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. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:7-11
I remember it so well. Sitting in church that morning was so nerve-racking as the prophet called people out. The details were staggering. Every aspect was right! It was razor sharp. It would only be a few moments and then I knew, I’d be called up. I imagined how the Holy Spirit would paint a grand picture for all to see. It would be on public display, all my sin would be revealed. Thankfully the opposite happened. I got a prophecy that morning, it gloriously revealed the heart of God to me. That’s how the gifts of the Spirit are supposed to work, they help build us up and encourage us!
As a pastor, I would often have people in my office come in for counselling. Sins would be confessed, repentance would be seen, yet I kept encountering people who just could not shake off guilt and shame. It’s like they just seemed to pile on people again and again. I met Christians who seemingly embraced grace yet lived like they were no better off than a worm in the grass. It seems to me that a vast majority of the Church seems to live with an incorrect understanding of the Holy Spirit and His job regarding the believer.
Because of unhelpful teaching that emphasises our old nature and it’s sinfulness, many in the church have never read the scriptures through the lens of a forgiven soul. The result is teaching that is sin-focussed, and worship that glories in our old sinful past. One only needs to listen to the some of the songs that have come out of the contemporary Christian scene to see that very often it is focussed on our pre-resurrection state! This is understandable, in that I was a sinner, an evildoer and a God rebel.
But that all changed at salvation.
Gal 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Romans says 8:14-15 – For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!
My whole standing has changed.
In Christ I died to sin and was buried with Him, raised up with Him, ascended into heaven with Him and am now seated in Him in heavenly places. It all began with the Holy Spirit convicting me as a sinner of my desperate need for Jesus and his finished work on the cross. A little later the gospel writer, John, tells us the sin of which the Holy Spirit convicts us of, ‘concerning sin, because they do not believe in me’ (John 16:19).
Notice this here, it is not just the Holy Spirit coming to tell us what we have done wrong, but he convicts us of our unbelief and convinces us to trust Jesus. Most sermons I have heard on this text have had to do with general sin and how the Holy Spirit will make you feel really bad so you know you’re about to do something wrong, or worse still, after you have already done it. Yet this is not the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to this text. He is clearly calling the sinner to a place of faith in Jesus finished work. It goes onto say that he convicts us of our righteousness. This is a promise given to the disciples as a constant reminder of who and whose they are. ‘Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer’ (John 16:20).
The Holy Spirit comes to remind us of who we are, not who we were! He tells us of our right standing with the Father, Jesus has gone ahead to make a way for us. This then is the reason for the outpouring of the Spirit, to remind us that we are now right with God, sin has been removed and we are now a display of the goodness of God to the world. This is a far cry from being afraid of the Spirit when he comes to meet with us. He is a family Spirit, he affirms our sonship and tells us we are righteousness.
Therein lies the key to walking in holiness!
Read part two of this blog series: Am I Still a Sinner?