Spirit vs. Flesh; July 4, 2018


John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

As familiar as this passage is, we have a lot of trouble accepting the truth of it. We want to get by as we are, relying on the flesh, and Jesus says very clearly that’s not going to cut it. Sadly, that’s true in many if not most churches. I’m reminded of what happened when a group of mainland Chinese pastors were able to tour the US a few years ago. (I really don’t know the details of how that was possible.) As they were getting ready to return to China, they were asked what their impression was of American churches. They answered, “We are amazed at how much can be done without the Holy Spirit.” With little or no government opposition, American churches tend to just go in their own strength, instead of acknowledging their total dependence on God. We use the term, born again, almost casually, but we seem to have little grasp of what it is to be born of the Spirit of God. I can’t help but wonder how many people really are saved, but pursuing that line of thinking sets me up as a judge in my own mind, and we have very clear instructions not to do that. (Matthew 7:1-2) Each of us needs to examine his own life to see whether he is genuinely waking with God, but if we have the humility to ask, He will show us and draw us to Himself.

As a pastor, this applies not only to me but to everyone in my flock. I can’t cause anyone to be born again, but I can be available to God for Him to use me in that process. You could call me a “spiritual midwife!” We have a man who has announced his intention to be baptized “this summer,” and it’s already July. I am not to hinder him, but I am to confirm his repentance and his faith as God enables me to do so. He wants to keep working on his brother, so they can be baptized together. That would be wonderful, but to this point that brother has run from commitment, recognizing his human inability to follow through. I need to speak the truth in love to them both, so that they may arise from the water in genuine new life. (Romans 6:3-4) Many things remind me of my dependence on God, and I should be grateful for each one, rather than trying to preserve any shred of human pride. Yesterday’s typhoon was a reminder of our impotence in the face of nature, yet we have the opportunity to depend on the God who created it all! I am not to be anxious about anything, but rejoice in God’s love and provision for me, for His glory.

Father, I do thank You for everything that is going on. Thank You that Cathy will be able to have cataract surgery this morning. I do pray for Your perfect will to be done in that. Thank You that the bridge to my glasses broke this morning, and that I have an older pair that enable me to function. Thank You that the computer crashed in the middle of these devotions, losing some of what I had written, and that You renewed what You had been speaking to me once the computer was running again. Thank You that I can indeed rejoice in Christ’s victory even in the middle of the troubles of this life, (John 16:33) for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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