Spirit-Filled Means Jesus-Centered – John 16:4b-11

Spirit-Filled Means Jesus-Centered

Nick Esch, 5/20/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

When I say Spirit-filled life, what comes to your mind? Perhaps you think primarily of charismatics or miraculous spiritual gifts… Perhaps you get a little nervous… We Baptists tend to think of the Trinity more as the Father, Son, and Holy Bible than we do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… But the Holy Spirit is God, and He is a central part of the Christian life…We shouldn’t be scared of the Holy Spirit, but we should rejoice that the Spirit of God is in us and with us… In our passage today Jesus tells His disciples that He’s going away, but He’s sending them the Holy Spirit, and that is actually far better… As Christians it’s hard to think anything better than having Jesus with us throughout our lives, but Jesus shows us in our text today that the Spirit inside of us is better than Jesus beside us, at least here and now… And actually the only way we can truly live a Jesus-centered life, here and now, is to live a Spirit-filled life… So with that in mind let’s look at John 16:4b-11…

John 16:4b-11

Our passage begins with Jesus saying, “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.” And what He’s speaking of here is the suffering and the persecution that He’s been telling them about. Up until this point Jesus has been with His disciples, and therefore, He’s been able to protect His disciples and take whatever persecution came their way upon Himself. But now the time has come for Him to do this in an ultimate way. In a few hours He’s going to the cross to take all the suffering that we deserve for our sin upon Himself. He’s going to be condemned and beaten in our place, nailed to a cross in our place, have the wrath of God due us poured out upon Himself in our place, and then die in our place. And knowing this, all the things He has been saying were in an effort to prepare His disciples for what’s coming: His suffering, and then theirs as well…

In verses 5 and 6 Jesus elaborates on this a bit more, saying, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” Here Jesus tells us that though He’s going to die, He’s not going to stay dead… He’s going to the Father who sent Him… He’s going to glory by way of the cross… After dying for the sins of His people, on the third day He’s going to rise from the dead victoriously; He’s going to defy death and return to His disciples, but only for a short time; after 40 days He’s going to ascend into heaven to the right hand of the Father… That’s where He’s going: back to the Father, back to the glory He shared with the Father from before the foundation of the world…

And of course we know that Jesus has in fact done all of this; He lived the perfect life, died a sacrificial wrath-absorbing death, and then got up from the grave in His death defeating resurrection, and ascended into heaven where He now ever intercedes for His people. This is the good news of the gospel: that Jesus has done all of this to save us and to reconcile us to God, so that we can live with Him in eternal joy. But the disciples here weren’t seeing all of this clearly… At this point they weren’t concerned with where Jesus was going, or why, but they were just saddened that He was going… Their hearts were filled with sorrow because of the cross and because of what Jesus said was coming for them… And that was really the heart of the problem: they couldn’t see how any of this was good news for them… They were too self-focused… I mean the disciples didn’t fully grasp what Jesus is telling them until Pentecost… So instead of rejoicing over the gospel, they couldn’t see past the loss, the pain, and the suffering that was coming, and thus sorrow filled their hearts…

If they would’ve kept their focus on Christ and what He was really telling them their hearts would’ve been filled with joy; but because they were so self-focused their hearts were filled with sorrow… And you know, the gospel still effects us this way… If we only focus on what we are giving up, or on the cost of discipleship, we tend to feel sorrow… But if we focus on Christ we can count all things as loss with great joy, because Jesus is better than everything…

It’s like what the missionary to China and martyr, Betty Stam once said, “When we consecrate ourselves to God, we think we are making a great sacrifice, and doing lots for Him, when really we are only letting go of some little bitsy trinkets we have been grabbing, and when our hands are empty, He fills them full of His treasure (namely Jesus).” Or what the missionary David Livingstone who gave His life to getting the gospel to Africa said; looking back over all the cost and all the suffering, he said, “I never made a sacrifice…” In other words, Jesus is worth the cost of discipleship… He’s infinitely better than anything of this world… He’s worth forsaking our sin for, He’s worth living for, and even dying for… But we have to keep our focus on Christ to really see that… We have to, “Turn [our] eyes upon Jesus [and] look full in His wonderful face. And [then] the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace…”

And this is true in every area of our lives… If we focus only on the cost and not on the reward of discipleship, we will have sorrow instead of joy… If we focus merely on our sin and not on the love of God in Christ and His great mercy and grace, we will have sorrow instead of joy… If we focus merely on the on the brokenness of this world or the suffering we endure in this life, and not on God’s sovereign goodness, knowing that He is working all things for His glory and our good, that He’s working all things in this world for His grand plan of redemption and the fame of Christ to the ends of the earth, then we will have sorrow instead of joy… Focusing on self leads to sorrow, but focusing on Jesus leads to joy…

