After some time for personal reflection and time for discernment, i have returned. Here is the sermon i preached a few Sunday’s ago. As with all manuscripts of this type, some edits and ad-libs were done on the spot.
You Need Help! John 16:5-15
Sermon for Sunday, November 6, 2011
It might depend on who you speak to, but for some people, the 1960’s were a tumultuous time. The Cold War was at the highest state it had ever been. There was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. If that was not enough, there was of course the Vietnam War that simply would not end. These events and others were what eventually sparked the “Flower Power” generation. People just wanted to live in peace and harmony, leading to events like Woodstock in 1969 and other festivals. Leading the charge for peace were musicians, who had the ability and the platform to put into words what people were feeling. Artists like Neil Young and his song “Ohio,” and so many other artists voicing their opinions on the events going on.
Perhaps, The Beatles release of the song “Help!” in 1970 sums people’s attitudes best. “Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody. Help, you know I need someone. Help!” It was a song that encapsulated the disparity felt by people the world over.
Fast-forward to 2011. Worldwide there are natural disasters that are occurring at a pace never before seen. The war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close after 10 years. The economy continues to spin in a downward spiral. Entire nations are claiming bankruptcy and the most powerful nation in the world, the United States, is in economic disarray. Not really knowing what else to do, people are organizing marches like “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy Toronto” with no real direction. You can’t really call them protests because the people don’t even know what they are protesting. The people just know that something is wrong and that it needs to change. They need help.
We’ve been going through our series in John, and so I invite you to turn in your Bibles to John 16, and our passage today will focus on verses five to fifteen. This passage is picked up in the middle of the conversation that Jesus is having with his disciples just hours before his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. John’s records of the events leading up to the crucifixion is quite striking. He doesn’t concern himself with details about the Last Supper or events that the other gospels record. Rather, John continually focusses on the “last-minute” teachings and instructions of Jesus, if you will permit me to call them that. So when we get to chapter sixteen there are only a few things left that Jesus tells them. In chapter fourteen Jesus mentions the Holy Spirit briefly and then in our passage today, He describes the job, or the work that the Holy Spirit will be doing. Join me as I read from John sixteen, starting at verse five:
John 16: 5-15
5 “But now I go away 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 depart, I will send Him to you. 8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
So far the reading of God’s word.
At the start of this passage we see a familiar phrase that Jesus has repeated in some form or another throughout the book of John, “I will be leaving you.” The statement however, is never simply, “I am going away.” These phrases are prefaced with a, “Soon,” as in, “Soon I will go to my Father,” or, “A little while longer,” as in, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more,” as we see in chapter fourteen verse nineteen.
Here in chapter sixteen and verse five Jesus prefaces his statement with the words, “But now.” His departure is no longer a distant thing. It is no longer an event “down the road” so to speak. Further striking is that up to this point there is no indication that the disciples were ever distressed about Jesus leaving, but as soon as He adds the words, “But now,” sorrow has filled their hearts. They recognize that something is taking place.
Even at this time, it might be fair to say that the disciples did not really understand the events that will take place in the next hours. They are filled with sorrow because they are losing one of their closest friends. Remember that the disciples had spent almost every waking hour for the past three years with Jesus. Of course they would be sorrowful when He says He’s leaving.
I can almost see Jesus’ reaction to their sorrow though. In John 14:28 Jesus tells the disciples, “If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father.’” Here in John 16:7 Jesus says, “It is to your advantage that I go away.” Have you ever thought of this before: It is a good thing Jesus is in heaven right now? That it is a good thing that he left earth? For many people this might not make sense. Commentators are in general agreement that the reason for this is because even after his resurrection, Jesus is still a man. He has a resurrected body, but it is a body none-the-less. And this limitation would mean that Jesus cannot be in all places at all times. That is why the disciples are to rejoice; why it is an advantage that Jesus goes to heaven to be with His Father. Because the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the third part of the Trinity, who is not limited by a body, will come.
