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The Conviction of the Spirit

In the Gospel of John, Chapter Sixteen, we see that Jesus is preparing His disciples for His departure. In our earth bound lives we tend to get used to what we have - to our situations and circumstances. Even if they are bad we'll hold onto them because, at least, we know how to deal with them. We're familiar with them.

The disciples have something good here: Jesus with them in a human body and here He is saying, "I'm about to go away."

“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.” (John 16:7)

Sometimes we need to hear that we will lose something and that something better is coming. Sometimes what comes isn't immediately better. We have to trust the Lord to bring what He will.

Here Jesus says, “The Helper is coming” and He is referring to the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus tells them and us what the Spirit will be doing.

“And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” (John 16:8)

Jesus tells us that the Spirit will convict. That word “convict” means to “admonish; reprove, convince” of something. Next Jesus will take each of these convictions and explain why the Spirit will be doing this.

The first kind of conviction has been used a lot by the Body of Christ as a reason for evangelism but I’m not convinced that leading a person to Jesus for salvation is the only way it applies.

For instance, what I do in my ministry has been described as evangelism for the saved. In other words, we're saved and will go to heaven but parts of our lives are not completely redeemed by the Lord because we haven't allowed Him to rule and reign over them.

The Word was written to us to be applied to us and practiced by us. Therefore, it applies to both lost and saved people. So, when we read that the Spirit convicts (John 16:9) “of sin, because they do not believe in Me” I believe it addresses both. It is saying that the Holy Spirit convicts unsaved people of their sin that is leading them to hell and He convicts saved people of the sin (usually flesh) that leads them to resist the sanctification of their souls.

Why? Because with both the same problem exists: “because they do not believe in” Jesus.

The term “believe in” literally means “be living in” so this can be better put as “because they do not ‘be living in” Jesus. In other words, it is because they do not practice a lifestyle of ever increasing dependency upon Jesus.

God is still working on us whether or not we are saved. If lost, He is drawing us to Him through His Spirit. If we are saved, He is drawing us into deeper fellowship with him through His Spirit.

Next, Jesus says that the Spirit convicts (John 16:9) “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.”

For the unbeliever, the Spirit convicts of the righteousness of God and, in comparison, their LACK of righteousness. For the believer, the Spirit convicts of the righteousness of God and, in comparison, of our own righteousness in Christ.

I see four main issues among my brethren:

  1. Many have experienced so much rejection that they just don't sense that God is pleased with them at all. Ever. In fact, much of Christianity actively pushes the concept that we are just lowly worms.

  2. Many are busy working to GET righteousness through works and that never accomplishes the desired effect because none of this is based on our works. The Word is clear about that and that leads to despair.

  3. Many of us tend to see ourselves in terms of what we have done or failed to do or in terms of what we have or do not have and that has to do with identity. The problem here is that this is a way of impossibility.

What is most impossible? To become what we already are or to get what we already have. The Spirit wants to convict us that we already ARE righteous in Christ. He IS enough.

4. Many of us do not act in a righteous way simply because we don't think we are righteous.

The new creation in Christ is made righteous by Christ. Thinking we are not righteous is a huge problem in the body of Christ. I’ve had Christians from some sectors of the body actually argue to prove their unrighteousness, even in Christ!

The Word, however, disagrees: Paul speaking to us Christians in the past tense says, “…you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) Peter says, referring to Christians, “the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous” (1 Peter 3:12a) and James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16b)

The antidote to the belief that we are not righteous in Christ (which leads us to practice unrighteous acts), then, is to receive our identity in Christ. If this resonates with you, ask the Lord to renew your mind in regards to that, and begin to repent - rethink how you think about yourself and match your behavior to who you REALLY are in Christ.

Jesus says that the Spirit also convicts (John 16:11) “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” For the unbeliever this means that since satan is their functional spiritual father and he is guilty then so are they guilty. Before we were saved, we sat under a guilty verdict; the penalty was eternal death. This applies to everyone who ever was born, except Jesus.

For believers John 16:11 speaks to the reality that we have been judged and the verdict is: “innocent”! Someone else has paid the death penalty for us. Someone else has been guilty on our behalf. So many of us see ourselves in terms of our sins yet God does not.

