Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 7/28/2019. Title: He Will Convince the World Concerning Sin. Text: John 16:7-11. Audio link – Right click, open in new tab to play: Kinmundy Wesley. Right click, open in new tab to view slides as a PDF: Slides.
Once upon a time– and by the way, that is shorthand for this story is made up. It never actually happened. Once upon a time in the early days of his career, Einstein, the famous physicist, was going on a speaking tour. At that time, people didn’t really know him. They weren’t that familiar with his face. But he was going on a speaking tour for four straight weeks, 28 nights, in a different location giving the same speech. And in order to make sure he got where he was supposed to be, the company sponsoring the tour hired a chauffeur. And the chauffeur would take him to the hotel, take him to a place for dinner, take him to the place where he was speaking, then back to the hotel. Then the next day, on to the next town and the next speaking event. The two men would have supper together every night.
And at one point in time, Einstein said to the chauffeur, “Are you understanding what I’m saying?” Because, of course, it was his goal that the people coming would understand the physics that he was talking about. And the chauffeur said, “I do understand. In fact, I understand it so well, I’ll bet I could give your speech better than you can.” And Einstein said, “You’re on.”
So that night, the two men switched clothes. Einstein put on the chauffeur’s uniform, the chauffeur put on Dr. Einstein’s suit, and the chauffeur walked up to give the speech. And sure enough, having heard it every night for three weeks, 21 times, he was able to give it word for word perfectly. Not only that, he spoke louder and clearer. You can argue he did a better job. And the whole audience stood on their feet and they were applauding, and the chauffeur was smiling as he walked off the stage.
And as he got to the bottom of the steps, a graduate student grabbed him by the hand and said, “Dr. Einstein, I have a question.” And he launched into this question that was so long and so complicated, it was quite obvious there was only one other person in the room who understood the question let alone the answer. Einstein’s looking at the chauffeur, “Okay, buddy. What are you going to do now?”
The chauffeur looks out at the audience and says, “You know, that sounds like a complicated question, but actually, the answer’s really very simple. In fact, it’s so simple– I’m a risk-taking fellow. It’s so simple, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer.” And so, they traded places and Einstein answered the question.
This little story is helpful for us to understand what the Holy Spirit’s trying to do in the church. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus gathered in the upper room with his disciples, and he stated that the Holy Spirit wants to do eight things. And we’re looking at each of those eight each week.
First, in John 14:16, Jesus is going to pray to the Father, and he will give the disciples another counselor, an expert who will be with them forever. The Greek word is paraclete. What it literally means is someone who comes alongside to help in whatever way help is needed. That’s the first thing we need to understand. The Holy Spirit comes alongside of us to do God’s work.
In the 26th verse, He says that what the Holy Spirit will do when He comes alongside of us is to teach us everything we need to know. Just as much as Einstein knows more than any chauffeur will know, the Holy Spirit knows more than any of us can know. But He’s there to teach us in the moment what we need to learn, and how will He do this? As Jesus said, He’ll remind us of everything that Jesus said. Now, the chauffeur was with Einstein for 21 days of giving this speech; he had heard everything Einstein said. The disciples were with Jesus for 3 years, and they heard everything that He said. And now the Holy Spirit, with us for all the years that are left, will remind us of everything that Jesus said because, just as the chauffeur said exactly what Einstein said, if you and I say what Jesus said, we are probably not going to make a mistake. It is almost always the right thing to tell someone what Jesus said.
The next thing – we talked about this last week – is that when the Holy Spirit comes alongside of us, He is going to bear witness to Jesus. Now, how does that work? You get up in the morning, you get dressed, you leave; the Holy Spirit goes alongside of you. The Holy Spirit goes alongside of you to where you do your banking, to where you buy your gas. The Holy Spirit goes alongside of you to where you are working. The Holy Spirit goes with you to the ballpark, to the family reunion, to the bowling alley. Everywhere you go, you bring the Holy Spirit with you, and the Holy Spirit is present in that place, and the Holy Spirit can bear witness to Jesus.
Now, sometimes, you will have a witness to share, too, but guess who’s in charge? Or somebody else might say, “You never sing lead, but you can sing harmony when the Holy Spirit prompts you to say something.” So, therefore, we need to become sensitive to when the Holy Spirit wants us to speak.
But the main point of this – I said it last week and I want to say it again – it is the Holy Spirit that does the heavy lifting. We’re the chauffeur; we bring Him there and He does the work. We are the helper to the helper.
And now we come to today. In John 16. Jesus comes back to this topic, and He says these words– “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It’s your advantage that I go away, I go up to the Father, for if I did not go away, the counselor will not come to you.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “This is a promise. It is a promise that you can count on. If I go, I will send Him to you.”
