The distinguished Jewish theologian could no longer deny the miraculous power of God at work in the life and ministry of the Galilean. Nor could he quench his thirst to meet Jesus face to face.
So, humbling himself and putting his reputation on the line, Nicodemus went one night to confess that Jesus was from God and inquire of Him the way of salvation.
Jesus responded to Israel's prominent thinker by making an issue of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. No one can enter the kingdom of God without a spiritual transformation, Jesus explained, and this requires the Spirit of God to bring about the miracle of regeneration.
Just as a natural birth is necessary for one to enter and become aware of the human family, we be born again, born of the Spirit, in order to grasp the reality and relationships of the kingdom of God. Furthermore, admission to the kingdom of God is never by the proud prerogative of race, status, nation, class, or gender. It is certainly not by heredity! All who enter the kingdom of God must be born into it by the Spirit. This spiritual birth is an act of God.
Jesus was faithful to explain to Nicodemus the one simple condition for being born again: believing in God's one and only Son who was lifted up (crucified) for our sins (John 3:14-21). The evidence that one has truly believed (come into the light), Jesus said, is that he lives by the truth (John 3:21).
The wind blows where it pleases, Jesus said, conditioning Nicodemus for accepting the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. This seeking Pharisee represented an institutional religion that thrived on writing dogmas and building walls-dogmas of condemnation and walls of exclusion. He belonged to a tradition that arrogantly drew lines and decreed, "Here within this perimeter the grace and power of God must operate according to our set rules, and beyond these lines all else is heresy and damnation!"
It has been the everlasting temptation of organized religion to try and direct the operations of the Holy Spirit to say what miracles He can and cannot perform, to dictate what gifts He can and cannot give, to determine on whom He can and cannot fall.
No! Dear friends, the wind blows where it pleases! Not where our pride and prejudices prohibit, not where our dogmas demand, not where our fears forbid!
Those of us who are engaged in revival work should lead the way in repenting of our sins of spiritual pride and unbelief shown in our attempts to control the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we have longed only for His gentle breeze in order to refresh the saints, reunite the members, replenish the treasury, and restore the church's reputation in the community.
But the Spirit of revival is not always the comforting, accommodating force we had hoped. We must be willing for Him to come as He chooses - perhaps as a tornado to destroy our idols and blow down our walls. Like Nicodemus, we need to be reminded that the Spirit of God must be free to embarrass our rigid theological positions or bypass our proud ecclesiastical forms.
The anointed Scottish preacher James S. Steward once cautioned the church against quenching the Spirit:
"Don't try to tame that intractable wind. No set of Convocation or Assembly can circumscribe it, no arrogant political dictator can curb it, no rooted personal prejudice can patronize it. It is master of the world.
"And-don't you see? This is the essential optimism of Christianity. Here in the Spirit of Christ is a force capable of bursting into the hardest paganism, discomfiting the most rigid dogmatism, electrifying the most suffocating ecclesiasticism.
"This is the sovereign freedom of the Holy Spirit. There is no citadel of self and sin that is safe from Him, no unbelieving cynic secure beyond His reach. There is no ironclad bastion of theological self-confidence He cannot disturb into faith, no ancient animosities He cannot reconcile. And blessed be His name, there is no winter death of the soul that He cannot quicken into a blossoming springtime of life, no dry bones He cannot vitalize into a marching army! This is the glory of Pentecost."
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us join with Christ's apostles and revivalists across the ages and surrender our prejudices, pride, fear, dogmas, and unbelief to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. Then let us fast, pray, and believe for howling winds and refining fires of Pentecost. Let us allow His holy fire to burn up our chaff of unbelief, disobedience, selfishness, worldliness, and division. Then let us hoist our sails into His holy winds and prove the Holy Spirit's mighty power to save, sanctify, and empower us to reach our imploding nation before it is too late.