Sunday, March 25, 2012
By Al Gray
John 3:16 summarizes the essence of the Christian faith in one concise verse. It has rightfully earned supremacy among the verses of the Bible. My favorite, though, precedes this wonderful assurance in the same chapter and goes like this:
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.
A born again spirit simply is. There is difficulty in explaining it, because the spirit is like the wind. You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. You cannot see it, yet you know it is real and great of force, for it moves the trees and makes mountainous waves. The spirit within each of us is transformative. It has the power to turn the meek into the strong, the arrogant to the obedient, the angry into the calm, and the sinner into the saved. Just as the wind was harnessed to move the great sailing ships, even the fishing vessels of Jesus’ day, the Spirit can be drive men to greatness, band them together in movements toward God, and transport whole nations to freedom. Christians know this power in our lives, see its effects on ourselves and others, feel its unifying strength, and we Americans live in a country brought to greatness on its perseverance.
How our new birth is accomplished by the Holy Spirit might be incomprehensible to us but we know that it is possible. The wind shifts to blow in different directions – we see its influence in the bending of the tree limbs, we hear the sound, and feel it upon our skins and through our hair – but we cannot detect the air itself. We only know that it is by the effects which it makes evident. “So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The results are as noticeable and as sensible as those from the wind; but the Spirit itself we cannot see. Yet one born of God senses that he was so born. The parent of his new birth, the Spirit itself, shows witness in his individual spirit, that he is born of God. Not only does he see it in himself, but also in others.
The notion that each of us holds a “divine” spark, or inner spirit, came into vogue as early as the 4th century, reaching a crescendo – like the building wind – in 14th century Germany. Perhaps the premier of the German mystics was Meister Eckhart. “… in him we find religion expressed in its purest form, a form which goes back in its spiritual experience… The church in his days had failed to see this….But it seems they have condemned Eckhart because his mysticism was a threat to the church. In him religion became too personal. They felt that Eckhart’s mysticism could alienate the believer from the hierarchy of the church, because salvation was not dependent anymore on church membership and church rituals, but on the will of the believer to get into a close relationship with the god inside.” Eckhart was under trial for heresy when he died in 1329 and was branded a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church for seven centuries. It wasn’t until 2010 that the Vatican revealed that the sanctions against him had been lifted and the orthodoxy of Eckhart’s teachings acknowledged.
Politics has always reared its ugly head in everything, hasn’t it? Nothing is supposed to be possible outside of their hierarchy, their Statism, and their power.
This is why John 3:8 holds such appeal, as it did for those mystics: our salvation doesn’t depend on THEM, it resides within, a smoldering spark awaiting ignition. It is an ember that glows hot at times and wanes at times, but as long as there is life it is there. The best of us Christians sometimes starve it and we realize our mistake, hopefully before it is too late.
A church of one, salvation dependent upon no other, a divine spark within, and a confidence in these things free of wanting or even needing to know from whence it came is the truth of John 3:8. Even the unruly, unstructured Baptists have trouble with it. You shouldn’t.
All of the powers and potentates near and far loath and fear it for, as it is written in 1st John Chapter 5, verse 4:
“Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
Feed the power within yourselves, show it to the others, and watch it become a world changing unity candle that will overcome the dark days mankind’s folly and sin have brought.
On the wind, mightier than the wind, and more forceful than the wind – let that be your divine spark.
Let’s all come to our senses.
I can feel Him in the morning.