This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for a God/god, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted. The other story I heard this week was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an ‘atheist home’ where her parents were actually hostile to religion and particularly forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, her growing curiosity led her into a church one Sunday morning. She heard the gospel and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the power of the gospel and the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in unlikely people being like the invisible force of the ‘wind’.
“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.”
THE WIND OF THE SPIRIT
BRINGS UNLIKELY CONVERSIONS
When Jesus spoke these words about the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in a person being like the wind, He was talking to the Teacher of Israel, Nicodemus.
¶ Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
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.”
Nicodemus was used to viewing God as the Law-Giver, and religion as a matter of keeping God’s Laws. But Jesus talked to him about God as a Father who gave His only Son, with whom anyone who simply looked (KJV, Isa. 45:22, ESV “turned”) to Him could be spiritually healed. Just as Moses had lifted the bronze serpent in the wilderness and all the poisoned people had to do was to look to this bronze serpent on the pole, so, anyone who would look to the lifted Saviour who would be lifted up on a cross of wood could also be healed from the serpent’s (Rev. 12:9) poison of sin (Jn. 3:14-15).
¶“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17 (note 1Cor. 10:9)
As a result of his encounter with Jesus, the religious leader of Israel (John 3:1) was transformed spiritually. Nicodemus remained faithful to Christ from that point on and attended to the dead body of the crucified Saviour (John 7:50-52; 19:39). His conversion to Christ had the obstacle of religious pride that only a work of the Holy Spirit could heal. Nicodemus was an unlikely convert.
THE WIND OF THE SPIRIT BRINGS
UNLIKELY ANSWERS TO PRAYER
At the age of 30, when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, John saw the Holy Spirit come down upon Jesus as a dove would (John 1:32). This was the point when Christ’s public ministry began. After His baptism, and a 40-day fast in the wilderness, Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). As a result, Christ performed signs, wonders, and miracles (Acts 10:38). With such an intimacy with the Holy Spirit and consistent demonstrations of the Spirit’s miraculous power, the thing that actually impressed those closest to Him was how He prayed. At times He spent all night in prayer while His disciples slept (Luke 6:12). It seemed to His disciples that Jesus prayed from His heart to God as if God was His Father. This led His disciples to ask Him, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1). Jesus not only taught them how to pray, but He also taught them what to pray.
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few;
therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”
It seems to me that if the most Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, Spirit-anointed, Spirit-filled, man spent more time praying than sleeping and then taught people how and what to pray, we should probably take note. What we note is two profound truths: (i) pray; and, (ii) pray for people to accept the gospel and for people to have preached that gospel. The result of implementing these two truths is that the wind of the Spirit often brings unlikely answers to our prayers leading to unlikely people encountering Christ. Saul of Tarsus was an unlikely convert that almost certainly resulted from the Christians he was persecuting praying for his conversion (Acts 9:1-18).
The wind of the Spirit leads to unlikely moments. Sometimes the Christ-follower finds him or herself in situations where sharing their conversion story leads to someone beginning their journey to Christ. These moments can be quite unlikely. They can occur in a supermarket aisle. They can occur while walking your dog. They can occur at a football match. The Spirit’s wind blows He wishes in the most unlikely moments. For Nicodemus it happened in the dark of night in a secret meeting with Jesus.
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 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?” Jesus answered, “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. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
The wind of the Spirit also results in the most unlikely welcomes. The most dramatic example of this in the four Gospels would have to have occurred at the most unlikely moment. When Christ was crucified between two criminals He was ridiculed repeatedly by both criminals for hours on end. But then something happened in the soul of one of them. The wind of the Spirit had blown on his soul. He stopped mocking and ridiculing and asked Christ for forgiveness. Christ pardoned him and assured him that he would enter into Paradise and be with Christ for eternity.
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And He said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
Within three hours all three crucified men were dead.
¶ It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, because the sun’s light failed.
The temple curtain was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!”
And after He said this He breathed His last.
¶ Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!”
Luke 23:44-47 NET
Physical death is not the end of a person’s life. Can you imagine the scene when the crucified criminal who had just been forgiven three hours earlier turned up at the entrance of Paradise? I doubt that there was a need for security at Paradise’s doors, but if there was, I could imagine, with a little inspiration from Alistair Begg, that they might have wanted to quiz this unlikely convert before granting him entrance into Paradise.
“Can you explain justification by faith?” they might have asked.
“No, I don’t even know what that means” he might have replied.
“Were you baptised?”
“Baptised? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Then how in the world did you come to be here?”
“The man on the middle cross said I come here!”
“Oh! Then come right in. Welcome!”
As we prepare for the upcoming Tasmania Celebration with evangelist Will Graham, I suspect that the result will be hundreds and hundreds of people who will also experience an unlikely welcome into that heavenly Paradise because the wind of the Spirit blew on their soul awakening them to their need to turn to the Saviour. And some of these unlikely welcomes will be result of the Spirit’s wind blowing on their soul in their final moments in this life. But for the majority of these unlikely welcomes given to unlikely converts who experienced the Holy Spirit’s unlikely breeze upon them in unlikely moments, their welcomes will be given at the doors of hundreds of churches where they had previously thought they would never have been made welcome! May the Spirit of God blow across our State and bring more and more unlikely converts into the Kingdom of God’s Son!
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
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