Text: John 16:5-11 — 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Opening: There once were two old-time high school buddies who met at a class reunion. One was a married father of three, the other still single. “How come you never married? Did you never find that perfect woman you were looking for?” asked the one friend. “Well,” answered the bachelor, “I’ve actually had three chances to tie the knot, but none worked out. I met a woman fifteen years ago who was gorgeous, intelligent and exciting. We fell in love and planned to marry, but she broke a confidence once causing me to lose trust in her so I gave up the relationship. Five years later I met and fell in love with another young lady who was kind, considerate and had the patience of a saint. She could get along with anybody. However, she didn’t obey the traffic laws and you know how I’m a stickler for that. So, I dumped her too. Then about five years ago, I met THE PERFECT WOMAN: a beauty queen and former college cheerleader, an academic scholar with good common sense and brains to spare. She was decisive, enthusiastic, extroverted, warm, thoughtful and unselfish. You name it. She had it all going for her. And to top it off, she was a gourmet cook! She seemed perfect in every way.” “So, what happened? Why didn’t you marry her?” asked the friend. “Well,” said the bachelor, as his voice dropped, “As it turned out, she dumped me because she was looking for the perfect man.” It’s hard to find perfection isn’t it? It seems like not matter how hard we look we always find something under even the most perfect veneer that is flawed and human. Romans 3:23 confirms, of course, that we are far from perfect people. It says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person who has ever lived, not counting Christ (the one and only God-Man), has been born with a sin nature, and that nature, when given the opportunity to express itself, demonstrated a lifestyle in rebellion to God.
This morning, in the seventh and final message on the Building Blocks of Ministry, I want to talk about the most important factor in our ability to minister to people outside the church. That’s saying something, by the way, given all the important topics we’ve discussed so far. By way of review, we’ve looked at … (1) The Power of Ministry: (2)The Power of Prayer (helps us deal with hindrances such as suffering, sickness and sin): (3) The Power of God’s Word; (4) The Power of Love (the early church first loved God then others); (5) The Power of Salt and Light (salt slows moral decay, makes life better and encourages growth – light reveals the ways of God and the way to God); and (6) The Power of Perception (we need to see that though there are a great number of people who harassed and helpless in life, the answer for all of them is a personal relationship with Christ – a mission to which all of us are called).
Now I invite you to turn to John chapter 16, and join me as we take a close look at the words of Jesus as He neared the end of His earthly ministry and explained for the first time to His disciples that He was going to be leaving them. This is what He meant when He said, “Now I am going to Him who sent Me.” Jesus had come from the Father and was preparing to return to Him, something the disciples were unable to comprehend at the time. That’s why, when they heard His words, we’re told they were “filled with grief.” It seems to me that there were at least two reasons for their reaction. First, they loved Jesus and did not want Him to go anywhere. He made their lives far better and gave them real purpose and meaning. Second, they still believed that Jesus was going to lead the Jews in a great victory over their oppressors so that they would finally have their rightful place in the world. And then, just when everything was looking up, Jesus burst their bubble by revealing that the plan of God was very different from what they and their fellow Jews expected of the Messiah. The One they thought would be the conquering king was about to leave them to go somewhere else. Imagine how badly they must have felt. Then Jesus said something else that was equally unexpected: “…it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus assured them that the Father’s plan would indeed work out to their benefit because, in His absence, our Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit to His followers. Here’s what He said about the third person of the Holy Trinity.
· The giving of the Holy Spirit would be for their good. Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit would provide all of Christ’s disciples with the power to make our lives count for eternity by producing much fruit (John 15:5 — If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit) and lasting fruit (John 15:16 — I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last) through the preaching of the gospel to the world and by manifesting Christ’s presence while in the world (See Galatians 5:22-23).
· The Holy Spirit would not come until Jesus went away (John 16:7 – … if I go, I will send Him to you). This is not to say that Christ and the Holy Spirit are incapable of existing in the same place at the same time. Often during the ministry of Christ, we’re told that the two coexisted in this world at the same moment (one example is Jesus’ baptism — Matthew 3:16). Still, Christ did not send the Spirit until after He had died, risen from the dead and been exalted to the Father’s right hand, returning to the glory He enjoyed before the world began (See John 7:39). It wasn’t until Pentecost, after the Lord’s ascension to heaven, that the Holy Spirit was given.