But again, the disciples were having a hard time seeing this; so once again Jesus seeks to encourage their sorrow-filled hearts. In verse 7 He says,“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.” So it’s as if He’s saying, “Look guys, I really mean what I’m telling you… You shouldn’t be filled with sorrow, but with joy, because it’s to your advantage, it’s far better for you that I go away…” Now that’s a strong statement… I mean Jesus is the great treasure of Christianity, so I can only imagine how hard it was for the disciples to hear that it’s better for them if Jesus leaves them… That just doesn’t seem right… So, if we’re going to get our minds around why it’s better for Jesus to go away we need to truly understand what He’s saying here …

When Jesus says it is to His disciples’ advantage that He goes away, He ties it to the coming of the Helper—the Holy Spirit… When Jesus leaves, the Holy Spirit comes… Now, that isn’t because they can’t be in the same place at the same time… It isn’t because they’re the same person or something… This isn’t like a Batman and Bruce Wayne thing, where you never see them together because Bruce Wayne is Batman… Our God is Triune: three persons, one God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… The Holy Spirit was present throughout Jesus’ ministry; He descended down from heaven like a dove and rested on Him… But, what Jesus is referring to here is the New Covenant presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says that His going away is for the advantage of the church, and that’s because in speaking of going away He was referring to His death, resurrection, and ascension… And His person and work are what make the New Covenant possible… He has just told His disciples at the last supper that His body and His blood are what would usher in this New Covenant; and that’s what we remember every time we take the Lord’s Supper; the New Covenant is blood bought… And the New Covenant that He was referring to was the one God had promised throughout the Old Testament… For instance in Ezekiel 36:24-27 we’re told, “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

So this New Covenant promise is the promise of God to save people from all nations, from all around the world: to wash us clean of our sin and give us a new heart and a new spirit, and best of all to give us the gift of Himself—to even put His own Spirit within us… And that’s the Helper: the Holy Spirit… The word translated Helper here is the Greek word παράκλητος, meaning counselor, advocate, intercessor, encourager, or helper… And when Jesus first introduces the Spirit as a Helper in John 14:16 He calls Him another Helper, and the idea is that the Spirit is another Helper of the same kind, or another Helper like Jesus… Both the Spirit is God and Jesus is God, and both minister to us, helping us, encouraging us, and even interceding for us… But the Helper, the Holy Spirit so takes up residence in our life that He lives within us… And that, along with the whole of the New Covenant is why Jesus can say that it is better for Him to go and the Spirit to come—it’s to our advantage… The Spirit inside of you is better than Jesus beside you… This is why Jesus can tell them to not be filled with sorrow even though He’s leaving… Essentially He’s saying that the cure to a heart full of sorrow is a life filled with the Spirit… And from here Jesus explains what that means.

In verses 8-11 Jesus says,“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.” Here He lays out three reasons, that are all linked, for why it is to our advantage that the Spirit comes, and in the process gives us a glimpse of what the Spirit-filled life looks like… First He says the Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, as in sin in the singular; and He specifies, and says the sin of not believing in Jesus… Now, this is the sin of all sins, the great unforgivable sin, if we tarry in it… But here Jesus says the Spirit, the Helper will convict the world of this sin. Not condemn, but convict…

This reminds me of what Paul told the Thessalonians. He said, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)… In other words, the gospel came to them in saving power; through the power of the Holy Spirit they were truly convicted of their sin, and they repented of it and believed in the gospel—in Jesus… So when Jesus says that the Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, He’s saying the Spirit will convince the world of their sin and of their need for Jesus, and thus will lead people out of the world and into Christ…

The Helper will convict the world of the sin of all sins: not believing in Jesus… But this great sin is also the sin behind all sins… Even for those of us who truly believe the gospel, and have surrendered to Christ, every time we sin it is an act of unbelief, it’s us not believing Jesus is who He says He is, because in that moment we are believing that sin is better than Jesus… Sure we believe, but we still struggle with unbelief, and we need help… But the Spirit will convict us; as the Spirit of Truth He will enable us to see the truth that Jesus is better, and thus empower us to fight our sin and live faithfully for Jesus…

Next Jesus says that the Helper will convict the world concerning righteousness, because He goes to the Father… Now that sounds kind of strange right off; why would He want to convict someone of righteousness? Well, we need to understand what God’s Word says about our righteousness. In Isaiah 64:6 God tells us that, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, that our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:17, 48). So in other words, whatever righteousness we may have, or think we have, it isn’t enough… That’s why Jesus says in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)… He’s saying blessed are the spiritually bankrupt, those who know they have no righteousness of their own… We must become convinced of this and if we are to truly be blessed the words of that old hymn must become our heart’s cry. “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.”

