“The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit”
A little boy was flying a kite when a man came up and asked, “What are you doing?” “I’m flying my kite,” the child answered. “I can’t see it,” the man went on. “That’s because I’ve let out nine spools of string on it,” the child explained. “Well, how do you know it’s there?” the man pressed. “I feel the pull,” the boy said. And so it is with Christians. When asked how we know God is there even though we cannot see him, our answer is, “I feel the pull!”
In the text Nicodemus felt the pull. He had money. He had prestige. He had his health, an education, and religion. But something was missing. And, so, Nicodemus was drawn to Christ one night. He was impressed with the Lord’s doings, and he came to inquire. “No one,” he said to Jesus, “can do the signs you do, unless God is with him.”
A discussion was born out of Nicodemus’ visit, and there by the campfire Jesus uttered his startling words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The mind of Nicodemus reeled. The firelight played with grotesque shadows upon his face. “How can this be?” he mused. “Can a grown man enter his mother’s womb once again?”
An illustration was right there waiting for Jesus to use. The moon was riding high above the hillside. Clouds went scudding across its face. And a wind from the valley swayed the trees and rustled the leaves. “Listen to the wind! It blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”
Let us take Christ’s statement about new birth and the Holy Spirit and break it up into parts to study its meaning.
The Fact of the Spirit
The first part of the text says, “The wind blows.” In this bare statement we are told that the Spirit is an established fact of the universe. A few weeks ago I was in my study. The place began to get a bit stuffy, so I opened the windows. A breeze was stirring and it fluttered the pages of the Bible on my desk. This is literally true of the Holy Spirit, too. One can see Him blow through every page of the Bible. The Spirit is there in the first page of Scripture. Genesis 1:2 records, “And the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.” The Spirit is also there on the final page of Revelation. “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’” (Rev. 22:17). In the center of Scripture the Psalmist asks, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?” (Ps. 139:7). He goes on to say, “If I rise to the heavens Thou are there. If I descend to hell, even there Thou shalt find me.” And here in the church season of Pentecost we are reminded that there was a new and powerful interruption of the Spirit at Pentecost! There in the upper room the Spirit came “like the rush of a mighty wind.”
And “the wind blows.” The Spirit blew across Jerusalem. It blew across Rome and Greece. It blew in Constantinople. And it has blown in the dark ages, medieval times, the awakening, and on into the age of reason to today’s post-modernism. “The wind blows, Nicodemus! It is blowing even now.
A dramatically inclined pastor caged a dove in the balcony. During the worship service on the cue, “The Holy Spirit descended like a dove,” the bird was to be loosed and thrown into the unsuspecting congregation. Unfortunately, the pastor chose a nine year old boy for his bird manager. On the day of the sermon the boy showed up and went into the balcony with his pet cat. At the proper time the preacher gave the cue, “The Holy Spirit descended like a dove!” He waited, and nothing happened. Three times he gave the cue. Everyone was shocked when, after the third cue, a child’s voice from the balcony said, “My cat ate the Holy Spirit. Do you want me to throw down the cat?” It’s funny, but many people feel like the Holy Spirit is dead. He’s been swallowed up, is no longer active. Of the three major religious cults in America, all three deny the existence of the Holy Spirit— Mormonism, Jehovah’s witnesses, and Christian Scientists. Yet Jesus said, “The wind blows.” And I take Him at his word.
The Freedom of the Spirit
The words of Jesus not only say, “The wind blows.” He said, “The wind blows where it wills.” This is the freedom of the Spirit. We cannot control the wind. You cannot go outside on a hot July afternoon and say, “Blow on me wind!” and expect it to obey you. One cannot stop or start or give direction to the wind. It simply blows where and when and how it wills.
In The Wizard of Id cartoon strip the king walks out into a field one windy day, and with all his authority says, “I command you, wind! Stop blowing!” The wind continues to blow as the king stands there. He gets more and more angry until the wind blows his crown off. Then, very meekly, the king says, “Maybe you didn’t hear me.” “The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus said. The Holy Spirit is the same. Man cannot manipulate it. We cannot say, “Now” or “Wait!” We cannot force the Spirit to heal or bestow a gift of tongues or spark a revival. J.B. Phillips has a delightful book titled, Your God Is Too Small. In it he tries to stretch one’s thinking about God. One way, he says, that we make God too small is to feel like we’ve got God in a box. You know the sort. Some people walk around like they are the sole possessors of God and his Spirit. And, if you do just what they tell you to do, they’ll open the lid and let God’s Spirit out on you! Nonsense! There’s no box big enough to hold God. We try to narrow Him down, squeeze Him into our way of thinking or doing, and He constantly breaks out. “Nicodemus, the wind blows where it wills.”
The Evidence of the Spirit
Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it.” This is the evidence of the Spirit. When the wind blows you know it. Its movement is evidenced in sound, the swaying of branches, and the movement of leaves. It is the same with the Spirit. Nicodemus knew that the Holy Spirit was moving in his time. He saw evidence of a Messianic revival all around him, and he came to Jesus to talk. “No one could do the works you do unless God was with him,” he said.
