The Church Growth Movement (CGM from here on) has forgotten many verses in the Bible, and one of them is John 3:3-8:
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.”
In the last post, I emphasized the fact that the Holy Spirit alone can cause a lost sinner to become born again. Since the result of being born again is the work of the Holy Spirit alone, it is unbiblical to think that ministry leaders can simply produce this “born again” people. Certainly, God uses the preaching/teaching/sharing of His Word with others in order to bring about others to become “born again,” but we, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, cannot cause such a miracle to happen. Demanding results in ministry reveals a lack of theological reflection on the Holy Spirit as the primary worker for God. What else does our passage above reveal about God’s working in our lives?
THE CONDITIONS FOR BECOMING “BORN AGAIN”
In verse 8 Jesus says:
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.”
Jesus, in this verse, is describing the conditions by which the Holy Spirit works upon people’s hearts to cause them to become born again. If we are using sound biblical interpretation principles to guide our thoughts, and if we are to use one key principle in guiding our thoughts about this particular passage, namely, that Scripture is to be used to interpret Scripture, we are on solid ground to assume that the Holy Spirit will only work within one’s heart where the “seed” of the Word of God is already planted (again see 1 Peter 1:23 and also 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Can we assume, however, that just because the Word of God is preached that we are “guaranteed” instant results? Is the Holy Spirit to feel compelled to move upon people’s hearts in order to save them that very day simply because we have preached or taught the Word of God that day? Clearly, from John 3:8, the answer is “No.” Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is like the wind and that the wind “blows where it wishes…” The Holy Spirit decides when He will act upon someone in order to bring them to a place of salvation. We do not decide when the Holy Spirit moves and it is not within our own will and wishes that the Holy Spirit acts, but it is based upon His own will. If it is true that the Holy Spirit can move wherever He wishes, just like the wind, then why do we, within the church, act like it’s the leaders’ fault that the Holy Spirit is not moving upon people’s hearts to save them? Based on this theological truth, why do we also have to feel like the church has failed if no one is saved that day, or even within the past 6 months? Certainly, we should be going and reaching out individually to others as God gives us the opportunity, but just because we reach out to others and share the gospel doesn’t mean that they will be saved; it is the Holy Spirit that wills this to happen, not the believer.
Furthermore, we never know when or where the Holy Spirit is going to move. Jesus said “…you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8b). We simply do not know when the Holy Spirit is going to save anybody. It’s quite possible that everyone we witness to within our lifetime never gets saved. It's quite possible that everyone we witness to within our lifetime never gets saved Click To Tweet Why is this? It’s quite possible that everyone we witness to in our life never gets saved because others’ salvation is not up to us, it is up to the Holy Spirit, of Whom we have zero control over. Does this mean we have failed if no one ever gets saved to whom we’ve preached? Based upon 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, if we are faithfully planting seeds and faithfully watering seeds, then we are doing what God has called us to do. “Failing,” based on 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, is when we are not planting and not watering God’s Word, and is not whether results are immediately reaped in abundance. God is glorified by our sharing His Word even if His Word never springs forth unto life since it is His job to actually bring those seeds to life. God never guaranteed results, He simply commands us, by His grace, to share His word with others.
A TRUE AND ENCOURAGING STORY THAT ILLUSTRATES JOHN 3
Have you ever heard of the story of Luke Short? (this story is found in Mark Dever’s book “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism,” pg. 81-83 as well as at this site). Luke Short lived in Dartmouth (England) and heard a sermon when he was 15 years old by the preacher John Flavel. Short did not accept Christ that day but was apparently listening to Flavel, unbeknownst to Flavel or anyone else. Many years later (85 years later to be exact!), Short was in New England (in America) and was out in his field farming when God brought to his remembrance the sermon that Flavel preached when he was 15 years old, and Short accepted Christ 85 years later at the ripe young age of 100! This story counteracts anything that the CGM would say is “success” and fully supports John 3 as a case study to evaluate. There’s no way that Flavel, or any other person that day at Dartmouth, would have known that God was doing anything in Luke Short’s life after the preaching was finished. For all Flavel knew, the sermon was a “dud” regarding Luke Short. There were no outward signs of repentance or weeping over sins, etc. There were no immediate, outward results to the preaching that day. Flavel was faithful in preaching the Word, and God’s seed was planted into Luke Short’s heart. God, I’m quite certain, used many other people over the next 85 years to water the seed that was planted in Short’s heart, but God did not harvest that seed until long after the preacher, Flavel, was dead. If we were deciding when Short was to be saved, it would have been at 15 years old that day when he was hearing Flavel preach. But it wasn’t until He was 100 years old that the Holy Spirit decided to “blow” upon Short’s heart and to save him. This story ought to be an encouragement to every ministry, lay leader, and church worker to know that they are doing God’s will by planting and watering seeds, even if they do not see immediate results.
You can’t plan where the ‘wind blows
You can’t control where the wind blows
You can’t predict where the wind blows
Neither can you plan, control, or predict when or where the Spirit of God will save someone. It could be today or 85 years from now. We do our job and leave the Holy Spirit’s job up to Him.
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