Dear GCI Family and Friends,
Have you ever experienced the power of the wind? My most vivid memory was living in Fayetteville, NC, when the outer bands of Hurricane Fran blew 80 mph gusts through the wooded acre of my backyard. The combination of the high-pitched whistling sounds and the cracking of limbs as they broke and fell was unnerving, to say the least.
Wind is a common theme in the Bible. It has been compared to the breath of God in Genesis, to the length of life in Psalms, and to the Holy Spirit. We see Jesus referring to the wind in his conversation with Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel and a Pharisee. He was talking to Nicodemus about being born again when he said:
The wind blows where 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. John 3:8
Jesus is reminding Nicodemus that just as you cannot see the wind or know it is there, except by what it does — rustling the trees, blowing the dust around, wreaking havoc in your backyard — you cannot see any outward signs in those who are born again. But you can tell who is born from above by the fruit produced in their life. Just as the invisible power of the wind accomplishes things that can be seen, the invisible power of the Holy Spirit works in converted Christians producing fruit like love, joy, patience, and kindness.Read More
Jesus’ words about the Holy Spirit are mysterious, powerful, and transforming. Later in his Gospel account, John provides more insight to the work of the Holy Spirit.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. John 16:7-15
We don’t know what we don’t know. Jesus knew this all so well. Therefore, before going away, he made sure the disciples heard the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit will bring conviction about what really matters. And what really matters is Jesus. It isn’t sin that gets center stage; it is Jesus who has conquered sin. What really matters isn’t righteousness we somehow accomplish or earn on our own; it is the vicarious righteousness we receive because of Jesus. What really matters isn’t the fear of judgment, since condemnation has been placed squarely on Satan, and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Hallelujah! The Spirit is faithful every day to remind us of these truths about Jesus and the impact that truth has on us.
Belief in Jesus allows us to find grace, not guilt, for our past. The Father is not deterred by the lack of understanding of a new or growing believer. He meets us where we are, and by the power of the Spirit, grows us up in his grace. Notice Jesus’ promise to us:
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)
This guidance of the Spirit of truth extends into “the things that are to come.” The “things that are to come” are not the world events on your newsfeed, rather it is the kingdom into which Jesus is bringing us. The Spirit has sealed or marked us as citizens of the kingdom and is guiding us to that reality. Our identity as kingdom citizens who belong to Jesus is secure by the presence of the guiding Spirit.
We understand the kingdom in relational terms—Jesus brings us into the divine life that the Father, Son, and Spirit share. The work of the Spirit is confirming this now. The Spirit is constantly bringing us into a relational knowing of the Father. The heart of this truth is that God is a God of love. This is what Jesus was revealing about the Father through his life, death, and resurrection. The Father is not an angry, vindictive God but rather the God of compassionate love. This is what the Spirit continues to declare to us as we move toward the future reality of the kingdom.
So, if the Spirit is doing this amazing, mysterious transformation in us, what about our neighbor? Do we watch and listen closely enough to see how the Spirit is blowing and rustling the thoughts and mindsets in others around us? Do we trust that the Spirit is able to bring about the convictions of who Jesus is in their lives? Do we pray that the overwhelming love of God would capture them, like it has us? I am talking about a more focused participation with God, the Holy Spirit. I say this out of a personal confession that all too often, instead of trusting the Spirit, I very clumsily try to do the Spirit’s work for him.
I believe for GCI to continue to grow in church health and to be a beacon that points to Jesus, we need to think about the Holy Spirit as a mighty, rushing wind that is capable and willing to transform the lives of the people around us. As we are now just a few days away from Pentecost, let’s have a heightened awareness and anticipation of the amazing work of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t about us rolling up our sleeves and trying harder. Rather, it is about patient, faithful reliance on the Spirit and witnessing the amazing, mysterious ways he operates as he glorifies Jesus and draws humanity into this union.
Pentecost is coming!