||20/20: Seeing Truth Clearly
||The Holy Spirit in the World
The Holy Spirit in the World - John 16:5-11 - Skip Heitzig
God isn't really something to worship.
He's just waiting to destroy all of us.
I guess there's a god out there somewhere.
I hope there is a god.
How is it really something to worship?
God is everywhere.
Good morning. Would you turn, in your Bibles, please, to the Gospel of John in your New Testament, John chapter 16? Some of us who grew up with the Apostles' Creed, reciting it in churches-- any of you here did that? So those of us who did, we remember, as kids-- if you remember the old form of that-- how awkward it was when they came to a certain part.
The creed, as you know, goes, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord who conceived by the Holy Ghost. Now, when a kid hears that-- he was?
And then it goes on to say, crucified, died, and was buried. And then it says, I believe in the Holy Ghost. Now, when I was a kid, the only ghost I was familiar with was a guy by the name of Casper.
And he was a friendly ghost. And other than that, my parents basically said stay, away from ghosts. So as a kid, hearing in church that she was conceived by the Holy Ghost, a kid thinks, how can a ghost get Mary pregnant? I mean that, in the mind of a child, was so disconnecting.
I also think that for people today, the idea of the Holy Spirit Himself is disconnecting. That is, there's certain parts of God we understand. For instance, the Father part we get. A father is a leader, is a provider. God is a father. God is a provider. It makes sense.
The Son-- we don't have too much problem with that. Some of us are sons. We grew up trying to please dad, our fathers on earth. But the idea of the Holy Spirit-- so what does he do? What is he up to? What's all that about?
We already covered a whole message on the Trinity some weeks ago. And we want to look specifically at the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the Apostles' Creed, though, there was a Sunday school class. And the assignment was to memorize the Apostles' Creed.
So the way they did it is they assigned each student in the class a phrase. And they would come on Sunday and give their recitation. So on that Sunday, the first child stood up and said, I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And he sat down.
The next little girl stood up and said, I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord. She sat down. And then there was a long silence, a long pause. Finally a little girl in the back of the room said, I'm sorry, sir, but the boy who believes in the Holy Ghost is absent today.
And I wonder if that couldn't be said of the church today, that those who believe in the Holy Spirit are absent today. I wonder if it couldn't be that our experience with the Holy Spirit, our knowledge of what he does, what he is about is sort of like what Paul encountered when he went to Ephesus in the 19th chapter of the book of Acts. He went to that church and asked them a question. Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And their response is, we haven't even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is fuzzy to a lot of people, illusive to a lot of people. Oh, they grew up reciting the creeds, hearing the sermons, hearing preachers speak about Him, yet He seems elusive. While the New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit-- just the New Testament-- refers to the Holy Spirit 260 times-- 260 times by a number of different names. The most common name is the name we know, the Holy Spirit.
So if He has mentioned 260 times, He's certainly someone we cannot neglect. And that's just the New Testament. But He's all over the scripture, from the first book to the last book, from Genesis to Revelation, from cover to cover.
Genesis chapter 1, verse 2-- the spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Revelation 22, verse 17-- and the Spirit and the bride say come. So we have the Holy Spirit represented throughout the scripture. And in the next few weeks, we're going to look at the Holy Spirit-- who He is, what He does in the world, what He does in the church for us, how we are to respond to Him.
The problem is, where do you begin when you have 260 choices, 260 different scriptures in the New Testament? Where do you begin talking about the Holy Spirit? I've chosen to begin with the words of Jesus himself. It's as if we have the second person of the Trinity introducing to us the third person of the Trinity.
We are in John chapter 16. What I want you to know is John Chapter 13, 14, 15, and 16-- all four chapters-- happen at one time. It is in a setting called the Last Supper. It is the upper-room discourse, it is called. In a few hours, Jesus will be arrested. A few hours after that, he will be crucified. So he has a few hours left with his friends, with his men. And so he wants to prepare them and instruct them about very important events that are going to be on their radar screen in the coming hours, days, weeks, months, and years.
Today, we're going to look at what the Holy Spirit does in the world with unbelievers. And I mentioned our text is chapter 16 of John. What I'd like to do, just to get the whole context, is have you go back and see with me how Jesus introduces this Holy Spirit to his disciples back in chapter 14. John chapter 14, beginning in verse 15, is where He, Jesus, begins the thread of that thought.
