Good morning, in a moment we're going to look at John 16 but before we dive in let me ask you a question. What one thing would help you the most in your walk with God? I'm sure if we were to go round we'd find a whole variety of answers, but here in John 16 Jesus shows us what we need the most.
But before we read let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for your word, we thank you that it shows us who you are, what your Son has done for us and what your Spirit can do in and through us, gracious Father, by your Spirit, please speak to us now so that we may know you better and love you more.
So please get yourself a Bible and turn to John chapter 16 where I'll be reading from halfway through verse 4 under the heading which says 'the Work of the Holy Spirit'.
John chapter 16 starting halfway through verse 4.
"I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
So this morning we're with Jesus the night before he dies. This is part of a long section in John's Gospel where Jesus is teaching his disciples, yet time and time again we see them being so wrapped up in their own concerns that they fail to see that Jesus mission is not only different from what they expect but also, far, far better.
Which brings me to my first point
1. Remember That The Will of Father is Perfect
In verse 5 Jesus says to the disciples:
"I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going'."
At first glance this just seems a bit rude, Jesus is their teacher, the one they have followed for years but, none of them seems to want to know where he's going. But if you flick back to chapter 13 and verse 36 you'd see Simon Peter asking Jesus "Lord, where are you going?" and then in verse 37 he asks, "Lord, why can I not follow you now?", so what exactly is going on here? It seems that Peter wants to know where Jesus is going. Has Jesus forgotten what Peter had said?
Well to me it seems that when Peter asks these questions he is more concerned by the fact that Jesus is leaving than trying to understand exactly what Jesus' departure is going to achieve.
Imagine one Friday evening I say to my eldest son, Jack, that I'll take him to Exhibition Park the following day, no doubt he'd be very excited as not only does the play park there have a huge slide, but it also has a café which sells amazing blue ice cream – yeah I don't get the attraction either.
But imagine if the following day I get a phone call from Ken saying "Dave, we had a break-in at St. Joseph's last night and all of the PA equipment has been taken, can you sort out something for tomorrow?" at which point I realise I'm going to have to spend the whole day sorting out a replacement system.
As I try to explain the situation to Jack and make my way to the door he might say "where are you going?". When he says this he isn't concerned about where I'm going, but rather the fact that I'm leaving him and is now upset because his plans have come to nothing.
Likewise, when Jesus announces that he's leaving he sees into the disciples' hearts and sees that they are filled with sorrow. For the disciples, life with Jesus is the best life there was and they didn't want that to change.
You see, they had their own ideas of what being with Jesus would bring, they thought he was going to overthrow the oppressive Roman rule and Jesus leaving would surely bring an end to such dreams.
But once again they are misguided by their own thinking, as they fail to see that Jesus' departure will actually be to their benefit. They fail to see that God's will is far better than their own. But isn't that true of us too? We fail to see how God could be working in our lives, so when things don't go our way, we give into frustration or despair.
Romans 8:28 says that
"..for those who love God all things work together for good…"
But do we see that? Do we see that what God brings about is what is best, regardless of whether we see it or not? Please don't think I'm saying we should feel happy all the time, because everything that God brings into our lives is according to his will. What God brings about is what is best, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it will be enjoyable.
God may well bring you through crippling situations which make you question if God's really there or really cares about you. Maybe you're dealing with the loss of a loved one or ill health or months of unemployment which show no sign of ending.
We can sometimes feel like we know what is best, but we need to pray like Jesus, who knew that he was going to be crucified, yet prayed to his Father "not my will, but yours, be done". He didn't pray, not my will but yours be done as long as you don't do this that or the other, but rather he entrusted himself fully to his loving heavenly father.
Now we don't always know what God's reasons may be for bringing about certain circumstances, but in those moments we need to walk by faith and not by sight and remember that the will of the Father is perfect.
That's my first point, here's the second
2. Remember What the Spirit Can Do
Look at verse 7 where Jesus says this:
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you."
So the reason for Jesus departure, is so that the Helper, or the Spirit, will come but why would that be of any advantage to the disciples? Jesus was the man who could heal people, provide taxes for his mates from the mouths of fish. He could raise the dead and to top it all off, he even gave thousands of people food when only one boy had remembered to bring his packed lunch.
