That which is born of the flesh is flesh.
That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus words here are remarkably insightful. That which is of the flesh will beget flesh and that which is spirit will beget spirit. The flesh cannot beget spirit, and the spirit will not beget flesh. The two are uniquely different, even at times in opposition (see Galatians 5). This is why good works alone, without active and sincere faith motivating them, are useless, even counterproductive and an offensive to the work of Christ. The challenge, as we have seen, we often come off to other people in a way that we dont intend to. A couple of disciples in their zealous and sincere attempts to serve the cause of Christ and propel His kingdom found themselves in such a boat. They were simply trying to do one thing that they assumed would be pleasing to Christ, yet were spiritually putting off something quite the contrary. Luke captures this telling lesson for us in his Gospel account.
51-It came to pass, when the days were near that he should be taken up, he intently set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52-and sent messengers before his face. They went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, so as to prepare for him. 53-They didn't receive him, because he was traveling with his face set towards Jerusalem. 54-When his disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from the sky, and destroy them, just as Elijah did?" 55-But he turned and rebuked them, "You don't know of what kind of spirit you are." (Luke 9:51)
Question: Why were James and John upset?
Question: Did they think their actions were righteous?
Question: How did Jesus respond to them?
Question: What thoughts do you have about Jesus comment, "You don't know of what kind of spirit you are?
Question: Can you think of a couple personal examples where you were operating in the same venue as James and John?
The History of the Christian Church is filled with moments just like the one with James and John. Wars have been fought, blood shed, people killed, even women raped and children killed, all under the banner and cause of Christ. A series of "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from the sky, and destroy them, just as Elijah did?". And in many cases there was fire - fire to villages, houses and buildings with people inside. Only it wasnt called down from heaven, rather thrown in by a righteous hand and those asking were too passionate to hear the Lords rebuke of You dont know what kind of spirit you are of. Of course, its easy for us, sitting on this side, far removed from the Reformation to throw stones of disgust at the unenlightened Christians of the Dark Ages. But, before we do, we should note the prevalence in our own times. A recent researcher points out that there are more than 33,000 denominations of Christianity in the world. And nearly, if not every one of them was a split. Almost all of them were born out of anger and hostility and withdrawal between people who claimed to follow the teachings of Jesus.[i] Perhaps in many of these cases it wasnt falling fire they were petitioning the Lord for rather something to the effect, Lord do you want us to call up so and so and go start another church over there. And, perhaps, these too missed the Lords response of, You do not know what spirit you are of.
A man is rescued from a desert island where he survived alone for fifteen years. Before leaving, he gave his rescuers a little tour of the buildings he had constructed as a sort of one-man town over the years: That was my house, that was my store, this building was a kind cabana, and over here is where I go to church. Whats the building next to it? Oh, thats where I used to go to church.
There is another fascinating passage in Scripture regarding this very idea of saying one thing, but releasing another spirit. Its found in the book of Acts.
16-It happened, as we were going to prayer, that a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. 17-Following Paul and us, she cried out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation!" 18-She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" It came out that very hour. (Acts 16:16-18)
Try to imagine the scenario playing out before you Paul and a number of his journey companions are traveling about. They come to a certain city, where are openly sharing the Gospel of Christ. As would often happened, there was a crowd, and even certain individuals that would seem to linger day after day, always faithfully showing up to listen again while they were in a particular region. This time it was no different. Of those who lingered and followed, there was a certain girl who seemed to be paying close attention to what was going on. She even begins to verbally affirm the Apostles and their message. She cried out with a loud voice, These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation! She was doing this many days. All seems to be well. After all, who wouldnt appreciate a little home town support. Yet, interestingly, Paul wasnt all that excited about her support, nor her verbal accolades. In fact, Luke describes in some detail Pauls level of appreciation. He tells us that Paul was becoming greatly annoyed.
Question: Why do you suppose Paul became greatly annoyed with the servant girl?
Question: All she was saying was true, why did it annoy Paul so much?
Theres much that could be said about this account and what was transpiring in the spirit realm that day. In short, she was saying one thing with her mouth, even something that was seemingly affirming, encouraging and true. Yet, at the same time, in the spirit there was another message being released. A message that was counterproductive to the work of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the Gospel in that place. Paul put a stop to it! The same is true for us. We can say something that is true, but not be rooted in the Truth Himself. We can say one thing, seemingly harmless with our mouth, but release something quite contrary with our spirits. The question at hand during these times is, can we hear the master say, You do not know what spirit you are of?
Question: What thoughts and reflections do you have regarding this idea of saying one thing (verbally/physically), yet releasing something quite different in the realm of the spirit?
For Additional study see Appendix Three:
Words & the Spirit Behind Them
[i] Newsweek, April 16, 2001, 49. Why do you suppose Paul became greatly annoyed with the servant girl?
Words & the Spirit Behind Them
be filled with the Spirit.
Picture a suitcase that has been stuffed and crammed full of garments and accessories ready for the vacation journey. At face value