Tuesday, October 19, 2010

wind and spirit, etc.

Continuing in John 3: Jesus tells Nicodemus not to be surprised that he needs to be born from above, and then (in verse 8) he goes into a comparison of the activity of the wind with that of the Spirit. He says the wind blows where it wants and you don't know where it is coming from or where it is going, but you hear the sound of it--and so it is with every one who is birthed by the Spirit. Some have asserted that this means that when you are born of the Spirit that you will "hear" something. But that misses Jesus' point. The point here is that no one controls the wind. It can't be manipulated by man. The same can be said of the Spirit. Man cannot manipulate the Spirit--or cause Him to do something just because one has pressed the right buttons in order to get an expected response.

In essence, this is what the Pharisees (in that day and in ours) were all about. They knew exactly how to act and live right in order to obtain the blessings of God--or so they thought (and taught). And, to be fair, the sincere Pharisees (like Nicodemus) longed to see the kingdom (or reign) of God realized in their lives--and they believed their righteous and pious living could bring this about. But Jesus emphasizes that God is not a false god that can be manipulated. He chooses whom to renew and cleanse, and he draws to himself those whom he chooses. We may be able to "get God's attention" by our cries for deliverance (thus the declarative "whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved") but man's actions do not earn his blessing, nor do they obligate God. This is, in my opinion, what the analogy of wind and Spirit is about.

When God poured out his Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the recipients had no clue what was going to happen. When it did happen, it happpend to one and all instantaneously and simultaneously. Again, in Acts 10, when God poured his Spirit on Cornelius' household, they were not expecting anything to happen (indeed, neither were Peter or those who came with him). It happened suddenly and simultaneously. God chose whom to baptize with his Spirit and when--with no amount of effort on the part of the recipients (quite a contrast from what we see in many churches today). The laborious exercises that many go through today in order to "get" God to "move" or to "fill" people with his Spirit is misguided. These sincere people assume that God is obligated to do his part because they are doing theirs. The point of John 3 (again, I emphasize--in my opinion) is that God can not be manipulated by our paltry efforts at righteousness or by saying or doing the right thing. Birth from above originiates with God alone. It is by his grace that we receive this gift.

It was somewhat of a revelation to me when I realized that John 3:16 was a continuation of the conversation that Jesus was having with Nicodemus. And yet it make so much sense. That well known verse tells the why of this God-originated, God-directed, God-given birth from above--FOR God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son . . . It is his love for us that moves him to cleanse, renew and transform us--to give us new birth.

There is so much more to be said about Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus, but this will have to do for now. I have other topics that I want to touch on in other posts (and I may yet do that tonight). I hope this little introduction to the "birth from above" that Jesus talked about in John 3 has served to give some clarity to a passage familiar to and yet misunderstood and misapplied by many. God bless you as He continues to transform, cleanse and renew you day by day.

1 comment:

  1. I like the connection you pointed out between Jesus' analogy of wind to the Spirit in John 3, and what later happened in Acts. Many people do not realize what is happening in Acts is, like you said, totally spontaneous and basically unexpected. I certainly did not pick up on this until recently.