So let’s continue our look at the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives today by studying another aspect of what He has been commissioned to do:
In a quick review, we have been looking at the things that the Lord Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would do for us in John chapters 14-16. Thus far, we have seen that He will abide with us forever, teach us concerning all things, and remind us of the things that the Lord has already spoken to us—all of these being mentioned by our Messiah in chapter 14.
Last week, we moved into chapter 15, and saw that another thing that the Holy Spirit has been specifically assigned to do is to testify of Jesus.
We saw in verses 18-25 how Jesus warned His disciples of the hatred they would incur from the world and we saw just how important it is to be prepared for tough times like this. But we saw that the truth is—the more diligently we are seeking His kingdom, the more Satan will try and oppose us, and oftentimes this occurs through people—for he will stir up people to hate us, to ridicule us, and to simply discourage us.
But then we looked at what Jesus went on to promise them on the heels of these warnings in verse 26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
So, we saw how the Holy Ghost has been commissioned to testify of Jesus, and we saw how the Greek word used to translate “testify” here is the word where we get “martyr” from—which is someone who suffers or is even killed for their “testimony.” So, this word literally describes “being a witness, to bear witness, or to give a testimony.”
And we learned that He does not necessarily do this through us because of what Jesus went on to say in verse 27 when He said, “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” We saw how the words “bear witness” in this verse come from the exact same Greek word that was used in verse 26 to describe the Holy Spirit “testify(ing)” of Him. Therefore, we cannot say that what Jesus was saying in verse 26 is that the Holy Spirit witnesses of Jesus through us because in the next breath, Jesus said, “and you also will bear witness…” Therefore, we learned that we are bearing witness of Jesus through our words, actions, lifestyle, etc., but the Holy Spirit is also somehow bearing witness of Him as well. So, I would submit to you that the Holy Spirit is not just bearing witness through us; he is bearing witness to us.
So, we asked the question—How? How is He doing this? Then, understanding that the apostle John loved to use this word martyreo, we looked over at John 1:6-8 and saw how he used it in relation to John the Baptist—identifying Jesus’ forerunner with the same commission as the One who would follow Him (i.e. the Holy Spirit). And we learned that the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus just like John the Baptist did: He was sent from the Father to serve as a witness of the Light of the world—the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not here to be the Light Himself, but is on the earth to bear witness and testify of Jesus, that we might believe on Him. Amen.
So, we then looked at how we “testify” of Jesus through both our witnessing to people and our giving our testimony to people. And we learned that there are a lot of lessons in how the Holy Spirit does this that we can learn from ourselves as we testify of the Lord. And one particular thing we learned from Romans chapter one is that the Lord is the One who reveals to the world the fact that God is against sin and of the judgment to come—not us. Our job is to preach the gospel and what this glorious salvation has done in us, and then the Holy Spirit reveals the rest. Which leads me to my next point:
TO CONVICT THE WORLD
The next thing that the Lord Jesus shows us that the Holy Spirit is commissioned to do is to “convict”: So now, let’s continue this teaching by looking ahead to John 16:7-11.
Now if you recall, Jesus had just shown His disciples how important us having the Holy Spirit is by saying, “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.” So, having the Holy Spirit provides us with an advantage even over having the Lord Jesus Christ here with us in the flesh! Amen. But then notice what Jesus immediately says after this: In verses 8-11, Jesus said, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Now let me begin by dispelling a couple of popular belief systems that people have of these verses and about the workings of the Holy Spirit in general:
Notice, first of all, that Jesus said, “And when He has come (And He most certainly has come!), He will convict the world…” Convict who? “The world.” So, who is it that the Holy Spirit will convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment? The world! And we know that when Jesus refers to the world here, He is certainly including unbelievers because, in verse 9, when He goes on to explain why He will convict the world of these three things, He says, “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” Therefore, this is certainly talking about those of the world who have not yet believed on Jesus. However, I also see it as including those who are in the world but not of the world as well (i.e. believers) because in verse 10 He says, “of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see Me no more.” (We will deal with how the Holy Spirit performs this in our lives in the latter part of this teaching)
So, this particular commission of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11 is what He is assigned to do for everyone living in the world, and not necessarily just for God’s children. This is important to understand, particularly as it pertains to the sin portion, because how many of us have heard how the Holy Spirit “convicted” one of our brothers & sisters in Christ of their sin—taking them to the woodshed and made them feel horrible for what they did wrong—and they used these very verses to substantiate it?
