‘Africa Tap’

Andrew Smith

This is the solo guitar version of ‘Africa Tap’ that Andrew has been playing in concert for the past several months. It is a piece of music that was written for the independent film ‘An Orphan’s Dream’. Last year he travelled with the small film crew to South Africa and to Liberia
as he was writing the song. The song was written for a remarkable young man from Liberia named Philip Pleiwon. And the film is a fascinating account of his life story told in images, music and by Philip himself walking them through the places and stories of growing up in
the war-ravaged nation of Liberia.
Andrew Smith

ABSOLUTE SURRENDER

by Andrew Murray – Absolute Surrender

“And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Ben-hadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of
Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine and all that I have”
(1 Ki. 20:1-4).

What Ben Hadad asked was absolute surrender; and what Ahab gave was what was asked of him – absolute surrender. I want to use these words: “My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have,” as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of God ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but
we need to hear it very definitely – the condition of God’s blessing is absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and to the blessing God will bestow.

Absolute surrender – let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often, and you have heard them numberless times. But in Scotland once I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ’s Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is; and there was in our company a godly
worker who has much to do in training workers, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church, and the message that ought to be preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:

“Absolute surrender to God is the one thing.”

The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how, in the workers with whom he had to deal, he finds that if they are sound on that point, even though they be backward, they are willing to be taught and helped, and they always improve; whereas others who are not sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition for obtaining God’s full blessing is
absolute surrender to Him.

And now, I desire by God’s grace to give to you this message – that your God in Heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for blessing on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? What is our answer to be? God knows there are hundreds of hearts who have said it, and there
are hundreds more who long to say it but hardly dare to do so. And there are hearts who have said it, but who have yet miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned because they did not find the secret of the power to live that life. May God have a word for all!

Let me say, first of all, that God claims it from us.

God Expects Your Surrender

Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God. God cannot do otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of existence and power and goodness, and throughout the universe there is nothing good but what God works. God has created the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the flowers, and the trees, and the grass; and are they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow
God to work in them just what He pleases? When God clothes the lily with its beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God as He works in it its beauty? And God’s redeemed children, oh, can you think that God can work His work if there is only half or a part of them surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, and love, and blessing, and power, and infinite beauty, and God delights to communicate Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him; but ah! this one lack of
absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.

You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. This coat is absolutely given up
to me to, cover my body. This building is entirely given up to religious services. And now, do you expect that in your immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received by regeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot. The Temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one condition – absolute
surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.

God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.

God Accomplishes Your Surrender

I am sure there is many a heart that says: “Ah, but that absolute surrender implies so much!” Someone says: “Oh, I have passed through so much trial and suffering, and there is so much of the self-life still remaining, and I dare not face the entire giving of it up, because I know it will cause so much trouble and agony.”

Alas! alas! that God’s children have such thoughts of Him, such cruel thoughts. Oh, I come to you with a message, fearful and anxious one. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you. Do we not read: “It is God that worketh in us, both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13)? And that is what we should seek for – to
go on our faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong, to conquer what is evil, and to work what is well-pleasing in His blessed sight. God Himself will work it in you.

Look at the men in the Old Testament, like Abraham. Do you think it was by accident that God found that man, the father of the faithful and the Friend of God, and that it was Abraham himself, apart from God, who had such faith and such obedience and such devotion? You know it is not so. God raised him up and prepared him as an instrument for His glory.

Did not God say to Pharaoh: “For this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power” (Ex. 9:16)?

And if God said that of him, will not God say it far more of every child of His?

Oh, I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear. Come with that feeble desire; and if there is the fear which says: “Oh, my desire is not strong enough, I am not willing for everything that may come, I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything” – I pray you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say: “My God, I am willing that Thou shouldst make me willing.” If there is
anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now, and prove how gracious your God is, and be not afraid that He will command from you what He will not bestow.

God comes and offers to work this absolute surrender in you. All these searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell you they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus. He lived a life of absolute surrender, He has possession of you; He is living in your heart by His Holy Spirit. You have hindered and hindered Him terribly, but He desires to help you to get hold of Him
entirely. And He comes and draws you now by His message and words. Will you not come and trust God to work in you that absolute surrender to Himself? Yes, blessed be God, He can do it, and He will do it.

God not only claims it and works it, but God accepts it when we bring it to Him.

