Ill Winds (2)
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2.12
Blows where He will
All who believe in Jesus Christ have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. If you believe in Jesus, and look to Him for salvation and life, then the Spirit of God is in you; because, only the Spirit of God can bring you to this place of being able to believe and confess God as your true and only Father (Gal. 4.6). Because the Spirit of God dwells in us, we have become temples of God, focal points for worship, holiness, glory, mission, and the joy of the Lord (1 Cor 6.19).
Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to a Wind from God: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3.8). Indeed, in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the same word that means “spirit” can also mean “wind” or “breath.” Believers in Jesus Christ have the very Breath of God breathing within them, breathing thoughts, affections, and holy spiritual power to transform us increasingly into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18), so that we might glorify God in all the everyday moments and activities of our lives (1 Cor. 10.31).
Because the Spirit of God is in us, we can know the things that have been freely given to us by God. Let us not fail to see what a glorious privilege, noble calling, and thrilling portent are contained in those words. God has given us things which we can know, that is, understand, embrace, assimilate, adopt, perform, and proclaim. By giving us His Word, God opens to us the mysteries of our great salvation, that we might know the full freedom of the sons and daughters of God, to live in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. By His Word He opens to us full understanding into the world around us, that we might see it as His handiwork, receive as His gift, use it as His stewards, and join with it our voices to praise and thank our God. He has given us His Church, the Body of Christ on earth, of which we are members, and for the building of which He has gifted us each one with holy spiritual abilities that carry us forward in seeking His Kingdom and glory.
We have the Spirit of God. The Breath of God heaves within us. The Wind of God blows upon us. The Spirit of God operates to renew our spirit in the likeness of Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God within us is powerful. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than all that we could ever ask or think in making us willing and able to do that which realizes the pleasure of God (Eph. 3.20; Phil. 2.13).
But we must be able to identify this holy and powerful Wind from the Lord, that we might incline faithfully toward it. And to that end, we will look to Jonathan Edwards for guidance.
The wind of the Spirit
In his sermon, “Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God,” Jonathan Edwards helps us identify the Wind of God, so that we may hoist the sails of our vessel of faith into the jet stream of His power. Edwards noted five marks in particular that identify the true Wind of God.
First, where the Wind of God is blowing and the Breath of God is heaving, esteem for Jesus increases, as the Spirit “seems more to confirm and establish” our minds in “the truth of what the Gospel declares to us of His being the Son of God, and the Savior of men.” Growing in love for Jesus, looking more constantly to Him, desiring to be made more like Him, and to take up His calling for us – these are sure signs that the Wind of God is filling our sails and directing our course.
Second, Edwards notes, “When the spirit that is at work operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom, which lies in encouraging and establishing sin, and cherishing man’s worldly lusts; this is a sure sign that it is a true, and not a false spirit.” The Holy Spirit is a sanctifying Spirit; He leads us to hate sin and to love righteousness; to deny fleshly and selfish lusts and to seek only what pleases and honors God.
Third, “The spirit that operates in such a manner, as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity, is certainly the Spirit of God.” As the Spirit fills your sails and breathes through your soul, your love for the Word of God will increase, so that you will regard the Scriptures as “the joy and rejoicing” of your heart (Jer. 15.16).
Fourth, the Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth. He makes us hungry for truth, to know all things, everything that pertains to our lives in this world, from the vantage point of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. The Spirit of God works to convince us “of those things that are true” and in accord with God’s Word and will. No wonder Jesus calls His followers “disciples”, for the root of this word means “learner” – one who, by the indwelling Spirit of God – hungers for the truth of God (Jn. 17.21).
Finally, Edwards explained, “If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God.” The goal of all Christian instruction is love, wrote Paul (1 Tim. 1.5); thus, we can know the Spirit is filling the sails of our soul, and we are breathing with the very Breath of God, as the wake of our journey leaves a trail of love wherever we go.
The winds of this world
These five marks indicate the breathing, blowing, empowering, and transforming Presence of the Spirit of God: Love for Jesus, hatred of sin, increasing desire for God’s Word, commitment to God’s truth, and devotion to loving God and neighbors. This is the Spirit Who lives in everyone who believes in Jesus, and Who breathes and blows upon our souls to make us more like Him.
But this is not the spirit blowing across the face of the world in our day. The high and holy jet stream of the Spirit of God is being undermined by prevailing winds of a different sort, and the majority of the peoples of the world have hoisted their sails into these. It is no wonder that regard for Jesus is in decline, that indulgence in all manner of sinfulness is increasing, that God’s Word is neglected and scorned, that the reality of truth is regarded as a matter of private choice, and that love for neighbors has been replaced by love for self and tribe.
The people among whom believers must make their journey in life have raised their sails into contrary winds; and the temptation is very great – given the overall direction of the vast majority of people – to hoist our canvas into those winds as well, thinking that we can sail both by the Wind of God and winds of the world.
Only as we recognize both the character of God’s true Wind, and the deceitful, dangerous, and deadly winds of the world, can we avoid becoming shipwrecked on the hidden reefs of sin and defeated in our journey to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Why is “Wind” or “Breath” a good way to think about the Spirit of God?
2. Why is it important to understand the “marks” of the Spirit’s blowing?
3. How can we know if our “sails” have become captive to the winds of the world?
Next steps – Preparation: Meditate on Edwards’ five marks of the Spirit. Which of these do you need to know more of in your own life?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.