Well, I’m here to tell you that what a lot of Christians say is the Holy Spirit is not the Holy Spirit—which leads me to point number two: Part of the reason people misunderstand the workings of the Holy Spirit is because of this word we see in the King James version— “convict.”
You see, in our modern-day terminology, the word “convict” has more of a negative tone to it. To us, the word “convict” paints the picture of a courtroom and carries the idea of some judge who is looking down on the guilty and condemning them for their wrongdoing. And religion certainly has not helped this perception of conviction either: It has painted the picture that God is looking down on us with a lightning bolt in His hand ready to strike us down at any moment for our sinful ways. So, therefore, a good portion of the Church teaches that the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to constantly hound us—condemning us for all our various faults and shortcomings. Saints, this is not what the Holy Spirit is commissioned to do!
So, what does the word “convict” actually mean? The Greek word translated as “convict” carries more of the idea to “convince or to prove” than it does to “condemn.” In fact, the Greek word that the apostle John used here literally means “to bring something to light, and thus to expose it.” So, don’t get stuck on the word “convict” and let that word paint a negative picture of the Holy Spirit’s dealings with the world.
But the fact is (as we’ve made the point of already), Jesus specifically said that the Holy Spirit’s assignment to “convict” of sin is aimed at the world, and not at the church. In other words, the Holy Spirit’s job of convicting, convincing, and simply bringing to light one’s sinful condition is specifically targeting unbelievers.
Which brings up an important point—Not only is His ministry to convict of sin not aimed at us but to the world, this ministry to convict of sin is His job to perform and not ours.
HOLY GHOST JR.
Now allow me to take a little rabbit trail here concerning this: It is unfortunate, but there have been many believers that think that this is their ministry—to bring people under conviction. No, this is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours.
You see, the Bible does not call us “convicters”; it simply calls us witnesses (see John 15:27 & Acts 1:8). And there is a big difference between someone who simply witnesses and someone who does the convicting.
You see, a witness is not the judge or the jury. A witness just simply testifies of what they have seen, heard, or experienced. And just as sometimes a witness is needed to convict a lawbreaker in a court of law, a witness is needed to open the door for the Holy Spirit to convict an unbeliever of their sin in the kingdom of God. We, as witnesses, are not to point our finger at them; we are just to tell people what we’ve experienced and then let the Holy Spirit do the convicting.
Have you ever noticed that when you have realized someone has missed it in some area and then you, in your zeal, call them out on their sin, that you rarely get the desired response? Yes, people do not usually respond well to us when we try and do the convicting. However, when we take the humble approach of simply testifying to what we’ve seen and experienced in our own life, we will get more “God-results.”
Second Timothy chapter two, gives us a good example of this: In Second Timothy 2:22-26, the apostle Paul says to Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
First of all, notice how he first tells Timothy what he should “flee & pursue” Why is this important? Because the first part of being a good witness is to walk in the truth ourselves. And not just because we ought to avoid hypocrisy and ruin our witness, but because our lifestyle and behavior is also what sheds light on the darkness that the world walks in.
Have you ever noticed how the world around us just seems to be convicted from being in our presence? Now we might not have noticed that if we are walking like the world ourselves, but if we have been pursuing the things of God and we are carriers of God’s presence because our relationship with Him is where it needs to be, the ungodly around us will get convicted simply from being in our presence—and here’s the kicker: without us even saying a word. Therefore, by being Christ’s witness simply by our example, the Holy Spirit is able to fulfill His commission to convict.
Now I will say that this does not always mean that the person under conviction will have a repentant reaction. In fact, in most of these cases, the person under conviction will more than likely have a negative response by resenting, hating, or even persecuting us. But that is just the response you get when letting your light shine before men: You will have both the moths & the roaches—the “moths” being those who come to the light and the “roaches” being those who run from the light. And unfortunately, we live the woods of the world, where there are many more roaches than there are moths.
Then Paul goes on to show us that we need to avoid disputes and quarrels because all they generally do is generate strife. Why? Because with the vast majority of people, they do not dispute to find the truth, but to defend the truth they think they know. So, arguing and debating is generally fruitless and actually anti-productive according to Paul.