And think with me just for a minute about this: Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth. But there was a day that he came into the River Jordan to be baptized. And the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. But you could likewise say that the Holy Spirit came alongside of Jesus. And everything that Jesus did, was done through the power of the Holy Spirit who came alongside of him. Jesus actually says that every word that comes out of his mouth is what the Father wants him to say. Every word that Jesus said, as a matter of teaching, came to him through the Holy Spirit who came alongside of the son of God. And now Jesus says, “The same power that came alongside of me to do God’s will, is going to come alongside of you to do God’s will. And that power is going to do the work.” What we need to remember is that we’re the chauffeur. We’re not the power; we’re the chauffeur.
Last Friday night when normal people are thinking about where to go on a date, my wife looked at me and she said, “Tonight is the first worship service at the Beulah Holiness Camp. Do you want to go?” And I said, “Well, let me look at the map and see if we can get there on time.” So, we verify that the service starts at 7:30. It’s an hour and 22-minute drive, so we figured out that we had time to leave, we had time to have a lovely romantic dinner at the McDonald’s drive-thru. And, well, it’s kind of an unusual Friday night for a date night, but I had never been to Beulah Holiness Camp. How many people here have ever been to Beulah Holiness Camp?
Beulah Holiness Camp is the step back into the history of the Methodist Church. Back in the early 1800s, people would gather from everywhere for a week of camp meeting. And in the center of the camp, there would be a tabernacle built with logs, and preachers would preach sermons, and people would come forward and get saved and their lives were changed and all around them, people would be camping. Now, at Beulah Holiness Camp, there is a tabernacle in the center and all around it, there are these little cottages where people stay for this 10-day period of preaching, and prayer and Bible studies. It’s like children’s church camp except for grownups and without canoes.
Beulah Holiness Camp is focused on holiness. This ministry started in 1903. It’s been going continuously for over 118 years. And the tabernacle where the worship services take place is the second largest one in the United States of America, probably the second largest in the world; the other one’s in North Dakota.
We come into the tabernacle there, and we’re hearing this brilliant and beautiful gospel music. And we take our seat, just a few rows in front of what you can see there and there is a sign over the pulpit. And here’s the close-up of that sign, to remind everybody of a very important truth. Human beings preach sermons, human beings study the Bible, human beings pray, human beings sing, but it’s God that does the work. God calls sinners to redemption and repentance. It is God that calls believers unto entire sanctification. That’s a Methodist word, but what it means is this: I start out as a spiritual child and I grow up to full adulthood, to full spiritual maturity. I start out giving my life to Christ, and I grow up giving him more and more until He finally has all of me. But here’s the point of that sign; God does this work. Human beings help, but God does this work.
And so, Jesus goes on to say that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. It is the Holy Spirit that is going to convince the world. You and I may love to argue; our arguments are not going to convince the world. It requires the power of God to convince anyone that it’s time for repentance, and it must be the power of God to convince anyone that they are sinners in need of redemption and forgiveness. It is something that the power of God does, not something we can do or are expected to do. It’s the power of God.
It’s the power of God concerning sin. There are all kinds of sins. Sometimes it’s easier to convince someone that something is a sin. Other things, it’s very difficult to convince someone that they are a sin. There are little sins; white lies, perhaps. There are big sins. But the reason why it takes the Holy Spirit to convince the world concerning sin is, when you think about it, the worst sin is to forget to ask Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. The Holy Spirit is here to convince the world of sin and to call sinners to repentance. Whatever sins you might have committed, the sin of not asking Jesus to save you will be the one that makes all that difference.
The Holy Spirit has come to convince the world concerning righteousness. That word righteousness means rightness, made right, because God repairs us where we cannot repair ourselves. The word righteousness means wholeness; it means being healed to wholeness. The Holy Spirit is here to teach people what wholeness actually means, what holiness actually means, because we get it wrong.
The Holy Spirit is here – look at verse 10 – to convince the world concerning righteousness because, Jesus says, “I go to the Father and you will see me no more.” For three years, Jesus has come to straighten out the Jewish people so they would understand what righteousness truly means, because they had gone astray. And Jesus had that ministry for three years of convincing the world of what righteousness meant, and that ministry now will be the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Friends, you and I are smart, but we’re not smart enough to define wholeness for the whole world. We’re not good enough– we’re good, but we’re not good enough to explain holiness to the whole world. We must let the Holy Spirit do this work. We’re the chauffeur; we’re not the Holy Spirit.
“And when He comes, the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said, “will convince the world concerning judgment.” Now, friends, if we’re experts on anything, we may be experts on judgment, because you’ve been judged, haven’t you? And from time to time, don’t you find that you’re judging other people? So perhaps we might be experts on judgment, but the Holy Spirit is here to convince the world concerning judgment because of something that is beyond us, because the ruler of this world is judged.
