Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
John 16:8-11 gives us an unexpected view of the work of the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment. But those three elements of his conviction aren’t carried out in exactly the way we would think.
Usually we think of sin as things we do or fail to do. But here, the conviction of sin is because the world has not believed in Christ. That’s at the heart of sin. We’re normally uncomfortable with that because, after all, it is very indistinct. Stop sinning! Believe on Jesus! All right, how do I do that? Belief isn’t exactly something we do, certainly not the same way we would mow the grass or take out the garbage. It’s hard to see how we are doing on it. But that is the opposite of sin. Believing on Jesus is how we fall into righteousness. The Holy Spirit tells us to do this.
When the Holy Spirit convicts of righteousness, likewise, he doesn’t show us how we are supposed to be righteous. Jesus explains the conviction of righteousness “because I go to the Father.” That’s an odd way for us to understand righteousness. But in God’s presence everything must be holy. Jesus is the one who is holy and goes to the Father. He promises to bring us also. The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness. Not only do we see that Jesus is the righteous one but that he will gather us together with him.
Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts us of judgment. Is it our judgment? Not at all. What about those other people, the people we don’t like? No. It’s judgment upon “the ruler of this world.” That’s the devil. He stands judged. His plans will fail. This is very good news. The devil gives us all sorts of grief. Day after day we hear that God is irrelevant, that we did whatever is good ourselves, and that man is the measure of all things. This is not so. It’s an idea that was crushed to death by Jesus’ death on the cross. The death of Christ killed the devil’s rule. We just haven’t gotten over all the effects yet. But it’s done. The Holy Spirit reminds us that the devil has been defeated.
These three areas of conviction - of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment - direct our eyes to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who has brought healing and life to this world. We are rightly glad in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
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