God Accepts Your Surrender

God works it in the secret of our heart, God urges us by the hidden power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to bring and to yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when you come and bring God that absolute surrender, it may, as far as your feelings or your consciousness go, be a thing of great imperfection, and you may doubt and hesitate and say:

“Is it absolute?”

But, oh, remember there was once a man to whom Christ had said:

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23).

And his heart was afraid, and he cried out:

“Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

That was a faith that triumphed over the Devil, and the evil spirit was cast out. And if you come and say: “Lord, I yield myself in absolute surrender to my God,” even though it be with a trembling heart and with the consciousness: “I do not feel the power, I do not feel the determination, I do not feel the assurance,” it will succeed. Be not afraid, but come just as you are, and even in the midst of your
trembling the power of the Holy Spirit will work.

Have you never yet learned the lesson that the Holy Spirit works with mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. We read that He, “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14), offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The Almighty Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony and fear and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed!
Externally, you can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but the Spirit of God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and fighting and trembling, in faith in the hidden work of God’s Spirit do not fear, but yield yourself.

And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be in the faith that God does now accept of it. That is the great point, and that is what we so often miss – that believers should be thus occupied with God in this matter of surrender. I pray you, be occupied with God. We want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily life God shall be clearer to us, God shall have the right place, and
be “all in all.” And if we are to have that through life, let us begin now and look away from ourselves, and look up to God. Let each believe – while I, a poor worm on earth and a trembling child of God, full of failure and sin and fear, bow here, and no one knows what passes through my heart, and while I in simplicity say, O God, I accept Thy terms; I have pleaded for blessing on myself and others, I have accepted Thy terms of absolute surrender – while your heart says that in deep
silence, remember there is a God present that takes note of it, and writes it down in His book, and there is a God present who at that very moment takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may not realize it, but God takes possession if you will trust Him.

God not only claims it, and works it, and accepts it when I bring it, but God maintains it.

God Maintains Your Surrender

That is the great difficulty with many. People say: “I have often been stirred at a meeting, or at a convention, and I have consecrated myself to God, but it has passed away. I know it may last for a week or for a month, but away it fades, and after a time it is all gone.”

But listen! It is because you do not believe what I am now going to tell you and remind you of. When God has begun the work of absolute surrender in you, and when God has accepted your surrender, then God holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it. Will you believe that?

In this matter of surrender there are two: God and I – I a worm, God the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah. Worm, will you be afraid to trust yourself to this mighty God now? God is willing. Do you not believe that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by moment?

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;

Moment by moment I’ve life from above.

If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment, without intermission, will not God let His life shine upon you every moment? And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that trust.

A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. Yes, it has something far more than difficulties: it is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us, praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it.

Some of you have read the words of that aged saint who, on his ninetieth birthday, told of all God’s goodness to him – I mean George Muller. What did he say he believed to be the secret of his happiness, and of all the blessing which God had given him? He said he believed there were two reasons. The one was that he had been enabled by grace to maintain a good conscience before God day by day; the other
was, that he was a lover of God’s Word. Ah, yes, a good conscience is complete obedience to God day by day, and fellowship with God every day in His Word, and prayer – that is a life of absolute surrender.

Such a life has two sides – on the one side, absolute surrender to work what God wants you to do; on the other side, to let God work what He wants to do.

First, to do what God wants you to do.

Give up yourselves absolutely to the will of God. You know something of that will; not enough, far from all. But say absolutely to the Lord God: “By Thy grace I desire to do Thy will in everything, every moment of every day.” Say: “Lord God, not a word upon my tongue but for Thy glory, not a movement of my temper but for Thy glory, not an affection of love or hate in my heart but for Thy glory, and according
to Thy blessed will.”

Someone says: “Do you think that possible?”

I ask, What has God promised you, and what can God do to fill a vessel absolutely surrendered to Him? Oh, God wants to bless you in a way beyond what you expect. From the beginning, ear hath not heard, neither hath the eye seen, what God hath prepared for them that wait for Him (1 Cor. 2:9). God has prepared unheard-of things, blessings much more wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive. They
are divine blessings. Oh, say now:

“I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God wants.”

It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender.

And, on the other side, come and say: “I give myself absolutely to God, to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He has promised to do.”

Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we cannot understand, but that God’s Word has revealed, and He wants to work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike, and unbounded trust.

God Blesses When You Surrender

This absolute surrender to God will wonderfully bless.

