He shuffled into class with a steaming hot cappuccino in one hand and his books tucked under his arm on the other side. His wavy, unmanageable hair looked like it was ready to jump right off the side of his head. His goatee needed trimming, his plaid shirt was out of style, and his glasses were definitely the wrong shape for his face. In short, there was nothing particularly attractive about him at all.
Until my stomach growled.
When I smelled that warm cappuccino scent wafting from the back row, I thought about the breakfast I should have eaten, and I felt the emptiness in my stomach. I tried to focus on the professor, but it didn’t work. I tried to imagine myself eating eggs and hash browns in a few hours, but that only made my stomach growl louder. Finally, I turned around to face the disheveled young man behind me. His eyes widened in surprise. After several weeks of brushing him off and ignoring him, why would I now turn his way? He blinked, and he adjusted the large glasses on his nose.
“Hey,”I whispered. “Look, I skipped breakfast to study for the quiz this morning, and I’m really starving, so . . . would you . . . would you mind sharing a few sips of that cappuccino with me? You know, just enough to make my stomach stop growling?”
He blinked again. Slowly, he held out the cup to me as he stumbled to say, “Yeah, yes! Sure! I mean, of course, yes, please take all of it!”
If you should ask my husband to tell his version of the story today, he will say with great sighs and much exasperation, “I can’t believe that of all the things I said and did trying to get her attention that it was some random cup of cappuccino that finally got her to notice me!”
It’s funny to look back on the first things that attracted us to the people we love—our spouses, our best friends, our mentors, and our business partners. What was it about them that made us notice? How did we become aware that we were kindred spirits? Some of us know the exact stories, while others can only admit to feeling some strange type of pull or unexplainable draw toward the individual.
When I ask people what first drew them to love Jesus, I hear two kinds of answers. While some people can cite a specific song or phrase in a sermon or even a harrowing life event that caught their attention, others have no clear idea at all. “There was just this pull,” they might explain, “a sort of magnetism—I just couldn’t get enough of Him. Something drew me.”
Something drew me.
Who was drawing?
The Bible tells us that this “something” is actually a “Someone,” a Person who goes by the name of the Holy Spirit, and for most of us He’s the most mysterious member of the Godhead. What do we know about this Being whom we cannot see or explain?
Well, we know that one of the Holy Spirit’s most important jobs is to draw us to Jesus. Jesus told his followers, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). It’s the Holy Spirit’s unique skill to reach into our messy lives and introduce Jesus just when we need Him most. That longing for a deeper meaning you’ve been sensing? It’s probably the work of the Holy Spirit. That sense of emptiness, the knowledge that something significant is missing in your life? Likely it’s the Spirit luring you into a life of greater purpose and passion.
But is this His only job? What other work does this mysterious member of the Godhead contribute to our salvation and Christian experience?
The new birth
I stared down lovingly at the miniature face wrapped in a blue-and-white striped receiving blanket. Red hair peeked out from under the infant cap, the cutest button nose rose from the center of his little face, and his tiny mouth opened in one single, amazingly adorable yawn. This was the face of my first child, my newborn baby. I didn’t know it that day, but when my first son Caleb was born, something else was born as well: a new mother. And that was me. The first day of Caleb’s life became the first day of my motherhood. I had no idea what the road ahead held. I just knew that something altogether different had begun.
The result is similar when we invite Jesus into our lives. We become a new person, we grow and change in new and unexpected ways, and we make new and sometimes very different choices than we’ve ever made before. All these changes are made possible by the same Mystery Man, the Holy Spirit. It was He who first drew us to Jesus, and it’s He who prompts us to choose Jesus as our own. It’s called “the new birth.”
And that’s a very biblical concept.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night, questioning Him about becoming one of His followers, Jesus stated simply, “You must be born again.” Confused, Nicodemus asked, “Sir, how can this be? I am an old man. How can I return to my mother’s womb?” (my paraphrase of John 3:4). Jesus went on to explain that it isn’t a literal birth but a spiritual birth that happens at conversion. The Spirit begins to renew our minds. We’re assured of acceptance by God, and we’re encouraged by the fact that unless we choose otherwise, a place is reserved for us in eternity.
But then what happens? Is the Holy Spirit’s work over once we’ve made our decision to follow Jesus?
I felt it every time Greg and I drove by the little blue house on Fourth Street: that sudden pang of dread, a sinking in my stomach like an iron anchor. Why did this keep happening to me? I didn’t know what it meant, but it felt as though something was very wrong. I tried to ignore it, but it persisted. Finally, a week before the closing date on this very first home we would own, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. “Honey,” I admitted to my husband, “I have a really terrible feeling about buying this house.”
Greg instantly nodded his head and confessed, “You know, I haven’t wanted to say so, but I’ve been having a really awful feeling about it too. Over and over again, I feel like something is really wrong.”
“I think we’re making a mistake,” I said. “Maybe the Lord is trying to tell us not to buy this house.”
We bowed our heads together and prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide us. “If there’s nothing wrong with this house,” we said, “please help these bad foreboding feelings to simply disappear. Amen.”
In the days that followed, our feelings of fear only intensified. We didn’t know why, but we knew that we could not have peace about buying that house. We backed out of the offer, paid the fees required for cancellation of the contract, and returned to the hunt for the “perfect home.” We couldn’t understand God’s guiding, but we knew we had to listen.
A few months later the housing market crashed. Homes that were worth several hundred thousand dollars fell to values of barely half that much. Owners became stuck with homes they couldn’t sell for years and years and years, losing money all the while. Slowly it became clear to us that our feelings weren’t just feelings at all. The Holy Spirit Himself was protecting us from an unforeseen disaster.
An ongoing job of the Spirit throughout our walk with Jesus is to convict us, and it can take three very different forms.
First, the Spirit can convict us of sin. We’ve all no doubt felt that pang of guilt when we know we’re doing something wrong. Some people call it our conscience, but the Bible calls it the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit can also convict us of righteousness. He can impress us how to do good, when to reach out, and what it looks like to most closely obey the teachings of the Bible.
Lastly, the Spirit convicts us of the coming judgment and the end of earth’s history. With the knowledge that each of us will one day answer for the choices we’ve made, the Spirit helps us to live today in ways that prepare us for the end of time.
I’m so thankful to have this invisible Partner by my side, guiding me through the highs and lows of my Christian experience. I can’t wait for that day when I get to meet Him and say, “Thank you for all the hundreds of ways you’ve helped me, from that very first draw to heaven’s reality.”
Is He convicting you today? Have you felt an emptiness in your life, sensed a need for something more meaningful? Do you feel there are things you need to leave behind? Instead of running from this Friend who convicts you, I suggest you make the choice to follow His leading. Decide in your heart that it’s time to listen to the One who can lead you into the best life possible.