Does growth happen at night or during the day? Growth is something that we spend the beginning years of life not giving a thought to. We do very little, if anything to contribute to our own growth early on. In birth, it is safe to say that we do nothing to contribute to our growth because we are not yet responsible for ourselves.
Ironically, Jesus draws a comparison to being born again or born from above as the precursor to seeing the kingdom of God. He is saying, salvation comes without your or my unction. I think Jesus’ night visitor, in Nicodemus, actually asks a pretty sincere question.
“How can someone be born when they are old? I can’t choose to reenter the womb.” He wants to know what contribution can be made to his new birth.
Jesus’ response is a spiritual one. The how of your new birth is beyond your control but the “yes” response to the invitation is your decision.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Aren’t you glad Jesus put it clearer and didn’t wax poetically? J/K, he’s a poet. Jesus is illustrating that the way of the Kingdom is not in the control of mankind. This is meant to be simple not complex but our inclination is tempted to makes things complex.
Salvation is like the wind. You know when it has arrived so let it carry you. Jesus wanted to lighten the burden and make His kingdom easy to enter. But that sinful, dark part of us wants to contribute. We want credit for our growth; we want to boast in our arrival.
I have this office plant. Her name is Penelope, Penny for short, Pen for even shorter. She was a gift from my friends the Lanes. She came from Florida in a box and was wrapped in plastic. She hopes to one day become a 4-6 ft tall palm tree/plant. I also hope she becomes a 4-6 ft tall palm tree. I water her once a week, and she sits by the window. Occasionally, I move around the soil under her and trim off her dead leaves.
When you think about my contribution and Penny’s contribution to her existence, it’s all rather simple. The labor is not intensive. She sits in the sun and soaks up water I give to her, and sometimes she hears me say how beautiful she is and that I’m proud that she is still alive.
John 3:17 reads: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him… v. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Penny was placed in the window, in the light by me but if she gets too much heat from the light too soon her leaves burn. She needs plenty of light and moderate heat.
This is my very condition; I need the light, I need the exposure of my darkness, I even need to a small or large extent others to see my darkness so they can also see how God is forming me in the light. I need to be known, in the midst of my struggle, in the midst of my dark, so I may come into the light of God to be saved and to grow.
I’ll be honest, the theory of spiritual growth puts a large emphasis on our effort, maybe even our leadership style, but spiritual growth is about posture not productivity. Jesus warns of over-productivity without an emphasis on intimacy.
You are a tree planted by living waters, you are a lily of the field, dancing in the wind, you’re a bird of the air, how often do you think they grow weary from causing their own growth? How much less should we? But a heightened awareness of who grows us and giving our time and affection to the Spirit of God, this is a good place to begin.