I think we all agree that the most annoying aspect of TV is the ads. I actually think the TV stations secretly know this. Why would they ask you not to go away during the commercial break? (Another thing: Why do they welcome you back when you were the one who sat there waiting for them to come back?)
Ads in other news media can be just as annoying; just think about all the junk mail one gets in the mail box – and all along they are the ones who tell us to save the trees and save the planet!
But the story behind ads lies its ability and aim to change our minds. See, if you keep telling people they need something, they will eventually develop that need. Ads are designed to slowly impact our thinking, and eventually change our buying habits.
We see our politicians vying for our attention to change our minds as who we are going to vote for. They are not always successful. Doctors are more successful, because if we don’t do what they say we might be exposed to pain and eventually death. So, we listen to them.
This brings me to something I would really desire to have: the ability to convince people to change their minds and hearts and to obey God. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! If the pastors of our city work together all of Hervey Bay would be Christians within a few short years. But the reality of preaching the Gospel is that it does not lie within the preacher to convince people to be saved. Even some missionaries plough every ounce of energy into proclaiming the Gospel to nations living in the darkness of sin, only to, in some cases, retire without seeing any convict.
The context of Christ’s words to his disciples
Now, let’s go to the chapter we have read in John 16. Let’s put ourselves in the boots of the disciples as Jesus spoke to them.
Our Lord announced that He is going to leave them. His command to them was that they would love one another. He had already promised them that the Holy Spirit would come to be their Helper – we looked at that from John 14.
Christ gave them other promises too: The Father will give them whatever they ask in His name. But He also commanded them to be fruitful. As a matter of fact, He declared:
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (John 15:8, 16, NIV)
Then our Lord added this:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11, NIV)
All of this sounds fantastic – and it is! The gift to the Church in the first instance is Jesus Christ; in the second instance it’s the Holy Spirit; the promise is that all the Church needs to bear fruit, and lots of it, is to ask and trust God to fulfil his promises; of course this should bring us joy! So, we’ve got all we need. The only thing remaining now is to prayerfully take to the streets, trust God, stand upon the promises of Christ, speak in the power of the Holy Spirt – are you with me up to this point? So what will happen if we did exactly this? All the people will fall at our feet, believing every word we say. Right? Nor really!
There is something we missed in what Jesus taught his disciples. Listen:
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. (John 15:19–21, NIV)
This changes things somewhat. Gone is the joy! The world we face and proclaim the message to does not like us, they hate us. The passage from 1Corinthians today states:
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:8, NIV)
And you might say you did not sign up for this part of Christian service. But there is no other Christianity. If you call yourself a Christian, it implies that you are not of this world.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14, NIV)
So, where do we stand? It seems impossible to bear much fruit then in this hostile world. No, don’t despair. We have a Helper! He is the Holy Spirit. He is the convincing Judge.
When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: (John 16:8, NIV)
What seemed to be impossible for the handful of disciples, (and Luke tells us that the men of the Jewish Council knew they were unschooled, ordinary men [Acts 4:13]) became a reality on Pentecost day: The Holy Spirit was poured out and Peter preached, expounding the Word of God – and three thousand people became Christians. But others hated them and stuck them in jail, Stephen was stoned, and Paul was beaten and left of dead outside a city. Success as well as rejection. The secret lies in the work of the Holy Spirit.
The convincing judge
The work of the Spirit is like a double-edged sword. While it convicts of sin, righteousness and judgement, He brings sins to light with a view to draw sinners to Christ. But those who are hard of heart and reject the convicting work stand condemned. His work is both convincing and convicting.
Just a few verses back Jesus said:
If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both Me and my Father. (John 15:24, NIV)
The Spirit of God continues the work of Christ while He is in heaven at the right hand of God. So, He also reveals to the lost the glories of the salvation in Christ, and as such his work is to open the eyes of the lost to the reality of:
“In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.” (verse 9)
We proclaim the Gospel as channels and heralds of Christ; we may point out to those who do not know Him that they need to repent from their sin; we may point out the deadly consequences of rejecting Christ and no believing in Him; we may even refer to eternal punishment upon those who trample underfoot the blood of Christ – all these things we need to do; but ultimately the work of convincing and influencing people to change their hearts and minds, to repent, to beg for forgiveness of sins, and to follow Jesus Christ is the work of the Spirit. And that’s a good thing. He is God! When He shines his light upon a sinful heart one finds oneself in a corner without escape – and the only way out is to beg for forgiveness – only to find the peace of Christ filling your mind – because you know judgment is taken away.
Hardening your heart is to face the Spirit who will one day take you to the throne of judgement. Do you want to go there?
The Spirit’s work is to open the eyes of the lost to the reality of:
Jesus said: about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; (John 16:10, NIV)
At first it sounds difficult to understand this verse, until we understand that Christ is our only righteousness. We have no righteousness of our own. He is in heaven to plead for us at the Father, based only on the fact that He took our sins upon Him and gave his righteousness to us. Based on us trusting Hom only for salvation and believing in him as the only person between us and God, our relationship with the Father is now right.
The work of the Spirit is to convince sinners that there is no other righteousness, no-one else who can forgive and cleanse. It’s all about Christ whom the Spirit has come to declare to us.
The work of the Spirit is to convince sinners that there is no other righteousness, and that those who reject this righteousness will one day stand to face Him who gave his life to save; they will have to think of a reason why they thought to push aside his offer of grace. Even those who put their trust in their own good deeds in the hope that it will be enough to save them – they will then hear the judging words of the Spirit, because all our good works combined will never suffice to bring salvation to our souls.
It’s a matter of trusting Christ completely with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, leaving all you have at his feet, taking up your cross and then following Him. Their is just no other means to be saved.
The Spirit’s work is to open the eyes of the lost to the reality of:
This is not something modern Christianity loves to hear. Denominations where the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are overstressed seem to believe the only aspect worth believing in the Holy Spirit is to receive those gifts, and more so the gift of speaking in tongues, and also the power of the Spirit, which is usually understood to mean the ability to perform miracles, and sometimes mean that we can experience all sorts of prosperity and material success.
But according to our verse the work of the Spirit is to bring judgement as a reality to us. The reason for this is to help us understand the consequence of rejecting Christ, but also to help us understand the blessings of receiving Christ, and as such to be free of judgement.
When Paul states:
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, (1 Corinthians 2:4, NIV)
– he understood that if the salvation of sinners rested upon his shoulders, it would be doomed. No, it was all the work of the Spirit. That’s why he continues:
so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. (1 Corinthians 2:5–6, NIV)
So, here I stand as preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you all will receive Christ and be saved. God had a purpose why He called you here today to hear this. Now, I rest my case. I still pray for you as Paul was doing, in his words:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20, NIV)
Is your sin bearing like a burden on you? Do you understand that Christ died for you to become your righteousness? Do you understand that fleeing to Him He removes judgement from you? Praise God. Heed the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
Do this Gospel message leave you cold and unmoved? I plead with you, be reconciled to Christ; the consequences are too severe to shove it aside.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 29 May 2016