do that to me, if it makes you feel any better.
Jim Stern: Well, now I have teenagers and I really don't know anything.
Eric Huffman: It's a daily pain.
Jim Stern: It's a fulfillment.
Eric Huffman: Okay. So even in your explanation just now, you said something very specific about God. You said God the Father let you out, was leading you out of that world. And I'm starting to learn to listen to you more closely than I normally listen to people. Because you're very specific about your language about God.
And that was one of the first conversations we had was after a Sunday service where you came and said something to me about how specific I was being in a message about the three persons of the Trinity. And I knew immediately that was very important to you. I didn't know how much work you had already done in your life. I didn't know you at all at that point.
So, now it's all clear to me why that's important to you. But kind of walk me through how that became a central issue for you, specifically talking about the distinctions between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and the Trinity.
Jim Stern: So the thing that brought me into the faith was that the way that I was living my life wasn't working. That was the phrase. "This is not working. Whatever I'm doing isn't working. I need something that works."
Eric Huffman: Right.
Jim Stern: So I've always been very pragmatic. Like, I need to understand how this works. My life is not easy. It's never been easy. Bombs are dropping, bullets are flying, I need to understand how something works to come against the degree of what it is that I'm feeling because what I'm feeling is super intense, is very dark, and I don't know what to do with it, I need something stronger. So I've got to be able to break this down.
So I give my life to Jesus, Christ comes into my life, and I'm beginning in this journey of trying to learn and understand how does this faith thing work. Like, don't tell me to pray. You got to teach me how to pray. And you got to teach me how does this really supposed to work. So it's that philosophical underpinning. When people are talking about the Trinity and I'm hearing about God, and I'm hearing about Father and all this kind of stuff, in my mind I'm going, "Okay, how does this work? How does this Trinitarian thing work?" So I've been on that journey, first with Jesus.
So everybody, yourself included, everyone here is on a journey into Trinitarian intimacy. No one comes to faith in Christ and gets all persons of the Trinity. No person comes to faith in Christ and understands all persons of the Trinity instantaneously. You're going to be drawn into the faith through one person or the other, or the third one. And then as you grow in intimacy, then it begins to develop.
Eric Huffman: Are different people drawn into the faith by different persons of the Trinity?
Jim Stern: Spectacularly, yes.
Eric Huffman: Bro. Okay.
Jim Stern: Which is amazing.
Eric Huffman: Just when I think I've heard it all from Christians, you give me something new.
Jim Stern: No, no, no, no.
Eric Huffman: Walk me through that.
Jim Stern: It's amazing. Me getting to sit with people, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and asking them, "Tell me your the history of your Trinitarian journey," we could go forever.
Eric Huffman: Really?
Jim Stern: It's spectacular.
Eric Huffman: Hold on. Hold on. Okay, okay, let's hit pause for a second. Wait, you sit down for coffee with someone and say, "Tell me the history of your Trinitarian journey," and they spill the beans like they know what you're talking about? Because my experience with people and Trinity is mostly just glassed-over sort of eyes and deer in the headlights.
Jim Stern: Okay, so let me sequence it correctly. We sit down and begin to describe and clarify what exactly the Trinity is. And the word we used earlier, demystifies the Trinity to the degree that we can because we can't demystify Him in totality, otherwise, He wouldn't be God. So to the degree that He has given us revelation through which we can understand the distinctiveness of who He is, let's get clarity
Now that we have clarity, all of a sudden, your story... You already have the story. The story is there. It's just confused and buried. So when I get access to a person's heart, which is the greatest privilege... The greatest privilege, to me is not preaching. The greatest privilege for me is getting access to an individual's heart. Because you can preach and not have access to heart all day long.
Eric Huffman: Absolutely.
Jim Stern: So to sit with somebody one-on-one until for them to allow you access to the holy of holies in their own lives is unbelievable. It's unbelievable. I never get tired of that. So to be able to sit with them and explain and clarify that. And then here comes the story just starts to emerge, and they go, "Oh, yeah, it's been Jesus," or "Oh, yeah, it's really me and the Holy Spirit. Oh, yeah. It's really been me and the Father."
And then it gives me an opportunity to now begin to expand that. "Would you be willing to or are you open to considering intimacy with Jesus now or intimacy with whichever one has been lacking or whatever?" And then how do we get that? Because every person has different issues that is gonna hinder their intimacy with each person of the Trinity.
Eric Huffman: And you're saying God, in His wisdom might choose to go after someone with one of the three persons, whichever one might be most conducive to that person's, you know, past or?
Jim Stern: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Eric Huffman: Wow. Wow.
Jim Stern: Absolutely.
