This article is adapted from a sermon preached by Adam Brock entitled “A Trinity of Truths.”
I did a little research on the topic of famous last words and found the account of Gen. John Sedgwick to be fascinating. He lived from 1813 to 1864 and apparently, his last words were, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” He spoke these words to his men who were ducking from enemy sniper gunfire.
John chapters 14–16 record Jesus’ final words to his disciples before he died, which means he is surely telling them the most important things they need to remember and hold on to after he’s gone. It’s his “final words.” And so, it’s very significant that in these three short chapters he brings up the Holy Spirit more than 20 times.
It seems that most Christians fall into one of two extremes when it comes to the Holy Spirit: Some seem obsessed. And then other Christians seem to ignore the Holy Spirit altogether. Functionally they operate as if the Holy Spirit is this distant relative we know is out there but we don’t talk about. Kind of like Bruno.
But the Bible is not silent about the Holy Spirit, and we need to understand that.
While the Spirit is mentioned throughout the New Testament, three writers place great emphasis on the Spirit: Paul, Luke, and John.
One of the most interesting ideas John develops is the Spirit as the paraklētos, which means advocate, or helper, comforter, counselor, encourager, mediator, intercessor. In this capacity we see the Spirit of God indwelling believers, teaching believers, giving peace to believers, and convicting, which is what we will be focusing on today.
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:John 16:7-11
9 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.
We’ve got three truths, or as you see in the title of this message, A Trinity of Truths, from the Holy Spirit. Before we get there though, let’s think about a few things together, starting in verse 7.
John says in verse 7 that it’s to their advantage that Jesus goes away. Really? On the surface, this seems absurd. I think I’d like Jesus to stay right here, thank you very much. But the departure of Jesus was necessary—though painful and difficult—for the disciples.
So maybe, you’ve had the thought, “It sure would be nice if Jesus were here. I could look him in the eyes, and ask all my questions, and it’d be way better.”
Well, according to scripture, having the Spirit inside you is better than having Jesus beside you.
I’m sure the disciples were terrified at the thought of not having Jesus with them any longer. For three years he has been their Rabbi, their Master, and they have grown to even believe he was their Lord, the Promised Savior. But the reality is that Jesus was confined by the limits of place and time as long as he walked as a man. But there are no limitations on the Spirit. Everywhere we go, the Spirit is with us. Having the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of the promise from Matthew 28:20, which records Jesus saying, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Because of the Holy Spirit, we now have uninterrupted fellowship with God forever. There is encouragement to be found here. If you’ve been born again, then you have the Spirit of God.
I love what Paul wrote in Romans 8, after talking extensively about the Spirit of God, he writes this: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom. 8:35 NIV)
The answer is nothing can separate us. Because of the Holy Spirit, we are sealed forever, secure in his grasp.
Let me ask you, are you living like you have an advantage? Or are you moping around like, wishing you could have victory in your life?
Scripture clearly teaches that it is to your advantage that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. May we as a church start to experience that today.
Let’s move to verse 8. “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
Here we are introduced to the Trinity of Truths. First, we’ll talk about sin, then righteousness, then judgment.
But don’t miss the word convict here. It’s vitally important. It’s the greek word elencho, which means to expose, reprove, convict, or reproach.
We don’t like to spend too much time on conviction because it’s not a pleasant experience. But it is necessary for conversion and sanctification. Without conviction, we would be fine to stay in our sin, and would never feel the pull of God toward redemption.
If I could help you with one thing today it’d be this: When you feel the conviction of God in your life, exposing the brokenness and rebellion, understand this, God’s purpose in it is not condemnation, but rescue. Condemnation is what results in our lives if we refuse to respond to God. And because we fear being condemned we run from the very one who can rescue us. Yes, the Holy Spirit convicts, but you have the choice to let that conviction drive into the arms of a loving father who is waiting with forgiveness, or away from salvation. When you feel convicted, don’t resist him.