“As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

He has removed our sins from us and now, spiritually, (which is our deepest reality) we are seated in the heavenlies in Jesus at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20) where sin cannot go. Why is this our position? It is because we are innocent in Christ. I find it tragic that in many "churches" I would be virtually stoned for saying this because shame and guilt are so often used to control people in our fellowships.

The Spirit is here - with us - in us. He exists to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment not one time, but continually. Conviction is not a bad thing; rather, it’s the best thing. It’s one of many evidences that a Living God is still working in us.

When I taught this recently one or our sisters said, “It's a much freer life style to surrender to that instead of staying under the shame and guilt thing. Man can't convict and correct like God can.” She’s right. Man cannot - but God, sometimes through man, can or, better still, He does it directly.

Let's take this further. The Holy Spirit exists to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment. Meanwhile, the UNHOLY spirit always tries to present an unholy version of whatever God has for us. Satan also convicts. He convicts (convinces us) to do things (sin). This is called temptation.

Satan also convicts (convinces us) to keep sinning by convincing us that we are bad, dirty and unrighteous, therefore (we come to believe) sin is normal for us. Sometimes, satan will actually convince us that things will be better if we sin, getting us to focus on the short-term reward. He gets us to choose to stay in our sin, because after all, as he says, “You're a liar or a thief.” This is called shame and our enemy will use it against us to control us.

He convinces us to hate ourselves because of our sin, because after all, “we need to hate ourselves for that sin to KEEP OURSELVES from doing it anymore.” This is called unbelief because it amounts to us trusting ourselves to restrain ourselves from sinning rather than depending upon God, the Holy Spirit, to convict us of our sin.

So, when satan sends temptation and we obey him, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and we feel guilt. This is designed to convince us to stop sinning. Conversely, when satan sends shame and we receive it, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our righteousness in Christ and we feel freed, knowing we no longer need whatever short term benefits the sin offered.

When satan sends hopelessness and unbelief and we receive that, the Holy Spirit convicts of judgment and we feel cleansed, knowing we are innocent because of what Jesus did on our behalf on the Cross.

The apostle Paul says something curious in Acts; this man who had helped kill Christians


“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.” (Acts 20:26)

How can a man who had done these things say such a thing with a straight face? We know what he did. How can he say he is innocent? He has been convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment and has received his freedom, his righteousness and his judgment of innocence.

So much happened when Jesus died and rose again and we harvest so little of it. Part of that is because Jesus reveals things as we need them and are ready to receive them.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)

The Greek word translated here as “bear” means to “receive, carry, sustain”. Sometimes we just are not ready for revelation. God is patient.

“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.” (John 16:13)

Have you noticed...that people will guide us into what they are about? If a person is legalistic that person will guide you into all legalism. If a person is a thief he will guide you into all thievery. If a person is profane he will guide you into all profanity.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

The Helper is the Spirit of truth; therefore He guides us into ALL truth. The word “guides” means “shows the way by leading”. This is why we must be filled and led by the Holy Spirit. He desires to lead us into reality

“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.” (John 16:13)

He will do this because His method of operation is the same as the one Jesus used: the Father directs Him and He speaks what He is directed by the Father to say. Jesus said that the Spirit will “tell you things to come.”

It’s not easy to allow that. We trust our flesh but you know what Jesus wanted? He wanted “followers” and followers are led. When we receive temptation we are being led by an unholy spirit to someplace bad. The problem is that we think we are in control. The question is, then, when the Spirit guides us, will we follow? Also, how will we know if it is the Holy Spirit?

“He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14)

The Holy Spirit ALWAYS glorifies the King of Glory. Verse 13 says that the Spirit will take what belongs to Jesus and will glorify Him with it. What belongs to Jesus?

“All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15)

I believe the Lord would have me say something to any believer who is reading this piece.

“You are His. You are not your own. You were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your mortal body. This is your reality. The Spirit declares it.”

Jesus has spoken to us through the Word in John 16:7-16 and through what has been given to us here. Let’s live that out. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Let’s not waste food from Him.

Pastor Mike McInerney

Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.

Decatur, Texas

© March 28, 2006

(For use with permission)

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