When Jesus uses this phrase, He’s talking about the influence of the powers of evil. Now, human beings have different positions on this. There’s absolutely no question that there is evil in this world. Evil grows in human lives like weeds grow in your fields at your farm or garden. There is no question that there is evil here. Some of us prefer to personalize the work of evil. People say there is a devil, and the devil is at work. Some people go further and say there is a devil and the devil has a name: Satan. (This is the Hebrew word that means the enemy.) There is an enemy at work. Some people prefer not to personalize it because the more attention you pay to the devil, it almost seems as if the more power you give the devil to mess with your life. Some people prefer not to personalize evil but simply to say there’s evil at work and we need to not go that way.
But no matter which your personal preference is, the Holy Spirit is here to make certain that judgment falls in its entire meaning. Because if you need to understand judgment, you need to understand that it must include a recognition of the way people are tempted, the way people are coerced, the way pressure is put on people to do wrong, and to recognize the role of evil in turning us astray. Because it’s not just that you or I do wrong, but we are tricked and influenced into doing wrong. And that is something that judgment needs to focus on. And this is the Holy Spirit’s work.
We have a problem, however. The problem summarized in Proverbs 14:12. There is a way that seems right to me. There is a way that seems right to a human being. The German theologian Schleiermacher said that because human beings have a conscience, because human beings have a moral sense of right and wrong, that’s a proof that God must exist. On the other hand, it’s a little more complicated than that. The people who were guards at the Nazi German death camps had a moral sense. They truly believed that everything they did was right.
There’s a problem with the human moral sense. The human feeling, “I know what’s right,” there’s a problem with it. In a minute, I’ll tell you where the problem comes from. Consider Proverbs 14:12: 12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. But the point of this phrase is that at the end of that human way of understanding right from wrong, there’s death. It seems right but it leads to death. Why is that true?
At the beginning of the Bible, we go to Genesis, to Genesis 3. Adam and Eve are in the garden. And God says there’s one rule, do not eat of this tree. What’s the name of the tree? The name of the tree is the knowledge of good and of evil. That’s the only rule. I don’t want you to eat of that tree. Now, of course, the minute God said that that tree became quite fascinating.
And as the story goes, the serpent comes to Eve and says, ‘If you eat of that tree, you’ll become like God. If you eat that tree, you will know the difference between good and evil. You will know the difference between right and wrong, it’ll be there inside of you, and you’ll always know what you ought to do to please God.” Quite a sales job, isn’t it?
Eve looked at the fruit– we always artistically characterize it as an apple, but it could’ve been any kind of fruit. We don’t know. And it looked good; it looked delicious. So, she reached out and she took a piece, and she bit into it. And it says, “Her eyes were opened to know good and evil.” Now, the minute she knew good and evil, what did she do? She had Adam take a bite, and he did. And God was walking in the cool of the garden, and Adam and Eve are hiding from God. Because now, you see, they have this knowledge that tells them that what they ought to do is hide from God, but, of course, you can’t hide from God.
And God looks at the two of them and says, “Did you eat from the tree I told you not to eat?” In other words, “Have you acquired this knowledge of good and of evil” — now, think with me — “that I didn’t want you to have?” And Adam used his knowledge of good and of evil.
By the way, you know what we should’ve done, if we were there? We should’ve said, “God, I did. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” If Adam had done that, who knows what might have happened?
But Adam used his inner sense of good and of evil to do what? Blame his wife. That’s been going on ever since, hasn’t it? And Eve used her sense of good and of evil to blame the serpent and to avoid taking responsibility for what they had done. The problem with the knowledge of good and of evil inside of us is it’s separate from God. God wants us to understand right and wrong based on what God has told us, not our understanding. And when we bring that up to the day, God wants us to base our understanding of what is good and evil on what Jesus has told us. You see, now we have the knowledge of good and of evil which is not under God’s control.
Now, every culture in the world has a story like this one. In Greece, it’s Pandora’s Box. Everything is perfect, and Pandora opens the box, and all the evil is let out on the world. Every story in the world is like that except this one. But what’s clear about this one? The source of human evil– or the source of evil in this world is from the human understanding of right and wrong, which is so easy to be twisted and manipulated for selfish reasons.
And here’s the point. The Holy Spirit is supposed to convince the world concerning sin. But our inner sense of right and wrong tells us that we should be the ones who’ll go out there and smack people across the face and convince them. Guess what, it always fails. Jesus says the Holy Spirit should convince the world concerning righteousness, but we think we should make signs and go confront people.
This sign was at the World Convention of Atheists in Adelaide, Australia in 2014. Do you think it did any good whatsoever? But I guarantee you, the people who are waving it in people’s faces, they felt really good about themselves. Jesus says it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince people about judgment. But we have this tendency to think it’s our job.