He said, if you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father. And He will give you another helper, that He may abide with you forever-- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.
Go down to the 25th verse. These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring into your remembrance all things that I said to you. That's how we account for the New Testament.
Now go to chapter 15, toward the very end, verse 26. When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness because you have been with Me from the beginning.
Now go down to verse 5 of chapter 16. But now I go away to Him who sent Me. But none of you asked Me, where are You going? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He 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.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority. But whatever He hears, He will speak. And He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
Now, I'm going to confine my thoughts to the 16th chapter of John, verses 5 through 11. I'm going to show you three aspects of the relationship the Holy Spirit has to the world-- three aspects. They are His presence, His pressure, and His people. His presence, His pressure, and His people-- and in each case, I'm going to make a simple statement.
The first is His presence is needful. Now in verse 5, where we began-- I really should have began in verse 1. But I'll just explain to you what went before that to get to this point. In verse 5, Jesus says, now I go away to Him who sent Me. I'm going back to the Father. I'm going to ascend back to heaven.
And none of you asked Me, where are You going? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 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 depart, I will send Him to you.
Now, at this moment, in the upper-room discourse in the Last Supper, the disciples are shocked. They're disappointed, to say the least. Jesus has been able to watch their body language as they went from excited at the beginning to very, very depressed at this moment. And here's why.
What Jesus has told them is not what they expected. What they have expected all along is a kingdom to be established on the earth. If this is the Messiah, He is going to establish a kingdom.
2000 years ago, the Jews in Israel, the Jews in Judea, had a pretty simple, straightforward eschatology-- that is, belief in the end-time events of the Messiah. Number one, there is going to be a time of turmoil, national turmoil. And that's going to get us all ready for desiring the Messiah to come. It's going to fuel an expectation.
So check-- that has happened. The Romans have come and occupied the land. Everybody's oppressed. Everybody wants the Messiah to come. They're crying for it. They're yearning for it. They're looking for it.
Phase two-- after that national expectation because of oppression, Elijah is going to come, or an Elijah-like forerunner is going to come and say, ladies and gentlemen, here's the Messiah.
Check-- John the Baptist came on the scene and said about Jesus, behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Follow Him. That's why people were so interested in John the Baptist. Are you Elijah? Are you that prophet? Who exactly are you? Because they knew that.
The third phase that they expected is the Messiah will set up his kingdom. So the disciples at this point are thinking, one and two have already happened. Number three is going to happen at any moment. The only problem is the Last Supper.
Jesus brings him in a room. And beginning in chapter 13, He tells them the news-- I'm leaving. You're what? I'm leaving. And as the discourse goes on-- chapter 13, 14, 15, 16-- the news goes from bad to worse. I'm leaving. I'm dying. And I'm going to suffer greatly before I die.
That is not what they expected. Now, sorrow is growing in their hearts because of this. But that's not all. It actually gets worse. In chapter 16, beginning in verse 1-- we haven't even read that part-- He says, not only am I dying, not only am I going to suffer, you, because you believe in me, will suffer and die also.
Oh, great. That's not at all what they expected. So He says, now I go away to Him who sent me. And none of you asked Me, where are You going? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has dominated your heart. That's the idea of the word filled. It's the Greek word It means to fill something up so completely that there's room for nothing else.
So emotionally, they are filled to the brim with anxiety. That's what this means, sorrow has filled your heart. Because I said, I'm leaving, sorrow has filled your heart.
You know, it's interesting because Jesus says, none of you asked me where I'm going. Because you are so focused on what you're losing, you're not even looking at this from My side. I get to go back home to My Father. But you're so consumed about what you're losing, you're not thinking about what I'm gaining.
And look at verse 7. Here's really the crux of this. Nevertheless, I'm telling you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away. What-- what? Now, if you're a disciple and you hear that, you're thinking, I don't believe that. It's not to my advantage that you go away.
Here's a better translation. It's actually better for you that I go away. Or the best thing that could happen to you is that I leave you. That's a disconnect for them. They hear that and they go, why would that be good? You're the guy who calms storms on lakes. You're the guy who heals our relatives.
You're the guy who gives lunch to a whole crowd at the Sea of Galilee. You're the one who turns water into wine. And you're the guy who reached into a fish's mouth on tax day and got enough tax for all of us to pay. You are pretty handy to have around. And now you're saying it's better if you go?