Eric Huffman: We're gonna come back to that because I want to get sorted to the basics of this first, and make sure we're bringing everybody along with us on this conversation. But I want to come back to that before we wrap up today.
Jim Stern: Sure.
Eric Huffman: For somebody that's listening for whom the Trinity sounds like nonsense, because that's what I hear a lot is just almost like... the reaction I get from people when we start talking to the Trinity—maybe I'm just doing it wrong but that's why you're here—is that, "Okay, I just started coming to church, I'm getting all this Christianity stuff, I kind of like it, I like the love and emphasis, I like the community, I like everything going on here, and now you're telling me that God who I thought was one is actually three, is three in one and they're actually three persons but we're monotheists. It's very confusing. It almost feels like when I watch Leah Remini in the Scientology thing.
Jim Stern: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Eric Huffman: It's like the Xenu meeting. It's like, Okay, now, this is where it gets weird, you know?
Jim Stern: Yes.
Eric Huffman: So we're getting maybe not as weird as the Scientologists. It's just where it starts to feel unapproachable or unrelatable in a way. How do you help people make sense of the Trinity in a way that it's relatable and not so kooky? I guess, how do you base it in something substantial that they just latch on to?
Jim Stern: That's a great question. I'm sure you've been engaged in these conversations a little bit more than I have with skeptics and those who are outside of the faith. The preeminent sequencing to this or direction in this is really to become an effective listener for what the particular person's issues are. That's the money thing because... I made this mistake so many times of presuming or assuming I know what the struggle is to understand what the Trinity is.
So I'd love to be able to provide you a generic answer but the reality is, it's hyper specific to the particular person that I'm talking to based on what their issues are. For example, I'm talking to a lady one day about giving her life to Jesus. And she says this. She says, "If you asked me to give my life to God or the Holy Spirit, I'm ready to do it right now. But if you ask me to give my life to Jesus or the Father, I'll never do it because I'll never trust my life into the hands of another man ever again."
Eric Huffman: Whoa. Wow. Profound.
Jim Stern: Well, if I don't take the time to learn that about her story, and I just come in with Trinity, Trinity, Trinity, I'm violating the authenticity, the dignity of the years that she's lived and really the pain that she's experienced in her life. So how you get at this and explain this to someone, it just depends on where their background is. We can say very generically that there must be many things about God that we simply cannot explain. If you can explain everything there is about the God that you serve, then He's not God.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Jim Stern: There must be mystery. There must be mysticism.
Eric Huffman: Of course.
Jim Stern: One of the essential aspects of the mysticism of the God of Scripture is that He is what we call a Triune God in that we believe in one God. We absolute go to the woodshed monotheists. We believe there's one God, what in technical terms is called homoiousios. There's one substance that is God. That's it.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Jim Stern: There are not others, there's not competing, whatever. But in that one God, God has revealed Himself, He has shown Himself to be three distinct, separate personalities, persons, entities, whichever word you would use. And those revelations or those manifestations are God as Father, Father is God 100%, God the Son, Son is God 100%, but the Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son. And then God is also Holy Spirit. So Holy Spirit, Father and Son are co-equally a homoiousios. Co-equally of God-
Eric Huffman: One substance.
Jim Stern: ...but completely separate and distinct individual.
Eric Huffman: That's where you get into the like, this is next dimension stuff. This can't be made logical-
Jim Stern: No.
Eric Huffman: ...and entirely discernible in this dimension in our situation. Because is God the Father totally God? Is He fully God?
Jim Stern: Oh, absolutely.
Eric Huffman: But God the Father is not the Son.
Jim Stern: No.
Eric Huffman: And the Son, fully God.
Jim Stern: Correct.
Eric Huffman: So you get the idea that this is just technically, in a sense, illogical to our feeble brains.
Jim Stern: To some degree. We don't want to issue logic as a category. We want to understand the limitations of logic. So logic is wonderful. God our Father is a God of logic. Jesus is logical. The Holy Spirit can be logical. But there are limitations to logic. So we celebrate logic, we exalt logic, we delight in logic to the degree that it should be celebrated. And then when it can't, you can't.
Eric Huffman: Right. I think some people start to access this and because they have inherent, rightly so, an inherent mistrust of religious people, start to think, "Well, this seems and feels like a theory that board celibate men in funny hats and white robes thought up behind closed doors, just because they... You know, they just sort of come up with these formulas and theories to make themselves seem important, or whatever. But it's deeper than that. Obviously, the origins of the Trinity are more founded in something substantial, right? The scriptures have spelled this out for us.
Jim Stern: Absolutely.