What Ahab said to his enemy, King Ben-hadad – “My lord, O king, according to thy word I am thine, and all that I have” – shall we not say to our God and loving Father? If we do say it, God’s blessing will come upon us. God wants us to be separate from the world; we are called to come out from the world that hates God. Come out for God, and say: “Lord, anything for Thee.” If you say that with prayer,
and speak that into God’s ear, He will accept it, and He will teach you what it means.

I say again, God will bless you. You have been praying for blessing. But do remember, there must be absolute surrender. At every tea-table you see it. Why is tea poured into that cup? Because it is empty, and given up for the tea. But put ink, or vinegar, or wine into it, and will they pour the tea into the vessel? And can God fill you, can God bless you if you are not absolutely surrendered to Him? He
cannot. Let us believe God has wonderful blessings for us, if we will but stand up for God, and say, be it with a trembling will, yet with a believing heart:

“O God, I accept Thy demands. I am thine and all that I have. Absolute surrender is what my soul yields to Thee by divine grace.”

You may not have such strong and clear feelings of deliverances as you would desire to have, but humble yourselves in His sight, and acknowledge that you have grieved the Holy Spirit by your self-will, self-confidence, and self-effort. Bow humbly before him in the confession of that, and ask him to break the heart and to bring you into the dust before Him. Then, as you bow before Him, just accept God’s
teaching that in your flesh “there dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18), and that nothing will help you except another life which must come in. You must deny self once for all. Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.

When was Peter delivered? When was the change accomplished? The change began with Peter weeping, and the Holy Spirit came down and filled his heart.

God the Father loves to give us the power of the Spirit. We have the Spirit of God dwelling within us. We come to God confessing that, and praising God for it, and yet confessing how we have grieved the Spirit. And then we bow our knees to the Father to ask that He would strengthen us with all might by the Spirit in the inner man, and that He would fill us with His mighty power. And as the Spirit reveals
Christ to us, Christ comes to live in our hearts forever, and the self-life is cast out.

Let us bow before God in humility, and in that humility confess before Him the state of the whole Church. No words can tell the sad state of the Church of Christ on earth. I wish I had words to speak what I sometimes feel about it. Just think of the Christians around you. I do not speak of nominal Christians, or of professing Christians, but I speak of hundreds and thousands of honest, earnest Christians
who are not living a life in the power of God or to His glory. So little power, so little devotion or consecration to God, so little perception of the truth that a Christian is a man utterly surrendered to God’s will! Oh, we want to confess the sins of God’s people around us, and to humble ourselves. We are members of that sickly body, and the sickliness of the body will hinder us, and break us down, unless we come to God, and in confession separate ourselves from partnership with
worldliness, with coldness toward each other, unless we give up ourselves to be entirely and wholly for God.

How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy – our will and our thoughts about the work – is continually manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and upon the power of the Holy Spirit! Let us make confession. But as we confess the state of the Church and the feebleness and sinfulness
of work for God among us, let us come back to ourselves. Who is there who truly longs to be delivered from the power of the self-life, who truly acknowledges that it is the power of self and the flesh, and who is willing to cast all at the feet of Christ? There is deliverance.

I heard of one who had been an earnest Christian, and who spoke about the “cruel” thought of separation and death. But you do not think that, do you? What are we to think of separation and death? This: death was the path to glory for Christ. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross. The cross was the birthplace of His everlasting glory. Do you love Christ? Do you long to be in Christ, and not like
Him? Let death be to you the most desirable thing on earth – death to self, and fellowship with Christ. Separation – do you think it a hard thing to be called to be entirely free from the world, and by that separation to be united to God and His love, by separation to become prepared for living and walking with God every day? Surely one ought to say:

“Anything to bring me to separation, to death, for a life of full fellowship with God and Christ.”

Come and cast this self-life and flesh-life at the feet of Jesus. Then trust Him. Do not worry yourselves with trying to understand all about it, but come in the living faith that Christ will come into you with the power of His death and the power of His life; and then the Holy Spirit will bring the whole Christ – Christ crucified and risen and living in glory – into your heart.

Windblown: What Life in Him Looks Like


By Wayne Jacobsen

BodyLife • February 2007

He was a religious leader who sought Jesus out in the dark of night. He knew Jesus’ miracles were proof that God was with him and he wanted to be part of his kingdom. But he had no idea what it would demand from him.