· The Holy Spirit would bring conviction upon the world (John 16:8 — And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment). The word ‘convict’ means to expose sin and the guilt associated with it (John 8:46 – Jesus speaking to the Jews — Can any of you prove/convict Me guilty of sin?). One of the roles of the Spirit was to expose the sin of those who live in the world and convince them of their guilt before God due to their rebellion. This, the Holy Spirit would accomplish by bringing conviction of sin, making people not only aware of their rebellion to God, but giving them the desire to remove the guilt associated with their sin and bring healing to their hearts and minds. Conviction, far from being a bad thing, is a very good thing. It forces us to deal with wrong motives and behaviors. Illustration: I made it a habit to tell my kids that “it feels good to do good.” But the opposite is also true. “It feels bad to do bad.” Think about it. In every act of rebellion there is a short season of sinful pleasure, but then later, the guilt begins to set in because we know that we’re violating God’s law that is written on our hearts (See Romans 2:15). I remember when one of my children intentionally took some items from a store without paying for it. When I was made aware of it, the two of us went back to the store to return the items and pay for them. Of course, the tears flowed on that day, but at the same moment a conscience was cleansed by confession and repentance of sin. This is what the Holy Spirit does for those to whom the Gospel is preached. He convicts people of their sin.
Then beginning in verse nine our Lord explained more about this convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that He would make people aware of three particular sins in order to bring us closer to a saving relationship with Christ.
The Sin of Unbelief (John 16:9 – The Holy Spirit will convict the world … concerning sin, because they do not believe in me). Jesus points out that the Holy Spirit exposes the sin of unbelief as it’s found in people. InHebrews 12:1 we’re told that this is the sin that so easily entangles us. All sin is rooted in unbelief. Every time we rebel against the Lord and choose our own path in life, we’re saying to Him, “I’ll take it from here. I know a better way than the one you’re offering.” In the case of those who were around during the time of Christ, the Lord notes that if they had believed His words, they would have turned to Him, but they did not and so were under the conviction of the Spirit for their sin of unbelief. Here are three observations from the Bible regarding unbelief.
· Unbelief results in condemnation (John 3:18 — Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son). The idea is that unbelief results in the judgment of God (See James 5:9). The only sin that a person will ever be sent to Hell for is unbelief. And the only way to escape God’s wrath against sin is to believe in Jesus. There is no other way!
· Unbelief results in separation (Proverbs 15:29 – The Lord is far from the wicked but He hears the prayer of the righteous). Whatever is not of faith is sin. Sin separates us from God. It establishes a barrier between us and Him that can only be removed through repentance and faith.
· Unbelief results in unrest (Hebrews 4:1-2 — Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they (Israel) did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith). The word ‘rest’ means to ’cause to stop.’ In Hebrews 4:11 it refers to a ceasing from the work that people engage in to make themselves more presentable to God. I’m talking about religious practices that are designed to bring us into God’s good graces. Only those who believe the Gospel enter into the rest that God has provided. The works of those who are “in the world” may lead to arrogance, but they will never lead to salvation (See Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:2). These are the consequences of the sin of unbelief – condemnation, separation and unrest.
