You Have What it Takes!
In John 3, we read the story of Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and member of the Jewish council who had previously sent a committee to investigate John the Baptist (John 1:24). After Jesus gives him the mind-bending news that he must be “born again” if he is to enter the kingdom of God, he goes on to ask Jesus how exactly this could be the case (v.3-4). We read:
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:5-8 NIV
A person’s spiritual DNA is changed at the moment of his conversion. Paul says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV. Being “born again” literally means to be born “from above” or “anew.” A person may or may not feel it, but a radical metamorphosis takes place the moment a person trusts in Christ for new life. The Spirit seals that individual (Ephesians 1:13), and he receives all the necessary ingredients for a life of following Jesus. Do all of his beliefs and behaviors radically change in that moment? No. His internal nature, however, has been fundamentally transformed. The Holy Spirit is now elevating Jesus to his rightful place of authority in this new believer’s life and he is positioned to grow. This is why you will commonly hear new Christians complain about initially feeling worse off when they first trust their lives to Jesus! They begin to feel convictions of the Spirit in ways they never before felt. This is all very healthy and a sure sign of authentic conversion.
You may ask, “So, what exactly does this have to do with discipleship to Jesus and living out a faith that follows?” The short answer is… everything! The Spirit now lives in you just as Jesus promised he would (John 14:17). This is radical empowerment. Yet we obviously equate the idea of new birth with babies and then babies with nurseries. A new believer then is seen as a “baby Christian”, who immediately gets dropped into the nursery of faith. But if you look closely at Jesus’ words, its clear that he’s painting a far different picture. When Jesus regenerates a person’s heart, he is not born into a nursery but rather, a war zone. Our birthplace is less like mother’s womb and more like battlefield earth. Placing faith in Christ immediately throws a person into the context of being led by the Spirit of God. Read the words of Christ again.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 emphasis added)
Isn’t this amazing? God the Holy Spirit now dynamically carries out his plans through willing vessels who are committed to following Jesus. Listen to how Erwin McManus describes this phenomenon:
“To have the Spirit of God dwelling within the heart of someone who chooses a domesticated faith is like having a tiger trapped within a cage. You are not intended to be a spiritual zoo where people can look at God in you from a safe distance. You are a jungle where the Spirit roams wild and free in your life. You are the recipient of the God who cannot be tamed and for a faith that must not be tamed.”
The adventure of discipleship is anything but dull. Why? Because God the Holy Spirit fuels the journey. Following Jesus is not lifeless obedience to a list of rules, but rather an active participation with the living Christ! The Spirit moves in unpredictable and awe-inspiring ways as we align our lives with Jesus. For example, the timeliness and significance of a particular passage strikes you right between the eyes as a pastor teaches from God’s word. It had to be the Lord speaking to you; there was no other explanation. Or perhaps you felt compelled to explain the gospel of Jesus with a co-worker or a stubborn family member. The Spirit gave you boldness in the moment. Or maybe you were simply reading the pages of Scripture when a truth jumped out at you bringing comfort, challenge, or conviction. Yesterday morning I was reading the account of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet in John 13. The Holy Spirit convicted my spirit through the words of Christ and I knew God was calling me to action; specifically, to quit being so self-consumed and make better efforts to serve my family at home. These are just a few examples of the countless ways the Spirit helps us obey Jesus.
 Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.), 66.
 Discipleship to Jesus and what has become known as Spiritual Formation are often confused. Dallas Willard offers a helpful clarification: “Discipleship is the decision to follow Jesus, to be his apprentice. This is about positioning yourself, making yourself available for God to use you. Spiritual formation, on the other hand, is the direct action of the Holy Spirit upon the inner person.” (From Willard’s Plenary Address at the Spiritual Formation Forum, Los Angeles, May 13, 2004, cited in Hull. Christlike,102,202.