Eric Huffman: So talk about that a little bit and where you see the Trinity in Scripture clearly spelled out. Because you could make the argument that, you know, two-thirds of the Bible was written by people that didn't believe in the Son technically, and in a sense, like the Old Testament, right? Jesus Christ came in the New, although we believe He's eternal and was there in the Old as well.
Jim Stern: Sure.
Eric Huffman: But they would say they don't believe in the Son. In fact, I guess most Jewish people even today would say God the Father and God the Spirit are not separate persons in a way.
Jim Stern: Correct.
Eric Huffman: So how do we as Christians take the scriptures and say, "No, it's pretty clear the Trinity is here and we don't need to make it up on our own. It's all here."
Jim Stern: Let me address something you said first and then I'll get to the Scripture part of it. Somebody says this just sounds like the talk of quote-unquote, "religious people." That makes my stomach curl. My reaction to that would be, "Hey, let me ask you about spirituality in your life as a category." Forget about Christianity, forget about religion. How do you feel about spirituality as a category? Again, I got to understand who it is that I'm talking to.
And if they reject spirituality as a category altogether and religion as a subset of spirituality, okay, now I understand we're talking about a completely different issue.
Eric Huffman: Those are two different people. That's right. I'm mostly thinking in terms of people that are open spiritually but had been burned by religion. Welcome to the club.
Jim Stern: The degree of church in the world is unfortunately profound. So what we would say biblically is that the Trinity has absolutely been present in scripture from the beginning. So in Genesis 1, I'm looking at it right now, in Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.'" And the word "God" in the Hebrew in verse 26 is the word Elohim, which is plural in nature. Then God is speaking and saying, "Let us make man in our image." So we are made in the image of us.
Eric Huffman: But the pronoun is singular. Right?
Jim Stern: Which pronoun?
Jim Stern: "He" instead of "they." It says, "He made them in His image." Not "they made them in their image." So it's like both, right?
Jim Stern: Yes, which is where you get that?
Eric Huffman: It's wild.
Jim Stern: But it should be wild. It should be wild.
Eric Huffman: Right.
Jim Stern: Right. The belief is that there is something beyond our physical reality, our physical existence that is greater than. Well, if we can explain the greater than, is it really greater than? By necessity, there has to be, if we are invoking something called God, there has to be mystery about Him. There has to be things that rational mind cannot understand.
And this is one of the things that the apostle Paul appeals to in Ephesians chapter 3, when he says, "I pray that you will know the love of Christ that surpasses all understanding." So even Paul, who is a logician by nature, he's a logic guy, he's an academic by far, profound in his academic acupuncture, and yet, he's saying, "I've encountered something that I can explain the love of Christ, but then goes beyond explanation."
So if we are going to deny the reality that there are things in my life that I can experience that are beyond explanation, if we're going to deny that possibility, we're going to have an extremely tough time with a lot of things, let alone understanding the doctrine of the Trinity.
Eric Huffman: Sure, yeah. What about Jesus Himself in His own words? I mean, where do you see that Trinity sort of being lifted up by the Son Himself?
Jim Stern: Let me briefly highlight a couple things in the Old Testament that demonstrate Trinity to us. Genesis chapter 1, which we talked about. The presence of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 1, 2, where it says the Spirit hovered over the waters. The presence of the Holy Spirit coming upon different Old Testament saints to perform different specific things like Moses. And then when Moses receive the Spirit, and then Jethro came and it's the 72, and... You can read the story. I think it's in Exodus 15. And then the Spirit goes from Moses to the 70 elders and the 70 elders begin prophesying.
Eric Huffman: Exodus 16, yeah.
Jim Stern: So here comes this evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit. And then all throughout the Old Testament, the Old Testament is really is predicated on this promised Messiah, who's going to come. Messiah in the Old Testament is this phenomenal, phenomenal figure that is prefigured that this is mysterious. And then, of course, Jesus comes into the fulfillment of the Messiah. And 600 different Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, and Jesus fulfills every single one of them. And then He says, "Hey, by the way, in addition to being the Messiah, I'm also the son of God."
Eric Huffman: Yeah. Right.
Jim Stern: That's where so much of the Trinitarian clarity really comes into focus through the life and ministry of Jesus.
Eric Huffman: There's so much in the Old Testament. Again, what's fascinating to me as a skeptic, I'm like reading the Old Testament and these people who, in a real sense, did not profess faith in a Trinitarian or triune God we're writing about this Triune God in such clear ways, but without knowing it almost.