This is the man who provides you with food, finances and life itself, isn't that what everyone is after? The disciples must have been thinking 'Come on Jesus don't go now, you're giving us what everyone wants'.
But there's the problem, what the world wants and what the world needs are two completely different things. We may all want health wealth and prosperity, but the Bible makes it clear that what we really need is saving, but sadly we all fail to see that.
Which is exactly why the Spirit is coming into the world and why his coming into the world would be an advantage to the disciples. In verse 8 to 11 Jesus tell us three of the ways in which the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of a blind world. Jesus said:
"And when he (the Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
Twice in that passage, Jesus uses the word, "world", but what do you think of when you hear the word world? Maybe you simply think of a globe or you start to think of other countries or friends who live in other countries. Well in John's gospel, whenever the word "world" is used it's generally used to convey darkness or ignorance, so when we read of the Spirit convicting the world, we're reading about the Spirit coming to convict those who live as if God isn't there.
So the Spirit will come to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement, but what does that all mean?
Well, let's look at all three closely, starting with sin. In verse 9 Jesus says that the Spirit will convict concerning sin because they do not believe in me.
So first of all Jesus is telling us that the heart of sin is not recognising Jesus for who he really is. Many people believe that Jesus existed and as a result would say they believe in him. But what Jesus is saying goes much deeper.
It looks like it's going to be a sunny day today so like all true Geordies you should make the most of the sun by spending all day in the Metro Centre. If you were to go to the Metro Centre the best way to get there would be to go over the Scotswood bridge and whether your driving or walking you'll happily go over it because you have complete trust that it will help you cross over the Tyne.
Likewise, when Jesus is talking about the world not believing in him he's talking about people not actively putting their trust in him as Lord and saviour. So the Spirit will come, to show people their sin of unbelief in Jesus.
Secondly, Jesus says "the Spirit will convict the world concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer".
If you were wanting a good definition of righteousness, you could look in a dictionary, one online dictionary describes righteousness as being 'morally right or justifiable'.
But if you were to ask, who does righteousness look like? Well that question might not go down so well, people may accuse others of being self-righteous but we'd never say of someone, isn't it wonderful how righteous he is, unless of course you were talking about Jesus.
You see Jesus' righteousness exposed the sinfulness of the people around him, but with Jesus going to his Father, the Spirit would come to expose the lack of righteousness in the world and show the world of its need for a saviour.
Every day we give into the lie that we are in the right, which is why even if we already know Jesus as our Lord and saviour, we need to pray on that the Spirit would continue to convict us to true righteousness.
Thirdly, Jesus says that the Spirit will come to convict the world concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.
When Jesus speaks of the ruler of this world he is talking about God's great enemy, the devil, the one who wants nothing more than to see people live in ignorance of him and in opposition to God. But despite Satan's power to tempt us to sin, he has no control over his own destiny. Revelation 20 tells us that Satan "will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where [he] will be tormented day and night forever and ever." His future is certain, but sadly so is the future those who, whether knowingly or not, stand with him in opposition to God.
Here in John 16, Jesus is saying that another way that the Spirit will convict is by showing people the realities of the judgement to come and to make them ask the question.
Do you want to stand with Jesus? Our gracious Saviour who knows us and loves us and offers us the joy of heaven. Or do we want to stand with Satan, whose future is eternal destruction?
Now I'm aware that most of us here this morning are already trusting in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and are completely aware of the need to go an tell the world of about Jesus. But let me ask you the question, how prepared do you feel to tell others about Jesus?
A few months ago I was chatting to my friend David, whose wife had given birth to their third child and he said to me, "I'm so hopeless at evangelism I thought it would be good to have more children in the house as I'm quite good at telling them about Jesus". When he told me that I laughed, but I wasn't laughing because I thought he was joking, but rather because I could completely sympathise with what he was saying. And I wonder, how do you feel about your efforts with telling people about Jesus? If you're thinking it's not good, then what do you think would help that?
There are a large number of resources which seek to help us, but please remember that Jesus is teaching us that our confidence must solely be put in the work of the Holy Spirit who will convict those who don't yet believe of sin, righteousness and judgement.
