Are You Ready for the Wind?
ARE YOU READY FOR THE WIND!
(This is an illustrated sermon. You need a good strong house fan. Then have a stack of bulletins, flyers, papers etc. on the podium next to your sermon notes, and an extra set of the last two pages of the semon notes below. Make sure to keep the last two pages under something so that they will not get blown away. You'll need them to finish the sermon.)
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: John 3:5-8
5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 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." NIV
Growing up in West Virginia you learn to read nature. There are little hints and cues that you learn to read. For example, we lived down in the valley near a creek, and unlike some places where you can see a storm coming from a long way off, we didnít know the storm was coming until it came over the hill, and by that time it was on top of you. My grandmother used to tell us that when we saw the bottoms of the leaves on the trees, then we knew that a storm was on the way. She didnít know the meteorological reasons for her observation, she didnít understand the nature of the updraft that preceded the storm, but she saw the effects of the wind and that told her that it was time to get the laundry off the clothesí line because it was about to rain.
During the summer I would watch the trees swaying in rhythm as the wind blew. Sometimes the wind was violent and trees snapped in its path. Other times the wind was gentle and soft, gently moving across the treetops. We lived in Kansas where the land was flat and we could see the storms coming from miles away. You could watch the wind blow across the fields of grain as if some invisible hand was brushing across the face of the earth.
Living near the coast in North Carolina, we learned to be wary of the wind during hurricane season. In Maine we were cautious of the wind when it blew the snow into drifts over the tops of cars. The fact is that wherever you go the wind will blow at some point and while you cannot see the wind, you can see the effects. Even in the desert the wind will whip up ferocious sandstorms. Sometimes weíre ready for the wind, but as New Orleans illustrated, sometimes weíre not ready when the wind starts blowing.
I) IN THE HOUSE, OUT OF THE KINGDOM
The occasion of Jesusí words in our text was that Nicodemus, a man of some importance and notoriety in the community, came to Jesus under the cover of darkness. He was curious, and I believe sincere, in wanting to know more about Jesus, but he did not want people in his community to know that had come to see Jesus so he came at night.
He respectfully addressed Jesus as Rabbi, or teacher, and acknowledged that Jesus must have come from God because the average man could not have performed the miracles that Jesus was performing unless it was through God.
Let me pause right here to say that I am a fairly analytical man. I donít take most things at face value, but I study them and weigh them. I am skeptical of many claims by most so-called miracle workers and people who sell oil, miracle spring water or anointed cloths on television. But I have personally seen so many miracles during my life that anytime the devil tries to fill my mind with doubt or questions, I remember the miracles that Iíve seen and that Iíve experienced in my own life, and my faith is fixed once again on the person and the power of God.
Jesus was doing too much to be ignored. He was turning water into wine, opening blinded eyes, healing the lepers and raising the dead. Realizing that Jesus must have come from God, Nicodemus was thirsting to know more.
Jesus cuts to the chase and says in verse 3, ďI tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.Ē It isnít enough to come church. Nicodemus even came to the evening service, but coming to church isnít enough. We can be in the house of God and still be outside of the kingdom of God.
Giving mental assent to the fact that Jesus is from God, is not enough. Some will say Jesus was a prophet, others say he was a good man, but that is not enough. Jesus was not just from God, Jesus was God in the flesh and this truth is the foundation of life giving faith.
Jesus said that no one will see the kingdom unless they are born again. No one, not even religious and pious people like Nicodemus. There is no other way, no plan B, no alternative route. You must be born again.
Nicodemus was a teacher of the Law of Moses. He should have understood spiritual things, but he just wasnít getting it. How can someone be born again? Is that physically possible? The truth is that it is not physically possible, but Jesus is speaking of spiritual things here and Nicodemus should have known it.