Like in Genesis 1 where they're saying, "Let us make..." They're quoting God. The Holy Spirit's writing this through them. But they're willing sort of participants in this and they're quoting God saying, "Let us make..." Like God is plural. They know God to be one. They're saying this plural. Why? How does that make sense? And then they also use that mysterious singular pronoun. "And then he made them in his image. Male and female He created them. It's just a fascinating mystery to me-
Jim Stern: It is.
Eric Huffman: ...on a level that I think really can hit skeptics, people that are on the fence. And just from a literary standpoint, like why would it be written this way? What were they getting at? And then you have these other allusions to the Spirit as well. And the stuff about the Son in the Old Testament, man.
When I was in seminary, my seminary taught me that, well, the Old Testament was looking forward to a powerful political king. That was how they boiled it down and went to a very unbiblical far sort of left, theologically left seminary. And they wanted to demystify everything and say the Old Testament prophets really weren't talking about Jesus, prophecy really isn't foretelling the future, that kind of stuff. Right?
Jim Stern: Sure.
Eric Huffman: Classic modernist sort of demystification. Well, then you look at the prophecies themselves, and they're talking about a king, yes, but a king whose kingdom never ends. Like what kings Kingdom never ends? So clearly they're referring to a divine king.
Jim Stern: Sure.
Eric Huffman: ...without even maybe even knowing it entirely. Or maybe they did know it. The interpreters absolutely didn't know it because it's been miscast in so many ways. But you have God the Father and God the Son and God the Spirit fully present in the Old Testament before Jesus even comes on the scene in the flesh.
Jim Stern: Let me say this very quickly for, very quickly and then we can come back, and then we'll end on this. I want to make sure that we understand that everything that we're talking about right now has hyper pragmatic benefit and blessing to each individual person in the way that they can experience the fullness of life. This is not esoteric theology for the sake of esoteric theology because we like kicking this around. This has dramatic, and I mean, dramatic impact on your daily life in spectacular ways.
Eric Huffman: Okay. So what's at stake? Talk to us about it.
Jim Stern: All we're doing right now is laying out the foundation for the distinctives of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from a biblical standpoint in Genesis to Revelation. In the Old Testament, for example, there are three Messianic prophecies in Isaiah about the coming of the Anointed One. Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 61:1. In all three of them Isaiah, the prophet declares that when Messiah comes, He will come full of the Spirit of God. So we are taught that what Messiah is going to be able to do is not because He's Messiah. It's because Messiah is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Eric Huffman: Wow.
Jim Stern: That was 600 years. Isaiah was written mass amount of 600 BC. This is 600 years before Jesus Christ comes on the scene. Well, then, in the birth narrative of Jesus when the angel Gabriel appears to marry, he says to marry, "The Holy Spirit is going to come upon you and you will be with child." Trinitarianism. Then we get the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in Luke 3, and Jesus is baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then in Luke 4:1, the Scripture says the Holy Spirit was upon Jesus and led Him in the wilderness.
Eric Huffman: To be tempted.
Jim Stern: To be tempted. Finally, in Luke 4, Jesus stands up in the synagogue and He quotes from Isaiah 61, one of the three Messianic prophecies that when Messiah comes, He'll be spirit-filled. Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-3, He hands the scroll back to the synagogue attendant, he sits down and says, "Today, in your hearing, this passage has been fulfilled."
Jesus declaring the Son in distinction. The Son who was sent according to the will of the Father, now declaring in distinction that the Spirit of God Himself is resting upon Jesus the Son. The Son is here according to the will of a Father, now filled with the Holy Spirit in pristine, distinct clarity. Like my mom cooked that pie, my dad mowed that yard. But they're both my parents, but my mom did that and my dad did that.
Eric Huffman: Right. I've heard you talk through the Trinity for personal reasons in that regard. Like you talked about this is like real-life stuff. This has real-life implications-
Jim Stern: Real-life implications.
Eric Huffman: ...to understand how the different persons of the Trinity affects and loves us. Right?
Jim Stern: Yes.
Eric Huffman: Talk me through like how you talk through the average person. You're in a coffee shop, how do you talk them through the relational aspect of the Trinitarian, sort of the three persons?
Jim Stern: The easiest way, and by easiest... Let me rephrase that one. The most accessible way. I'm always concerned about accessibility—how easy is it for someone to understand what it is that we're teaching. It's my job to make it accessible. It's not your job to figure out what I'm saying. It's my job to explain a way that you can get it. So the easiest way is by walking a person through their own relationships with their mom and dad. So let me use you as a guinea pig.
Eric Huffman: Okay, sure.
Jim Stern: Generically speaking, generally speaking, you have a mom and dad.
Eric Huffman: I do.
Jim Stern: Congratulations.
Eric Huffman: Thank you. I think everybody does.
