This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Last night, we finished up our study of John 16:1-15, taking a look at how Jesus prepared his disciples for life without him physically present. Last week, we saw how Jesus encouraged their minds in verses 1-4 by telling them of the difficulties to come but also of the strength he would provide to persevere. We then began to look at how Jesus encouraged their hearts in verses 5-11, since they felt a genuine sorrow at losing one who had become teacher, master, Lord, and friend. He told them, however, that his going away was actually to their advantage. This is where we picked up last night.
Jesus told them that once he is gone, he will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit to them, and he will guide them into truth. The Spirit will be present with them at all times, as close as their next breath, and he will instruct them in truth, Jesus says in verses 8-11, by convicting people of sin, by revealing righteousness, and by proclaiming judgment. We then took a closer look at these three categories to try and understand exactly what the work of the Holy Spirit is in our lives. First, he convicts us – he shows us our sin. At first glance, this hardly seems like good news. I don’t know about you, but there are few things I hate more than being shown that I royally screwed up. How is being shown that we are sinners a good thing? Because without knowledge of our sin, we have no knowledge that we need a savior. We all sin. Scripture is abundantly clear on this topic (Romans 3 is a great place to start) and our own experiences read like textbooks on how to make bad choices. I, D.J. Williams, have willingly sinned against a perfectly holy and just God, and I deserve his judgment and wrath just as surely as a murderer deserves to go to prison for life or face the death chamber. I deserve to suffer in hell. Me. Yet, this horrible knowledge is the first act of God’s grace in my life. Why? As John Newton wrote in the famous hymn “Amazing Grace,” “Tis grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” God’s grace has shown me my reason to fear his wrath, yet his grace instantly relieves those fears as it points me to the awe-inspiring reality that God has borne that wrath himself in my place. Thus, conviction of sin is the difficult first step into the wonders of the grace of God.
Secondly, he reveals righteousness to us. As we search the Scriptures - the very thoughts and words of God - no amount of human wisdom can comprehend their riches. Yet we are told that the Spirit that dwells within us reveals these truths to our minds and hearts, and allows us to contemplate not just intellectual ideas but truths that affect every aspect of who we are. Thirdly, he will reveal judgment – that the stakes are high and the times are urgent. The ruler of this world (Satan) is judged by the cross, and now God is in the process of bringing all things to their conclusion. Our time is short, and thus our stakes are high. I’ve never been a big fan of “scare tactics” when it comes to preaching the gospel, since I feel that they often actually diminish the significance of the grace of God by turning our salvation into a “get out of hell free” card. However, the truth is that Jesus talked more about hell than just about anyone else in Scripture, and none of us is guaranteed when we wake up in the morning that we will make it back to our bed that night. This should provoke a bit of a wartime mentality in our faith, knowing that this is not a drill and that these issues are the most important things we will ever wrestle with.
We concluded by seeing how Jesus encouraged the disciples’ souls by telling them in verses 12-15 the spiritual realities that the Holy Spirit would proclaim to them. First, in verse 13, he reiterated that the Spirit would come to declare truth. In fact ,the description of the Spirit’s work in verse 13 sounds incredibly similar to Christ’s descriptions of his own work – to take what he has received from the Father and reveal it to us. The Spirit will do this same work while being constantly present with us in such a palpable way that the Scriptures can testify that he will be in us. Then, in verses 14 and 15, Jesus tells them that the Spirit will declare their reward, which is the awe inspiring reality of the glory of God. Jesus says that all that he has (which in turn is all that the Father is) will be declared to us. This is remarkable! We are co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16)! Our eternal destiny, the purpose for which we were created, is to spend eternity beholding and soaking in the glory of the one who created all that is good! Every moment of joy we enjoy in this life is but a miniscule foretaste of what it will be to spend eternity in the presence of the one who created that joy! That is what the Spirit comes to proclaim to us and accomplish through us. Contemplate that truth this week. As hymn writer Helen Lemmel wrote nearly 100 years ago, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”