Christianity is a life-long walk with Jesus. The One who makes this possible is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returned to the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to live in the Christian’s heart guiding him through the teachings of God’s Word. Jesus summarizes the Spirit’s word in today’s text, found in John 16:8-11.
The Holy Spirit has always been here. He is a person of the Godhead. But on Pentecost he came with special power. Had that not been so, the early church would not have had the power and strength to move into the world with the Gospel. The disciples would have returned to their hometown and continued in the work they had been doing before Jesus called them to be His disciples.
We experience the same power of the Holy Spirit today. When the Word is read or proclaimed, great changes take place in the lives of people. Jesus tells us that the Spirit does His work in our lives through the Word. This is often forgotten in the Church. We substitute the abilities and methods of people for the Holy Spirit.
It is interesting to notice that godless emperors and dictators feared the power of the Christian faith. Why was Hitler anxious to close the churches, quiet the voices of the pastors, and burn the Bibles? He knew the Word could capture the hearts of the German citizens, and he would lose their allegiance.
Last week we talked about the Holy Spirit convicting us of our sinful nature. He was facing us up to our sins. This is illustrated in Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Peter confronted his audience with their sin of having Jesus crucified. Their sins brought the Lord to the cross. But Peter, who now possessed a new power, told them, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
The Bible then tells us, “When the people heard Peter’s sermon, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ÔWhat shall we do?'” (Acts 2:37). The Holy Spirit had convicted the audience of their sins. He does the same thing in our lives.
Now, today in our sermon we read, “I am going to the Father where you can see me no more.” What does that mean?
We live in a corrupt society. Someone once described our culture as the “swill pool of immorality.” If that be true, then it is difficult for us to have a good understanding of what righteousness really is. Here in this text the Holy Spirit teaches us to look to Christ. There you will learn what righteousness is.
The Jews saw Jesus as a spiritual heretic, the Romans as a danger to the empire. Consequently, he was unjustly tried and found guilty by Pilate, who pronounced this sentence only because it was politically expedient. Jesus was crucified with criminals as a spiritual felon.
Beneath that cross was a centurion, who had been taught by the Holy Spirit. He confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God.”
Righteousness according to the world’s standards and righteousness according to God’s standards are two entirely different manifestations. Only the Holy Spirit, speaking to us through God’s Word, can show us what true righteousness is. In our walk with Jesus, the Christian experiences the voice of the Spirit speaking to us many times during the day. He is telling us something is wrong or something is right. He is teaching us what righteousness is. We need these daily lessons on righteousness, for we have been immersed in a righteousness based on being political expedient, socially acceptable, or convinced that the end justifies the means.
Now the Holy Spirit talks to us about the judgment. “The prince of this world now stands condemned.” We don’t like the sound of that word, judgment.
The world’s prevailing philosophy is to “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” It is in this environment the Holy Spirit speaks through St. Paul, “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written, ÔAs surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ÔEvery knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-11).
A common question is Do you believe there is a hell? My answer is the Bible teaches there is a hell. Therefore, as a Christian who takes God’s Word seriously, yes, I believe there is a hell. We know little of what hell will be like. I believe the best description is that it is eternal separation from God. We, as Christians, have been taught that we will stand before God in judgment, and if we have no Savior to plead our case, we will hear His words, “Depart from me.”
Can we explain it any further? I cannot, but I take my comfort in a promise from Jesus. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). Our refuge is in Christ. He has atoned for our sins. He has taken our sins upon himself. Through Christ, God sees us as spotless and clean.
How can we comprehend all of this? We cannot. It goes beyond the comprehension of the human mind. It is at this point that the Holy Spirit comforts us by telling us to trust Christ, for all is well.