First Mennonite Church
September 27, 2020
The Holy Spirit’s Involvement in Salvation
Text: John 16: 1-11
Let me begin with the not-so-good news, although, it is nothing you do not know about: the world is being hurled around by many kinds of storms. Some storms are closer to home, while others rage and destroy communities and people’s lives in distant corners of the world, which we might not hear about. There are storms in the heart of many: grief, uncertainty, hopelessness, sickness, hatred, anger, and the list can go on and on. There are storms raging and wreaking havoc in many segments of society. I am sure that, more than once we at some point in time, have asked ourselves, when will all these end? Because, from a merely human perspective, the horizon does not have the slightest glimpse of clear skies.
You and I, as people of faith, must be wary from the danger of being sucked into the air currents that form any of the world’s storms. As God’s people, we have the advantageous platform from which to see that there is a solution to all of the evils our world suffers. We, as God’s holy people, should be able to see the world and its storms from the perspective of God.
Today, I want to invite you to see what Jesus said in this final speech he gave to his disciples, prior to his departure. Jesus’ words in this section are called, the “Farewell Discourse.” Although, there are some similarities in this speech with the one Jesus gave in chapter 14, it is only here where Jesus told his disciples about the coming and the role the Holy Spirit will have after Jesus’ departure.
The first thing Jesus gave his disciples was the bad news. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. The ironic thing that would happen to Jesus’ disciples is that those who would kill them would think of their wicked actions as worshipping God. Shortly after Jesus was taken up in heaven, the storm was unleashed against Jesus’ followers. They were persecuted, scattered, and even martyred.
The other bad news Jesus had for his disciples was sort of rebuke. From chapter fourteen, Jesus had been telling his disciples about his departure and yet they were either afraid to inquire about what would happen after his ascension or how they would manage to forge their way forward, or what they should expect. But more troubling in Jesus’ view was that his disciples not even ask where he was going. Maybe the disciples were simply speechless at the thought of being left behind, of not having Jesus with them anymore.
And then Jesus revealed: Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. Jesus clarified what was going to happen after he is taken up. As Jesus goes up, the Holy Spirit comes down. He, the Holy Spirit, will be their Advocate, Comforter, Helper, and Counselor. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as a person in the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not a force, even though he empowers the believer. The Spirit of God is not an impersonal influencer emanating or radiating from God, roaming in the world. He is God and who would be actively fulfilling his role as the Comforter, Helper, Counselor and Advocate to the fearful disciples. The Holy Spirit would remind the disciples of all the things Jesus had taught them (John 14:17).
It is very important for us to take note of what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would also do. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.
The first involvement the Advocate will have, according to Jesus, is that He will prove the WOLRD wrong about sin, righteousness and judgement. Yes, the Spirit of God is at work in the life of the believer, but He is also involved in the world of the unbeliever. Only the Spirit of God can make the world recognize the reality of sin and the severity of its consequences. It is only the Spirit of God who can soften the hardened heart and make it to understand the meaning of righteousness and arouse the desire to pursue it. It is only the Spirit of God who can bring fear of God and lead people to avert the judgement of God by yielding to Him.
My dear friends, I love to listen to sound biblical preaching. I listen to some preachers and admire their eloquence and inspiration. But the truth is that only the Holy Spirit has the power to turn people over to God. It is the Spirit the only one who can bring about conviction of sin to the one who has not responded to God invitation. Conviction of sins is the work of the Holy Spirit.
We can deceive ourselves about our own righteousness. We can live our entire lives believing that we are fine before God. But when the Spirit of God awakens consciousness of our sins and reveals to us the holiness of God, conviction of sin occurs. Things we might not see as being offensive to God will suddenly become burdens of guilt that only God’s forgiveness in Christ can take away. Conviction of God’s righteousness can be understood in two ways. First, we can think we are doing fine, but what is right for us might not be right before God. God’s righteousness is not the product of personal refinement. Secondly, when conviction of sin overtakes the heart and the soul experiences the agony of guilt, the person realizes that his or her hands are empty and has no merit to attain God’s forgiveness. The person would realize that only Christ and his sacrifice are sufficient and that salvation is a gift of God’s grace. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit suddenly illuminates the mind and convicts of sin, He leads to repentance, and moves the person towards confession of sins, pleading with God for forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
The process of conviction of sins, in some people takes place in a quiet manner. They pour out their hearts before the throne of God’s mercy and come out radiating with unspeakable joy. In some others this experience can be tumultuous. The soul agonizes with guilt and sorrow where weeping and even moaning take place. But again, grief is replaced by deep gratitude and joy. Either ways conviction and repentance take place are genuine. In some this happens quickly and in some it takes time. But again in either cases, the force of conviction moves the person to yield before Christ, thus calling him “Lord,” but also because Christ is the one who freed from the burden of the heart, Christ also becomes his or her Savior.
But the Spirit not only leads to repentance and transformation, he also effects a union between the believer and Christ. The new believer experiences a new beginning, a new life, characterized by a deep sense of love for Christ and a desire to please him only. This is why the apostle Paul says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2Corinthians 5:17, 18a)
But still yet, there is something more the Spirit does. The Spirit indwells the believer, thus enabling the believer to produce the fruit of the Spirit. By producing the fruit of the Spirit, the believer gives witness of God’s presence in his or her life through the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that begin to overflow from him or her. And by exuding this spiritual fruit the believer grows into the likeness and stature of Christ.
What, then, should we do?
First, let us be mindful that it is only God’s Spirit who can intervene and can truly handle the storms ravaging our world. There is no other power that can change the heart of humankind.
Secondly, we should not fear, and much less believe that answers to human problems can come from somewhere other than God. Anyone or anything that suggests or promises to solve the problems afflicting the world is false.
Thirdly, instead of being sucked in the turbulence and becoming not only part of the storms, but also unable to calm them, let us bend our knees and plead with God in prayer to send his Spirit to do the work Jesus said the Advocate will do in the world. Let us intercede on behalf of the world that God’s Spirit might bring conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement to this world.
Fourthly, let us allow the Spirit of God to search our heart, so that he may show to us what is in there that might not be pleasing to God. Let us respond to the Spirit’s urgency by turning our lives into the hands of Christ, so that he may be our Lord and Savior, indeed. Amen!