You see, they are so focused on what they're about to lose, they're not even thinking about what they're about to gain. What they're about to gain is the Holy Spirit's presence. And here's why. They don't know how much they're going to need the Holy Spirit in days ahead. So nothing could be better than having Jesus around.
So they don't know what's coming. They don't know how much they're going to need the Holy Spirit. What is coming? Why did they need him so much? In a word, because of the task. You know what the task is-- the great commission. You know the great commission, right? Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
Well, that's a pretty big task. In fact, that's an impossible task to do alone. They're going to face persecution in Judea. They're going to face persecution in Greece. They're going to face persecution in Asia Minor. They're going to face persecution in Rome.
And then all of them, except for John, will die a martyr's death because they believe in Jesus Christ. Well, that sounds pretty impossible to me to do alone. Now, here's my segue. The task is still the same. And it is still as impossible today for these present disciples as it was for those disciples. And here's why. Because most people do not believe. Most people are unsaved. The large majority of people in the world do not believe in Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.
This might help. It helped me visually. If you were to line up all of the unsaved people in the world, roughly, and put them shoulder-to-shoulder, lined him up shoulder-to-shoulder, no social distancing, you could form a line that would go all the way around the Earth 30 times. And the line is growing 20 miles longer every single day. It's a pretty big task.
But Jesus never said, go at it, boys, do your best. You're on your own, hope you don't get beat up too bad. What he did tell them is go, but don't go until you are filled with power from on high. That's the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24.
We get to Acts, chapter 1. And Jesus said, when the Holy Spirit has come, you will receive power. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Sumeria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. So go, but don't go on your own. Don't go without the power of the Holy Spirit.
DM Dawson wrote this-- without the power of the Holy Spirit, all human efforts, methods, and plans are as futile as attempting to propel a boat by puffing at the sails with our own breath. It's a good picture. You're in a sailboat in Newport Beach, California. You want to get to Catalina Island. It's 25 miles away. What do you do? [RAPID PUFFING]
Well, that's kind of stupid. You're going to need a wind much more powerful than [RAPID PUFFING]. And so to go into all the world and share the gospel with every creature on your own is [RAPID PUFFING]. So His presence is needful. It is to your advantage that I go away. Because when I go, I'm going to send the Holy Spirit. And boys, you're going to need that.
Let's look at His pressure now, number two. The second aspect is His pressure. His pressure is unmistakable, verse 8. When He-- He who? The Holy Spirit. When He, the Holy Spirit, has come, He, the Holy Spirit, will convict the world of sin, and righteousness, and 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.
In short, it's the Holy Spirit that pursues people, that chases people, that comes after people. We have a vision statement in our church. And it says, we pursue the God who passionately pursues a lost world. You know how God passionately pursues the lost world? His Holy Spirit, by sending His Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has been called the Hound of Heaven. I don't know if you've ever heard that description of Him, the Hound of Heaven. It's a phrase that comes from the 1800s. A man by the name of Francis Thompson wrote a poem about God, the Holy Spirit, called the Hound of Heaven.
And his story, Francis Thompson, he was a medical school student in London. He dropped out of medical school. He became addicted to opium. He attempted suicide. And all the while, he ran from God, ran from God, ran from God till God caught up with him.
And so he wrote a poem. Here's some of the lyrics. I fled Him-- that's the old way of saying, I ran away from Him. I fled Him down the nights and down the days. I fled Him down the arches of the years. I fled Him through the labyrinthine ways of my own mind.
But then, in the poem, he talks about how God pursues him. And he writes this-- but with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace. I love that description, the unrelenting conviction, chasing, pursuing of the Holy Spirit.
Did you happen to notice when we read it in chapter 15, verse 26, Jesus says, concerning the Holy Spirit, he will testify of Me? That is, He is going to come and speak very plainly about Me. He, the Holy Spirit, will be the one who will open up people's understanding of who I am, open up their hearts to Jesus.
You would not be here today as a believer in Christ were it not for the pressure of the Holy Spirit in your life. Some of you can still remember vividly when that happened. I do. I remember the day I gave my life to Christ. I remember the pressure. I remember feeling that holy conviction of heart. I need to do this.
So what will the Holy Spirit do exactly? Jesus said He'll do three things. In verse 8 through 11, he's going to convict the world of sin, and righteousness, and judgment. The word convict could be translated-- in fact, it is in some of your translations-- as convince. He will convince the world. Or He will point out the fault of the world. Or He will show the world their need of me.