In the books of Acts, we see these once hopeless disciples become people who told others of Jesus who died for the sin of the world and rose again. As a result, the church saw huge growth, but this didn't happen because of their skills as evangelists, as Acts 2:47 tells us that it was
"The Lord [who] added to their number day by day those who were being saved."
By the power of the Holy Spirit, God used the disciples to turn the world upside, and that could be you too. So we must remember that it is only by the power of the Spirit that blind eyes are opened to Jesus, no matter how competent we feel about telling others.
3. God's Word Is Reliable
Finally, Jesus tells us that the Spirit will come to reveal God's word to the disciples and in doing so we must remember that God's word is reliable.
When you look at this what do you see? For many it's just an outdated book, written hundreds of years ago, for others it's words about God, but not words by God but what is it? Well I, and many others, believe that it is God's word, but how can we be sure?
Well whatever your opinion there has to be some element of faith, but here in John's gospel, Jesus gives us a clear and compelling argument for believing that what we have is God's word, for in verses 12 to 15 of chapter 16 Jesus says:
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
These verses never cease to blow my mind, the Holy Spirit was going to teach the disciples many things which Jesus had not yet taught them, but in addition to that, in John 14:26 Jesus says that
"The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
So not only was the Spirit going to teach the disciples, he was also going to help the disciples remember what Jesus said, so given that what we have in the New Testament was either written by or affirmed by those who were with Jesus, we can have great confidence that what we have before us is the word of God.
There is so much more in the Bible that would affirm what we have in front of us is God's word. But if your still unconvinced that the whole Bible is God's word then let me ask you this, what kind of God would allow a book containing lies about him survive for almost 2,000 years?
For those of you who do believe that this is God's word, do we really treat it as such?
In 2015 the word FOMO was added to the Oxford English dictionary. For those who don't know the word is an acronym for fear of missing out and is generally associated with constantly checking social media out of fear of missing something important. But I wonder, what do you worry about missing out on? Maybe it is social media or the latest football score or maybe your favourite TV programme.
Now I'm not saying any of those things are bad, but surely the one thing that we should hate to miss out on is time with God, through his word and in prayer.
I don't want to play down the fact that many of us have busy lives, but God in his mercy has spoken to us and wants to speak to us even though we have no right to hear from him, so surely listening to him should be our greatest priority every day.
Maybe you feel like you don't want to read the Bible for yourself, you just feel distant from God and feel that God won't want to talk to you. Well if that is you, remember that we never earn our favour with God by reading the Bible but rather through Jesus death in our place. God wants us to know him better and love him more, but like any relationship time and effort has to be put in.
I recently heard of a minister who had said this:
"In pretty much every pastoral situation I've had to handle, I've found that the people involved have stopped reading their Bible and stopped meeting with others to read the Bible." I found that quote quite eye-opening, but what do you make of it? Maybe you feel like reading the Bible on your own or with others in Midweek Groups doesn't make much of a difference to your life? Well over time it makes more of a difference than you think, so we should be making time in God's word individually and in groups a top priory.
Our faith is in the person and work of Jesus Christ, but being together as church to sit under God's word and being together in Bible study groups are means of grace that God uses to help us know and love him more.
But coming along on Sunday is not just for our good, but also for the good of those we sit alongside, so as well as coming for your own good, come for the good of others and also be thinking about how you can best encourage them.
If you're not part of a Midweek Group then please do speak to Ken or Ben about joining one at the end of the service, and if you are part of one, please don't put off attending. If there are practical obstacles getting in your way, pray that God would provide a solution, as he has created us to be in community with him and with one another and he wants us to speak to us through his word.
At the beginning I asked you 'what do you think would help you in your walk with God?' Well hopefully you've seen that the answer is God himself. So wherever you feel that you're struggling to live for God, whether it be accepting his will, telling others about Jesus, or struggling to have any joy in his word. Remember that the will of the Father is perfect, remember what his Spirit can do and that God's word is reliable. And remember that God the Father by his Son, has done all that is needed for us to be forgiven and by his Spirit gives us the strength to live for him.
Well let's pray.