Jim Stern: You, small victories. You have a good relationship with your mom and dad?
Eric Huffman: I do actually.
Jim Stern: So what do you call your mom?
Eric Huffman: Mama.
Jim Stern: And what do you call your dad?
Eric Huffman: Dad.
Jim Stern: And if you called your mom dad, what would happen?
Eric Huffman: That would get pretty weird. If I call my mom dad, yeah, no, she wouldn't have it. I wouldn't get any mashed potatoes. She would hold back if I got weird.
Jim Stern: See, real-life benefit. If you get it wrong, you get no mashed potatoes.
Eric Huffman: That's right. Right. Cream Tatoes is what she calls.
Jim Stern: We got to get the Trinity right so I can get the mashed potatoes.
Eric Huffman: Okay, I like it.
Jim Stern: Trinitarian mashed potatoes.
Eric Huffman: Wait, wait, wait. So you're not saying God withhold some stuff from us if we don't get it right like on a test. I think I'm hearing you saying that unlocking this relational aspect just unlocks all these other deep bonds and benefits of God when we access Him in that way.
Jim Stern: So let's keep walking this out. All we're trying to do in Trinitarianism, all we're trying to do is open up channels of love.
Eric Huffman: Right. Okay. I like that.
Jim Stern: We're to trying to open a channel of love between you and the Father, a channel of love between you and Jesus, a channel of love between you and the Holy Spirit in the exact same way that you have a channel of love open between you and your mom, you have a channel of love between you and your dad. Does your mom love you?
Eric Huffman: Of course.
Jim Stern: Does your dad love you?
Eric Huffman: I think so.
Jim Stern: Do they love you in distinct ways from one another? I think so. Always going fast and missed that. There's it is. Look at that.
Eric Huffman: No, they both love me.
Jim Stern: Is he listening? Dad, I'm kidding. Please don't quit sending me-
Eric Huffman: They love me equally, but differently.
Jim Stern: In distinct ways.
Eric Huffman: Truly different.
Jim Stern: Give me an example. Let's get pragmatic. Give me one way that your mom loves you that your dad does not love you in that way.
Eric Huffman: Well, my mom loves me with just really warm, cheesy, kind of touchy-feely love. She says sweet things. She still calls me her sweet boy. I'm in my 40s now, you know. And my dad loves me with more consistency, accountability in a way. Just respect. I think mutual respect. So it's a different experience completely. But I wouldn't want one over the other.
Jim Stern: No.
Eric Huffman: Right. I wouldn't want to sacrifice one for the other. It's like they work in concert.
Jim Stern: Yes. But you have experienced different emotional benefits from your mom's love than you have from your dad's love.
Eric Huffman: Absolutely.
Jim Stern: And if you went to your dad and asked your dad to say something sweet and kind to you, "How's that gonna go?
Eric Huffman: I mean, he might fake it till he makes it. He's a sweetheart too, it's just nobody's as sweet as mom.
Jim Stern: It's gonna feel a lot different.
Eric Huffman: Uh-huh.
Jim Stern: What does your mom call you?
Eric Huffman: My sweet boy.
Jim Stern: Sweet. So if your dad looked at you and said, "My sweet bo"-
Eric Huffman: That would be really weird.
Jim Stern: That'd be really weird.
Eric Huffman: I guess.
Jim Stern: But Coming from your mom, it's just natural flowy-flowy, this is perfect. The channel of love is open and all, man. You can't say that enough to be mom. "This is beautiful and gorgeous." In the same way, if you went to your mom and asked her to hold you accountable in the way that your dad does and be real direct with you-
Eric Huffman: A little more rigid.
Jim Stern: ...how would that feel coming out of her?
Eric Huffman: Unnatural.
Jim Stern: Yeah. Yeah. Here's the important thing in this. Your mom wants to have a relationship with you. She loves you. She wants to have intimacy with you. Your dad, the same thing. In fact, as parents, we would say this, I want intimacy with my kids more than anything. In so much as that if my kid graduates from college, and he has an opportunity to get a job where he's going to make $100,000 a year right out of college, we would say, "Oh, that's amazing." Would it be so amazing if in that same job he never had any time to call me or talk to me or come see me?
Eric Huffman: Not so much.
Jim Stern: Am I willing to sacrifice intimacy for the sake of my son's material success? If you love your son, the answer is obvious. Heck, no. Because this is all about relationship. In the exact same way, God the Father wants to have a relationship with you. Your Father in heaven loves you. We believe that we were adopted in the family of God and you have become his son. Even more so than you're a son of your dad and a son of your mom, you're a son of your heavenly Father. And He adores you.
