Introduction Today is Pentecost. We are remembering that day on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost not far off 2000 years ago when the Holy Spirit descended on those first frightened disciples. From that day on they knew that they were not alone any longer. Their fear was overwhelmed by the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. They had seen Jesus die. They had been astonished and overjoyed to see Jesus raised from the dead. But his presence with them even after the resurrection had been intermittent at best. They knew he was alive, but most of the time they did not know where he was. And then they had seen him ascend to heaven, hidden from their sight by a cloud. Once more they were alone. But though Jesus was gone, he had made promises. Jesus told them that they would receive power to tell the world all about him. He told them that the Holy Spirit would come on them. And what is more, he told them that he, Jesus, would be with them for ever. No doubt they did not understand how Jesus could at the same time be with them, and also leave them. They waited. They prayed. And the Spirit came. Then they knew that the first phase of waiting was over. They had work to do. There was a whole world that needed to know that Jesus was Lord and Saviour, and that one day he would return to take full possession of his kingdom. And they knew that though they could not see him, Jesus was with them. The pieces of this puzzling jigsaw fitted into place. All the things that Jesus had been saying, which they had found so mystifying, began to make sense. Of course they longed for the return of Jesus. But never again is there any sense that they are battling along without him. Instead there is, as you read the book of Acts, an amazing sense of the fellowship with Jesus that the disciples enjoyed, through their experience of the Holy Spirit with them. So the apostle John says at the start of his first letter (1:3):
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
He is not just remembering those three years of walking and talking with Jesus. Nor is he only looking forward to the day when he will see Jesus face to face once more. He is experiencing fellowship with Jesus even as he writes. That is what the Holy Spirit does. He brings people into fellowship with Jesus. And you don't have to be an apostle. John writes, he says, so that we, his readers, might also share in this fellowship with Jesus. He wants every Christian to experience Jesus in the very same way that he was himself knowing Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit is to give us that experience of knowing Jesus. In a similar way, and for the same reason, the apostle Paul, who himself never knew Jesus in the flesh, urges us in Ephesians 5.18:
Be filled with the Spirit!
How can we be filled with the Spirit? The most straightforward answer to that is this: Ask God to fill you. Ask God to give you his Spirit. If you want to know Jesus; if you want to experience fellowship with him, then ask for the Holy Spirit. You can guarantee that every genuine request along those lines is granted. Why can I say that? Because we have Jesus' word for it. Luke 11:9-10 :
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
Six times over the promise is given, just in case we miss the point. And how can we be sure that applies to the gift of the Spirit? Jesus immediately says so! Luke 11:11-13 :
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
In other words, of course God will give you the Holy Spirit if you ask to receive him! That is just the request that God is longing to hear. And the Holy Spirit will bring with him power for witness; gifts for building up the body of Christ - the church; fruit that will leave less and less room for sin in your life. But above all, the Holy Spirit will bring you into fellowship with Jesus. And unless we understand that central role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are likely to lay ourselves open to any number of misunderstandings about the work of the Spirit which could cause us and others confusion and heartache. That is why it is so important for us to listen hard to what Jesus himself says about the work of the Spirit. This was one of the major themes of his final briefing to the disciples on the night before he was betrayed. So we are into the last few hours of his earthly life with them. What does he say? We are looking at just one part of his message to them this evening: John 16:5-16. I have three headings by way of signposts through these verses. The first relates to verses 5-7: THE DEPARTURE OF JESUS BRINGS THE ARRIVAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The second to verses 8-11: THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO CONVICT A GUILTY WORLD. And the third to verses 12-16: THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO MAKE JESUS KNOWN TO HIS DISCIPLES. So we look first at verses 5-7: THE DEPARTURE OF JESUS BRINGS THE ARRIVAL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (v 5-7) John 16:5
"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 Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
