9. Still Hedging

Short Meditations in John 3:  9. Still Hedging

Jn 3:9,10    How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

We have considered previously the possible options that we (and Nicodemus) have when faced with an apparently impossible teaching from God and from His Son, Jesus.  We wrote off the possibility that Jesus has lost his mind and also that he’s made a mistake and really doesn’t mean what he says. He clearly does mean what he says because after the first analogy (being born of the Spirit) he gives a second one (of the wind blowing where it will) and he links the two together – “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Now there is something else to be considered here: the maturity of listeners to Jesus and the openness or otherwise of their hearts. Supposing you were trying to convey a philosophical concept to a child, to an uneducated adult and to a mature, well-educated adult. I suggest you would use language appropriate to their level, because you wish them to understand. If you didn’t want them to understand you would use language beyond their present level of knowledge and understanding. So let’s ask a simple question: does Jesus want Nicodemus to understand? The answer has surely got to be yes, because in hindsight we can see that these things are not rocket science and Jesus is simply giving analogies that most people would understand. The end product may leave people wondering but they would understand childbirth and the wind and they would understand what Jesus was getting at, even if they didn’t see how such a thing could be.

It is often said that sin and self-centredness are blind and at this point we might be forgiven for starting to have negative feelings about the responses coming from Nicodemus – if only we ourselves weren’t so slow so often! But he still persists: “How can this be?”  Now it is not as if the Old Testament hasn’t got much about the Spirit, for it has, and Nicodemus ought to have learnt from its teaching that when the Spirit came on people they were empowered and became quite different – they were like different or new people. Look up the times the Spirit came on people in the Old Testament and you will see it again and again. It is clearly there to be seen – but Nicodemus doesn’t seem to have seen it; he’s too concerned with rules, the Law.

Jesus isn’t going to let him get away with this: “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?”  You are a leader, a Pharisee and you seek to teach others and yet you do not understand these very basic things I am saying to you? Implication? You should know these things!  And us?

8. Another Example

Short Meditations in John 3:  8. Another Example

Jn 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.”

There is something I have noticed about God, about the way that He deals with us. It is that He is both gentle and persistent but often speaking in ways that are indefinite and require faith and trust of me to hang on in without full understanding. He loves us and gently prompts us to become thinkers, readers, those who come to gradual understanding, and if that is true of the Father, it is also true of Jesus.

Nicodemus has just stumbled with a bad case of literalism over the concept of being born again but Jesus has not abandoned him. Jesus does not say to us, “You stupid, slow-witted idiot, why can’t you see???” No, he understands us. Like the psalmist we can say, you have searched me and you know me.” (Psa 139:1)  He knows what we are like and knows we are sometimes slow to understand. Yes, there will be times when he chides us: “You of little faith” (e.g. Mt 6:30, 8:26) but more often he simply presses on with his gentle teaching.

So now here we find him using a further analogy with Nicodemus, one of the wind that comes without warning from who knows where and goes who knows where. It is a mystery to the human mind, is what Jesus is conveying here. Because it is a work of God we do not know what He knows and so we do not see what He sees and cannot see the hearts of men and women, hearts that may be changing as His Spirit works on them.

The uncertainty of the moving of the Spirit is the very thing that unnerves some people and makes them back away from such teaching, for deep within each of us is this desire to be in control, to decide what we will do and where we will go. To be told that Jesus and his Spirit go where they will without warning is unnerving. But that is exactly what this verse is saying and it must be really challenging and even more unnerving to a man like Nicodemus, a Pharisee committed to the Law, the predictable and certain law..

I know some who love God’s written word (as I do) and who love to play with its words (as I do) and who love to seek out the truth (as I do)  but who shy away from the uncertainty of the moving and working of the Spirit. He moves as the knowledge and wisdom of God (both of which are unlimited) to reveal a perfect course of action. He knows when a heart is opening to Him and He moves accordingly. He sees when a man or woman genuinely comes to a point of total surrender of their life to God (and why they do is a mystery) and He is there to enter and release new life and power and the individual is thus ‘born again’.

13. Why Wind

Meditations in Acts : 13 :  Why Wind?

Acts 2:2  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.

These first verses provide us with the reason for the rest of the book. Something happened on this day that meant that the world was never the same again. We are about to read of a supernatural event that pushed these weak, frail, and uncertain disciples  out into the world in such a dynamic way that the world was changed. Now I maintain with this passage, as I maintain over so much Scripture, that many of us who have been Christians a long time become so familiar with it that we lose the impact of the incredible things we are reading about. There were three things that happened on this day of Pentecost that caused the disciples to be precipitated into the lap of the world in such a manner that the world was changed. Each of these phenomena convey a message from God to us. The first of these three things is the sound of wind.

Now note something significant here and it is something I missed for many years.  It is NOT a wind! Contrary to what many of us think, this is not a great movement of air – it was simply a sound. We aren’t told that the furniture flew everywhere and the disciples were blown out into the open by a tremendous gust of air. When Elijah was taken it was clearly in a whirlwind, a tremendous movement of air, and as we commented in Part 1 in Acts 1, his young disciples went looking for him because they expected his body would be dropped somewhere by the wind – but this wasn’t like that. There wasn’t a wind!