The Sin of Self-Righteousness (John 16:10 – The Holy Spirit will convict the world … concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer). If you ask most people why they should be allowed into heaven, they’ll give a response that refers to their good character. They believe that because they are basically good, God will never refuse them entrance into His kingdom. Imagine how they must have responded, then, when Jesus said this In Matthew 5:20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Pharisees were the most righteous people in all of Israel and yet Jesus was saying that they were not good enough for God. This was the message that Jesus preached while He ministered over a three-year time span in Israel. We can only be saved by God’s grace and mercy. Now as our Lord is preparing to go to the Father, He tells us not to worry. Though He will no longer be around to teach people about their lack of righteousness, the Holy Spirit will pick up any slack and do this through Christians who walk by Spirit. As we do what is right we have the same impact upon people as Jesus did when He walked among them. Romans 12:17 says it like this: Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. Illustration: I remember one time when I was in a Safeway supermarket in Katy, Texas and the cashier gave me too much change by $20. That was a lot of money to me, yet I was never once tempted to keep it as God’s gracious provision. Instead, as soon as I became aware of the mistake, I marched back in the store and gave him the money back. As I explained myself and gave him the $20, he said, “Wow, I can’t believe you did that.” Maybe he couldn’t believe it, but the question I asked myself was “Would God expect anything less from me?” The answer: Of course not. Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
The Sin of False Judgment (John 16:11 – The Holy Spirit will convict the world … concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged). The judgment of those who opposed Christ flowed from spiritual blindness. Earlier Jesus had urged, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” — John 7:24). He said this because the world’s judgments are profoundly wrong and morally wicked. The world says that money is to be worshipped, pleasure should be the number one pursuit and there is no such thing as sin. The judgments of those who believe this way are skewed by the values of a world that worships comfort and convenience. All false judgment is related to the one who has been a liar from the beginning (See John 8:44). And if Satan stands condemned for his choices by the triumph of the cross, as this verse says, then the false judgments of those who are a part of his kingdom are also exposed and condemned by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Closing: Who hasn’t been guilty of the sin of unbelief, or self-righteousness or false judgment? We’ve all blown it and it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to make us aware of our rebellion and bring us to faith in Christ. The Good News of the Gospel is that, in bringing conviction of sin and the guilt associated with it, He has also made it possible for us to be born again and receive a new nature that desires to please God. Does the name Norma McCorvey mean anything to you? I doubt it. But perhaps you’ll recognize the pseudonym that she used as the plaintiff in the most famous Supreme Court case in American history. She was Jane Roe, of Roe verses Wade. The 1973 infamous decision of the court gave her and every other woman in this country the right to abortion on demand. Here is her story: In 1969 Norma was working as a barker for a traveling carnival when she discovered she was pregnant. She asked a doctor to give her an abortion and was surprised to learn that it was against the law. She sought help elsewhere and was recruited as the plaintiff in Roe verses Wade by two attorneys seeking to overturn the law against abortion. Ironically, because the case too some four years to finally be decided, McCorvey never was able to abort the child and instead gave her baby up for adoption. She remained anonymous for a decade or so, and then Norma McCorvey went public. Kathleen Donnelly writes: Shaking, sick to her stomach and fortified by vodka and valium, she told a Dallas television reported she was Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade. Next, she admitted she had lied about that pregnancy in the hope it would help her get an abortion: It was a casual affair that made her pregnant, not rape as she told her lawyers. Little by little, through occasional interviews, sporadic speaking engagements and a 1989 television movie, she revealed that before she gave birth to the Roe baby and gave her to adoptive parents, she had given birth to two other children. Slowly she began speaking of her long-term lesbian relationship. Her memoir I Am Roe leaves little out: not her childhood of petty crime and reform school, or the affairs with lovers, or the long nights spent drinking in Dallas dives or the days of low-level drug-dealing that preceded Roe vs. Wade. McCorvey soon went to work answering phones for a Dallas abortion clinic. Next door was a pro-life group, Operation Rescue. After a time, Norma began to have a change of heart. One day she started referring callers to Operation Rescue. Her turning point came when a seven-year-old girl named Emily–the daughter of an Operation Rescue volunteer–invited McCorvey to church. On July 22, 1995, Norma attended a Saturday night service in Dallas. “Norma just kept praying, ‘I want to undo all the evil I’ve done in this world,'” said Rhonda Mackey, Emily’s mother. “She was crying and you knew it was sincere.” In August of 1995, Norma announced that she had become a Christian and was baptized in a swimming pool in front of ABC “World News Tonight” television cameras. Says McCorvey, “I still feel very badly. I guess I always will…but I know I’ve been forgiven.” Thank you Holy Spirit for your convicting work without which no one could be saved.