GCL A.9 Spirit’s Conviction: Connect, Chastise, Convey

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In Which Jesus Sends the Comforter, and We Are Convicted By Him

This week we move from the Father and the Son to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This also continues our theme of God restoring His Image by saving us from our rebellion. And as usual, there is a heavy price to be paid…

Memory Verse: “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment “ — John 16:1 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading

  1. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings
    • 29. Gifts of the Holy Spirit (I): General Questions
    • 30. Gifts of the Holy Spirit (II): Specific Gifts
  2. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
    • 37. The Deity of the Holy Spirit
    • 38. The Personality of the Holy Spirit
    • 39. The Internal Testimony of the Holy Spirit
    • 40. The Illumination of the Holy Spirit
    • 42. The Holy Spirit as Comforter
  3. 29. Gifts of the Holy Spirit (I): General Questions
  4. 30. Gifts of the Holy Spirit (II): Specific Gifts

Adoration

Read Psalm 51. What does being convicted feel like?

Bible

John 16

Our story takes place during the upper room discourse, Jesus’ “after-dinner speech” between the Last Supper and when he goes to Gethsemane to pray and be arrested. As his final conversation with the disciples, it is fraught with foreboding:

{16:1} “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

{2} They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

Life is about to get a whole lot harder for the disciples; not due to anything they have done, but because of who Jesus is:

{3} And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

Not that He is surprised by this; nor should they be:

{4a} But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.

In fact, Jesus knew this was coming all along, but held back until now:

{4b} “And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

But now, everything is about to change:

{5} “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’

Here Jesus speaks of His impending death — a topic the disciples would rather not think about, much less talk about. But Jesus insists on bringing it up — though He knows it pains them:

{6} But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

So then why does He force the issue? Because His departure is an essential step to something even better:

{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 depart, I will send Him to you.

[Discuss: Have you ever wished you were alive when Jesus walked the earth? What advantages do we have now that the disciples did not have then?]

We don’t know exactly why Jesus had to leave (i.e., die) before the Holy Spirit could come, but it is clear that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit in much the same way the Father sends Jesus. Put another way, the Holy Spirit will represents Jesus to us much as Jesus represented the Father to the disciples.

And how will He do that?

{8} And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

Of all the things the Holy Spirit will do — and there are many — Jesus chooses to focus on these three things. Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus talks about the impact the Holy Spirit will have on the “world” in general, not just the disciples or the church.

Specifically, He will convict the world in regards to:

  • sin
  • righteousness
  • judgement

That is a bit vague as it stands, so Jesus expands on what each of those mean:

{9} of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

First of all, Jesus makes it clear that the fundamental “sin” (singular) the Holy Spirit is concerned about is failing to “believe in” Jesus. While all “sins” (plural) can be considered falling short of God’s glory — His character and purpose — this passage implies that the root of those sins is failing to recognize who Jesus truly is; and that the only solutions is to place our trust in Jesus, not ourselves (or other “gods”).

We might also infer from this that failing to believe in Jesus could be the one “unforgivable sin” against the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 12:31-32), since that would be thwarting His primary purpose.

[Discuss: Have you ever worried you’ve committed the unforgivable sin? How can understanding the Holy Spirit’s role help in that struggle?]

{10} of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

There’s many ways to interpret this verse, but the simplest is perhaps that with Jesus no longer physically present, we no longer have His direct example of what righteous living looks like. Instead, we must rely on the Holy Spirit — speaking through the Scriptures and the Body of Christ, as well as directly to our hearts.

{11} of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The Greek word translated as “judgement” is literally “crisis”. A crisis is a time when illusions and excuses are stripped away, and we are forced to make difficult choices in the light of cold reality. Christ’s death and resurrection represent a judgement on the existing world ruler, which means we need to choose sides; indifference is no longer an option.

[Discuss: What is your most recent (or current) crisis? What is the Holy Spirit doing through it?]

Of course, these three things are just the tip of the iceberg; but that’s all the disciples can handle at the moment:

{12} “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear [them] now.

In fact, that’s one of the main reasons we need the Holy Spirit, to pick up where Jesus left off:

{13a} However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth;

This is the first time Jesus uses the term “spirit” to refer to the Comforter, specifically as the “Spirit of Truth” — similar to Jesus’ identity as the “way, truth and life”. This fits nicely with the three “reproofs” above; in Jewish culture, the idea of “truth” is tightly linked to the idea of “conviction” — it is impossible to “believe” a truth without acting upon it. As such, the Holy Spirit does not merely tell us truth, He leads us to live it out!

[Discuss: When and how has the Holy Spirit helped you see truth?]

However, it is not His own truth He is sharing:

{13b} for He will not speak on His own [authority], but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

This is similar to how Jesus claimed to do only what He saw the Father doing. The Spirit’s job is to listen to the heart of God, and disclose that to us, Christ’s disciples.

As just as the Son manifests the Father to us, so the Spirit reflects the Son:

{14} He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare [it] to you.

This is one reason why the Spirit has often been poorly understood during church history: the Son seeks the Father’s glory, and the Spirit brings glory to the Son — leaving nobody (except perhaps us!) to glorify the Spirit.

But the Spirit is okay with that; his purpose is to testify to Jesus. In fact, all the gifts and fruit of the Spirit are not meant to call attention to Himself, but to glorify Christ by building up His body. Woe to us if we ever seek the Spirit’s power for selfish purposes!

[Discuss: Have you ever hungered after the gifts and fruits of the Spirit? In a healthy or unhealthy way? How can we tell the difference?]

But if we receive the Spirit in the right way, He will grant us all the treasures of the Father:

{15} All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare [it] to you.

Which we are going to need while Jesus is away:

{16} “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

Not that the disciples understood at the time:

{17} Then [some] of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?”

{18} They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

Alas — like us — they responded to their confusion by talking amongst themselves rather than asking Jesus. Fortunately, He knew what was on their hearts:

{19} Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’?

The interpretation isn’t pleasant, though it is reassuring:

{20} Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.

{21} A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

{22} Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

This is an encouraging promise: though we no longer have the joy of His (physical) presence, we can experience the presence of His joy!

[Discuss: When have you had joy emerge from sorrow?]

And more than that, we will have the same access to His Father:

{23} “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

The key to all this is being in the Name of Jesus.  There is a deep spiritual mystery at work here.  Just as Christ’s death must precede His resurrection and ascension — and the disciple’s sorrow precede their joy — so too must the conviction of the Spirit precede our authority to ask anything of the Father.

[Discuss: What does it mean to ask “in the Name of Jesus”?]

Which produces a joy beyond anything they’ve experienced before:

{24} Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

That they are only now becoming ready to comprehend:

{25} “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

Because the ultimate goal of Jesus is not to draw the disciples to Himself, but to His Father:

{26} In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;

{27} for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

{28} I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

This seems to finally connect with the disciples:

{29} His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!

{30} Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”

Though they may be overly optimistic about their level of understanding:

{31} Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?

{32a} Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone.

Not that Jesus is worried about Himself:

{32b} And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.

But about us:

{33} These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Jesus has won the victory. He has not promised to spare us from trouble, but to give us His peace in the midst of it.

Are we willing to pay the price of conviction, in order to receive it — and joy unspeakable?

Decision

  • Repentance: Where do you need to submit to the Spirit’s judgment, and break away from the world?
  • Action: Ask the Holy Spirit what truth about Jesus He wants to show you.
  • Worship: Thank God for everything the Spirit has brought you.

For Next Week

For next week, read 1 Peter 1. What does holiness look like?

Memory Verse: “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” — 1 Peter 1:15 (NKJV)


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