“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.” (John 16:7-11)
In 1913, Katharine Lee Bates penned the lyrics to the prayerful song, “America, the Beautiful”. A century later, we are challenged by what she saw.
Our crown of brotherhood has slipped into political and cultural polarization. Our alabaster cities are plagued by mass shootings and renewed racial tension. Our welcome to freedom-seeking pilgrims has become an outcry of confusion over how to deal with both illegal and legal immigration.
Our liberty conferred by law and self-control has deteriorated into an “anything goes” morality. Our selfless love of country has become “What’s in it for me?” Even our love of spacious skies and purple mountain majesties has turned into staring at our smartphone, laptop and TV screens, because virtual reality has become more attractive than reality.
Unless something happens to change our nation’s direction, things will only get worse. And our “finger of blame” politics will not provide any solution. Neither a conviction of Hillary Clinton nor a conviction of President Trump will help because our whole nation needs to be convicted. And our nation cannot be convicted until the Church is convicted.
I hear Christians of all types speak about the Holy Spirit – the seal of salvation, the fruit or the gifts. But I rarely hear anyone speak of the Holy Spirit’s mission.
The mission of Jesus on earth was to reveal the Father, die for our sins, and rise from death in victory with all authority in heaven and earth. As He completed His mission, Jesus explained to His disciples how the Father would now send “another Helper” to be with us forever. (John 14:16)
Just as Jesus, the first Helper on earth, was God (God the Son), so this second Helper on earth would be God the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit’s mission would build on the mission of Jesus because they are both part of God’s overall plan to restore the Kingdom of God on earth. (Matthew 6:10)
The mission of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. The Greek word translated as “convict” is “elencho”, which means: to convict, persuade, or expose in order to bring about repentance and change.
God became man to fulfill the mission of Jesus, and now God requires men and women to fulfill the Holy Spirit’s mission, which coexists with the mission of the Church to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19-20) We cannot accomplish our mission without the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-8; Zechariah 4:6) Likewise, because the Holy Spirit is poured into our clay jars, He cannot accomplish His mission without us. (Acts 2:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:7)
Conviction concerning sin is persuading people that sin is destructive, separating you from God, and that faith in Jesus Christ is the answer to sin. The Holy Spirit can do this through our fervent prayers and loving proclamation of the Gospel.
Conviction concerning righteousness is persuading people that righteous living in trusting, Spirit-empowered obedience to God’s Word is healthy, helpful, hopeful, joyful, love and peace-filled. The Holy Spirit can do this through Christian lives that demonstrate this truth. (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:9-12)
Conviction concerning judgment is persuading people that good can overcome evil and destroy the works of the devil. (Romans 12:21; 1 John 3:8) The Holy Spirit can do this through Christians who know how to grasp the keys of the Kingdom in Holy Spirit power and the authority of Jesus’ name. (Matthew 16:19; John 14:12-14)
However, the Holy Spirit cannot convict this nation of sin through a Church that embraces sin or just refuses to talk about it. The Holy Spirit cannot convict this nation of righteousness through a Church that is selfish, worldly, unloving, divisive, or fearful. The Holy Spirit cannot convict this nation of judgment through a Church that doesn’t submit to the authority of God’s Word or believe in all the gifts the Holy Spirit came to provide.
The spiritual history of America includes powerful transforming movements of the Holy Spirit at the beginnings of the 18th century (First Great Awakening), 19th century (Second Great Awakening), and 20th century (Pentecostal and Charismatic awakenings). All of them involved conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment, first in the Church and then in the nation. All began because enough Christians saw the darkness around them, cared deeply, and united in persevering prayer.
It is now the beginning of the 21st century. Holy Spirit, convict the Church! Convict me and all who read this column!
Then, America, God can use His Church to “shed His grace on thee”.
God bless you, and God bless our community.