Perhaps Nicodemus wanted some instructions to follow, new rules that would let him in on the life Jesus lived. But Jesus didn’t offer any. He simply told him that he needed to be born all over again. The idea sent Nicodemus’ head spinning as he tried to conceive how he, an old man, could be born a second time. Jesus must have smiled at the thought. It was not a physical rebirth that Nicodemus needed, but a spiritual one. He already knew all too well how to live as a human in the world. If he was going to see into the reality of this coming kingdom he needed a rebirth of the Spirit. Why? Because nothing in this kingdom can be seen, embraced or pursued by the flesh no matter how well intentioned. It runs contrary to every way our flesh sees and acts.

What’s surprising here is that there was no conflict between Nicodemus’ flesh and being a religious leader. While his religion at one level sought to restrain his fleshy appetites, it also provided a way for it to satisfy others, such as a lust for power or spiritual status. But the kingdom Jesus was bringing was different. It offered Nicodemus not another performance standard but a completely different way of living. To embrace that would take a rebirth of the Spirit that would open his spiritual eyes. And that’s when Jesus drops the bombshell. 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)

I could understand how the Spirit was like the wind that we can’t define or control, but the thought that those who are born of him are like that as well captured my heart the first time I heard thes words as a young man. I don’t even remember who was reading them or where I was, but I remember to this day how those words filled my heart with an irresistible call of mystery and adventure. Every time I’ve read John’s gospel since, those words re-ignite that same passion of living that religion at it’s best could never produce.

Born Again

We have certainly cheapened this passage in the past 50 years by applying the term ‘born again’ to those who have said a sinner’s prayer, been baptized, or those who go to a ‘Bible-believing’ fellowship as opposed to a more liberal one. The term ‘born again’ is often used today synonymously with the term ‘evangelical’ to validate a conservative brand of Christianity and question the faith of others who don’t use the same label. We have turned a term Jesus used to invite people into his kingdom into the most divisive term in Christendom, proving that we missed his point entirely.

If Jesus were going to define his kingdom by a creed, this was his time to say it. If Nicodemus could see the kingdom by participating in certain rituals or sacraments or ascribing to the ethics of a Godly life, Jesus would have told him here. Jesus was not refining the religion of the Old Covenant; he was offering a new way of living that was indefinable and incomprehensible to the natural mind.

Nicodemus didn’t need new principles; he needed to start his spiritual journey all over again. The religion he knew so well could never evolve into a life-transforming faith. Being born again meant that in spiritual things he needed to lay down everything he thought he knew and learn a life based on the Spirit. Jesus knew that would be difficult for a man so steeped in religion, and Nicodemus’ ensuing struggle over Jesus’ words demonstrated how right he was.

And so it is with us. The more we have been schooled in religious activity, the more difficult it is to see this kingdom for what it really is. We have millions of people on the planet today claiming to be born again who don’t have the foggiest idea who Jesus is or how to live in his reality. They may subscribe to Christian beliefs, follow Christian ethics and practice Christian rituals, but they do not know how to ride the wind of his Spirit and be transformed by him.

Being born again is a real process that opens our eyes and heart to participate in a kingdom that supersedes the material world we’ve all been taught to live in.

Riding the Wind

To illustrate this rebirth Jesus turns to the wind as a metaphor and describes three things that are true about it.

It blows where it wills. No man controls the wind. Even with our increased technology it is controlled by forces larger than humanity can influence. There are times we might like for it to stop or blow a different direction, but there isn’t a blasted thing we can do about it.

You hear its sound. While the wind is invisible, we can hear it, feel it on the skin and see its effects on the world around us. We’ve just endured about a week’s worth of Santa Ana winds that consistently blew 25-30 miles per hour and often gusted up to 50. One morning our street was filled with garbage as trashcans had been overturned on collection day.

You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. Haven’t you ever wondered where all that wind comes from and where it ends up? I know it swirls around high and low pressure areas, but I don’t know where the wind swirling around my face began that morning or where it will end that evening.

What an excellent metaphor to describe the working of the Spirit. He is like the wind, blowing where he wills, unseen but not knowable and it is true that we mostly have no idea what he’s up to on any given day. And while all that may be true, that’s not what Jesus was saying. He compares the wind to everyone born of the Spirit.

That’s you and me! Those born of the Spirit move in this world just as Jesus described the wind. They live out of different motivations. You can see the impact they have, even if you can’t figure out why they’re doing what they do.