In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who convinces people in the world that they are sinners in need of a Savior. Before any person can receive a Savior, they need to realize they need to be saved. Unless you realize, I need to be saved, you don't look for a Save-ior. That's the job of a Savior, to save people who need to be saved.
So it's the Holy Spirit that does that. It's the Holy Spirit that produces guilt in people. Now, I've heard psychologists say, well, guilt is a very unhealthy emotion. Unless you're guilty-- if you're guilty, you need to get your guilt alleviated. And you can try to talk it away and pretend you don't have it.
Or you can get forgiven because it's something else that is causing that guilt. Now, that's what the Holy Spirit does. He brings you to the place where you can be forgiven and that guilt taken away. It is the Holy Spirit that produces that.
Now, I've discovered most people need convincing. They need convincing. Most people don't admit they're sinners. Most people I meet in the world don't even believe in the idea of sin. They're out blaming everybody else for the way they are.
They want to blame their environment. I am the way I am because when I was a kid, my dad forced me to eat spinach. And I've hated him ever since. And now I've gotten an angry attitude because of that. So they're the reason I am the way I am.
Or they want to blame their genetic structure. I am biologically prone and predisposed to a certain behavior. I have no choice at all. Listen, this game has gone all the way back to the Garden of Eden. That's exactly what Adam did. When God busted him for his choice, he blamed his wife. In fact, he blamed God. He said, it's the woman You gave me!
But the Holy Spirit does have a way of convincing the human heart of the need of the human heart, shining the bright light of truth into that life. By the way, convicting, convincing is not your job. It's the Holy Spirit's job. We get into trouble when we try to take that job over because it usually doesn't come out as conviction. It usually comes out as condemnation. It just makes people feel really bad.
It's like the little girl who sold Girl Scout cookies. She sold hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies. And so they asked her, how were you successful in selling so many? She said, actually, it's quite easy. You've got to look people right in the eye and make them feel guilty. She said it works every time.
It might work selling Girl Scout cookies. It does not work in sharing the gospel. Jesus said, no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them. And the way He draws them is by the Holy Spirit. So He's going to convict the world.
And notice in verse 9, the sin is singular-- of sin, not sins. He's not going to come along and say, you spoke badly to your neighbor, or you were speeding-- like you are always speeding-- this morning, or you stole something when you were younger. Your conscience usually does a pretty good job of that.
No, the Holy Spirit will convict people of sin, singular. That is a very particular type of sin that their conscience would never convict them of-- ever. Now, what is that sin? It says unbelief of sin because they do not believe in Me. That's the sin the Holy Spirit convicts people of-- unbelief.
People in the world on their own do not see unbelief as a sin. Heck, it's a badge of honor for them. It's a badge of honor. They'll say things like, I don't believe in Jesus. I'm not as weak as you are. I don't need to believe in something other than myself, outside of myself. I don't need to believe in God. I am much more enlightened and intelligent than you are.
They don't see unbelief as the thing that separates them from God forever. But the Holy Spirit will convince them of that. It's the worst sin because it prevents forgiveness of all other sins. John, chapter 3-- he who believes in the Son is not condemned. He who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John, chapter 5-- Jesus said, you do not believe. John, chapter 8-- you do not believe in Me. John, chapter 14-- you do not believe in Me. It's that sin. He'll convict the world of sin because they don't believe in Me.
The second thing He'll do is convict the world of righteousness. Verse 10-- because I go to my Father and you see Me no more. What on earth does that mean? Well, most people think if there is a God, if there's a heaven, I'm probably good enough to go there. I may not be perfect, I may not be 100% righteous, but I have a righteousness. I'm better than a lot of people. And I believe that in the end, my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds.
That's how most people live their lives, by a relative righteousness. But then Jesus came into the world. And suddenly, you have the perfect standard of righteousness. Suddenly, no matter who you are, next to Jesus, you ain't much. Imperfection next to perfection simply accentuates imperfection. That's why Isaiah the prophet-- though he was a prophet-- when he saw God, said, woe is me, I'm undone. I'm not that special next to God.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to speak at the Billy Graham training center at The Cove. I've spoken there for many times. But on one particular occasion, I got really nervous. Because I happened to be at lunch that day with Dr. Billy Graham at his house. And he smiled. And he said, I'm going to come to hear you speak tonight.