The scripture says, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” (John 16:8-9)
The last part of verse 9 is the key to this section. Unbelief is the condemning sin that closes the door to heaven and opens the door to hell. People do not go to hell because they smoke, drink, or curse but because they reject faith in Christ. Furthermore, this sin characterizes every unregenerate person. God is not looking for perfect people but people who are willing to accept the atonement that he has already provided. And the only way to do that is to admit you need it. Unfortunately, we have become experts at rationalizing away our sin.
The lies we tell ourselves are always the biggest and most damaging. Our sinful nature desires to minimize sin so that we feel better about ourselves. We must fire our inner lawyer. Because the truth is, sin is killing us. It leads to death, every time. And so, because sin is extreme, our attitude toward it should also be extreme. Meaning, instead of asking, “What can I get away with,” we should ask, “what do I need to get away from?”
The world looks at this mindset and says, we’re crazy. We’re legalistic, we’re no fun. But that’s because the world is clinging to unbelief about what sin actually is.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23 ESV)
John Owen was a Puritan theologian who lived in the 17th century. One of his books is called “The Mortification of Sin: Dealing with Sin in Your Life.”
Here’s what he wrote on this subject: “Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it while you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.” But our society today has bought into the lie that says, “you’re not actually that bad.”
The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians that “we by nature are children of wrath…” (Eph. 2:3 NKJV). That means you and I were born into this world with a sinful nature. Whether you agree with that or not it is true.
You mean my precious little angel baby has a sinful nature?
I have three little treasures, three daughters. And all three are made in the image of God. They are of immense value and worth because they have been made in the image of the creator of the whole world. They also are a joy and delight to me. Seriously, I can’t even begin to describe to you how much I love them. And they’re a ton of fun.
But there have been moments when I look at my wife, and her at me and we’ll say, “do you teach her to do that, or say that?” And the answer is no, we didn’t teach that, it comes naturally. It comes naturally for these beautiful, sweet angels to lie, be selfish, steal, hit, lash out, and much more. How could you say that? Because it’s true. We’re all born with a sinful nature.
And I refuse to ignore this reality even when it comes to my children because when we ignore it we lose sight of what our mission is. God has given me these children, as a gift, so that I might show them Jesus. Apart from him, they will not find or experience life. Their greatest need is to find a way to deal with the sin that is killing them, same as me.
And I know raising children can be a tricky endeavor because ultimately our children will decide for themselves, whether to trust Christ. But know this, don’t give up, and don’t lose sight of what’s most important: The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict concerning sin. You entrust them to the Holy Spirit and have faith that conviction will lead to repentance. There is no plan b. And parents that’s our No. 1 job.
Only the Holy Spirit can help you understand the truth about sin. It is rebellion against God. It is refusing to let God have his way in your life. Sin is not just those things that we do that are wrong. Sin is that we are wrong. We are in rebellion against God. It’s the Holy Spirit who will convict you of that if you listen. That’s the first step to true salvation. Until you realize you’re a sinner through and through, not because of what you do, but because of what you are, you can never be saved.
Look at verse 10. “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.”
How do you convict a person of righteousness? Isn’t righteousness a good thing?
Throughout the Gospel of John, we find two types of righteousness. One type is the righteousness of man apart from God (self-righteousness), and the other is the righteousness of God.
These two types of righteousness regularly came into conflict. For instance, in chapter 9 Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders condemned Jesus and characterized themselves as righteous defenders of God’s law, but they were more concerned with their public image than with helping those in need. False righteousness—any attempt to earn God’s favor on your own—is always a temptation for us. We must listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit when he comes and points out that we fall short of God’s standard.
The problem is we measure our righteousness in comparison to others. It’s like the joke that says if me and you are in the woods and we come up on a bear, I don’t have to be faster than the bear, I just have to be faster than you.