But notice how he goes on to describe that there is a place for correcting others, but just that we should do it “in humility.” For example, when we are tempted to correct & convict someone else for something and we are certain they are doing wrong, it is always a good idea to broach the subject in humility. How? By instead of correcting them for what they are doing wrong, be a witness of what the Lord has shown you. Say, for example, you see someone having the wrong attitude about something. While you might be tempted to just correct their “stinkin’ thinkin’,” you can give them an example of how you yourself once did what they are currently doing and then share with them how the Lord corrected you. This takes that “holier than thou” perception of you out of the picture and enables them to see more clearly how they need to respond like you did. Not to mention, it opens the door to the Holy Spirit to validate in their heart the truth that you gave witness to. We see this in the remainder of these verses in Second Timothy.
Paul went on to say, “if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” So, what we see here is that it begins with us being a witness, and then what follows is God—in the Person of the Holy Spirit, I might add—who helps the person to repent, know the truth, and come to their senses to escape the snare of the devil. Amen!
Again, we cannot make a person repent. We cannot make someone come to know the truth. And we cannot bring them to their senses. This is the Holy Ghost’s job! And for us to try and do this ourselves is just pride—thinking we can do His job for Him.
You see, some people, in their zeal, have gone beyond the witness stand and tried to bring people under conviction themselves. This not only can frustrate the witness but it can drive the people we are trying to convict away from God. We need to eliminate this “Holy Ghost Jr.” mentality of trying to convict people of their sins ourselves and let the Holy Spirit do His job. Again, He’s the Judge who convicts; we are simply the witnesses—and by doing our part of being Christ’s witness, we open the door for the Holy Spirit to do His part of being Christ’s convicter! Don’t leave the witness stand!
SIN, RIGHTEOUSNESS, & JUDGMENT
So, what is the Holy Spirit convicting the world of? Well, Jesus said in verse 8 that He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. And I am so glad that He did not just leave it up to us to figure out how and why He does this. As we’ve seen, Jesus went on in verses 9-11 and answered those questions for us.
Notice again that Jesus said, “of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Now I do not want to spend too much time here explaining these three particular things that Jesus said He would convict the world of, but would rather focus on His commission to convict in general. I will say, however, that in meditating what Jesus was saying through these three examples, I have seen how Jesus covered His three basic areas of conviction: The Holy Spirit convicts the world of what is wrong (i.e. sin), what is right (i.e. righteousness), and last but not least, He convicts the world of the outcome of doing what is wrong or right (i.e. judgment).
But again, I am so thankful that Jesus did not end with verse 8, but went on to explain what He meant by saying that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of “sin, righteousness, and judgment.”
First of all, in verse 9, He said, “of sin, (Why?) because they do not believe in Me.”
You see, the Holy Spirit is not necessarily convicting the world of specific, individual sins. Jesus said here that the real issue is the sin of unbelief—that they do not believe on Jesus. So, this is what the Holy Spirit targets in the unbeliever—the fact that they do not believe on the Way, the Truth, and the Life Himself, which is at the root of all of the sinful fruit they produce in their lives. Now we, on the other hand, like to convict the sinner of his or her specific sins. Yes, some Christians like to deal with people’s individual sins and heap condemnation on them for them. But not so with the Holy Spirit. He likes to deal with the root and not the fruit.
You see, if we just get an unbeliever to clean his or her act up a bit, that will not change their ultimate destiny. They must believe on Jesus! They must put their faith in His deeds, not simply change their deeds. There are many people who darken the doors of churches and call themselves Christians who are no better off than the rankest sinner on the streets. We must be born again—and that happens through believing on Jesus.
Now when one does believe on Jesus in their hearts, it will certainly produce a change of fruit in their life. Yes, when the root system has genuinely been changed, the fruit will wind up being different. But simply picking off some of the bad fruit that we have on our branches does not change the type of tree we are. That is my point.
Then in verse 10, Jesus said, “of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more.”