People like that used to drive me nuts. When I was a pastor, it bothered me that some of the most spiritual men and women I came across, wouldn’t fit into the program the way I wanted them to. They were uninterested in staff positions I dangled before them, and they declined invitations to join our elders. Maybe they weren’t as spiritual as I thought.

I came to find out, however, that they were tuned to a higher frequency. When I expressed my frustration to one of them, he answered. “I don’t know that I can explain it, but one day you’ll know.”

I didn’t like his answer at all until I heard myself saying almost the exact same words five years later to a group of elders courting me to become their next pastor.

Blown by a Different Wind

Unfortunately most believers have never been exposed to life in Christ like this. They have seen Christianity only as a religion with truths to learn, rules to follow and rituals to observe and have missed the beauty of what life in Jesus can be.

I love the way Paul expressed this to Timothy in warning him to keep the main issue the main issue: “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.” (1 Timothy 1:5 – The Message)

This is a life of love, not obligation. It is not what we know about God that matters as much as knowing his affection for us, and loving others in the same way. Timothy needed to keep that in mind especially where believers had become more enamored with doctinal controversies of doctrine, rather than living in love.

Notice that this love is uncontaminated by self-interest. We all know what it is to live to our own self-interest, looking to maximize our benefit or to minimize our pain in the circumstances we face. We learned to survive that way in the world. But the wind Jesus was revealing to Nicodemus doesn’t operate on self-interest, but the self-giving love of God. That’s what will mark his people in the world. It’s not hard for us to understand people controlled by self-interest, even when they use their religion to advance their personal goals or say it is in love. But we don’t understand people who live by the laying-down-their-lives kind of love that only Jesus can shape in us. Those who are well loved will love well.

I used to think that Christian growth came by learning new truths and putting them into practice. While that can be helpful, more often than not it doesn’t work. How many of us have heard a powerful sermon or read an inspired book ready to embrace its message and committed to living it out, and then failed to follow through? Then we blame ourselves for not trying hard enough and only ended up with another standard by which to measure our failures.

That’s why he said the Spirit would lead his followers into all truth (John 15). This was not something we could do on our own, like studying algebra or Latin. Jesus challenged Nicodemus not to think of his life as learning a new catalog of information, but to learn to live in love. That would so change the way he lived other people wouldn’t recognize him or be able to explain his actions.

A Genuine Trust

Every time I think I’ve figured out the way God works he’ll amaze me yet again—zigging where I would have zagged, giving strength in the face of circumstances I would have cured, or suddenly and conspicuously absent from the plans and routines that I hoped would contain him.

That used to frustrate me. It doesn’t any more. I am finally settled in the reality that he wouldn’t do anything the way I would. I’m convinced of the fact that he does all things well, even if he doesn’t do them for my comfort or convenience. And I am convinced that following him is the only real way to live, circumstance by circumstance, task by task, obedience by obedience. And I have come to love it that way.

The pursuit to find any formula that can be applied to produce his righteousness, provide me New Testament church life or even grow my trust, is a fool’s errand. It will fail time and time again until in the end I come to realize that this reality only comes through a growing friendship with him. The more I know him amd the more I see his hand at work the freer I will be to trust him and live in his kingdom.

I am convinced that wind is his Spirit, and my need to be born again is not a one-time experience but a daily choice to shed my expectations about the way things should be, to mistrust my own desires and agenda, and to tune my mind to the breath of his Spirit and the truths of his word. Where I live born of the Spirit today, I will ride that wind with increasing joy and freedom. I will see his fingerprints in the jagged places of life and be able to cooperate with his purpose in me.

Where I live out of my own selfish-ambition, religious performance, or natural wisdom I will struggle with unanswerable questions and act in ways that are hurtful to others. I’m so tired of that. And though I’m a long ways from living it perfectly, I want to live no other way—more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today. And the only way I can do that is continue to live deeply in him, watching for his wind to blow and riding it, even if some of the most significant people in my life can’t understand what I’m doing or why. Jesus warned us that would be so.

Following Him, Not An It

Any time we choose to follow a model of spirituality, someone else’s formula for success, or an agenda no matter how well intentioned, we will end up walking by our own limited wisdom. The invitation to this kingdom is to follow a person. Jesus doesn’t give us the way; he is The Way. He doesn’t have life; he is The Life. He doesn’t just speak truth; he is The Truth itself. Everything about his kingdom begins and ends in him and we experience that through a growing friendship with him.