Today the wind is blowing. The Spirit is moving where He wills, and you hear the sound of it. Chuck Colson, B.J. Thomas, Donna Summers, Jimmy Carter, Pat Boone, Deon Sanders of the NFL, Van Morrison— God is working in the lives of celebrities. Here locally he is blowing in the lives of young and old alike. We see the Spirit’s evidence in a church fellowship that is waking up to shrug off its feelings of inferiority to catch a new vision. We see the evidence of the Spirit in a father’s renewed faith, a faith that is translated into his home and business life. We see Him at work in church planting and missions to Uganda.
Christina Rossetti wrote a poem saying, “Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you: but when the leaves hang trembling, the wind is passing through.” And, “Who?” I might ask. “Who has seen the Spirit?” Neither you nor I! But when people repent and believe and lives are changed and society is reformed, the Spirit is passing through!
The Origin of the Spirit
Yes, Nicodemus. You must be born again. Born of the Spirit! And the Spirit blows. He blows where he wills and you hear the sound of it. Jesus also said, “But you do not know whence it comes.” This is the origin of the Spirit. And Jesus is saying that we do not know where he originates.
Take a look at the wind. Where does it come from? What atmospheric upheaval gave it birth? The Holy Spirit is the same. We try to write theology about Him. We try to rationalize Him, intellectualize Him, and institutionalize Him. But it is all to no avail. The Spirit won’t fit into a test tube. One cannot see Him under a microscope! And there is a danger here, mind you. There is a danger that we might not act on faith, but wait for understanding. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again!”
And Nicodemus, cautious and skeptical, said, “How can this be?” And the Lord told Nicodemus to look at the wind. “It is real, you see its effect, but you know not of its origin.” In other words, Jesus was saying, “Don’t rationalize, Nicodemus. Adore! Worship!”
Each day we base our lives on what we do not understand. How many of you drive a car without having the faintest notion of what goes on beneath the hood? And what about electricity? Scientist are still puzzled over it. We don’t know what it is, just that it is. And we use it in wonder. And how many patients take their medicine without even being able to pronounce its name, much less know its way of healing? The same with the Spirit. Man may not know the Spirit’s origins, except that He comes from God. We will never understand all about Him, but we can make ourselves available to His call.
The Destiny of the Spirit
The fact of the Spirit— “The wind blows.” The freedom of the Spirit— “The wind blows where it wills.” The evidence of the Spirit— “You hear the sound of it.” The origin of the Spirit— “But you do not know whence it comes.” And finally, there is the incalculable destiny of the Spirit. Jesus said, “You do not know whence it comes or whither it goes.” In other words, no one can tell where the Spirit is liable to take you.
A piece of paper caught up in a breeze is at the mercy of the wind. A floating dandelion seed riding on the wind may end up God knows where . So it is with he that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus got caught up in the Spirit and it lead him to perform one of the boldest acts in Scripture. He went to the authorities and asked for the body of Jesus that he might bury Him. And what about a Catholic monk studying the Book of Romans in his monastery cell? There was a wind of the Spirit stirring there for Martin Luther; and God know it led to the Reformation! Did a brilliant German musician, doctor, and theologian named Albert Schweitzer know that the Spirit would lead him to Africa? What about a Christian peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter? The Spirit led him to the White House. To a ministry with Habitat for Humanity.
And here in North Carolina, John Devette, caught up in the wind of the Spirit, is blown closer and closer to China. Who knows where the Spirit may lead? Who knows where the wind may blow?
I know a young girl who prayed and prayed for years that God would save her husband. The Lord answered her prayer, but He also called her husband to be a preacher. Now she’s saying, “Lord, all I wanted you to do was save him, not make him a minister!” But the wind blows where it wills, and no man is able to tell where it might take you.
You never know what God might do. One never can tell what changes might come. Perhaps you are feeling lost and useless right now. “Me? I give up. I’m ruined. I’ll never amount to anything. I’ve lost my chance.” Listen, that kind of thinking slams the door in God’s face. But the wind of the Spirit will blow it open again! You can be born again. So can whole churches, institutions, and nations! Listen to the wind! Listen to the wind, Nicodemus!
Throw Up a Sail?
If only we would take God at His word! If only we would open up the windows of our hearts and let the wind blow through. Listen to the wind, Nicodemus! The wind blows…
A boy asked a sailor, “Tell me, what is the wind?” The sailor replied, “I don’t know how to explain the wind, but I will teach you how to hoist a sail.” And, me? I cannot explain to you the wind of the Spirit. But I can challenge you to hoist your sail of faith into God’s wind. Nicodemus! Nicodemus! Listen to the wind! The wind blows!
O Lord, I open my heart, all the windows, to the wind of your Spirit. Blow through me! And take me where you will. For Christ’s sake. Amen.