In fact it must have been much more eerie for there they all are, sitting in this house when suddenly there is this tremendous noise like a great wind blowing, but they feel no movement of air on their faces. This sound fills the house, there is no escaping it. It isn’t a gentle whisper; it is a great rushing sound, just like there is a gale blowing – but it isn’t! Now that IS scary!

So it is not a physical manifestation so it must be an indicator of a spiritual movement. The sound of wind is the sound of great energy moving. Something is happening, something is coming which, if it is not material or physical, must be something else. Jesus had challenged Nicodemus with his teaching: 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.” (Jn 3:8) Perhaps that teaching says no more than you cannot tell how the Spirit comes or from where he comes, and so perhaps we are on a fruitless task trying to make some sort of explanation of what happened on this day.

But something is happening and from the outworking of it – the energizing of the disciples as we shall see later – it is a power thing. This sound seems to convey the idea that there is a mighty power that is pouring forth from heaven. We do need to hold onto the scale of it – it was a mighty power for that is what the description is, of a violent wind. This, whatever it was, is going to sweep everything before it; it is very powerful. Now we must realise that He will not sweep unbelievers before Him for He gives them free will and always gives us opportunity to make personal decisions.

However, in accounts of revivals, when God turns up in such power, there are accounts of unbelievers being so struck by the awareness of the presence of God that they are mightily convicted and literally floored. The powerful presence of God does have that effect without doubt. But here He is coming to believers, to those who have been following Jesus and who are waiting as an act of obedience to him. These are people who are waiting for God and so their hearts are open to Him. So when the energy of the powerful presence of the Spirit of God poured out and released from heaven comes into the open hearts of these believers they are suddenly energized in ways we will look at in the days ahead.

Have you ever stood near a tyre when it gets a puncture and the air pours out with a tremendous hiss? I imagine heaven being rent so the Holy Spirit who fills heaven, pours out with a tremendous rushing sound. It is the power of God being released on the earth, but He doesn’t just get dissipated, He pours into open hearts. In the past I have described ‘spirit’ as energy with a personality. This isn’t just energy being poured out, this is the energy that is God Himself and when it comes into the hearts and lives of human beings, it brings with it the character and nature of God Himself. There is not just a feeling of energy being received; it comes with a content, the goodness and greatness of God and as a result it produces in these men an instinctive desire to praise and worship God. It releases a great sense of joy. I believe that is what the Holy Spirit does whenever He is invited in and He comes and brings new life and He comes and fills an individual. He always brings with Him a sense of the greatness, the glory and the goodness of God, and that is expressed in what we call joy.

This divine energy with personality doesn’t just wash over these believers; He fills them. It is not an outward thing but an inward thing. In the past individuals had been anointed with oil as a sign of being anointed by God outwardly to equip them to serve Him, but now when the Spirit comes, He fills them and they are changed from the inside. They are all aware of some inner change taking place. Their hearts, their minds, their very beings are suddenly energized with the glorious presence of God and they are no longer the same.

Have you ever thought about what ‘God’s Power’ actually means?  My definition is Holy Spirit directed energy to bring about God’s will. It is that simple, and that is what has come this day.  A new day has truly arrived!  The Message? This new Church is all about people empowered to be different!

125. Peace with Jesus

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 125. Peace with Jesus

Mk 6:50-52   Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. 

Sometimes in Scripture that are very graphic instances that speak immense truths. This is one of them. Without any beating about the bush, and it is very simple, when Jesus comes aboard your life he brings peace – always!

Of course this is the second of two incidents on the lake. Previously we saw Jesus calm the storm on the lake (4:39). It was a similar thing. Once Jesus was awake, peace was brought. Matthew tells us that on this occasion Peter got  out of the boat and joined Jesus walking on the water (Mt 14:29) but Peter doesn’t bring glory to himself and so omits that as he guides Mark on what to write.

But here on the water, Jesus’ first instinct is to reassure the disciples t hat they are not seeing a ghost, but it is him.  And then he simply climbed in the boat with them – “and the wind died down.”  Coincidence?  No, it is just God exercising His authority over His world in the form of His Son. I am convinced that many of us today, in reality, have lost the belief, which the Bible shows so clearly, that God moves in His world and that includes what we refer to as “nature”.

But much of the time, it isn’t so much that Jesus has to speak peace, but where Jesus is, is always a place of peace because God is always in a state of total peace. He is not upset or in a state of upheaval. He knows everything and has absolute power to do whatever He wants, and so He is at absolute peace. When comes with His Sovereign Presence, peace comes with Him. There may be a storm raging in the rest of the world, but where He manifests His Presence, there it is peace. It is like being in the eye of the storm except wherever He then moves, that peace goes with Him cutting through the storm in whichever direction He goes.

This is one of the reasons to advocate the so-called Quiet Time in the morning, so that whatever stresses and strains confront us, as we bring them in prayer to the Lord, as we pray His presence invades our presence and before we know where we are the peace that passes all understanding is there. it isn’t just that “He knows”, it is His very presence that has drawn near (Phil 4:6,7)