Sometimes we forget that people whom we hold in high esteem have their low points in life just like everyone else. A friend of mine who works for the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in downtown St. Louis Mo. Is just such a person whom I hold in high esteem. I’ve known him for over five years now and have respected him from the first day that I met him. When he was being called into ministry was one of those times of struggle for him. He knew that he wanted to serve the Lord, but just like the rest of us when we hear the Lord talking to us the world tried to fill his head with doubts. Thankfully the strength that we have in our relationship with God allows each of us to overcome the whispers from the enemy that try to mislead us. He followed God’s calling and for the last few years has been a minister at his church while he continued to work for the VA.
I went to see him on Friday regarding some work related business and as often happens when brothers of faith get together our conversations turned to discussions about our great God. During the conversation that followed he let me know that thoughts about evangelism had really been pressing on him, and that he’d been struggling with trying to understand why such a large part of the church has seemingly become so insular regarding evangalism. He was struggling to understand why so many of us Christians have become content to just live our lives, go to church, and let that be the be all, end all, of our Christian lives. It was obvious to me as we spoke that he wasn’t really trying to understand why that is the case, but had been trying to figure out how to change that mindset amongst the body of Christ. Throughout the conversation that followed we talked about many things; examples of God’s love for us, the grace that we have received through Jesus Christ, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
This final topic was what seemed to make a different light shine in his eyes as we spoke. I told him that over the years I’d struggled with that little voice of conscience that I’d always thought of as the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sins when I’d done something that I thought of as sinful. I explained to my friend that after studying John 16:8–11 in more depth it was so liberating when I realized that the voice of condemnation that I’d been listening to all of these years wasn’t the Holy Spirit after all. Why do I say that? Well, let’s take a look at those verses and I’ll explain it to you the same way that I shared with my friend.
John 16:8-11, And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Notice that the first portion of these verses are a statement in three parts and that the following portions are an explaination of those parts.
Pastor Joseph Prince says in his book Destined to Reign that, “It is important to always read Bible verses in their context. Many people end up misinterpreting Bible verses because they fail to do this. One way to read Bible verses in their context (and this is a key Bible interpretation principle) is to identify who the verses are talking about. So who was Jesus talking about in John 16:8? Was He talking about believers or unbelievers? When He said that the Holy Spirit would come to “convict the world of sin” because they do not believe in Him, it is clear that He was referring to unbelievers because they are of “the world”. And notice that the Holy Spirit does not convict the world of “sins” (plural). It is only one “sin” (singular) that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of, and that is the sin of unbelief, the sin of rejecting Jesus and not believing in His finished work.”
So if the first part of verse 8 is addressed to unbelievers who are the second and third parts addressed to? Well in the second part Jesus is obviously speaking to believers since he says that he is “…going to his Father and you see Me no more;…” (emphasis added.) Thus the Holy Spirit is sent to convict us of the righteousness of Jesus Christ!
Pastor Prince concludes his explaination of these verses saying, “When Jesus said, “… of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged,” who was He referring to? Believers or unbelievers? The answer is neither. He was referring to “the ruler of this world”, as plainly stated in the verse. “So who is the ‘ruler of this world’?” The “ruler of this world” is the devil, the accuser himself.”
After sharing these verses and the above explaination to my friend I told him that it had been an epiphany to me that was extremely liberating when I realized that the voice that I’d thought of as the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sins wasn’t actually from Him. I’d finally realized the truth! The truth that our great God loves us and wants us closer to Him, not pushed further away from Him. Those negative thoughts that always convicted me that I was a sinner and wasn’t worthy of God’s notice had never been from Him but from the enemy. The concept that even when I failed I was still righteous in God’s eyes completely floored me. I was righteous not because of anything that I’d done, but because of the blood of Jesus Christ which redeemed me of all of those sins!
I felt liberated when that idea finally clicked into solidity in my mind and I told my friend that it had completely changed the way I felt about my relationship with Christ. Suddenly I had a desire to share the news of God’s great gift to us with others. Before my epiphany I was hesitant to ever share my testimony because I had such a hard time differentiating between the voice convicting me of my sins (from Satan) and the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that kept getting drowned out by my fears, uncertainties, doubts and the lies from the enemy.
Just as it’s difficult to hear someone whispering when loud rock music is blaring from the radio, I’d had difficulty hearing the voice of God as He tried to talk to me. The fears, doubts and lies from the enemy were like the loud rock music blocking out all other sound. Once I was able to turn off the radio suddenly that whispering voice was so much easier to hear. Being able to recognize Satan’s lies for what they were was the same as recognizing a song that you dislike so much on the radio that you just want to turn it off. Discovering and understanding that the Holy Spirit was there to help me and not convict me allowed me to turn off Satan’s radio and listen to God and more importantly to share that discovery with others.