Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Galatians 5:16
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. Review
for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears,
and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
God wants us to rely on Him.
That was His original intention for us in the Garden of Eden,
where He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.
To rely on Him not as dependent, weak, helpless children,
but as friends and co-workers, as younger brothers and sisters.
If I’m going to encourage you to bless others and eat with them,
it would be irresponsible for me not to also encourage you to listen to the Spirit.
Here’s some practical advice in fostering an openness to the Spirit’s promptings:
1. Set aside a designated time to listen to the Spirit.
Don’t try to connect to God the Holy Spirit on the run. Set aside a specific time each week. I’m only suggesting one, although, if you want to do it more than once a week, that would be even better. See it as a precious time alone, just between you and God.
2. Eliminate distractions.
For the person untrained in listening to the Holy Spirit, you should find ways to avoid any intrusion on the senses of touch, sight, smell, taste or sound. Music, noise in the distance, the tick of a clock, voices of people, the gentle breeze of the wind, even the written words of others in inspirational books—each can cause a distraction and prompt you to listen to what our ear or other senses are picking up. The quieter the surroundings, the more conducive to listening to the Holy Spirit. After all, Jesus taught us, “Whenever you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray … in private.” I think we ought to trust Him on this one. Find a comfortable posture most helpful to you for spiritual concentration. Closing your eyes in a dark or semi-dark room can help to eliminate any visual distractions. Only after eliminating all of these distractions, you will be ready to listen.
3. Let God in.
Don’t start your time of listening by asking questions or telling the Spirit what you want. He already knows. Start by simply enjoying God’s presence. Sit quietly and let the Holy Spirit come to you. The enemy most likely will remind you of your flaws and problems and try to discourage you. You must always remember God loves you because He created you. In times like this, I try to remember the words of St. Theresa of Avila: “If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.” If you’re an results-oriented person, you’ll be impatient to get to the point of it and ask the Spirit to grant you knowledge or wisdom or courage or righteousness, or whatever you need in your current circumstance. But before you get to that, simply abide in God’s presence. Listening to the Holy Spirit can become for you a source of comfort and great peace and a source of answers to problems. Listening to God is one of the highest forms of prayer.
4. Be willing to follow God’s promptings.
The Spirit might bring to your mind the name or the face of a person you’re to bless or eat with -- which is why you might want to begin your week with listening prayer. The Spirit might prompt you to reengage with someone you blessed last week, or bring to mind something you ought to have said to someone but didn’t. In Galatians 5:16, which reads, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh,”Paul presents the stark difference between two ways of life. You can either live by the Spirit, or you’re going to give in to your lesser angels. In other words, if we’re governed entirely by our appetites, we’re going to make some questionable choices. If however, we’ll allow the Spirit to guide us, we will be free to enjoy those appetites in a redeemed, godly fashion. To go back to what I said earlier about eating and drinking with unbelievers as a missional Christian, we need to be governed by the Spirit’s promptings to ensure we’re a godly example that arouses curiosity and interest in our faith. Behaving like everyone else isn’t all that interesting. Eating and drinking and blessing others in the way of the Spirit will be surprising to others.
The difficulty for many people seeking to live missional lives
is negotiating the extremes between being withdrawn and judgmental on the one hand
and entering fully into a social setting that might be considered ungodly on the other.
Think of those extremes.
On one end of the spectrum is the worldly Christian who carries on just like everybody else.
He drinks too much on the weekend, indulges in the occasional porn viewing,
curses like a sailor around his buddies, but is as good as gold in church.
That’s not going to provoke any questions other than “What’s the deal with the hypocrite?”
On the other end of the spectrum is the self-righteous prig who complains constantly
about everybody else’s bad behavior and refuses to interact with “those” people.
Nobody outside the church wants to be around that kind of person for very long.
Trying to figure out how to be in the middle — to be a godly, intriguing, socially adventurous, joyous presence around others—is tough.
We’re not adept enough on our own to find that balance.
That’s where the missional voice of the Spirit comes in.
The Spirit’s promptings rebuke us when we drift too far to either extreme,
gently guiding our social life in a way that promotes connection with unbelievers
while also rousing their curiosity about our faith.
That’s why listening to the Spirit is one of the five habits of highly missional people.
This coming week, as you continue to bless and eat with three people,
take time to listen to God, and see how much easier the blessing and eating becomes.
I’ll warn you: it’s an adventure. You never know for sure what’s going to happen.
This past week, I was in the drive-through line at Starbuck’s (again!) when
I was suddenly moved to pay for not only my own coffee,
but for the person behind me in line, too.
It would be my blessing for somebody outside the church.
When I got to the window,
I asked the cashier if she’d rung up the car behind me and she said yes.
I told her with a big proud smile on my face that I would pay that tab too.
She looked at the register, then at me, then at the register again.
“Are you sure?” she asked me.
I looked in my rearview mirror.
The car behind me had one person, a rather small young woman.
“Sure,” I said. “It’s my good deed for the day.”
“Okay...” the cashier said, and she took my debit card and then handed me the receipt.
As I drove off, I looked at it ... $17.
The woman behind me had ordered two expensive drinks and a sandwich.
I could almost hear the Spirit chuckling.
Life is an adventure, friends, especially if you turn it over to God.
Jesus told Nicodemus,
The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. Life is like jazz, improvisational jazz, where the musicians make it up as they go,
but somehow it all comes together and is beautiful.
It works out that way, of course, only because somebody is carrying the melody.
In life, that somebody is the Spirit, leading us in the “wind song” of faith.
You’re a missionary, Christian.
Every single one of us is here for a reason.
Our mission is to make God’s love in Christ personal – to bless – eat – and listen.
Just do it -- and the angels of God will serenade you.