- Ezekiel 36:24-29
- John 16:12-33
Herman Lange, a German Christian was to be executed by the Nazis during WWII. In his cell on the night, before he was to be killed, Lange wrote a note about two feelings which occupied his mind: “I am, first, in a joyous mood, and second filled with great anticipation.” Then he made this beautiful affirmation: “In Christ, I have put my faith, and precisely today I have faith in Him more firmly than ever.” Finally, he urged his parents to read the New Testament for comfort: “Look where you will, everywhere you will find jubilation over the grace that makes us children of God. What can befall a child of God? Of what should I be afraid? On the contrary, rejoice!”
A non-Christian said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” “God has no religion”. But his deathbed he uttered his last words, “My days are numbered. For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond. All about me is darkness…” His name was Mahatma Gandhi.
Jesus was approaching his last moment before they apprehended Him, and handed Him over to be crucified. On his mind was his ministry from his Father to reveal Him to those would continue the work of global evangelism after He returned to his Father. He prayed,
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. (John 17:4, NKJV)
When He announced his departure to his disciples, they were filled with grief. On the one hand, they were called to be fishers of men, but their rabbi was leaving them. On the other hand, since they began to follow Christ, they learned to love Him and be close to Him. His words were the words of life. But now his announced his departure. They would miss Him.
How would they survive without Him? Where would they get the same level teaching from when they needed answers and guidance? And then Christ said 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; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7, NKJV)
Christ did not expect of his church to tackle the wise and the philosophies of this world on their own. He promised to give them a Helper.
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (John 16:8, NKJV)
The work of the church would have vaporised towards the end of the first century were it not for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. He is the One convicts the world of sin, those who do not believe in Christ. He is the One who convicts sinners of righteousness, because of Christ’s complete redemption, because there is no righteousness in man, and no other can or will be able to do what Christ has done; He is now at the right hand of his Father. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes clear to unbelievers that the prince of this world is condemned and of powerless against the judgement of the Father; no one who comes to the Father by any other means will ever be saved (John 16:8-11).
Paul writes about the work of the Spirit:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NKJV)
With these words, Jesus Christ comforted his disciples. And it should be our comfort too. We must speak the words of Christ, we must declare his grace to this world, however, we in some sense will only be onlookers as the Spirit does the conviction, the preaching of the righteousness of Christ, and as He convicts people of their sin.
Is it no so that the Holy Spirit will teach us all sorts of ecstatic gifts so we can prophesy, speak in tongues and do miracles? We need to understand these things in its context as Paul wrote it to the Corinthian church. We cannot now dwell on all the issues, but here are a few principles:
- The Spirit gives gifts as He determines, not as individual members desire it. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
- The gifts of the Spirit are always for the common good of the whole body of believers; if they serve no purpose for the upbuilding of the church, they are not needed. (1Corinthians 12:7)
- There are gifts which are more important than others. Paul prioritises the gifts beginning with the apostles, then the prophets (or preachers), then others, and then at the bottom of the list the speaking of different tongues (1Corinthians 12:28)
- Not all believers will or can speak in tongues, or do miraculous deeds, or heal others (1Corinthians 12:29)
- But all believers must love one another as Christ loved them (1Corinthians 13) and all believers must tell of the wondrous deeds of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19-21)
It is for this last universal task of evangelism we all must be involved in we need the Holy Spirit. Why?
“When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12–14, NKJV)
The Spirit inspired Paul to write:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12, ESV)
The Holy Spirit has no new agenda other than that of the Father and Son. His work is to continue the work of Christ. He is the One who teaches the church of Christ the will of the Father and all about Christ.
The ultimate work of the Holy Spirit was the inspiration of the Scriptures. Of these we read:
…the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15–17, NKJV)
This is the point. Everything we need to know about salvation, everything we need to preach, everything we need for comfort, everything we need to defend ourselves with against the attacks of all the wise and learned of the world, is written in the Bible. Who reads and studies the Bible as the World of God has perfect knowledge. The remarkable aspect of it all is that while we present this Gospel to the world and to every lost sinner, the Holy Spirit does the rest. We are like the sower in the parable of Jesus who sows wherever he can, but then rest and sleep, leaving it all in God’s hands.
We touched in this last week. Let’s just recap. Christ taught his followers a crucial lesson: his death and resurrection, together with the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Word, give incomparable joy.
Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. (John 16:22, NKJV)
David knew something about this:
O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. (Psalm 16:5–6, NKJV)
In another Psalm:
Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25–26, NKJV)
What is the source of our joy?
- First of all—Christ completed which the work the Father gave Him: He taught his disciples, He revealed the Father to them, He took their sins on them and paid the penalty of sin, He rose again to overcome death, and He ascended into heaven to intercede and prepare a home for those whom He was sent to rescue.
- Second, His work of teaching is complete. John 16:23 is an interesting one:
And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23, NKJV)
The first “ask” is to inquire or to want to know more. The second ask is the same as prayer. Our joy is connected to the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us to teach us and in that sense, we do not need to inquire outside of what He teaches in the Bible. It is only by diligent study that we will get all the answers we need to equip us for service.
The second “ask” is prayer. What we need to be successful as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lies in diligent and faithful prayer. In the Name of Christ who is our complete salvation and all-sufficient Saviour, we approach God to ask Him to give according to our needs.
The joy of the church of Jesus Christ is anchored in these things. What more do we need? Are we robbed of our joy if we don’t get the Lear Jet we are praying for? If this is your expectation, then surely you will be disappointed. But if it is Jesus Christ and the fullness of his grace you desire, you will never be disappointed. Your cup will overflow with joy.
Just one last thought. Our chapter also speaks of peace. Our Lord said to the small band of disciples moments before He was arrested:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)
What peace is perfect peace? “I have overcome the world.” The Greek tense is the perfect tense which describes an action brought to its conclusion in such a way that its results stand firm. In other words, when Jesus says He has overcome the world, it is complete, and nothing can change that fact.
In Revelation, we read,
“Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome [is victorious] to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NKJV)
Does it give you peace to hear the words of Christ:
For whoever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:4, NKJV)
Does it give you peace to hear Christ’s promise:
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3:12, NKJV)
So, my friends, because you can trust the Holy Spirit to guide you, because you can ask God in the Name of Jesus Christ, and because Christ has overcome the world, then it should be true of all of us:
And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! wrath, because he [Satan] knows that he has a short time. (Revelation 12:11–12, NKJV)
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 3 February 2019