He feels affection toward you. He feels affection about you. He feels desire toward you. Exact same thing with Jesus. Jesus loves you, wants to have a relationship with you. The Holy Spirit loves you, wants to have a relationship with you.
And so we get the joy of entering into this very distinct and clear where we are transitioning people away from what we call the God blob. And the God blob is where the Trinity is this mystical kind of mess, and I don't get it, I just throw it up there and I hope it works, and who knows, bla bla bla bla bla, to this really clarified, no, this is a relational reality and this is the joy of three persons one God is that God existed before the foundation of the world as a relational being. You are made for relationship. I was made for relationship. Which is why when the pandemic hit and relationships were taken away from us, why for years and years and years and years and years to come, we will continue to see the consequences of removing relationships because you are create... It's a creation issue. You're created as a relational being.
Eric Huffman: Right. Right. I appreciate that so much. When we're talking about fostering relationships with each one, because I would foster deeper intimacy with my dad in certain ways that I wouldn't with my mom-
Jim Stern: Perfect.
Eric Huffman: I take my dad to a game or play around a golf. With my mom, it's like hanging out in the kitchen and just talk or go for a walk. When we talked about the persons of the Trinity, how do you foster those relationships distinct from one another? How does someone foster relationships specifically with Jesus versus with the spirit or with the Father?
Jim Stern: The way that we do that is by understanding the very specific works that they want to do in our lives. So the Father wants to do things in my life that the Son will not do. And it is very important to understand this. The Son will not do what the Father wants to do.
Eric Huffman: What does He want to do?
Jim Stern: The Holy Spirit's in the exact same way. So the Father is the one who adopts us into His family. I've been made a son of my Father. I'm not a son of Jesus and I'm not a son of a Holy Spirit. I'm a son of my Father. So I'm a Father's son. If I don't understand that, me being made a son, you be made a son is actually the title through which you and I are supposed to get the greatest juice. The greatest emotional benefit in our lives is supposed to come out of the reality that I, somebody like me, has been made a son of my heavenly Father. So here's the word. We're getting real tactile.
You woke up this morning, I woke up this morning, hoping to feel great about myself, hoping to feel great about myself. Why would I feel great? Why would I feel great? What is it about me today that I should feel great about? I get up, look in the mirror, same dude. Been looking at this guy 50 years ago. A little gray, a little fatter, and whatever. Why should I feel great about myself today?
Well, if I embrace the reality that the God of all creation is my Father, with great specificity, my Father, and I am His son, the joy there just organically that just happens, the emotional transition that happens is I look at myself in the mirror, and I don't like what I see. And then I take my eyes off of what I see and I soak in what my Father sees. Yeah. And I learned to believe about myself what He says about me more than what I say about myself. Here comes that organic emotional transition.
Eric Huffman: Come on. So it's identity. It's identity. It's belonging. It's sonship. What about Jesus? What about the Son?
Jim Stern: Well, let me give you one more about the Father because this is mission-critical. Not only is my Father one who adopts me, but my Father is one who has a will for me. The Father is the one who has a will for me in my life. How do we know this? Jesus in Garden of Gethsemane, the Son of God is in the Garden of Gethsemane and the Son of God says, "My Father, not my will, but yours be done."
The Son is crying out to the Father saying, "I have a will and what I want to happen in this circumstance. But I'm denying my will so that my Father's will can be done." The Lord's Prayer, who are we taught to pray to?
Eric Huffman: Our Father.
Jim Stern: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, let your will be done. Our father is the one who has a plan for our lives. So one of the great issues we have in life is discerning the will of God. Well, when God's a God blob, good luck. Discerning the will of God is a very personal and intimate reality. Well, if I don't have a tight, intimate relationship with the Father, it's hard to know what His will is. That's the Father.
And then we can drill down three, five, six... Three, five, six, that's a great number. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten different specific things that the Father wants to do in our lives cultivate intimacy that way. We move over to Jesus and begin to understand what he does in our lives. The easiest way to cultivate intimacy with Jesus is by soaking in various titles that Jesus has from Scripture. Let me ask you, give me some biblical titles of Jesus.
Eric Huffman: I mean, Son of God, Son of man. You've already mentioned Redeemer. The lamb. A lion. Prince of Peace. The sacrifice I guess. I'm looking for the right word there.
Jim Stern: Messiah.
Eric Huffman: The Messiah. Sure. A lot. I mean, there's tons.
Jim Stern: Okay. So let me ask you. Let me put you through this. If you consider Jesus as Son of God, He is the Son of the living God, Jesus, and you're in a great unhealthy relationship with Him, what does that stir in you, just as Son of God?