And I'm hoping that something happens where he's busy and he doesn't come because it's not easy to give a message in front of Billy Graham. To make it worse, the topic I was assigned to speak on that night was evangelism.
Yeah. This Skip's going to tell Billy Graham how to do evangelism. This is not good.
You see, when you know a little bit about evangelism but you're speaking to the world's most effective evangelist ever born, who has led more people to Christ in history than anyone else, It's a little daunting. So you have a perfect standard of righteousness in Jesus Christ.
So yeah, you've got people saying, you know, I think I'm going to go to heaven. If there's a God, I'll be there because I think my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds. No. This is what Jesus said-- He's going to convict the world of righteousness because I go to My Father and you see Me no more.
Let me explain that. There's only one person who ever walked this earth who, at the end of his life, had the right to go directly, on his own merit, into the presence of God-- only one person-- and that's Jesus Christ.
He died. He ascended into heaven. God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name Lord above all other names. So unless you possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ, you will never see God. You will never see God unless you are that righteous.
Didn't Jesus say, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of God? Unless you possess the righteousness of Jesus, you will never see God. So the sin that condemns you is unbelief. The righteousness that saves you is the righteousness that only Jesus possesses.
And folks, that happens to be the gospel. The gospel is, you come convicted of your sin, admit that you're a sinner, ask Jesus to save you by simple belief. And then God gives to you the righteousness of his son, imputes that to your account.
2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. It's the exchange. So now God, if you believe, will see you as if you are as perfect as Jesus was. That's righteousness.
And He'll convict the world of judgment-- verse 11-- because the ruler of this world is judged. The Holy Spirit will convince people that there is, indeed, a coming judgment, a time of accountability, and that if you reject Jesus Christ, you will face that judgment.
But he says this-- of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged. When Jesus died on the cross, Satan's kingdom was effectively over. I know he's had a lot of free time since then. And that chain is pretty long, and he's done a lot of damage. But his fate is sealed. The cross ruined him.
That's Genesis chapter 3, verse 15. There's coming a seed, a male child who will be born and crush the head of Satan. It's Colossians, chapter 2-- at the cross, he disarmed principalities and powers. It's Hebrews, chapter 2-- he destroyed him who had the power of death-- that is, the devil.
So when Jesus says, of judgment because the ruler of this world is judged, He is arguing from greater to lesser. He's saying that if God destroyed the most powerful evil force in the universe, you will not escape. You will not escape.
If he judged the devil, then anyone less than the devil who rejects Christ will face judgment. You know, I've always seen it as a healthy sign when people are thinking about future judgment. I've always seen it as good.
A few years ago, I had an FBI agent who wanted to come and meet with me. And he sat in my office. And he was kind of shuffling his feet. He was really embarrassed. He said, you know, I was on the airplane the other day, and I'm flying. And I started thinking, what happens if this plane goes down? And he thought, I'm going to die. And he goes, suddenly, I was overcome with a fear of death.
And he looked at me and goes, that's weird, huh? I said, that's not weird, that's smart. That's a healthy thing to be afraid of. He said, no. No, you don't understand. I'm an FBI agent. I've faced death many times. I've had guns pointed at me. I've shot people. They've shot me. I've been on SWAT teams. I've learned to deal with fear.
I said, let me ask you a question. Are you right with God? Do you have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, his Son? I explained what that meant. He said no. And I said, you should be very afraid-- very afraid.
Because there is a coming judgment, a coming reckoning. If you think you're going to approach God in that condition, you ought to be afraid to die. I said, you want to be unafraid to die? You want to be unafraid of bullets, and viruses, and anything else? Receive Christ right now. Let him clothe you with His righteousness and walk out of here a bold, saved human being.
And he did. He prayed right there to receive Christ. His life changed forever. That's the Holy Spirit's job, to do that, convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
But there's a third component-- not only His presence, not only His pressure, but also His people. And my statement is this-- His people are instrumental. So what I mean by that is the Spirit of God and the people of God work in tandem together. They work in tandem together.
Again, look at verse 7-- nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It's to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come. What are the next two words? To you, disciples, to you-- He's coming to you. But if I depart, I will send Him to you, disciples.
Verse 8-- and when He has come-- implied in that is when He has come to you-- He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. He is coming to you so that when you are involved in this process, He will be behind the scenes working. But you are very much a part of it.
