The Wind Blows Where It Wishes

John 3:1-8 – Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said 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.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 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.”

2014-01-31 - The Wind Blows Where It Wishes (IMG_8140)The wind-blown waters of Upper Two Medicine LakeGlacier National Park, Montana.

We cannot see the wind, but we can certainly see and feel its effects; and, when you are hiking in the mountains the wind can get rather chilly, even on a warm summer day.  On the particular August day that this photo was taken the temperatures were probably near 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but by the time we got to Upper Two Medicine Lake the wind coming down off the mountains was cold enough to warrant putting on a jacket.  Never underestimate the weather in the mountains.  Always be prepared and carry extra layers of clothing, even if it is warm when you are starting out on your hike.

Today’s passage from John’s gospel recounts a late night discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees.  Although Nicodemus seems to acknowledge Jesus’ authority, at least as “a teacher come from God,” he clearly does not understand, or does not want to understand, what Jesus is telling him when he says, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The term “born again” is not just some catchy phrase used by Christians; it is a real transformation that takes place in the hearts and minds of those who come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.  The term “born again” is often the subject of much debate, but there is another term also used to describe this transformation, that term is “regeneration,” found in Titus 3:4-7,

4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Christ’s words in John 3:5 and Paul’s words in Titus 3:5 definitely appear to be describing the same process, “born of water and the Spirit,” and “by washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”  In both passages it is clear that this process is not of the individual believer’s own doing, it is only by the action of the Holy Spirit that this transformation takes place.

How exactly this regeneration, or rebirth, happens is a mystery, and Christ basically tells us just that when he says, “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.”  We know that we cannot see the wind, but we certainly can see and feel its effects, so it is for those who have come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

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Come, Follow Me

Mark 10:17-27 – And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

2014-01-11 -  Come, Follow Me (IMG_9388)Trail junction near the Bear Lake trailhead.  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

“Money is the root of all evil.”  Have you ever heard someone say this?  Many Bible verses are misused or misinterpreted.  And, while I have no real data to support this, I suspect that the first sentence of 1 Timothy 6:10, which actually reads, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” is one of the most frequently misquoted verses.  The oft intended message of those misquoting this verse is that money and the rich are inherently bad.

Today’s passage from Mark’s Gospel is another that is taken out of context and used to condemn the wealthy.  When Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” the inclination for many is to again conclude that money and the rich are inherently bad.

I think the key to understanding what Jesus says here is to look closely at the man’s question:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The emphasis of the man’s question is on what he, himself, must do.  So, Jesus tells him that he must perfectly obey the commandments, sell everything he owns, give it to the poor, and follow him.  After all, God does demand perfection.  The difficulty for the rich man entering heaven, though, lies not in his money or possessions, but rather in the fact that he trusts his own abilities and wealth to accomplish something that only Christ can do.

It is certainly fair that we as Christians should challenge each other to be accountable for where we invest our time, talent, and treasures, because being a follower of Christ does demand a change in the way we live our lives.  But we really need to ask ourselves, what path to salvation are we following?  Do we trust in ourselves, our own abilities, and our possessions?  Or, do we trust in the infinite and eternal God of the universe?  Do we trust in the God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)?  Because, you see, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.