Experiencing the Trinity

experiencing-trinity

When most people hear “Trinity,” they think to Carrie Ann Moss’ character in the Matrix movies. When many (most?) Christians hear “Trinity,” they think “concept of God I (maybe) affirm, but don’t get.” But how many think of the Trinity as practical—a source of encouragement and comfort when you’re at the end of your rope?

Joe Thorn does, and we should be grateful for that. Because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t his latest book, Experiencing The Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God.

Preaching to ourselves

Born out of Thorn’s self-described “dark night of the soul,” Experiencing the Trinity  was written because the author himself needed to be reminded of the truths found within. Working too hard for too long with too little rest left him burnt out and in need of help. And where he found the greatest help was in God’s Word, by preaching the gospel to himself.

Even as he writes to help us “reflect on God and the gospel and how they overcome our fear, failure, pain, and unbelief” (18), Thorn openly admits he’s writing because he needs the reminder, too. And this is something too many of us writer types forget too quickly: when we write, it’s really helpful that what we’re writing be something we’re living or working through ourselves, especially when it’s on issues of faith. It adds weight to what we’re saying for our readers to know our words aren’t theoretical. We don’t think this is maybe kinda sorta helpful possibly. We believe it’s helpful to you because it helped us.

So when Thorn writes a simple phrase like, “Your hope is not your own obedience, but the obedience of Jesus Christ” (73), it’s because he’s had to wrestle with it again and again (like hopefully all of us have). We don’t get away from this reality as we grow in our faith. If anything, we’re forced repeatedly to realize just how often we rely on ourselves instead of on Christ.

We try to make deals with God, or we make sweeping statements about all the things we do in service to him… but none of that brings us any true comfort. If anything, it leaves us in a bigger mess than before because we’re focused on the wrong thing. We’re looking at ourselves, rather than Jesus, because seeing him and knowing him—or, beholding him—changes everything:

You cannot feel your way to the glory of Jesus, for it is essentially the totality of who he is and what he has done. You must give yourself to not just knowing about him, but knowing him. And the more you know him, the less appealing the world becomes, the less painful your trials are, and the more you grow in contentment, because this glorious Christ is yours and you are his. (1o3)

That’s good news, isn’t it?

The right book for the right time in my life

Note to Self, Thorn’s first book, was a much-needed and timely encouragement. Experiencing The Trinity, likewise, came at just the right time in my life—a time when I’ve been really reminded that it’s easy for me to run on fumes, and carry on as though everything is grand for a fairly significant period period of time. And for the most part, people don’t seem to notice. (Which either says a lot about them or me, I’ll leave it for you to decide, dear reader.)

When I read his encouragement to “draw near to the Lord by faith,” and “set your heart on his promises and ask for his divine assistance,” (88) I really feel the pull—the way the Lord is using that encouragement as if to say, “Hey you, pay attention: that means you, too.” The Lord will indeed provide for those in need. When he writes that the comfort of the Holy Spirit that may not be relief from temporal discomfort but “rest for your soul” (119), it’s not just for other folks—it’s me, too. So maybe I shouldn’t forget that, huh?

Not your ordinary devotional

I’m generally not a fan of “devotional” books—the ones filled with pithy encouragements, designed to brighten your day. It’s not that they’re bad, because many are quite good, but I’ve found too many paint too small a picture of God. But I have a pretty simple rule: if Joe Thorn writes it, I read it. What he offers in Experiencing The Trinity is a book that blends appeals to the head and the heart they way they were always meant to be. As a result, it actually succeeds in what it aims to do: give encouragement for the weary, not through sweet sentiments, but by proclaiming our spectacular God. While you may still not “get” the Trinity (and if you don’t, you’re in good company), you will grow in your appreciation of the importance of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and find some relief for your weariness in the process.


Title: Experiencing The Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God
Author: Joe Thorn
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Book Review: Note to Self by Joe Thorn

These days a lot of folks are talking about the need to preach the gospel to yourself. This is a good and important thing indeed. We do need to be preaching the gospel to ourselves on a regular basis. But something that I’ve noticed is there aren’t a lot of folks talking about what that actually looks like. Joe Thorn’s noticed this, too. So he decided to do something about it by writing Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Over the course of 48 chapters (don’t worry, they’re all 2-3 pages long), Thorn offers readers practical insights that challenge them to grow in grace, confront sin and serve others.

Why do we need to preach to ourselves—why is it beneficial? Because, Thorn writes:

Preaching to yourself demands asking a lot of questions, both of God’s Word and especially of yourself. You will have to ask and be honest about your motives, struggles, and needs. You will need to clarify to yourself what God’s law means in principle, but also what it requires specifically of you. You will need to ask how the gospel meets your needs and heals your brokenness. To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. (p. 32)

There is a great deal of wisdom here. Too often it’s easy to see the wonders of the gospel and of what God has done in history and it become kind of… ordinary. We can begin to take things for granted that we might otherwise not. But I found that as I read through each chapter, I was being called out on a few of the things I’ve been overlooking of late.

A notable example is found in chapter 13, “Wait for Jesus.” Thorn opens with the question, “What is your greatest hope? Your deepest longing? Is it for Christ to return? Be honest” (p. 60).

I didn’t like the answer to this question. While there are many days where I can confidently answer, “Yes!” there are others where I don’t really give it much thought.
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