Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's taking shape?


5-6Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the 'wind-hovering-over-the-water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it's not possible to enter God's kingdom. When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.
(John 3:5-6 The Message)

Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness - maybe because he was a prominent religious leader of the day, afraid to be seen seeking answers from the very one that those religious leaders would ultimately send to the cross.  As the story opens for us, we see a familiar scene of Old Testament times.  The Rabbi (the teacher) would pose a question or introduce an idea that would stimulate thought and provoke conversation.  Then, in the customary manner, the Rabbi would begin to "unpack" that question.  Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus is a great teacher and that he must have been sent by God because his "works" and his "teaching" display things that Jesus could only know and do if he were "backed up" by God.  Jesus then begins the "dialogue" of the Rabbi - the teacher.

Jesus lays out the idea or concept that he will "unpack" for Nicodemus:  "You're absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to—to God's kingdom."  Now, in the customary form of the Rabbi's, Nicodemus begins to "take apart" this statement, ""How can anyone be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?"  To that, Jesus adds our passage above - with the crux of the answer being in the statement:  "But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch - the Spirit - and becomes a living spirit."

Many would say that the Rabbis were great debaters - able to set up a topic for discussion, then skilfully bring it to a place of "dissection" until all the pieces of the topic were fully understood.  Jesus is really using the "skill" of the Rabbi to bring the topic of what happens at the moment of "salvation" to light.  To the unbelieving, this is some hard, and often ethereal mystery, too difficult to fully grasp.  It needs "unpacking".  To the one who is moved upon by the Spirit of God, it begins to be understood in small ways over time.

We cannot see the Spirit in our lives - he is not something we can touch, get our hands around.  In fact, we often don't know he is there, except when we sense his "prompting" or are energized by his "infilling".  The person of the Holy Spirit has a unique purpose in our lives - our growth!  It is the Spirit that bears witness with our spirit that Jesus is the Son of God (I John 5:5-7).  It is the Spirit of God that transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).  He is at work - we don't see him - but we see "evidence" of his action.

Jesus reminds Nicodemus that a mother does not "see" the work of conception or the development of what is inside her.  She "knows" something is at work - that a baby is taking form.  That which is formed within is a mystery until it is revealed.  Today, we have 3-D Ultrasound, so the "mystery" of fetal development has really been unveiled in a whole different way than when Jesus was walking this earth.  The woman "trusted" that what was being "created" within was something that would be awesome and a delight to receive.  The same is true in our spiritual lives - the Spirit is at work bringing about what is awesome and a delight to receive.  We don't "see" it now, but just wait!

There are all kinds of mysteries at work in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within.  Those mysteries are being revealed in the right time, and in the right "framework".  Two things that go hand-in-hand:  God's timing and his framework.  He has to "frame" us in a way that makes the growth he is bringing forth in our character a lasting thing - we call that laying the foundation.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit - to lay the foundation.  Then he has to produce the "evidence" of the work at the best "timing" in our lives.  Not all growth is appreciated, but that which comes at the right "timing" is embraced in a welcoming way.  Ever wonder why events are taking place the way they are?  Perhaps it is the "framing" of our lives so that the appropriate "timing" can reveal what is taking form within!

Don't know what God is at work in your life "forming" within - but I trust him to "frame" you well, bringing about that which gives evidence to the "forming" process that is at work within!