A few nights ago, I stayed up late and thought I’d fallen into the opening scene of The Wizard of Oz. Fierce gusts of wind made it seem like the house would lift off its foundation and whisk away in a cyclone.
Last spring was much more peaceful. I’d gone early to a retreat center where I taught for the weekend, and I sat outside by a beautiful lake as ducks glided by, barely rippling the still waters. A cool breeze kept me comfortable. I thanked God for the wind—a reminder of the Holy Spirit and His work in and around my life. I worshiped Him for His continual grace and provision and enjoyed the blessings of being His child—always forgiven, never forgotten, free from the bondage of sin.
The wind has my attention today as its power whips around me and pushes me down the street one minute then gently rolls over my shoulders the next, reminding me of how God works in the lives of His people.
Just like the wind, the Holy Spirit is at work all around us. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” The work of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual work that, like the wind, we cannot see with our eyes or fully understand with our minds.
Nicodemus came to Jesus seeking truth. As a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council, he would have known how Jesus swept through the temple overturning tables and driving out sheep and oxen, filled with disgust for this abuse of His Father’s house. Nicodemus knew that many put their faith in Jesus Christ as he healed the sick, spoke the Scripture with authority, and turned people away from their lives of sin. Believing Jesus was a great teacher from God—for no one could do these miraculous signs without Him—Nicodemus decided to find out who Jesus was for himself.
He found Jesus in the night. Many scholars say that the night is symbolic of Nicodemus’ spiritual state of living in sin. This is undoubtedly true, but the darkness of night also brings silence to the noise. How many nights have you laid in bed thinking through conversations from your day? It’s during the dark of night—when no one can see or hear—that you confess your vulnerability.
There’s an exciting job opportunity but you stumble over low self-esteem and talk yourself out of applying.
You strive to be the best at everything yet you still feel insignificant.
A friend’s death conjures up questions of the afterlife.
I remember when my brother lived with me for a while. Rough times hit, and he needed a place to stay. During the day he was confident and attended to his work. But at night—when the lights were off and the room became dark, still, and quiet—I saw another side. In the dark, he’d call out, “Are you awake?” “Yeah.” Darkness brought safety as he searched for answers. “Why am I in this condition?”—“How can I get out?”—“Is there hope?”
He craved truth.
Nicodemus also had a dilemma. A man who’d devoted his life to studying Scripture, he prided himself in leading people to follow the Law and walk in righteousness. Yet in the midst of his scholarly success, he found that he wasn’t living a life of satisfaction, contentment, and joy. One night his convictions pulled him into the unknown to meet this teacher he’d heard John the Baptist call the Son of God.
Jesus knew Nicodemus’ heart and, like the wind we’ve seen these last two months, pressed right to the point.
“You must be born again,” He told the expert in the Law.
What a bizarre concept—be born a second time to see the kingdom of God? Without the Spirit of God, Nicodemus couldn’t understand Jesus’ words. Every person must have the gift of the Holy Spirit to grasp truth (1 Corinthians 2:12-14).
Though Nicodemus thought from a physical perspective, Jesus spoke of the spiritual rebirth that must happen within every person. It’s an inner renewal of the heart by which the Holy Spirit crushes the control of sin and creates a new attitude and desire. Nicodemus didn’t understand that the righteous things he’d done held no spiritual significance (Titus 3:5).
“One must be born of water and the Spirit,” Jesus said.
Nicodemus was baffled. He knew the Scripture and followed the Law, but he had failed to see the promise of grace. Yet God’s plan was clearly taught in the Old Testament—a plan to give men and women a relationship with Him not based on Law. In Ezekiel 36:26, God told His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”
God’s plan, in place since before Creation, made a way for not only Nicodemus but every person to be reconciled to Him.
But, like Nicodemus, you may think you’ve got it all together when it comes to spiritual things. Do you figure that your family background or good community service guarantees you acceptance as a child of God? I’m sure Nicodemus thought his background far exceeded that of a Gentile or Samaritan. But Jesus firmly said, “You cannot see the Kingdom of God unless you are born again.”
Or maybe you dare not approach the church doors at all.
“You don’t know what I’ve done.”
“How can God even look at someone who’s polluted her body with drugs, alcohol, and prostitution?”
“I live in shame. The only love I know has ‘abuse’ attached to it.”
Though these voices might play continually in your mind, beneath it is a yearning to be healed.
Nicodemus did what many still hesitate to do. He went to Jesus. He made a decision to seek the Savior. And his life changed forever. Nicodemus wasn’t condemned that night. Instead, he was told of God’s great love and His plan to save all people through Jesus Christ.
Nicodemus made a choice—to come out of the darkness and into the light. He responded to God and was born again through the work of the Holy Spirit.
As you feel the wind blowing today, think about the work of the Holy Spirit. Will you see the kingdom of God? What about the person sitting next to you? The person with whom you just had a conversation? Do they need to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ?
Like the wind that blows wherever it wishes, God will accomplish His purposes in unexpected ways. Don’t miss the opportunity.
Melissa Shaver is director of Walking in Grace Ministries. Go to www.walkingrace.org to learn more.