Last week we began our study of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, on the night before He went to the Cross, the Holy Spirit would “testify” and they would “testify” as well. We learned two ways in which the Spirit testifies: First, the Holy Spirit testifies through the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is the Author of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has moved upon the minds and hearts of the human authors of the Word of God in such a way that they recorded exactly what God wanted His people to know. The Word of God is proof that Jesus is who He claimed to be and He fulfilled everything that was written about Him in the Old Testament. That led us to the second way in which the Holy Spirit testifies and that is through persuasion. You who were shown the proofs concerning Jesus, but you needed more to believe than mere proof, you needed to be persuaded, you needed to have your heart changed in order to believe and submit your life to following Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that moves our hearts and minds so that we might believe.
In our Scripture for today we are going to continue our study of the indispensable ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning and then we will get started. As we read these verses from John 16, let’s not forget that Jesus shared these words with His disciples on the night before He went to the Cross.
1 “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. 5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:1-15 NIVO)
Jesus said “all of this I have told you so that you will not go astray.” We have to ask, “All of what?” What was Jesus talking about? Well, if you will remember, beginning in John 15:18 Jesus began talking to His disciples about the fact that they would be hated by the world. Jesus wanted His disciples to know they would not be greeted with open arms and ticker tape parades when they entered cities to share the Good News about Jesus. He was preparing them for what awaited them so they would not go astray. It’s important for us to understand that word “astray.” The Greek word John uses here is the word, “??????????” (skandalizo) and it means, “to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey, or to cause to fall away.”
Surely every one of us can understand what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples because even in our day, when times are hard, we question God, we wonder “Why?” Up until this time Jesus had been a shield for His disciples. There had been opposition, constant opposition, but Jesus had been the One who had been the object of the adversaries scorn and attacks. Now that He was preparing to leave His disciples He knew they would have the target on their backs. What’s really interesting about Jesus’ words is He says the opposition, the persecution, would come from those who were religious. Jesus told His disciples,
2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. (John 16:2 NIVO)
It’s really difficult for us to understand the severe consequences that followed being put out of the synagogue. We live in a day in which there is a church on most every corner. If, for some reason, I was put out of Britton Christian Church I could find another church in the next 15 minutes, but that was not the way it was in biblical times. Being separated from the synagogue meant being cut off from the life of Israel. Without the local synagogue there would be no worship and no reading from the Scriptures since the Scriptures were not available at the Mardel’s in Capernaum, Nazareth, Tiberius, or any other village.
The implications of being put out of the synagogue reached further than the spiritual life of individuals. There were social implications as well. Friends would shun those who were put out of the synagogue. A person could lose their job, be cut off from their family, and refused the right of a proper burial if they were not connected to the synagogue. No one would dare do something that would result in being cut off from the synagogue.
The really interesting thing about this is, Jesus said it would be religious people who would do this to His followers. Back in October of last year Connie and I had the opportunity to go to London to learn more about the Alpha program that is now going on at Britton Christian Church. While we were there we took a tour of the Tower of London. I was reminded of the stories of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, just two of the many Christians who were held captive at the Tower of London by Mary I, who was given the nickname, “Bloody Mary,” because of her treatment of Protestants. Bloody Mary reinstituted Catholicism to England. During her five year reign she had more than 280 Christians who refused to embrace Catholicism burned at the stake. Two of those dissenters were the men I’ve come to love and greatly respect, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.
Nicholas Ridley had served as a Bishop under Mary’s father, King Henry VIII, who had separated the church of England from Catholicism. Ridley was a great student of the Bible and a pastor who was loved by his congregation. Hugh Latimer was also a man who was wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus and teaching the Scriptures to all people. In 1535 he was appointed Bishop of Worcester. He was known for his frequent visits to the prisons where he would teach the Word of God.
One of Queen Mary’s first acts, once she became Queen, was to arrest Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for their defiance of Catholicism. The men were kept in the Tower of London until they were moved to Oxford in September of 1555. They were asked questions by the head of Oxford Divinity School which would give them the opportunity to demonstrate their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. Questions like, “Do you believe the Pope is the heir to the authority of Peter as the foundation of the Church?” Neither Ridley nor Latimer could accept the Roman Catholic mass as a sacrifice of Christ. Needless to say, the meeting did not go well and the men were sentenced to be burned at the stake in Oxford on October 16, 1555. As the two men were tied to the stake and the wood piled high, two bags of gunpowder were placed around their necks. Bishop Latimer died more quickly than Bishop Ridley, but before he succumbed to the flames he said to his friend Nicholas Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.” If you are ever to go to Oxford, England in the future then make sure you stop by the monument commemorating the great faith of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer.
