What does it mean to be taken into the life of God? This is simply another way of talking about salvation. To understand this, we have to know something about the nature of the God we worship. The Christian God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the Holy Trinity. As theologian Kathryn Tanner explained it, “From the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, is the world created, saved, and brought to its end.”1 God the Father loves God the Son, who in turn loves God the Father, and the two are bound together in community and love by God the Holy Spirit.
God exists eternally as a communion of divine love. We were made to participate in the divine love of God, but sin prevents us from doing so. Sin puts us at a great distance from the love of God, and it even confuses us so that we can’t find our way back. Through his work on the cross, however, Jesus builds for us a road that leads back to God. The further we walk along this road, the more we can experience the love of God. The Holy Spirit takes our hand and acts as our guide. If we are tempted to turn back, to take a detour, or simply stop where we are, the Holy Spirit leads us on. Thus we can participate in the mutual love of the Holy Trinity. God the Holy Spirit leads us through God the Son into communion with God the Father.
When we encounter God in this way, we cannot help but be changed. The love of God begins to renew our minds (Romans 12 :2). We think differently. We see the world differently. We are no longer compelled to abide by our old patterns of living, but rather become a new kind of person. The lyrics to the Christian hymn “Spirit of the Living God” describe this process beautifully: “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me / Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.”
We want God to do all of these things so that we can become the people we are meant to be. In some traditions, this is called “sanctification,” or being made holy. In the Orthodox tradition, it is called “theosis,” or being made more like God. Second Peter describes it this way: [God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (1:3 – 4)
It may be hard to believe, but you and I have the precious opportunity to participate in the divine nature. The very idea is almost incomprehensible, but it is nonetheless true. The fourth-century theologian Athanasius described it this way: “[God], indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God.”
We have to be careful here not to misinterpret this statement. Athanasius didn’t mean that we become the same as the eternal God who created the universe. He meant that God gives us something that, on our own, we do not and cannot have. You and I can partake of the divine nature. Those who encounter God this way become different people. Their desires change. Their wills change. Their very thoughts are different than they were before. They don’t feel entirely at home in this world anymore. First Peter tells us that we who follow Jesus are aliens and exiles (2 :11) because our primary citizenship is no longer of this world, but within the kingdom of God. Though the world cannot see it, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation (2 :9). Once we were no people, but now we are God’s people (2 :10). We are drawn into the life of God, and we are thereby changed.
If you enjoyed this entry, you’ll benefit from Scripture and the Life of God by David F. Watson. In these pages you’ll: (1) Gain spiritual appreciation for the Bible (2) Grapple with some of the difficult portions of Scripture (3) Learn to use the Bible as a means of grace an catalyst for personal growth. In Scripture and the Life of God, David Watson takes us on a journey through what it means to enter into the life of God through texts that God has inspired and made authoritative for the teaching of the Church.