Now if you are very alert and well informed you will realise that there is a bit of a puzzle here. "None of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'" says Jesus. And yet just a short time before, in 13:36, that is exactly what Peter asked: "Lord, where are you going?" So why does Jesus say this now? Probably because at this stage the disciples do not in fact have any real interest in where Jesus is going and what his purpose is. The hidden question behind 'Where are you going?' is 'Why are you leaving us?' Their mindset is still fundamentally self-centred. They are not really listening to what Jesus is saying to them. They know that they need Jesus with them, they know that Jesus is going, and their whole horizon is filled with what they see as a personal disaster for them. They cannot see past their emotion. And their emotion is grief. Grief swamps any possibility that they will begin to see the greater, long term purpose behind Jesus' departure. Verse 6: "Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief." That is understandable. But it is profoundly mistaken. It demonstrates a severe lack of understanding of Jesus' mission. That is not a criticism from a position of superiority. We live this side of Pentecost, with no need for the confusion that arose from the swirling of these fast moving events all around the disciples. Even so, it seems to me that we can still find ourselves swamped by basically self-centred feelings at times when we do not understand what God is up to in our lives. Sometimes when we are in the thick of troubles, we resolutely refuse to look past them to the promises and purposes of Christ. Instead we cry out "Where have you gone? Things should not be like this!" So the disciples' reaction is understandable to us. After all, what has Jesus just been saying to them? 15:18 : "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." 15:20 : "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." 16:2 : " a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God." Sounds like a great prospect. But for all that, grief is still absolutely the wrong reaction. Why? Because they are not losing Jesus! A mother who is giving birth to a baby feels pain all right, but she should not feel grief. She is not losing the baby as it leaves her body. Far from it. So Jesus says in 16:21 :
A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you
The disciples think they are losing Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. But they are only hearing half of what Jesus is saying. 16:7 : "But I tell you the truth" In other words, pay attention to this, because this is key. "It is for your good that I am going away" Jesus is returning to the one who sent him. He is on a mission. It is not yet complete. It is a matter of life and death for the disciples that he does complete it. His departure is an integral part of his mission. Unless he goes, the mission fails. But he has no intention of failing, and when he does go, he will send the Holy Spirit, who will come to them. If he was to stay, they would not have the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, with them. They want to cling on to him. But what they really need to do, which they do not understand, is to let him go. 16:7 again : "Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." The gift of the Spirit cannot and must not be separated from all that is involved in the departure of Jesus: his death, resurrection, and ascension. Moses struck the rock in the wilderness and water gushed out. In the same way, the outpouring of the Spirit flows from the cross. The two belong together. There is no real Christian life without the cross. There is no real Christian life without the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you try to have Jesus without the Spirit, you end up with dead orthodoxy and faith without love, which is not real faith at all. The devil believes in Jesus. If you try to have the Holy Spirit without the cross, then you end up with Christless Christianity, gospel-free faith, groundless 'spirituality', and the exaltation of experiences which have no connection to Christ and his saving work through the cross and resurrection. But when Jesus gives the Spirit, then you have living truth, a living relationship with Christ, loving service. You have power to persevere with bearing witness to the good news of Jesus' death for us. That good news is, as the apostle Paul puts it, "the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). The departure of Jesus brings the arrival of the Holy Spirit. What God has joined together, let man not separate. So what will happen when the Spirit comes? That unspoken question is answered by Jesus in two parts. Part one of the answer begins with v8: "When he comes" Part two begins with v13: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes" My second heading sums up part one of the answer: THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO CONVICT A GUILTY WORLD (v 8-11) Take a look at those verses:
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.