The stories of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer are not isolated events. Throughout history the followers of Jesus have been persecuted for their message, for their faith in Jesus, by those who thought they were doing a service to God. The Apostle Paul was one of those who thought he was doing a good thing, until his eyes were opened. Paul wrote,
9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them. (Acts 26:9-11 NIVO)
Paul believed with all of his heart that he was doing the right thing, until his eyes were opened and he realized the horrible thing he had done. It wasn’t Paul’s intellect or insight that opened his eyes, it was Jesus. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus when Jesus appeared to him and asked, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4) Saul, who we know as Paul, was persecuting Jesus by persecuting His followers. And this same story is continuing to be lived out today all around the world.
Last week we learned that the world will hate us. This week we learn that religious folks who do not know God, who do not know Jesus, will marginalize us, shun us, and even desire our demise. Now, if that isn’t enough to convince you to keep your mouth shut when you leave worship this morning then I don’t know what will. Jesus did not leave us that option. In John 15, Jesus told His disciples,
26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27 NIVO)
We are called to testify, to share with others the Good News of who Jesus is, what God has done through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection so that we might be reconciled to God the Father and sent out into this world to share that message with those who do not know the love, grace, and salvation that are found in Jesus alone. We are called to go, and yet let’s be honest, it can be scary. Let’s not even talk about the threat of being cut off from society or the threat of death that many of our brothers and sisters around the world face each day. Just speaking up about Jesus, bringing up His name in a group that we think has no interest can be scary can’t it? You bet it can! And that is why the lesson we learned last week and the lesson we are learning this morning is so invaluable to you and me. God has given us, all of the followers of Jesus, the indispensable ministry of the Holy Spirit to help us. Let’s see how the Holy Spirit helps us in our call of testifying.
First of all the Holy Spirit works in the world, among those who do not believe in Jesus. If you will take a look at John 16:8-11 with me.
8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11 NIVO)
This is the only place in the Bible where we read that the Holy Spirit is at work in those who have yet to believe. It’s important for us to understand how the Holy Spirit works among those who are not followers of Jesus. Jesus said, “When he comes, he will convict the world…” The Greek word translated “convict” is “??????” (elegcho) and it means, “to convict, to expose, to show one his fault.” The same word is used in John 3:20 where Jesus said,
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:20 NIVO)
The Holy Spirit exposes us. The Holy Spirit convicts us. The Holy Spirit convicts believers and unbelievers alike in regards to sin, but there is a unique conviction for the unbeliever. “Sin” can be defined and interpreted in a million different ways because people have their own ideas and definitions. Apart from God’s truth we will define sin as whatever most bothers us. We will also dismiss what the Bible calls sin if we find it particularly enjoyable. When we come to believe in Jesus all of our definitions of sin are thrown out and we begin to understand sin as it is defined by God alone.
There is another aspect of how the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers concerning sin. We like to categorize sin so that some sins are worse than others. What is the greatest sin? Is it anger, murder, adultery, embezzlement, sex trafficking, the abuse of children? No, it is the sin of unbelief. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will convict unbelievers in regards to sin, “because people have not believed in me.” It is not until we see ourselves as sinners that we will recognize our need for a Savior.
The Holy Spirit also works to convict unbelievers in regards to righteousness. Left to ourselves we define righteousness as good works. Yet we read in God’s Word that our best deeds can’t make us right with God. Paul told the people in Ephesus,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIVO)
Jesus said there is a third way in which the Holy Spirit is at work in unbelievers and that is in “regards to judgment.” We really like to try and convince ourselves that there are no consequences for our actions. We would like to believe that we can live however we want with no consequences whatsoever. Just as “the prince of this world now stands condemned” so every person will face the judgment one day. God’s Word makes clear that those who are followers of Jesus will stand before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ while those who reject Jesus will stand on their own merit, which holds no merit and is no defense for rejecting God’s only Son.
