By: Matthew Chapman, Forge Tyler Hub Director
Living on mission with Jesus is as “real time” as it gets. Each day begins as a blank canvass, and our walking with Him into life and engaging the people and circumstances before us can be as the paintbrush that The Artist uses to define and color a unique daily portrait of what is in His heart.
And so the adventure begins.
Who will we see and run into? What new people will we meet? What needs will present themselves in conversations? How will we answer heartfelt questions that are put to us? What wisdom will be required to convey His good news and grace in a way that truly imparts life and gives real help? In what way do we manage this day’s relationships and responsibilities? How do we fit in spontaneous opportunities with what we already have scheduled & planned? What will we do with the unforeseen curve balls that will inevitably get thrown our way?
Let’s be honest—we have no idea! Yet these are all aspects of being an active and alert follower of Jesus. It’s a lot to juggle and can feel overwhelming, and truthfully, in our own strength, it is. Thankfully, He has a beautiful way in which to walk this out that allows us to handle the outward stress with incredible inward peace and see His kingdom come. The answer?
Flow. Flow with Him.
How many of us think of ourselves as “wind”? For all of the countless sermons, books, seminars, and blog posts that exhort us in the glorious truths about who we are in Christ, this one, unfortunately, seldom ever gets even a blip on the radar screen. But what did Jesus say? “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; SO IS EVERYONE WHO IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT” (John 3:8). Did you get that? Wind is what He is saying we are like! Wind moves and flows. You can’t box it up or package it, and it’s completely now. And as the power behind the movement, we seldom fully know where He is coming from or where this is all going, but we’re made to be there in/with Him, in the moment, flowing with what He has. Do you identify with this reality?
Flowing is exactly what Jesus modeled as an example for us as He walked the earth and encountered the people and circumstances of His daily life. He repeatedly said that He “did nothing on His own initiative, but He only did the things He saw, and only spoke the things He heard, from the Father.” How did He know who to approach, how to answer, where to go, when to withdraw, in what way to heal, or what words of life to speak? He “saw” and “heard” these things from the Father. And just where exactly did He hear and see these things? In the kingdom of God—the glorious domain of God in the Spirit that He abided in and spoke of unceasingly as He also walked the earth in a body of flesh.
Look at His approach to the woman caught in adultery, the centurion who came to Him about his sick servant, Zacchaeus, the “rich young ruler,” Mary & Martha, Pontius Pilate, the woman who touched His garment, the man possessed by Legion, the Samaritan woman at the well, and the man born blind, just to name a few. He brought good news and demonstration of the kingdom of God to all of them, but in such amazingly different ways that were perfectly tailored to each of them. How did He know? He flowed with the Father’s leading in the moment.
How does it work for us? The same way! It’s gloriously profound and yet quite simple. Let’s explore “the wind” metaphor in its context…
In a conversation Jesus was having, He said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God,” and then He reiterated, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are born of water and of the Spirit, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:1-12). Now most of us, because of what we’ve been taught, read these words with our Protestant/Evangelical glasses on and this is what we immediately hear in our brain: “unless you’re born again, you won’t go to heaven when you die.”
While there’s certainly truth to that, this is not specifically what Jesus was talking about here. Read it again. There’s no talk of dying or the afterlife here. He was saying that, unless you’re born of the Spirit, you cannot “see” or “enter into” something—namely, the kingdom of God—and it’s something to be seen and entered into here and now, in this life. If you have any doubt on this point, look at verses 9-12 where Jesus said “we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen,” and He referred to this reality as an “earthly thing,” contrasting it with “heavenly things.”
Right now, as I write this, the United States is in the middle of a presidential election season. If we were having a conversation and I said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age, and registered to vote, you cannot see a voting booth,” and then I said again, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you are a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age, and registered to vote, you cannot enter into a voting booth,” there is absolutely no way you would interpret this as me saying that unless you are a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age, and registered to vote, you will not go to a voting booth when you die. Rather, you would clearly understand that I was communicating what makes you eligible to participate in the election.