Eric Huffman: Privilege.
Jim Stern: Privilege. So you would feel-
Eric Huffman: Access. Power.
Jim Stern: Let's camp out on those three. You would feel privileged just coming up naturally inside of you as you soak in Jesus, because Jesus is the Son of the living God. You would feel power, I think you said.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, just access to power that's not my own
Jim Stern: All because He is the Son of God—that title. Move from that title to another one that you mentioned. You said Jesus is lamb. As you consider Him as lamb, what gets started in you?
Eric Huffman: Awe and tenderness for Him. Like different respect for someone who has everything and laid Himself down nonetheless. Like a compulsion to worship Him. And then you get sacrifice from Him. You get humility from Him. There's different things that are being stirred up in you. Now, these are all positive, very healthy emotions. Well, the only way that you can experience these positive and healthy emotions is if they are overriding and pushing out other negative emotions that feel dark and nasty.
So all of a sudden, we're getting all of this holistic transformation solely, totally, and only by resting in Trinitarian clarity.
Eric Huffman: Yeah, right.
Jim Stern: And then we move over to our crazy uncle.
Eric Huffman: Cousin Eddie.
Jim Stern: The bizarre one that doesn't make any... How do we deal with this guy? So what are some... and all ask you because you're such an advanced theologian.
Eric Huffman: Oh, sure.
Jim Stern: What are some specific things that scripture says that the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives?
Eric Huffman: Well, help and advocate, convict.
Jim Stern: Yeah, convict.
Eric Huffman: To hold us to account I guess in a way, to sanctify.
Jim Stern: What do you mean by sanctify? That's a big buzzy kind of churchy word, and this is the Maybe God podcast, so we're not doing those kinds of words.
Eric Huffman: So let me break this out. Sanctification is a process of being made holy. Like once we believe... Like it's not just about believing the right things, you are transformed. And the work of that transformation scripturally seems to be the work of the Holy Spirit. But beyond that, the Holy Spirit is either the giver of gifts or the channel through which God the Father gives gifts the spiritual gifts spelled out in the New Testament.
Jim Stern: So let me drill down just momentarily on transformation. We're gonna say that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity that does the transforming work in our lives.
Eric Huffman: That's how I understand it.
Jim Stern: How does that work? How do I receive data from the Holy Spirit that there is something in me that he wants to change? Because that's not a nebulous thing. You need to change. The Holy Spirit is telling you you need to change. How am I supposed to figure that out? What am I supposed to change? My hair color, my height, my weight, my diet? How am I supposed to figure out what I'm supposed to change? How does that work?
Eric Huffman: I mean, for me, that's prayer and worship and intimacy with Him. But I think until recently, I didn't really think of it as intimacy directly with the Holy Spirit. I just sort of thought of the Holy Spirit as sort of a messenger almost. And I think that's how a lot of people think of the Holy Spirit.
Jim Stern: Amen.
Eric Huffman: It's like you have God's sending this other person on His behalf. We don't really treat the Holy Spirit like God in the fullness-
Jim Stern: Very much so.
Eric Huffman: ...like we do Jesus. And I think that's a mistake. I think we miss out on deeper intimacy. Recently, I've found myself even praying, not just through the Holy Spirit, but even to the Holy Spirit.
Jim Stern: Amen.
Eric Huffman: I think there's a deeper power there. I forgot what question you asked, but I'm kind of caught up in this lately
Jim Stern: The mechanics of transformation as it relates to intimacy with the Holy Spirit, the only way that I can know how the Holy Spirit is transforming me is by hearing what the Holy Spirit is trying to say. I can hear him through the word. But when I hear Him through the word, I'm hearing Him through the word.
So if I'm reading scripture, and I read something and it pops, and that pop is indicating there's something in me that needs to change, that is actually the Holy Spirit that is speaking that to me through the word. So I'm hearing, here comes intimacy. You cannot have intimacy with anybody unless you can communicate with them. Communication is essential for intimacy.
So you gotta be able to communicate with your mom. You got to be able to communicate with Dad. You got to be able to communicate with Father, Son, Holy Spirit. And here comes Trinitarian pragmatic transformation, fuller, greater, richer life of the Lord Jesus Christ, abundant living delivered out of the pit. No matter what your mom has done you, no matter what your dad had done, no matter how dark the darkness has been for you, there's no weapon formed against you that can hold back the floodwaters of the healing work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that's available for everybody.