Unfortunately, that’s the guiding philosophy for many people. They think, as long as I’m a little better than the next person I’ll probably be OK. But when we look into the mirror of scripture, we realize that on our best day, we fall royally short.
The picture in the Bible is quite graphic. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.” This equates the righteous acts of man to a filthy rag. Which historically is either a menstrual cloth or a disease-soaked bandage from a leper. In other words, we don’t come close to measuring up.
But thankfully where we fall short, Jesus is enough. Paul writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV)
Only the Holy Spirit can help you understand what true righteousness is and true righteousness comes only through Jesus Christ. Righteousness is not a reward for anything we have done. It is a gift that comes through what Christ did on the cross. Salvation is not a reward for the righteous. It is a gift for the guilty. The only way that we are made righteous is through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me ask you, “What are you depending upon to get you into heaven? Is it your self-righteousness?”
God will look at them and say, “Filthy rags. Unclean.” As people separated themselves from a leper as he walked down the street, God will separate himself from you. If a person could be saved just by being good, then God made the biggest blunder in history when he put his Son on the cross. If your own good life, attending church, going to Sunday school, paying your debts, and being a moral, upstanding citizen could get you to heaven, then Calvary was a drastic mistake.
God said the same thing in the Book of Galatians. “If righteousness comes through the law then Christ died in vain” (Gal. 2:21 KJV). That is, it was a waste of time. What Jesus Christ did on that cross, you and I could never do for ourselves.
When you die, eternal life will only be yours if you are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, not because of your righteousness. Only the Holy Spirit can help you see that.
I’ve been praying that the Holy Spirit would use this message and engrain that into your heart. I pray that you understand, sin is not just what you do, it’s what you are. Righteousness is not what you do, it’s what Christ has done.
Notice now, the third truth.
“Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11 ESV)
Most people’s idea of judgment is since God is love, God will let me get by with my sin. God will let me slide. But that’s absolutely wrong and it’s the Holy Spirit that shows you it’s wrong. It’s wrong because the prince of this world, that’s Satan, is already judged and defeated. The final judgment of this world and Satan was accomplished at Calvary. That great enemy of truth is now living on borrowed time. Judgment will come, and the focus here is on an awareness that the prince of this world now stands condemned. When Jesus Christ died, his seeming defeat was his greatest victory.
And now, if we choose to remain in rebellion, then we seal our fate with that of Satan. If we fail to let the Holy Spirit convict and teach us, we’ll continue on this path of death.
You see, that’s my story. I came to faith as a child, without a ton of scares that come from a lifetime of rebellion. But make no mistake, even at 9 years old, I was trapped in sin and on a path that would end in death. If not for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, showing me that yes, I was a sinner, and that my righteousness was nothing, and that Jesus offered his righteousness to me, and that to refuse the invitation of Jesus was to stand judged and condemned.
The Spirit reveals to the world their sin, self-righteousness, and condemnation in order to call men and women to repentance and faith. That’s what is happening today.
If this is stirring within you then know that is the Holy Spirit trying to rouse you from your slumber.
Turn to him today. Place your faith in the finished work of Christ and trust him for salvation.
And Christian, the convicting work of the Holy Spirit to the unbelieving world is meant to happen through you. Yes, it’s by the power of the Spirit but it’s the disciples, you and me, who are meant to be the agents the Holy Spirit uses to call the world to repentance.
If the last time the spirit convicted you was when you came to Christ, then I promise there is a lot of conviction that needs to happen so that you look more like Christ.
Let’s not refuse the work of the Holy Spirit today.
If you are ready to surrender to God or want to know more, reach out to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 337-480-1555.
Any time you and I come to worship, or Bible Study, having already made up our minds about what we believe, and therefore we fail to listen to God’s Word, we practice the Way of the Pharisees.
All other religions in the world are based on you making and keeping promises to the “gods” in hopes of earning love and acceptance. The one true God, however, because of his great love, has promised to save us based on his faithfulness.