It’s no different here. Being born of the Spirit is the prerequisite for seeing and entering into—actively participating in—the kingdom of God. And why is that? Because the new birth fundamentally transforms us, making us “alive together with Christ,” and gives us these innate abilities to see and enter into what He’s doing and move fluidly with the King in the here and now. This is why Jesus immediately goes on to say, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; SO IS EVERYONE WHO IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT” (John 3:8). In Him, we’re made to flow with His Spirit. It’s who we already are. And like everything else, in terms of walking it out, we just have to learn to use what we’ve already been given and develop this capacity over time through real life situations and experiences.
So close is this wind metaphor to the reality we are called to live, the word in the original Greek translated “wind” in this John 3:8 passage—pneuma—is the exact same word that is translated “Spirit” in the very same verse (and the rest of the New Testament for that matter)! The only way you know which way to translate it is by context. With that in mind, consider afresh that “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one Spirit with him” (1 Cor. 6:17). You could translate that as “one wind with Him” but we know by context that Paul was meaning “Spirit,” and yet the reality and the metaphor are still shouting at us, inviting us into movement with Him!
Most of us would prefer to think of ourselves as an inanimate object, like a ship that sits dead in the water until we put up our sails, and then, as the Spirit blows we catch the wind and have movement. But this is not what Jesus said. He said, “The wind blows… so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” We are not separate and inert, we are one with Him!
How did Jesus, who did nothing on His own initiative, model this? He flowed. He “saw” what the Father was doing and He “entered into” it by doing likewise. The same with the things He said and what He shared with people. And this is still His very way He now lives incarnationally in/thru us by the Spirit. Remember, this life that we now live in the flesh, as members of His body… “it’s no longer I who lives, but [this same] Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). He doesn’t even want us to worry about or prepare beforehand what we’re going to say or how we’re going to answer because “it will be given [to us] in that hour what [we] are to say, for it is not [us] who speaks, but the Spirit of [our] Father who speaks in [us]” (Matt. 10:16-20, Luke 21:13-15). In other words, we flow with His Spirit by faith in the moment. As we do, He, in turn, flows through our experience, revelation, knowledge of scripture, personality, resources, weaknesses, etc., in whatever ways He wants. It’s a beautiful dance!
Real Jesus, through real people, in real time! This is the point at which we see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. This is the power of His life at work in real time to impact those stuck in death with not only the good news of the kingdom but a living demonstration of it. This is where heaven and earth intersect and prisoners get set free, captives released, the blind receive sight, revelation is spawned, hearts are encouraged, fellow believers are built up, enemies are confounded, and the gates of hell cannot withstand the forward motion. We simply have to be willing to learn to walk into life emptied, vulnerable, and available to Him for these customized, unique masterpieces to be sculpted into the conversations and situations that present themselves each day.
So wherever you are, start, or continue as the case may be. As you go about doing daily life, watch for His leading, His impetus, His nudging, His directive, and when you “see” it, “enter into” it by stepping into the flow and acting upon it. Discern His approach and timing. Listen for His words of life, wisdom, and specific things He will give you to share, and as you hear them, speak them in love. Don’t hold back and don’t add to it. Just convey His heart, His truth, His life. This is the reign of the King in motion. This is His kingdom advancing. The “territory” of the hearts and lives that are affected is His kingdom enlarging.
Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will you miss it at times? Yep. Might that cause you embarrassment and messes to clean up? Uh huh. Yet look at the learning experiences of the twelve men Jesus discipled and take comfort, keep at it, and develop the capacity. And consider the outcome—“as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the [mature] sons of God”—and the impact on eternity!
We “enter the kingdom as children,” Jesus said. So have fun, enjoy the adventure, and savor the glory of Jesus being Himself through you, and collectively, through us!