Big Idea: We live in a hostile world, but Jesus has not left us alone. He’s given us the Holy Spirit who is on mission in the world, and who empowers the church.
If you stick around long enough on the Internet, you will eventually hear what’s called a de-conversion story. I saw one just the other week. A de-conversion story is the opposite of a conversion story. Instead of someone putting their faith in Jesus, a person does the opposite. Usually, someone posts on social media, something like this: “I used to believe, but I couldn’t quite get my head around X. It bothered me for a long time, but then I found the courage to ask some tough questions, and now I no longer believe.”
I saw one the other week. It’s common enough, but I still feel unsettled and sad when I read about one. It’s unsettling because, at some level, I probably wonder if it could happen to me.
We’re not the first people to face this danger. If you have ever felt like you could waver and stop following Jesus, that is exactly the possibility that Jesus addresses in this passage. And he’s going to offer us the help we need in today’s passage, which is a huge comfort because we all need it.
Let’s back up for a second. We’re in a series looking at the heart of Christ. The day before Jesus died, Jesus met with his disciples in private and opened up his heart to them. It’s an amazing look at who Jesus is and what he wants for us, his people.
Last week, Nathan explained how our relationship with Christ produces a change in our lives. If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that, I encourage you to go back and watch it or listen to it. One of the changes that comes out of our relationship with Christ is that the world will hate us. Jesus said this in John 15:20: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you need to understand this: your faith in Jesus will not go unopposed. The world is in a state of rebellion against God. There are spiritual forces all around us that are opposed to his reign. Jesus came to bring rebels back into his kingdom, but many still remain enslaved to sin and darkness. Spiritual forces stand opposed to God and his followers. We are at war. I love the words of Spurgeon: “When you sleep, think that you are resting on the battlefield; when you walk, suspect an ambush in every hedge.” Expect opposition from all the forces of evil when you follow Jesus.
The problem? We don’t like to be at war! Look at what Jesus says in verses 2 and see if you like any of it: “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” We’ll be excommunicated — canceled! — and even killed. Anyone want to sign up?
Schutt Sports, a major supplier of football helmets for the National Football League, issues the following warning label on all their helmets and on their website’s homepage: “WARNING …. NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT CONCUSSIONS OR ELIMINATE THE RISK OF SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES WHILE PLAYING FOOTBALL.” The warning label continues with some information about the symptoms for concussions and concludes by repeating the original warning: “TO AVOID THESE RISKS [OF PLAYING FOOTBALL], DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL.”
Jesus is essentially telling us the same thing. Warning: nothing can prevent or eliminate the risk of serious opposition when following Jesus. To avoid the risks of being hated or persecuted, do not follow Jesus. To follow Jesus means being hated and persecuted just as Jesus was. Your faith in him will not go unopposed. Jesus gives us the hardest task. He doesn’t pull any punches. He tells us we’re going to be hated. He doesn’t invite us to an easy life. He invites us to a life that involves suffering because we’re following him.
Here’s the problem: some of us are going to be tempted to de-convert or fall away. That’s what Jesus says in verse 1: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” Jesus knows what we’re made of. He’s already told Peter that he’s going to deny Jesus when put to the test. Jesus knows that we’re not made of tough stuff. He knows that when we face attack, when we face difficult circumstances, we’re probably going to feel like giving up our faith in him.
That’s the problem Jesus is addressing. The Christian life is hard. We will face opposition and attack. And when we do, we’ll face the temptation to give up our faith and choose a much easier path. Jesus wants us to be aware of this danger, and in this passage, he’s trying to help us by giving us the answer to this very big problem.
This is a huge problem! So what’s the solution?
Jesus’ solution is simple. It’s a person. It’s a Helper who will stand with us when we face this trial. Jesus says in John 15:26-27:
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
And then in 16:7: “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.”
Here’s Jesus’ reasoning. When we’re attacked and opposed, dragged before courts, and even killed, we won’t stand alone. God the Holy Spirit himself will be standing with us. In fact, the Spirit will be doing most of the work. He will be the primary witness. We’ll join him, and as we do so, we have the confidence that not only do we have help, but that God the Spirit will be doing most of the work.
Jesus even says that it’s better that he leaves, because until he leaves the Holy Spirit won’t come. But when Jesus leaves, the Holy Spirit will come, and the Holy Spirit will do a couple of things we need.
First: the Holy Spirit will be on mission in the world (16:8-11).
One of the best pieces of news is that Jesus entered this messy world to rescue it. he didn’t keep his distance from sinners. He entered the darkness of this world and called rebels to follow him.
We still live in a world of sinners and rebels. And God is still on a mission. This is so encouraging. Read verses 8 to 10 with me:
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.
It seems like the world is against us. But the Holy Spirit is on the move. He is active all around the world changing hearts. Nothing can stop him. The Holy Spirit reveals people’s true condition to them, and as a result, many will turn to Jesus and be saved.
Why judgment? It seems so negative. Blaise Pascal argues that the preaching of sin brings healing, not harm. “The great barrier to happiness is our refusal to accept that we are at fault.” The Holy Spirit brings conviction, and that conviction leads to healing.
It really looks like we’re outnumbered. We live in a world that’s hostile to Jesus and everything he teaches. People hate ethical absolutes and want to choose what’s right and wrong for themselves. Many now see Christianity as dangerous and intolerant. We’re going to be tempted to retreat. But Jesus reminds us: God the Holy Spirit is active in this rebellious world, and he’s changing people’s hearts, convicting them of sin and drawing them to himself. Nothing can stop him.
I’m reading a book right now that includes all these stories of people who came to faith in Jesus. One of the people says, “I planned a lot of things in my life. Being a Christian was never one of them. But by God’s grace and his plan, I became a child of God on that day.” I love stories like this. God the Holy Spirit is on the move, and he’s drawing people to himself. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you sense the Holy Spirit convicting you of sin and drawing you to himself. Don’t resist. Come to him this very minute. And have confidence that we don’t have to retreat, because nothing can stop the Holy Spirit’s work in this world.
The Holy Spirit will be on mission in the world. There’s one other thing the Holy Spirit does that we need:
Second, the Holy Spirit will empower the church (16:12-15).
Police in Fremont, California were pursuing a suspect. The police officer was driving the department’s Tesla Model S patrol car. Speeds reached up to 120 miles per hour. The only problem: somebody forgot to plug in the Tesla before the officer began the shift. Officer Jesse Hartman radioed in and said, “I am down to six miles of battery on the Tesla so I may lose it here in a sec.” The officer had to abandon the chase and look for a charger to juice up the car again.
We do not have the power we need. But Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit does. Look at how the Holy Spirit will help us:
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. (John 16:13-15)
He will assist us by guiding us in the truth and bring glory to Jesus. He will illumine God’s Word so that we can understand it. He will give us everything that we need.
Today I’ve spoken honestly about the challenges facing us. We live in a hostile world. On our own strength, we’d give up. But Jesus has not left us alone. He’s given us the Holy Spirit who is on mission in the world, and who empowers the church.
How should we respond? Don’t be afraid! We have everything we need. Don’t fall away no matter how hard it gets, because we’re not alone.
Father, thank you for the Holy Spirit. Thank you that you haven’t left us alone, but that the Holy Spirit is on mission in Liberty Village, and he is with us at Liberty Grace Church giving us the power we need. Holy Spirit, fill us, and help us to bring glory and honor to Jesus. We pray this now in Jesus’ name. Amen.