Often the reason it’s so hard for us to be convicted concerning our sin is because we have yet to be convicted concerning our righteousness… We still think that we’re able to earn a good standing before God… We’re still convinced that we’re pretty good people… Perhaps what reveals this to us the most is when we suffer; typically our first reaction to suffering is to ask, “Why is this happening to me? Why do bad things happen to good people?” Well friends, though that may be true to an extent, ultimately that only happened once; and it happened at the cross… Jesus is the only righteous man who has ever lived; He is the one and only good person… And He lived and died in our place to save us from our sin and to cover us in His righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)… But only the Holy Spirit can convince us of such things… He convicts us of our lack of righteousness, and convinces us that saving righteousness is found in Christ alone, at the right had of the Father.  

And beloved, this is good news for the non-Christian and the Christian alike… This is saving news for the non-Christian, if they become convicted and convinced and turn from their sin and trust in Christ alone… And, for us who are believers already this reminds us that God looks at us and sees us as His beloved children in whom He is well pleased because by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone we are covered in the righteousness of the Son of God with whom the Father is well pleased… He doesn’t look at you and say you have to earn His love; He doesn’t look at you and say that if you clean yourself up then He’ll love you; He looks at you, covered in the righteousness of Christ, and says, “You are my beloved child… Your identity is found in Christ, and He was perfect for you; He loved you and gave Himself for you.” As Spurgeon once said, “You stand before God as if you were Christ, because Christ stood before God as if He were you.” So regardless of what the world thinks of you, or what you even think of yourself, if you are in Christ the Father looks at you and says, “You are mine and I delight in you…” And Christian, don’t you see? His opinion is the only one that really matters. In Christ you are completely known, and yet completely loved; you could never earn it, and you don’t deserve it; but in Christ you are counted righteous… And when we see that we are counted righteous in Christ, then the Spirit enables us to pursue righteousness—to pursue Christlikeness, which is what we see next…

Jesus says the Spirit also convicts concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. Again, like the other two, this first has to do with saving faith, and then sanctification—growing in our love for and obedience to Jesus, pursuing Christlikeness… Even though God is sovereign over all, the Bible often refers to Satan as the ruler of this sinful world… This world is broken and in rebellion against God, and Satan leads in that rebellion… That’s why Ephesians 2:1-2 tells us that we all, “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” That’s everyone outside of Christ… Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:5 that, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And blinded to the truth of the gospel the world rebels, just like Satan…

But, in and through the cross Jesus delivers a defeating blow to Satan. In Colossians 2:13-15 we’re told, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” On the cross Jesus took our sin and the wrath due us upon Himself… Through the cross Jesus took the punishment due His people, and in and through the New Covenant blessing of the Spirit, the power of Satan and sin has been defeated. He once held the nations hostage, as it were; only Israel saw the light of the glory of God… And though even now he may put blinders on unbelievers, because of the person and work of Jesus and the New Covenant ministry of God the Holy Spirit, the eyes of the nations are being opened…

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6)… He did it for us, and He’s doing it again and again for people from every nation and generation; perhaps He’s doing it for you right now… If so, I implore you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God—repent and believe in the gospel… This is how all Christians come to saving faith in Christ… Upon hearing the gospel and being convicted by the Spirit, we are freed from bondage to sin and Satan… God’s Word says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17)… Sin and Satan no longer have a hold on us… God has opened our eyes to our false judgments concerning our sin, our righteousness, and who Jesus truly is, and He has enabled us to repent and believe in Him; and in so doing we have been freed from our guilt, because the judgment due us has already happened at the cross… And now Satan and his workers and effects have been judged and found wanting… So the Spirit convicts concerning judgment, and this effects us on all fronts… It leads to justification, and empowers our sanctification… We see that sin no longer has a hold on us and we can fight it and be who we were created to be in Christ…

The Spirit convicts us concerning judgment, showing us that the way we see things in our sin is wrong; and so He enlightens our minds to who Jesus really is; and as I said earlier looking to Jesus and focusing on Him is where joy is found… And when we see that Jesus is better than our sin then we’ll flee sin and draw near to Christ… This third thing that Jesus says the Spirit does for us here is the key to all of this, it’s in a sense the key to the Christian life… In correcting our judgment our whole worldview changes, enabling us to delight in Jesus and in living for Him. But all the conviction the Spirit brings makes us Christians and matures us as Christians; He fills us and leads us to love Jesus and to live for Him…

Conclusion

So what Jesus shows us here is that outside of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian life is not possible… He makes us alive, He convicts us, sets us free, and transforms our lives. So, the Christian life is a Spirit-filled life… And, as we can see from what all the Spirit does in our life—convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and encouraging our hearts by enabling us to look to Jesus—the true Spirit-filled life is a Jesus-centered life… The Spirit filled life is a gospel-saturated life… So that begs the question, are you filled with the Spirit? What kind of life are you living? Have your eyes been so opened by the Spirit that you can see that Jesus is better? And are you so led by the Spirit that your life proclaims that truth to the watching world? May the Lord make it so…