Eric Huffman: Awesome. I love it. When we talk about this I think people get a little weirded out, because I think they feel like what we're saying is, well, you've got more to do now. You've got to figure out how to talk to these three different people. It's almost like a longer to-do list. I actually had one person come up to me and say that to me recently, like, "No, I've got to pray three times what I was praying before?" But that's not what you're saying. Right? Not exactly.
Jim Stern: No, no, no. Not even in the slightest bit. One of the major distinctives of Christianity, in addition to the Trinity, one of the major clarifying distinctions of Christianity against every other thought system, both religious and non-religious, secular, whatever, is that in Christianity, God our Father goes first. He comes to us. He initiates all time. So there isn't less to do.
My responsibility in the kingdom of God is to receive. I'm always a receiver. I woke up this morning to receive the love from my Father, the love from Jesus, and the love from the Holy Spirit. I enter into that love and I live out of the overflow of God's love for me. I'm always in a posture of receiving so we walk in the faith. We walked by grace.
And grace exclusively belongs to Christianity, because in Christianity Jesus paid at all. His performance was enough so that I'm liberated from the fear of performance and the pressure of performance. So I get to wake every morning into receiving love from... When you think about it with your own kids, you get up before your kids do. When they wake up in the morning, you're waiting there to love them, to give them your love. You're not expecting them to wake up and initiate love with you.
Eric Huffman: Totally.
Jim Stern: That would be a perversion. You are waking up. You can't wait for your kids to wake up, even though you just saw them eight hours ago. But the love that you have for them is waiting for them to get up.
Eric Huffman: It's renewed and fresh every morning. Seriously it's great.
Jim Stern: When I wake up—I'm getting goosebumps—when I wake up, God my Father is waiting for me, the son that He loves, and desires and has tremendous affection for. My Father is waiting for me to get up so I can spend time with Him.
Eric Huffman: Wow, that is awesome. So all three of the person's love is in these different distinct ways and powerful ways.
Jim Stern: Jesus says in John 15, and I cannot get my mind around this one, and thankfully, I'll never be able to. But Jesus says in John 15, He says, "Father, in the same way that you have loved me, I have loved them." I mean, are you kidding?
Eric Huffman: Come on.
Jim Stern: Are you kidding? So the valve in all of this for us is belief. Like this sounds spectacular but the actuator in your life is your gas pedal? You can have as much horsepower under the hood as you want, but if you never hit the gas pedal... Christianity has more horsepower under the hood than any other potential way of life. And it's not even remotely close if you believe. And so every day that I get up, the question for me is, what do I believe about me? I believe the pressures on me what I believe about Him. And then here comes the ignition
Eric Huffman: Amen. I mean, you've unlocked a lot for me today, specifically, one thing that you've gotten me thinking on as you were talking about other stuff, I was hung up on this one idea, because it's so profound, the idea that unlocking the Trinitarian relationships is really about love channels and opening up these channels of love between us and God.
And I think if you're a skeptic, like listening to this conversation right now at home, or wherever you are, if you're skeptical about this stuff, like really the beginning of it I think is understanding that it is about love. It's not about theology, or theory, or having the right ideas and stuff like that. It's really about experiencing the fullness of God's love through the three persons of the Trinity.
And if we can start there, I think it's a concept that just about anyone who has any intention of getting to know God, or understanding Christianity better can embrace it. Because it doesn't need to be this intimidating thing that you've got to figure out how to perfectly unpack on a theoretical basis. It's really just God wants you to experience Him in His fullness. And He gave us these three channels that we can open up and explore.
Really to me, it sort of gets me excited about Christianity in a way that I don't know that I have been in a while since I became a Christian nine years ago. The novelty wears off eventually. But this is sort of another way of opening up that novelty again and understanding how to love this God who claimed me and loves me and how to be loved by Him and feel more of Him. It's a really powerful way to experience Him more fully. So anybody listening, if you all want more of God, I think this is a great place to begin understanding God and these three persons.
Jim, I wish we had more time, bro.
Jim Stern: Amen.
Eric Huffman: You've really done an awesome thing for us today. And for everybody listening, I know a lot of folks got a lot out of it. Thank you, brother. Hope to have you back soon. Will you just sort of commit to join with me in the comment sections of like YouTube, for example, if somebody has a question about something that we heard since we went into some deep waters?
Jim Stern: Yeah.
Eric Huffman: You and I can just sort of team up and respond to everybody's question.
Jim Stern: No, leave me out. You have to figure it out all on your own.
Eric Huffman: Come on, bro. Come on, man. Don't do that to me. All right. So I hope you all will engage in that way. Thank you so much for tuning in to this week's conversation. Thank you again to pastor Jim Stern. I look forward to hearing from you all in the comments section or by email. Thanks, guys. Bye-bye.