That’s often the hardest thing for people to see when they have been disillusioned by church life as many define it today. Immediately they begin to look for another way of doing church and jump right back into a different form of religious performance, rather than learning how they can simply follow him.

Part of what Jesus was encouraging Nicodemus to do was to stop trying to put boxes around the life of his Spirit, which can never be contained. Have you ever tried to stuff the wind into a box? Have you ever tried to stop it, or make it blow a different direction? How futile! So is trying to control God’s working by boxing it into forms we prefer, or trying to control the outcomes we want from him.

He is the wind. He blows where he wills, and we can follow if we want. The person who is born of the Spirit loses his moorings in the temporal world where the cravings of safety, security and stability must be satisfied. And in doing so we too become like the wind, available to him at each moment to do what he would ask of us.

Obeying the Nudges

Faith doesn’t flow from theology; it flows from relationship. From our earliest days he wants to show us how to embrace his unfolding revelation in our lives and teach us how to follow him. I don’t know any other way to describe it than to simply be obedient to those nudges he puts in your mind. He might be revealing something about himself, inviting us to some time with him, drawing us to the Bible, or leading us to serve or encourage someone else. Learning to recognize those nudges and follow through on them is what teaches us to distinguish between our deisres and his. Those nudges almost always begin not by calling us to grandiose ministries, but teaching us to live outside our self-interest in the mundane ways we can serve others around us.

To many people this may sound like emotion-driven, touchy-feely spirituality. I hear those objections often by those threatened with a life in God they won’t be able to control by their disciplines and doctrines. But they couldn’t be more wrong. This is a dance of head and heart together discerning God and his ways. The heart without the head can lead to well intentioned disaster, and the head without the heart will exalt doctrine over love and destroy others with its arrogance.

To grow in this life, I am continually cultivating my relationship with him. I intentionally spend time with him as I grow in my awareness of his working throughout my day. I have a running conversation with him about everything in my life and express my desire to follow his will at every turn. I immerse myself in the story of Scripture, learning how he thinks and acts. I have a steady diet of what God is showing others by what I read and listen to, and the conversations I have with others on this journey.

So how do I sort out his nudges from my own thoughts? Most nudges I get from his Spirit are simple ways of loving and serving people around me. I am not too worried about getting those wrong. There aren’t many downsides to serving others. But to have some measure of confidence to step out in a larger action he may be asking of me, I look for four things to to come into agreement:

1. An intuitive, growing conviction of his leading over time.

2. Affirmation in the truth and example of Scripture that this is how God works.

3. Confirmation from other brothers and sisters as I discuss it with them.

4. And the reality of unfolding circumstances.

When those voices are in synch, I have greater confidence that I am following him. But you know what? Sometimes all of these line up and I still get it wrong. That’s why people born of the Spirit rarely use language like, “God told me to…”, and will instead talk in terms of what they sense. They’ve been wrong enough times not to be so presumptuous, even when they’re most certain. I’ve forged God’s name on my agenda a number of times, only to find out later that it was my penmanship all along. But I’m still ready to get up the next day and learn to keep following him. And while I’m willing to pay the consequences for being wrong, I also know he can weave my mistakes into his purposes.

Taking Wing

This is what it means to be born of the Spirit. It has nothing to do with a sinner’s prayer or speaking in tongues. It means we’ve taken wing on a breath of wind that comes from the Father himself and learn to trust his words over our human reasoning and justifications.

It means we lay aside the lies of shame and the demands for performance that drive us from him and find our security in his affection for us and let that transform us. It means finally realizing how our selfish ambitions work against his purpose in us and others around us and laying them down in our growing trust that he knows better than we do and he does all things well.

It means we don’t have to have everything figured out to take the next step he’s put on our hearts and we no longer have to play for the applause of the crowd. It means we’re finally free to surrender our need to think we’re in control and know his plans are far better.

What great freedom to realize that I never had the power or wisdom to accomplish God’s purposes in my life and how losing confidence in my flesh only frees me to live more dependent on him and more grateful for his working. What a joy to wake up in the uncertain adventure of life and not be distressed at what might happen today, because he is with me!

How could human effort ever produce this? It is the work of his Spirit responding to our desire to know him. My prayer for you in these things is the same one that Paul had for the Thessalonians:

May the Master take your hand and lead you along the path
of God’s love and Christ’s endurance.

(2 Thessalonians 3:5)