The fact is the world is guilty. It is guilty of wholesale rejection of God's rule. When we see a revolution against a corrupt, oppresive and undemocratic dictator, we cheer from the sidelines and urge the revolutionaries on. When the revolution was against the just and loving rule of God, we did not merely look on, we joined in. This is a rebel world with no grounds for its rebellion. Revolutions lead to bloodshed, and the world is guilty of the brutal murder of God's Son, sent on a mission of reconciliation. A few Roman footsoldiers did the deed, but we all have blood on our hands. And the world is stained and filthy with all the awful consequences of imagining that it knows better than the One who created it and sustains it moment by moment. The world is guilty. It sounds comfortingly impersonal put like that. But what it means, of course, is that you are guilty. I am guilty. And we are therefore liable to condemnation and judgement. And what is more, we just cannot see it. Or in our heart of hearts we refuse to see it. But the Holy Spirit convicts the world of guilt. Heart by heart and mind by mind he makes us see the state we are in. Jesus speaks of three aspects of this conviction of guilt: first in regard to sin; secondly in regard to righteousness; and thirdly in regard to judgement. Verse 9: "in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; " You see how Christ-centred the Holy Spirit's work is, even when he is showing people their sin. The essence of sin is the rejection of Jesus. Failure to trust him. Failure to obey him. The Spirit shames people by showing them how they treat Jesus. They sent him to his death. Verse 10: "in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; " Being righteous is not merely about being good. It is about being right with God. The precise meaning here is debated. Suffice to say this: The Spirit shows people their self-righteousness. We imagine that we have the power to get to God through all our religious practices. We vainly believe that we do not need Jesus. Where is he after all? But Jesus has ascended to heaven, where he rules at the right hand of God. He alone is righteous. He alone can make us righteous. He alone can make us right with God. The Holy Spirit strips us of our spiritual pride and points us to the only one who can reconcile us to God. Then verse 11: "and in regard to judgement, because the prince of this world now stands condemned." Again, as with 'righteousness' in v 10, there is debate about whose judgement is being referred to here. It could refer to the world's false assessment of Christ. It could refer to God's judgement on a guilty world. Either way, the prince of this world is the devil, and he is judged, condemned and destroyed at the cross of Christ. As Jesus says in 12:31-32 :
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
The world's assessment of Jesus, and of its own plight, is utterly wrong. The axe has fallen on the devil and is about to fall on the world. The only way of escape is to see the danger and flee to the security of Jesus and the cross. The Holy Spirit's work is to open our eyes to the danger and point us to the only way of escape. By focussing on Jesus, crucified and risen, the Holy Spirit shames us, convinces us of our guilt, and calls us to repentance. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict a guilty world. That is the first part of what Jesus says about what will happen when the Spirit comes. The second part is in verses 12-16, and that brings me to my final heading: THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS TO MAKE JESUS KNOWN (v 12-16). Look again at those verses.
"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. 16 "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."
The disciples cannot take in in one go all that they need to learn. Such is their spiritual dullness that even three years in the company of Jesus, with much intensive training, is not sufficient. Like us, they are slow learners. But they are not about to lose their teacher. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. When he comes he will guide their minds so that they can put together all the pieces of the picture that Jesus has been giving them. He will show them how it all fits together. And what he will teach them will be the Word of God the Father and God the Son. Not a word will be independent of them. The completed picture that they are given will stretch from the past into the future. It will look back to the cross and forward to the Second Coming. Can we see the picture that the Holy Spirit gave to those eyewitnesses? Yes. It is here in the New Testament. That is what this is: the record of the Holy Spirit's teaching about Jesus. But the Spirit of Truth did not put his feet up once the New Testament was completed. We too need his teaching. Without him, we cannot make head or tail of the Bible's message. Not because it is unclear. But because we are as spiritually dull as those original disciples. Worse, if anything, because we have so much of a head start. But we do have the help of the Spirit. He does not leave us in the dark, stumbling about. He wants us to see Jesus clearly, and understand him. His whole purpose is to glorify Jesus. And he does that by making Jesus known to his disciples. Then, because the Father and the Son are one, that means that he also makes the Father known by making Jesus known. So the wonderful truth is that the Holy Spirit enables us to see Jesus, just as the disciples saw the risen Jesus. We are not at a disadvantage. Jesus has not left us alone. He is with us by his Spirit, drawing us into fellowship with himself. When we feel the attraction of the Bible, and we cannot avoid it, and its teaching comes alive in our hearts, that is the Spirit at work. When we feel the attraction of the person of Jesus, and he begins to fill our horizon, then that is the Spirit at work. When we experience fellowship with Jesus, and we know that he is with us, though we cannot see him, that is the Spirit at work. He gives us that deep down security that comes from knowing that we are sons of God because we have been adopted into the family through the death of Jesus for us. He gives us the strong lifetime purpose that comes from serving Jesus. He gives us the supreme experience of friendship with Jesus. Maybe that will lead to moments of overwhelming joy. Certainly it brings the joy of deep-rooted, eternally satisfying friendship with the One who promised to be with us to the end of time, and who fulfilled that promise through the gift of the Spirit. What happens when the Holy Spirit comes? He convicts a guilty world and points us to Jesus. Then he makes Jesus known to us. Do you want to be filled with the Spirit? Then ask. And ask again. And keep on asking. And he will come to you, and make his home with you. "For everyone who asks receives"