II) TWICE BORN
Jesus told Nicodemus, ďYou must be born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.Ē
Many have wrestled with what Jesus meant by ďwaterĒ here, but the parallel statement that ďflesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit to spiritĒ provides the interpretive tool. He isnít talking about water baptism, or the washing of the water of the Word here. Jesus is simply talking about the natural birth and a spiritual rebirth.
If youíre born once, you are born to die. If you are born again, you are born to live. To enter the Kingdom of God we must all be born twice. Man is a spirit, that has a soul, that lives in a body. The body is formed in the motherís womb and passes through the waters of birth, but to be born again requires a work of the Spirit and not of the flesh.
Being born again is not the work of a preacher, or the work of a church, or the work of a ritual. Being born again is the work of the Holy Spirit in response to our faith in Godís grace through Christ. When we can accept by faith, who Jesus is and what He has done for us, then the Holy Spirit can perform the miracle of salvation in our lives.
I said that when the devil tries to fill my mind and heart with doubt, I recall the miracles Iíve seen. The most amazing miracles that Iíve seen are the lives that God has transformed through the Spirit. Iíve seen drunks delivered and set free at old fashioned altars. Iíve seen marriages brought back from the brink of divorce and restored. Iíve seen foul mouthed vulgar men given a new vocabulary. Iíve seen lives headed for prison or an early grave redeemed and redirected to live as productive members of society. Iíve seen men whom society had given no hope, find hope, and become something that God could use for His glory. Iíve seen the miracle of the new birth, and I see it every time I look into a mirror. The devil is a liar. God is real and Iím a miracle to prove it.
III) MYSTERY OF THE SPIRIT
Look again at verses 7 and 8:
7 You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 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." NIV
Jesus uses the reference to the wind as an illustration of the mystery of being born again. Remember the context of Jesusí words. They did not have weather satellites or the weather channel that showed approaching cold fronts. They did not have Doppler 3-D radar to warn them of impeding thunderstorms or tornados. All they knew was that the wind blew. They didnít know where it came from, and they didnít know where it was headed. They could not see the wind; all they could see were the effects of the wind. They could see the trees swaying and the waves on the sea rising. They could hear the wind, and feel the wind, but the wind was a mystery to them.
Nicodemus was wrestling with the concept of being born again. He didnít understand it. So to help him get a handle on it, Jesus said, ďItís like the wind. You canít see the wind, but you know when itís there. You can hear it. You see the effects. The movement and the power of the wind are undeniable. This is what the new birth is like. It is a mystery, but youíll know when it has happened because you will hear and see the effects.Ē
A changed life is a powerful testimony to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in a personís life. A person who is born again will sound different. They will act different. They are the same person who was born the first time, but they are different because theyíre born again and it shows up in their very countenance.
I remember an old song that said:
Born again thereís really been a change in me.
Born again, just like Jesus said.
Born again, and all because of Calvary,
Oh, Iím so glad that Iíve been born again.
I donít understand it all, much of it is a mystery, but I know itís real because Iíve been born again!
IV) THE PRINCIPLE OF THE POWER
This gives us the context and the meaning of Jesusí statement concerning the analogy of the wind and the Spirit. But I believe that Jesus introduced a principle here that has a broader application, and one which anticipates the Day of Pentecost. Look again at verse 8.
In the Greek language, which was used in the original text of the New Testament, the same word translated wind is also translated Spirit. The word is pneuma. We use this same word to refer to pneumatic tools. These are tools that are powered by compressed air. However, Jesus was probably speaking in Hebrew, and the same thing is true in that language. One word, ruach, is translated as wind, Spirit and breath. Jesus is making a powerful analogy here between the wind and the Spirit.
If we leap ahead in Scripture we find that on the Day of Pentecost, they were all in the upper room tarrying, just as Jesus had instructed them, when suddenly the room was filled with the sound of a mighty rushing wind (Fan, amplify sound of wind). It was the sound of power, of force, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit in that upper room.