And what will the Holy Spirit do? What is His work? Verse eight reads, “When the Holy Spirit has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” Now, before we go further we should look at this word convict. The Greek word used here is evlevgcw, and carries with it the meaning of reproof or of cross-examination, but also, and more importantly, carries with it the meaning of convincing. So we might read this verse as follows, “When the Holy Spirit has come, He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
In reading verse eight this way, verses nine through eleven are perhaps a little easier to understand. The Holy Spirit will convict, or convince, the world of sin, because they do not believe in Jesus, as we read in verse nine. In Acts 2:37-38 we see an application of this principle. The Jewish people did not think that they were sinning when they crucified Jesus, yet when Peter is preaching in Acts 2 these same people were “cut to the heart.”
The story is told of a missionary in an Indian village who was “telling the story of Christ using lantern slides on the white-washed wall of a village house. When the picture of the Cross was shown, one of the Indian people stepped forward, almost as if he could not help it, and cried, “Come down! I should be hanging there – not you.”” How is it that a picture of Jesus on a cross two thousand years ago would tear at the heart of anyone throughout the centuries and even today? Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin because they do not know Him.
You will see as we continue on that there is actually a compounding effect of the work of the Holy Spirit found in these verses. The first job is to convict or convince the world of sin, which leads directly into the second step of this work. We read in verse ten, “The Holy Spirit will convict, or convince, the world of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.” The righteousness spoken of by Jesus here is His own righteousness. He is going back to the Father; back to heaven. Jesus is declaring that once the Holy Spirit has convicted someone of sin He will point that person to the saving work of Jesus and His righteousness. The disciples would not have known what this meant at the time, but as soon as Jesus was resurrected, and when he went to heaven, they would have been reminded of this statement.
Knowing Jesus’ righteousness then, the Holy Spirit takes his convincing one step further, as we see in verse eleven, “The Holy Spirit will convict, or convince, the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” In short Jesus is saying that if Satan, the ruler of this world, is judged, no one will be exempt from the coming judgment. Jesus is declaring that He is and always will be more powerful than Satan. He is going to judge Satan. The third part of this compounding work of the Holy Spirit is to prove to the world that judgment is coming, and the only way to escape that judgment is through Christ’s righteousness.
And once Jesus has established this compounding work of the Holy Spirit, he concludes our passage today with one final statement about the work that the Holy Spirit will do. Jesus declares in verse twelve, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” To be clear, Jesus is not saying this simply about our passage here today. He is referring to all that He’s been telling the disciples during the Last Supper, from at least half-way through chapter thirteen.
Jesus recognizes that the disciples are in information overload, so he finishes in verses thirteen to fifteen, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” William Barclay says of this passage, “To Jesus the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, whose great work is to bring God’s truth to men. We have a special name for this bringing of God’s truth to men; we call it revelation, and no passage in the New Testament shows us what we might call the principles of revelation better than this one.” End quote.
Yesterday a few of us went to the council of representatives for the Manitoba MB conference and the discussion was on church membership. I am not sure how the others felt, but by noon there had been so much information to think over that I did not want any more. Tell me more tomorrow or another day, but not today. I need to process this. That is what Jesus is declaring here in the revelation the Holy Spirit will bring. Jesus is declaring that no one can handle the fullness of truth in one moment, so the Holy Spirit will reveal a little bit more as the individual person is able to handle it. This truth is not something you barely know or grasp. It is an intimate knowledge and being experimentally acquainted with that Truth. Matthew Henry says it is “whatever is needful or useful for them to know to teach others.”
Not only that, we see in these verses how intimately the three persons of the Trinity are actively working with each other. Jesus receives from the Father and gives to the Holy Spirit, who in turn takes what is received and guides, instructs, and teaches people. Again Jesus, in being glorified, points all of the glory to the Father.
So what does all of this mean for our life? We live in a world where the post-modern way of thinking is becoming more and more attractive to people. This idea that, “You believe what you believe and I will believe what I believe, and in the end we can all just get along.” But that way of thinking leads to an exclusion of the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus describes in this passage. There is no conviction of sin or righteousness or judgment. Truth is relative based on human thinking.
