The Gift of God: The Spirit Leads

In the story my co-workers like to call “Nic at Night,” we meet Nicodemus, a Pharisee who is curious about Jesus and his miracles. He comes to Jesus by night and says 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 3:2). This is where the story gets weird. Instead of saying “yes” or “no” to Nicodemus’s assertion, Jesus replies, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (verse 3).

Nicodemus is understandably confused. First of all, he doesn’t know what this has to do with his first comment. But besides that point, he asks in verse 4, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus replies with a bit more detail this time: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (verses 5-6).

Poor Nicodemus is still baffled by Jesus’s words. Then Jesus goes on to say something that, in an odd way, sheds light on the rest of his conversation with Nicodemus.

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (verses 7-8).

Jesus is saying here that the Spirit works in ways that seem bizarre to us. Just as the wind is mysterious to us, so are the Spirit’s ways mysterious to us. We can be born again in the Spirit even when we are old. That’s bizarre – no one can deny that – but it’s also true, and we can trust it.

In the same way, we can trust the Spirit no matter where it seems to be taking us. We don’t have to know where the Spirit is going in order to follow it. A great example of following the Spirit’s lead in an uncertain situation is found in Isaiah chapter 6. Isaiah recalls, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (verse 8). Isaiah had no idea what God was asking him to do, but he followed the Spirit’s urging and volunteered for the job.

We can take a page out of Isaiah’s book. We can follow the Spirit’s lead even when we don’t know where it’s coming from or where it might be going. And if our situations seem bizarre, we can remember that those are the Spirit’s specialty.