Like The Wind
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.(John 3:8)
With these words to Nicodemus, Jesus describes one of the most profound truths in all of Scripture. The Bible is a book that tells us the story of God—a God who is so passionately in love with the human race, whom He created, that He sent His own Son to redeem us from the destruction that we brought upon ourselves.
Over the past weeks, while we’ve been cooped up in our homes to avoid the coronavirus, I’ve shared several messages out here in the woods, looking at the great foundational teachings of Scripture—God’s love, the nature of Jesus, His sacrifice on the cross, and the triumph of His resurrection from the grave.
The message of the cross of Christ—His death and resurrection—is the central pillar of our faith. It begins with the love of the Father for this lost world, and centers in the willing sacrifice of the Son—paying the price so the love relationship can be forever restored. But if that were all—if that was the end of the story—we would still be lost. As grand and important as this is—and no doubt central to all our faith—if we fail to respond to His loving invitation, what good can He do for us? And how can we respond to the invitation, unless we hear it in tones that strike the very depths of our hearts, and awaken a longing for something that He alone can feel?
So today, we will explore what the Bible says about this most incredible One, Who, like Jesus, has come to this world, and who plays a most wonderful and intimate role in bringing our hearts to Him, and in transforming our lives back to the image of God.
We’ll go on a journey to learn about One Whom our eyes cannot see…
We’re talking, of course, about the Holy Spirit, or as the King James says, the “Holy Ghost.” To be sure, we don’t find a lot of “stories” per se about the Holy Spirit outside the book of Acts. But the New Testament is filled with references to the Holy Spirit. In fact, He is present in every story—often in the background, hardly mentioned sometimes, yet always working through His sweet influence to direct and empower the players in every story.
Very much like the very nature of God, as we have been discussing—a God whose very nature is love, who exists in a selfless relationship among Himself and with His creatures.
Just as we open the New Testament, we find that the Holy Spirit has an important part even in the very incarnation of Christ—placing, as it were, that mysterious child in the womb of the virgin Mary. Matthew writes this record of Jesus Baptism:
Matthew 3:16-17 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and [a]He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The very next verses in Matthew’s gospel tell us more about the Spirit’s role in Jesus’ life. (Matthew 4:1) The Holy Spirit was the one who led and guided Jesus in every aspect of His earthly life—even now, in leading Jesus into the wilderness of temptation. Does that mean that Jesus was less important, or “below” the Holy Spirit? No—of course not! As we will see later in the gospels, the Holy Spirit also “submits” to come in answer to prayer in Jesus’ name. But it tells us something about the nature of God, to realize that each of the three gladly and mutually submit to one another—a beautiful picture of the love of heaven!
In our Journey today, let’s explore together some of the roles of the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit Transforms our Hearts
It was early in Jesus’ ministry. People just couldn’t figure Him out, it seems. Everyone who spoke with Him left baffled—amazed at the depth of His profound words. Already, the rulers and religious leaders were jealous of His popularity, and hated the fact that He seemed unwilling to conform to their rules and customs.
Late one night, one of these rulers found Jesus in a quiet spot, and began to question Him. We find the story in John 3:1-21.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:1-2)
In the familiar account, Jesus tells Nichodemus, “You must be born again.” Nicodemus pretends not to understand. The truth is hard for him–a teach in Israel! So Jesus uses another symbol:
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
What does it mean to be “born of the spirit”? It means to have a total transformation of heart. When the Holy Spirit takes control, we become a totally different person–just as thought we had crawled back into a mother’s womb, and come out again with nothing. All our motives and desires are changed. We’ll come back to this concept of transformation in John 3, but before we do, let’s look at another story. Another ruler who came to Jesus for advice…
Luke 18:18-23 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”
21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”
22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.
I’ve always wondered: Why did Jesus give such a hard command to this rich young ruler? After all, he was keeping the Ten Commandments? What more did he lack?
In truth, he lacked the most essential part. He lacked true love for his fellow man. He lacked the transformation that could only come through the Holy Spirit. And because of his lack, his first statement was also a lie. He couldn’t truly keep one of God’s commandments, without first having a change of heart. This is why Jesus gave him this command–to show his heart and his need of the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ
1 Corinthians 2:10-12 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Without the Holy Spirit, we have no desire for God. We cannot come to Christ. But in God’s provenient grace, he works on the hearts of everyone in the world–constantly drawing everyone to him. This isn’t the same as receiving the Holy Spirit after conversion, but it is the same Spirit who is drawing.
The Holy Spirit brings comfort and peace
John 14:15-18 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:25-27 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the [g]Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
The Holy Spirit lives in our hearts
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
The Holy Spirit brings our prayers to God
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession [a]for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
The Holy Spirit Empowers the Gospel Commission
Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The work of the Holy Spirit is beautifully summarized in Jesus words:
John 16:5-15 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He [c]will take of Mine and declare it to you.
Jesus says in verse 8, “He will convict the world of sin.” What does it mean to be convicted of sin? Isn’t this speaking of how the Holy Spirit draws us to God–showing us the emptiness of our own hearts? Showing us our need of Christ?
Secondly, “He will convict the world … of righteousness.” This is nothing else that the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The law can tell us what is right, but only the Holy Spirit can change our hearts–pointing us to Christ and making us new creatures.
Thirdly, “He will convict the world … of judgment.” The Holy Spirit is not simply a passive force–reminding us of our past. He speaks to us, convicting our hearts of the times that we are living in. Warning us that time is short. Friends, Jesus is coming soon! And through the work of the Holy Spirit, His people can be ready to meet Him.
The question today is this: will you receive Him? Will you allow Him to transform your heart–so that He can safely take you home?