So, the Holy Spirit also convicts the world of righteousness—or you could say, “rightness.” (Be careful not to read into the meaning of this word by one definition that you have of it). The fact is, there are two kinds of righteousness—there is the righteousness that we receive by faith when we are born again, but there are also the righteous deeds that are what are “right” and in agreement with God’s standards. And I believe if we consider why Jesus said the Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness here, we will see what He meant.
You see, the reason the Holy Spirit needs to convict the world of “righteousness” is because Jesus has gone to His Father and we do not have Him physically with us any longer. In other words, since Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the throne of His Father and we do not have Him on the earth with us any longer to show us what is “right in God’s sight,” the Holy Spirit’s job is to show us what is “righteous.” Amen.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit does not simply reveal “sin” and point out the negatives; no, He is here to reveal to us what is right and in agreement with God’s standards! Thank God for the ministry of the Holy Spirit!
And finally, in verse 11, the Holy Spirit is said to convict the world “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Now this is something that the Universal Church does not like to address, but the fact is, there is a judgment to come. And the Bible actually teaches us that eternal judgment is one of the foundational teachings of the New Testament (see Hebrews 6:1-2). So, the Holy Spirit is here to convict the world of this judgment.
Now unfortunately, people don’t tend to receive the conviction of this until they are on their death bed. But the fact is, the Holy Spirit is here to warn the world of this impending judgment. I believe there are a couple of reasons why the Holy Spirit is not able to “convince” them of Judgment Day: For one, I believe it is because we are not giving witness to it. In other words, it is not on our radar; therefore, how can we expect it to be on theirs? Secondly, I don’t believe that they are open to it until they are faced with death—whether that be at a funeral of someone else or as they know they are faced with death themselves.
And why does Jesus say His Spirit is convicting the world of judgment? It is because the ruler of this world is judged. So, I would explain it this way: Because Satan—the ruler of this world has been judged, all of those who choose to follow and serve him are under the same judgment that He is. Now Satan has already been judged and the verdict has been declared. All that is left now is the execution of that sentence, which will occur at Jesus’ Second Coming. And all of those who reject Christ’s Lordship now in this life will be subject to the same sentence that Satan has.
So, this is what the Holy Spirit is convicting the world of. He is ever in the process of convincing those in this world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Yes, He convicts them of sin because they have not believed on the One who died as payment for their sin. He convicts them of righteousness because Jesus is not here to display the way of righteousness to them. And He convicts them of judgment because the penalty of rejecting Jesus and His righteousness is the same penalty as that of the ruler of this world.
CONVICTION VS. CONDEMNATION
Now does this mean that the Holy Spirit is not dealing with us—God’s children—as well? Since Jesus said here that the Holy Spirit is doing this commission of convicting & convincing to the world, does that mean that He does not show us things as well? I do not believe so.
No, just because Jesus only addressed “the world” as being subject to the Holy Spirit’s conviction here, does not mean that He does not fulfill this in a certain measure to the Church. We are in the world as well, just not of the world. I for one am thankful for all of the times that the Holy Spirit has shown me when I am missing it and what I ought to be doing.
I have seen many in the Church today reject even the notion of God correcting us or pointing out our mistakes because they see it as a negative thing. But the truth is, we all do stupid things and we all need correction from time to time. So, who better to provide us with all of the instruction, correction, and direction that we so desperately need than the Holy Spirit?
Again, people take correction as such a negative thing. But this particular commission of the Holy Spirit is not a negative ministry; it is a positive ministry! He is an exhorter and an encourager, not a “beat ‘em down in the dumps” condemner (see Romans 8:1&34)! While He certainly does “convict” us when we do something wrong in the sense that He simply brings it to our attention, He does it in order to teach and train us to become more like Jesus in our attitudes and conduct, and not to make us feel bad. Church, He is a convicter, and not a condemner!
The question that begs to be answered then is: What is the difference between conviction and condemnation? Understanding the difference between these two is vital to being able to discern the difference between what comes from God, Satan, and even us.
Earlier in my walk with the Lord, He taught me how to tell the difference between these two: He said, “Conviction brings a state of hope; Condemnation brings a state of hopelessness.” What this means is that when you just feel bad over what you did and are basically void of any hope of ever getting back on track—then rest assured, what you are experiencing is condemnation and not conviction.
