I live in a country, Japan, where less than one percent of the population is Christian.
It’s been that way as long as I can remember. And it can be easy to despair. To wonder if things can ever change.
But in this passage, Jesus says two important things about salvation.
First, to be saved, we need to be born again. Another way to translate that, is “born from above.”
What does that mean, “born from above”? (3, 7)
I think Jesus clarifies his meaning in verse 5.
Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
There are multiple interpretations of this verse, but I think the answer is found in Ezekiel 36:25-27 where God says,
I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.
Here God tells the Jews who are in exile, “I will bring you back to Israel, and at that time, I will cleanse you of your sins, and place my Spirit in you.”
The interesting thing is that God does not do this because they are so good or have repented. Instead, he makes it clear that he’s doing it in order to show his own holiness to the nations (22-23, 32). Only after God works his salvation do his people repent of their sin (31).
What does this have to do with Japan? Or for America or any other nation for that matter?
It has to do with the second thing Jesus teaches here: salvation will only come when the Spirit of God moves, cleansing people of their sin and coming to dwell in their hearts. Unless he works, there is no hope.
The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
Jesus is doing a word play here: the words wind and Spirit are the same in the Greek. And whenever you see someone become a Christian, you see someone the Spirit has touched. You may not know how he worked in their lives or what brought to them that point. They themselves might not realize until years later exactly what the Spirit did. But their changed lives are proof of his work.
We don’t know where the Spirit will blow next. But he will blow. And that’s what we need to pray for. That he will blow in the hearts of the people around us. In our cities. In our nations. In our world.
For only in him, will we ever see changed hearts and lives.
Holy Spirit, blow in the lives of our nation. Blow in the lives of the people around us, especially those we love. Only you can change the human heart. So blow. Breathe life into people. And blow in our lives. Use us as your instruments to touch the people around us. In Jesus name, amen.