It is not a question: “Do you need help?” Jesus is making a matter-of-fact statement to the disciples and to us, “You need help. Help is coming.”
In our world we do not want to talk about sin or judgment. Christian people are running from church to church because a pastor said something that caused a conviction. They blame the pastor for saying something wrong. They don’t want to acknowledge that it is in fact the Holy Spirit doing the work that the Holy Spirit does to make mature disciples of Christ. And so they run from congregation to congregation avoiding the conviction. Intentionally not listening to the Holy Spirit, who is seeking to help them grow.
In their humanness, they ignore the righteousness of Christ for this, “Jesus is my boyfriend” sort of mentality. And in doing so they ignore the reality of the coming judgment, the one that their “Jesus boyfriend” will be bringing. They want the revelation the Holy Spirit will give, but the Holy Spirit won’t give that revelation until the other work is first done in their lives. There is a very clear process of the work of the Holy Spirit laid out in this passage. Conviction of sin, conviction of righteousness, conviction of judgment, and then the outpouring of revelation.
May we not be so. If the Holy Spirit is working in your life right now in one of these aspects, don’t push it aside or ignore it. I personally believe that when we are living out our lives by allowing the Holy Spirit to work continually in the conviction of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, and we keep the slate clean, God will pour out His revelation in our lives.
When we do this, there will be no measure to how much He will pour out the Spirit. God tells the prophet Joel, “It shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and daughters shall prophesy; Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Friends this is the revelation Jesus is talking about in John 16. Dreams and visions and prophesies. A fulfillment of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Last week pastor Abe talked briefly about how much we don’t like “different”. Different unsettles us. It takes us to an uncomfortable place. In our hearts we like to say things like, “That’s not how we’ve done it in the past,” or “We’ve never done things that way.” We like to make sure that we stay in the comfortable. The disciples felt the same way and it was etched on their faces. Sorrow had filled their hearts. Remember, these were men who had spent almost every waking hour for three years with Jesus.
Jesus tells them point blank, “You need help.”
Maybe this is the first time you have ever heard of the person Jesus, his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. Maybe this is the first time you have ever heard of the Holy Spirit, who as we’ve just heard has work to do, as the Helper. Maybe this is the first time that you have ever heard of the love that God has for you. If you have questions or want to know more about the love of God I invite you to talk to myself or pastor Abe, or one of the lead team members. You do not have to go through life alone. God wants to help you.
Looking around the room though, I recognize that most of us have accepted Jesus as our Savior. But sometimes talking about the work of the Holy Spirit is too “different”. We do not mind talking about how the Holy Spirit has gifted us with the ability to play an instrument or to teach. That is okay. But we get uncomfortable when we talk about conviction of sins and righteousness and judgment. We don’t like to hear about how we have sinned, and if I asked you to remember the last time you heard a preacher talk about the coming judgment, you might have to strain to remember.
We have a hard time talking about visions and prophecies and dreams, and the other “different” works of the Holy Spirit like healings and speaking in tongues or interpretation of tongues because we cannot explain them. They go beyond the realm of our understanding and we cannot contain them, or control them.
Are you going to let the Holy Spirit work in your life? Are you going to accept that God operates in ways you can’t explain, and rather than dismiss it as unnatural, accept those things God does and allow him to work in and through you in those ways?
The Holy Spirit working in us today is the same Holy Spirit that was working in the disciples lives over two thousand years ago. It is the same work of the Holy Spirit that gave John the vision in the book of Revelation. It is the same work that gave Peter and John the ability to heal the lame man in Acts chapter three.
Are you going to limit what the Holy Spirit does and how He works simply because it might be a little uncomfortable? Or are you going to step out in a new measure of faith and begin to allow God to work through you in the power of the Holy Spirit?
You need help!
But unlike The Beatles who didn’t really know where to turn, we know where to turn.
Let us pray!