I want to think out loud some more on the passage of Scripture Jesus spoke from John’s Gospel that was posted in my blog from yesterday. The original passage follows:
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.” John 16:5-9
I have heard it said when speaking of issues of sin, especially issues where it concerns those outside of the Christian church, that it is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to bring conviction. The passage above is oft quoted as a proof text.
While I agree with the intent of the Scripture, I’m not sure I am in agreement with what I perceive the passage as understood by many in the church community. I get the impression sometimes that a lot of folk think of the Holy Spirit as this invisible soldier of God who goes around waving his arms or a magic wand, perhaps speaking some silent holy incantation over people that will bring conviction of sin…. Then, all of the sudden, the person who was “incantated” over, has a divinely inspired epiphany from which they repent, turn to God, and the Hallelujah Chorus begins playing.
Maybe all this sounds a little flippant. Maybe it is and maybe it is not. I have a couple of thoughts that are a bit less snarky. The words of Jesus follow:
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. -John 14:15-17
Jesus says about the Holy Spirit, “He leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” And then, later, Jesus adds these words; “And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin…” I don’t think it is a stretch to realize what Jesus is teaching his follower-disciples. While we, contemporary disciples, will attempt to shirk the responsibility that comes from being a living vessel of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is defining the role of disciples as ambassadors of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21), empowered and sealed with the Comforter-Convictor, Holy Spirit.
So I am not misunderstood, I should clarify that I’m not proposing that people get filled with the Holy Spirit and become obnoxious megaphones spewing hurtful words of judgment toward unwitting, unknowing, people who have not recognized the Holy Spirit or Jesus in their lives. I don’t think this is what Jesus intended when He said the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin. So, what did he mean? Here is a possible interpretation…
We, the followers of Jesus, who are filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, are the living reflections of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, through us, introduces people to Jesus…brings comfort to those needing it and brings conviction of sin to those who are unaware of the sin and separation from God in their lives. We, the people of God, are the delivery system of the Holy Spirit to the world around us.
The apostle Paul called us “living epistles.”
You yourselves are our letter (living epistles), written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant —not of the letter but of the Spirit…” 2 Corinthians 3:2-5
What does it all mean and how does it work? I think what this means is this: We have a greater responsibility than what many of us are willing to sign on for. Sharing the message of Christ through acts of service, giving of our financial resources, asking people to church, and/or using words are only peripheral ways of sharing the message. The primary way of sharing the Gospel is direct delivery through our personal lives, which are lived in the manner and model of Jesus Christ himself. We live as “little Christs” that is why the people were first called Christians in Antioch…because they acted like and lived like Jesus (Acts 11:19-26).
The cost of being a Christian in the terms of the original description is monumental. The cost is our lives—in the least, this will be metaphorical sense, calling us to sacrifice our personal ambitions, rights, finances, and more—all for the purpose of putting God’s kingdom first… at the most, we may be called to (literally) lose our lives for the cause and purpose of God’s kingdom. In this fashion, it is we, through the Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of sin…and helps them to see Jesus.
Jesus has given to us a model of the Kingdom of God spoken through his Sermon on the Mount. The epistles and church letters, which make up the majority of the New Testament teaching, tell us about the life that is lived in the kingdom of God today—on this earth, on this side of eternity. This teaching describes a life that is lived freed from the bondage of sin, capable of living exuberantly the love known as agape, and always hopeful with joy looking forward to the return of Jesus regardless of what the circumstances of the day may dictate. Living the life described in the New Testament is not easy. Jesus told us that it would not be, but to say that we cannot live the life taught by Jesus is to call him a liar.
“We who have once for all cloned ourselves in Christ, and been made worthy to have him dwelling within us, may show everyone, if we choose, simply by the strict discipline of our life and without saying a word, the power of him who dwells in us.” John Chrysostom