Before you could call yourself a Christian, the Holy Spirit was busy moving you somewhere.
I’ve got some remaining credit on this Staples reward card. Whatever I choose will be free…as long as it’s less than $5.16. I like plenty of trinkets here, such as the mini-clipboard I would probably never use. An ink pen over in aisle two is cool, but I’m a writer. I’m already swimming in gel pens and tiny notebooks. Still, I have a few minutes left in the store, and feel the need to choose something, anything.
That sums up the way humans make a lot of choices—while pressured, shortsighted, and emotional.
It makes me appreciate all the more the way God chose us. He did it with great feeling and purpose. When His call finally rolled around and He turned your world upside down, you can bet there was tremendous intentionality behind it.
The Holy Spirit is always the executor of God’s choice. And He never uses flattery. When the Spirit began to operate upon me, He didn’t show me my potential, lure me with promises of wealth, or ply me with sweet talk. Instead, He caused me to notice my life in a way I never had before:
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
That’s what happened to me—conviction. Under the Spirit’s gradual illumination, my decent, nice guy existence began to smell of rotten bananas and spoiled milk. It always had stunk. I had just never noticed. By the time the good news of Jesus arrived on the scene, I had grown ready for it at levels I was hardly aware of. I saw the bad news of me so I could perceive and appreciate the good news of Christ.
You never quite value the silhouette of an approaching paradise until you’ve passed by the city landfill first. My old life reeked of two thousand ripe disposable diapers. Was there any doubt I would gravitate to a message instead, that smelled of cedar and lilac?
This is how it happens. The Spirit executes a complex inward work upon the cogs and gears of your heart. Some external heavy lifting occurred, too. Furniture got moved around the periphery of your life. You experienced personal implosions and explosions, until you finally wondered if there might be something better out there. Peter refers to this intense internal and external choreography as “the sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:2).
Where was all this going? Peter further tells us the Spirit prepped us, set us apart, sanctified us, “for obedience to Jesus Christ.” We were being positioned to eventually obey the good news of the gospel of Jesus—to repent and believe in it.
In your life, there won’t be a single act of obedience toward God more important than this one. Peter goes on to write that this submission leads to being sprinkled with the blood of Christ. “Sprinkled”—that’s a strange way to put it, but appropriate when considering that during the Old Testament, the blood of sacrifices had been sprinkled upon God’s people.
The Jews had been a bunch of rag-tag sinners, an obnoxious unholy mob, good for nothing but destruction. Yet when the sacrificial blood was sprinkled upon them, that same group appeared in the eyes of God a precious chosen nation, His delight, His priesthood.
This same blood of bulls and goats was, for all its significance, still only symbolic, temporary. But in the New Covenant, we’re dealing with the blood of the very Son of God, the über sacrifice of the One who sums up all sacrifices and gives them meaning. Sheep and oxen, goats and doves, had functioned to provide ceremonial cleansing for Israel over thousands of years, as outlined in the bloody chapters of Leviticus. They had no intrinsic power, but pointed forward to something that would have potency—the blood of Jesus, looming large, immediate, and eternal.
That’s where the Spirit took us on the first stop in a life-long journey with God. Far from merely trying to influence a change in our lives from bad to good, the Spirit moved us to the place where that blood would land in our hearts.
Drops of it fell on me. They fell on you. Gone were dark premonitions of future wrath. “The sprinkled blood…speaks a better word” (Heb. 12:24). It cried out to God for forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace, freedom, and glory.
God didn’t choose us only to leave us standing on the railway platform. He led us somewhere, and the first place His Spirit ever led us changed everything.
I’m loving this. Now friends can say of me, “He’s in a better place” even while I still walk this earth.