We began 2023 with the theme of Life (Zoe). The Lord repeatedly impresses upon us that the abundant Life that He promised was life on His terms! It is Father’s purpose that we mature as sons and daughters by learning to “cross the street by ourselves.”
Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in John 3 opens for us the intended significance of being “born from above.” We have historically centered this text on being forgiven, going to heaven, and Jesus supplying all our needs between now and then. However, Jesus also told us what we should expect after we have encountered the Holy Spirit in relation to the Kingdom of God.
When Nicodemus approached Jesus, he said, “Rabbi, we know. . .” He was approaching Jesus based on the certainty of His knowledge of the Law, the Prophets, and the tradition of Jewish scholarship. He knew what to expect of the Messiah and His coming Kingdom.
Jesus told him that to even see the Kingdom, much less enter, he needed to be born from above. Shock! Then Jesus explained further:
The wind blows (breathes) where it wills; and though you hear its sound, yet you neither know where it comes from nor where it is going. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).
Nicodemus was being confronted with the necessity of leaving his comfortable certainty. He was asked to embrace the mystery of following the wind of the Spirit, wherever it was to take him. Father was intending to teach him how to cross the street by himself.
Jesus moved outside the comfortable certainty of first century Judaism by hearing and obeying His Father’s voice – the unpredictable breath of His Spirit. Jesus went to Samaria at Father’s command to meet with the woman at the well. No one would have thought of doing that before! He used mud on the blind eyes and interrupted a funeral to raise the son that was needed. He healed on the sabbath, ate with unwashed hands, forgave the adulteress woman, enjoyed the company of tax collectors, challenged religious traditions.
Similar to Nicodemus, we are faced with a parallel challenge. Religion often expresses itself like a strong, compelling, and determined mother refusing to allow us to cross the street by ourselves. She says, “Don’t ever go near the street! It’s too dangerous and you may get run over.” So, we tend to passively sit on the front porch.
One day, God, as our Father, takes us by the hand and says, “It’s time you learned to cross the street by yourself.” We respond, “But Dad, mom said…”
There was a time mom was required to protect us. But the time comes for us to grow up and take responsibility. Father takes us by the hand and instructs us how to safely cross the street. Then He watches while He tells us to do it by ourselves. When we do, we return grinning with our newfound adulthood. We sense Father’s smile.
If Nicodemus was ever going to enter the Kingdom, which was his heart’s longing, he needed to cross the street by himself. He needed to leave the traditions of the elders, to eat and drink with sinners, forgive the Romans, embrace Samaritans, and learn that mercy is preferred to personal safety or sacrifice. He was being called to follow the wind of the Holy Spirit.
Kingdom is different, learning to obey is determinative. Being born from above, we come under the governing purpose of God. We do intend to honor that which has been handed down to us through church as we have understood it. However, we must fully commit to pleasing our Father. If we do not gain the courage to cross the street ourselves, we may fail to attain the maturity and obedient response to the Father which He is anticipating. As we are led by the wind of the Spirit, we may be asked to go places, embrace people, and learn new things which “mother” formerly told us were dangerous.
The Body of Christ is in an epic, world-wide transformation. We do not know all that will be required of us. Sometimes we become genuinely alarmed at the possible challenges events may demand of us. However, whatever they may be, each of us must be willing to cross the street at His bidding. We learn to trust Him. He leads us into a truly abundant life!