The Holy Spirit is at work in the world my friends. Don’t you remember the time before you were a follower of Jesus? You nor I would have described what happened to us as the work of the Holy Spirit, but we were convicted weren’t we? We were shown that our good works are not sufficient to make us right before God. We were shown and convinced that we needed a Savior, we needed Jesus to make us right with the Father. Who was it? How was it that we became persuaded of these important truths? It was the Holy Spirit doing His work. Sometimes He works through another person. Sometimes through what we might call our conscience, that still small voice that I’ve come to recognize as not my own. Regardless of how you might describe it, it was the work of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of the followers of Jesus to empower us to go out into the unbelieving world and share the Good News of Jesus and what Jesus has both done and is continuing to do in our lives and in the world. How does He work? Let’s take a look by reading John 16:13-15.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:12-15 NIVO)
We have to remember this word was spoken first to the disciples as Jesus told them the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all truth.” The vast majority of Bible teachers believes that Jesus meant He would enable the followers of Jesus to compose the books of the Bible which would then serve as a tool of the Holy Spirit for all of the followers of Jesus. The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and teaches us the truths of God so we might be equipped to go into this world and share the Good News. What a powerful tool we have been given to minister to this lost and broken world!
There is another way in which the Holy Spirit empowers and equips us to minister in this world to unbelievers and it is through His presence. In verse 16, we read Jesus told His disciples,
16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” (John 16:16 NIVO)
At first glance we might understand Jesus to mean that He was referring to His death, which would take place in just a few hours, and to His resurrection. That wouldn’t be wrong, but it wouldn’t be the entire story either. We have to remember what Jesus told His disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. Turn with me to Matthew 28:19-20 and let’s read together.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIVO)
Jesus would die. He would then be raised triumphant from the grave just three days later. After 40 days of ministering to His disciples following His resurrection, Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father. Yet, He did not leave His followers alone. Jesus is with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not only in us, but He is with us to lead us, guide us, teach us, correct us, encourage us, and provide us with what we need as we go out into the world to share the Good News.
I was at the King’s Klinic a couple of weeks ago and met three new medical students who had come to volunteer at the Klinic. Those three kids had been in medical school for just four weeks. You who are mothers and fathers have more freedom to treat those under your care then the medical students I met. For two years they will be stuck in class and not allowed to make rounds or diagnose an illness. At the King’s Klinic they can take a person’s temperature and blood pressure, but other than that they will only be allowed to shadow the doctors. During their third year they will begin making rounds and seeing patients, but only with attending physicians. They will never see a patient without a doctor who will be with them to lead and guide them. For two years they will continue to see patients with a licensed physician. The presence of the licensed physician will be an indispensable source of wisdom and confidence for them.
After four years of medical school they will go on to residency which will take even more training, valuable time spent with mentors and teachers. Internal medicine will require three more years. General surgery will require another five years. I talked to Brad Bohnstedt on Thursday. Brad is a neurosurgeon and he spent seven years in residency learning about neurosurgery from his mentors, highly skilled neurosurgeons who walked with him throughout his seven years of training. At some point medical students pass their boards and are approved to practice medicine on their own. While I was talking to Brad this past Thursday he told me that he is still in touch with his mentors when he needs to get their input.
Just as young medical students gain confidence because of those who surround them as they learn and grow on their way to becoming practicing physicians, so we who are followers of Jesus can gain confidence as we learn that One much greater than the world’s best physician is with us to lead us, guide us, and instruct us all along the way. He will never leave us. He will always be with us, working in the world He has called us to go into with His message, and working within us to prepare us for the task at hand. God has given us His Word and the presence of His Holy Spirit to equip us for the task He has called us to, to go and share the Good News to those He will lead across our path. Here, in Oklahoma City, there’s a multitude of people who do not know Jesus and we are called to go to them. God will lead those who do not know Him into your life and we should never be afraid or ashamed to share the Good News with them.
Maybe you are here this morning and you’ve resisted Jesus. You know about Jesus, but you’ve never surrendered your life to Him. I would encourage you to recognize that even though you have denied Him, He has been working in your life, drawing you to Himself. Won’t you give Jesus your heart and allow Him to lead you through this life?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 25, 2016