Look at this next sign, which says: Ask me why you deserve hell. Who in their right mind would give such a message for a small child to hold? We’ve gone to church enough, there are a lot of things that we could think of that would probably be much more effective to quote on that sign. What John Wesley would put on that sign is ask me the way to heaven. And if they asked him, Wesley would tell them.
You might put on the sign ask me why Jesus loves you. And if they asked you, you would tell them. You might put on the side ask me how you can be forgiven. And if they asked you, you would tell them.
The confrontational way of thinking only guarantees that no one will come to Jesus. Because it’s not our job to convince the world of sin, and righteousness, and judgment, no more than it’s our job to explain physics. We’re just the chauffeur; wherever we go the Holy Spirit goes with us. We can influence the people around us because the Holy Spirit wants to convince them of how their life needs to change, and primarily how they need to change is by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit wants to come alongside of other people to convince them what righteousness is, what it means to be whole, instead of broken into parts, what it means to be healed, instead of spiritually and emotionally ill. The Holy Spirit wants to explain that to people. The Holy Spirit wants to show people how evil has influenced them and how evil tricks them into doing what is not right.
But the problem is we get in the way. We’re not even like the chauffeur showing off for one night; we think we ought to lock Einstein in the trunk and replace him. Friends, you and I cannot replace the Holy Spirit. We cannot replace what God does in the lives of people, but we can be the chauffeur. We can bring the Holy Spirit close to people so the Holy Spirit can help them.
We have this temptation to believe that we’re smart enough to be there in the place where soul surgery, surgery on people’s spirits, takes place. And to think that we can do that work which is the Holy Spirit’s work. Friends, you’re smart, but you’re not that smart! You’re good, but you’re not that good! This is work we need to leave to the Holy Spirit.
But what’s the motivation for us? It’s very simple. We just want to help. See that picture there, a young man sound asleep on the couch. There’s a note written on his forehead in magic marker. We need to talk, signed Mom. (Moms, get your magic marker out! There may come a time where you’ll have a son who will need this kind of message left on his forehead!) From time to time all sons need to have a talk with their mother that they’ve been avoiding.
All we want to do is help and sometimes a good clear talking to is all somebody needs. But I’m sure that every single one of you knows someone who is doing something that they shouldn’t do, that is hurting them and hurting everyone else in the family. And everyone has told them to stop. And guess what? They won’t stop. There comes a point in time to where we just simply have to let the Holy Spirit work. Because we can’t make someone change. I wish we could.
But something for you to remember – this comes from the psychology of William Glasser – you have influence over another person’s life, because of the relationship you have with them. If it is a positive relationship, if it is a loving relationship, you have the opportunity to influence that person for good. Because God can work through that other person’s experience of you as someone who loves them.
That’s why it’s a commandment. Love your son, your grandson, ex-wife, next-door neighbor, worst friend, worst enemy, business partner. Love them as you love yourself. Because the more you put love into that relationship, the greater the influence you will have to encourage them to do what’s right.
And there’s a point beyond which your love and influence cannot go. And that’s where you need to let the Holy Spirit work. But don’t switch over now to the evil witch that is full of condemnation. Because all that happens when we get nasty is the other person just closes their ears and begins to ignore you. Keep on loving that person. Because, given that life is hard, they are going to need it.
Understand that you can trust the Holy Spirit, that you can continue to pray for them. You can trust the Holy Spirit to work and bring them into situations where they have to confront the reality that their lives need to change. We’re not smart enough to do that. But God can do what we can’t. If we keep loving, we can let the Holy Spirit convince the people we love concerning sin, concerning holiness, concerning judgment.
Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, I pray that you would give me the serenity to accept the people I can’t change, that you would give me the serenity to accept the situations I can’t change. I pray, Lord, that you would give me the faith to give these over to you, to set you free to do your will in the lives of those situations and those people.
For me, Lord, I pray that you give me the courage to do the things I can. And Lord, I know that one thing I can do to the best of my ability is to love that person who’s driving me crazy. To love that person who stirs up wrath and judgment inside of me. To learn how to love them even if that means that I need to suffer as you suffered on the cross; Lord help me to have the courage to be able to say Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. Because Lord, that person who does so much harm really doesn’t know what they’re doing.
But most of all, O Lord, I pray that you would give me the wisdom to know the difference. That I would hear from the Holy Spirit what I should do and to know when to stop; and to know the difference of what I simply need to leave up to you. Because, Lord, you desire that human lives change, that human people be forgiven, that human people find holiness and healing, that human people become better people. You desire this more than even I could because your love for them is deeper than my love. We ask all of this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?
What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.