You see, condemnation only yields death. It does nothing but beat you over the head for the mess you are in and does nothing to help you out. It will lay on you such a heavy burden, but not help you lift it even in the least. Condemnation will even try and ultimately cause you to despair of life in general. In other words, it will not stop with making you feel hopeless with your individual mistake. It will end up trying to make you feel hopeless about your Christian walk altogether. Condemnation is a quitter! So, if you are ever being tempted to entertain the thoughts of quitting, know that condemnation is in there somewhere.
On the other hand, when you are receiving the conviction of the Holy Spirit, you might feel remorse, but it won’t be the kind of hopeless, guilt-infested sorrow that the world brings. You will sense hope to overcome, hope for change, and hope for forgiveness!
The way I personally can discern the conviction of the Holy Spirit is that I always end up feeling better after I receive it. During those times (which are more than I would likeJ), I feel like I can genuinely say to the Holy Spirit, “Thank you sir! May I have another!?!” His loving and gracious rebukes do not make me feel like a failure. Instead they infuse me with a hope for repentance and also provide the way of escape at the same time (i.e. the “how to” in regards to repentance).
But my point is that the Holy Spirit’s commission to convict is a positive, life-giving commission and not something that we should dread. His is a commission of conviction, not condemnation! Yes, church, we must know that the Holy Spirit never, ever condemns us! So, if we ever feel even a hint of condemnation over something that we did then we should eliminate the Holy Spirit from being a possible suspect, which would leave Satan or ourselves as the only two possible suspects.
HOW THE HOLY GHOST CONVINCES US
So, in conclusion, let’s look at some of the ways in which the Holy Spirit will also “convince” us of things:
Well, as we have seen, when we sin and fall short of the glory of God, the Holy Spirit does not beat us up over it, but He simply brings to light what we need to see and then gently encourages us to get back up and believe on Jesus. You see, just as He would convict the world of sin because they did not believe on Jesus, likewise, He likes to draw us back to that place of believing on Jesus—which is at the root of all obedience and disobedience.
You see, all sin is a result of not believing on Jesus. What do I mean by that? Well, from a positional sense, if we believe on Jesus, we have no sin. Sin has been dealt with. It has been eradicated. The just (those justified and declared righteous) live by faith! But even from a practical and experiential sense, all sinful behavior is simply the fruit of not believing on Him. Let me explain: if I perhaps stole something, why did I do that? It is because I did not “trust” that Jesus could meet my need or give me the contentment that I need. Isn’t this what occurred with David and Bathsheba? After David’s “sin,” the Lord reminded him of all He had blessed him with, and if that would not have been enough, He would have given him even more (see Second Samuel 12:8). So, in essence, David did not believe in the goodness of God, which resulted in him trying to take something that was forbidden.
Well, the truth is that every act of disobedience is somehow, someway not believing on the Lord. So, a lack of faith in the grace & goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ is at the root of all sin.
But the Holy Spirit does not just convict us of the ways that we miss it; He also is commissioned to convince and persuade us of other things pertaining to God’s righteousness. In other words, He will show us what we ought to do—what is right and in agreement with God’s standards.
And again, this is the difference with conviction: It does not put the attention on what we shouldn’t have done, but will point us to what needs to be done. For example, it will not beat us up for the mistake we already made, but will show us what to do now that we’ve already done it. Amen!
Do you remember that Christian fad from a decade or so ago where everyone was wearing those rubber bracelets that said W.W.J.D—standing for “What Would Jesus Do”? Well, I’m here to tell you that we have something other than a bracelet to wear on our flesh, reminding us of what Jesus would do; we have Someone living in our heart who will remind us of what the righteous thing to do is in every situation. Amen!
In fact, the Bible tells us that He was sent to convince and prove to us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16), of God’s love for us (Romans 5:5), and that God’s promises will come to pass (Ephesians 1:13-14 & 2 Corinthians 1:20-22). The terminology may differ in these verses, but they all denote the same thing as “convict.” Yes, the Holy Spirit wants us to be convinced of His goodness.
So, in conclusion, the Holy Spirit is here to convict the world. And again, this is His assignment, not ours. Let’s do our job of being witnesses and not leave the stand to try to do the Holy Spirit’s job. And as we have learned, the good news is that if we just be the witnesses that we are called to be, we can help the Holy Spirit do the convicting that He is called to do. Amen?