The use of wind as a metaphor for the Spirit is a natural one in that the word for wind and Spirit is the same in Hebrew and in Greek. Furthermore, the mystery, the invisible nature of the wind, coupled with the powerful results, is a significant picture of the Holy Spirit as well. However, the Holy Spirit is not just a force, not just a power, but the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Jesus refers the Holy Spirit with the personal pronoun ďHeĒ. Jesus said in John 14:16-18
16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever ó 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. NKJV
The Holy Spirit is a person, a comforter, a helper, who comes to and dwells with the believer. But the Holy Spirit is more than a nursemaid. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit brings power with Him, in the Greek dynamis.
Returning to the analogy of the wind, we all remember the record hurricane season of last year. I was in Orlando when one of them came through. I sat in the hotel room and watched palm trees blown over in one direction, and then as the eye of the storm passed, I watched the trees blow over in the other direction.
On another occasion I remember returning to Suwanee, Georgia, from Washington, DC and we when got home we found that the winds of a tornado had blown through our neighborhood. Trees were blown down and roofs of houses were damaged. There were limbs and leaves everywhere. A very large oak tree in our front yard came down and thankfully our house was spared. This is the nature of the power of the wind. We now know where the wind is coming from and where itís going, but we cannot control the wind. It blows wherever it chooses.
This is the way of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is like the wind. It cannot be controlled by, or manipulated by us, but He will manifest in the midst of a people who are willing to yield to the Spirit. (FAN, blow notes, bulletins, etc. off of the pulpit. Make a mess!) He will come into a service and bring power to move the immovable, to do the impossible, and to accomplish the improbable. But be aware of this fact, when the wind blows, it may blow some things out of your life that you thought you wanted, and blow some things into your life that you didnít think you wanted.
The point is that we cannot control the Spirit, but the Spirit wants control of us. The Spirit wants to move in this church, in our lives, and this community. The Spirit wants to bring power to the powerless, life to the lifeless, hope to the hopeless. The Spirit wants to breathe into the church and revive us with His presence. What we cannot do in the flesh, God can do in the Spirit.
I love to go out on windy days and stand in the wind. I know itís not smart, in fact itís dangerous, but sometimes when a thunderstorm is coming and the wind is really blowing, I like to go out and watch the wind, feel it blow, and hear it moving through the trees. I also love to be in churches where the Spirit it moving. Some folks get nervous. Some folks see the wind blowing and theyíre afraid itís going to mess up their hair or rearrange their patio furniture. But I like to see the Spirit moving.
When the spirit starts moving, He will blow some things out of your life that you thought you needed, dead branches will fall, distraction and wasted time. He will blow some thing into your life that you didn't think you did want. People will start coming into your life that need ministry, ministry opportunities that you didn't think you could handle, will blow into your life when you are ready for the wind.
Iíve been in large churches and watched the Holy Spirit move across the congregation like the wind blowing through the tops of the trees. Iíve seen the Spirit sweep across a crowd of people and move them in ways they havenít been moved in years. On the Day of Pentecost the wind blew and the believers would never be the same.
Are you ready for the wind to blow? Do you yearn for the Spirit to move in your life, and in this church? I do.
Personality and popularity will not get the job done.
Education and degrees alone will not get the job done.
Emotionalism, loud music and the latest technological toys alone will not get the job done.
Itís going to take more than that. Itís going to take the power of the Spirit blowing fresh on our lives and through this church. Are you ready for the wind? Are willing to let the Holy Spirit move in your life and mess you up? I am! We try so hard to have everything in order and programmed just so, but the wind blows where it wants to. Holy Spirit blow across this church today!
In John 20:21-22 Jesus said,
21 "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." NIV
If your prayer today is, ďJesus, breathe on me! Holy Spirit, blow like a mighty rushing wind upon my life and this churchĒ, then I want you to stand to your feet.
Are you ready for something new? Are you tired of the living in the flesh, when you could be moving with the Spirit? If youíre ready for something new, then I want you to come and be ready to let the wind of the Spirit blow across your soul.