So if you don't mind, look back in chapter 15 at verse 26 and 27 again. When the Helper comes, whom I will send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father-- look at this. He will testify of Me.
But wait. Look at the next verse. And you also will bear witness because you have been with Me from the beginning. Who's going to testify? The Holy Spirit and Me, together in tandem, working together.
Yes, it's the Holy Spirit who does the convicting. But He always does it through human channels. He works through people. We are God's instruments.
Virtually every conversion in the book of Acts was the Holy Spirit working through a Christian witness. Who preached a sermon on the day of Pentecost? Peter. Peter preached-- Peter! Peter wasn't a seasoned sermon-izer, sermon-ator.
Peter's up there preaching. And you know what it says? The people were cut to the heart. Cut to the heart-- that's conviction. How did they get convicted? It wasn't Peter. But God used Peter, the Holy Spirit through the message of Peter, both together-- both together.
You say, well, what about Saul of Tarsus? He didn't have a Christian witness. He was on the road to Damascus. Oh, he did. Yeah, the Lord spoke to him on the Damascus road. But do remember what the Lord said to him? He said, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It's hard for you to kick against the goads, prods.
That's the conviction. Something in his heart was goading him, prodding him, convicting him, convincing him. He had just watched Stephan die a martyr's death with joy in his heart. And ever since he saw that and heard him testify of Jesus, that has been eating away at his soul. And so the Lord said, it's hard for you to kick against those goads, that conviction that the Holy Spirit placed through the martyrdom of Stephen.
Then there was Cornelius in the book of Acts. And Cornelius had an angel appear to him. So you've got an unbelieving Roman soldier having a conversation with an angel. That ought to be interesting.
And you would think once the angel has the unbeliever's attention, he's going to preach the gospel to the unbeliever. He doesn't do it. He doesn't do it! The angel says to Cornelius, go call for Peter. And when he has come, he is going to tell you and your family how to get saved.
Well, why don't you just do it? Because God always uses human instruments. So if you look in God's tool box, it's pretty unimpressive tools-- us.
Now, I hope that didn't offend you. Because that's right out of scripture, right? 1 Corinthians, 1-- you see your calling brethren, not many mighty, not many noble, now many wiser called, for God has chosen the foolish things of this world. That's my life verse, by the way. That's my life verse. When people ask, that's it.
God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. So you open up God's tool box-- not brilliant, not impressive, just us. But us filled with the Holy Spirit, us empowered by the Holy Spirit, us used by the Holy Spirit, us instruments of the Holy Spirit-- that's a winning combo. And that's how the Holy Spirit works in the world.
Now, as we close this and we get back to the task-- same task, different generations. It's 2020. Some of us are wearing masks. We've got a COVID thing going on. So it's not 2000 years ago.
But it's the same task-- go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. When you hear that, you might immediately think, too big of a task, too hard, too many unsaved people. I want to give you a few takeaways.
Number one, you and I are called not to be manufacturers, just distributors. You know the difference? You're not called to save anybody. You can't manufacture their salvation. I've had people say to me, I remember two years ago, you saved me.
I didn't save anybody. I'm just a distributor. I may have said something that the Lord used, but it's His message. It's His gospel. I didn't make this up. I'm not the manufacturer. I'm just the distributor. You plant the seed. You give the message. And God takes it and does great things with it. So that's number one.
Number two, I think the enormity of this task is what keeps us going, not the smallness of the task. Fact check-- it's called the Great Commission. It's not called a mediocre commission or the small commission. It's called the Great Commission. It's a great task.
The communist party in Soviet Russia, years ago, learned that they could recruit more people to their endeavor by telling them that the task is huge, almost impossible, but worth them giving their lives for. They said, we had more young people sign on because we discovered people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. There's nothing bigger than this. Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, and whoever believes will be saved.
And number three-- I want to close with this last little tidbit. Great works are done by the combination of smaller parts. Great works are done by the combination of smaller parts. You can't do it all. I can't do it all. But together, we put our parts together-- great things can happen.
You say, well, I can't go into all the world, I'm raising kids at home. That's your part. You are depositing truth into those little hearts so they will grow up and be able to withstand the onslaught of weirdness and falseness that will be their culture. You think it's bad now? Wait till they grow up. That's a great, noble task. We just need to see that whatever we do, it's worth it.
A man was at a construction site, and there were a group of stone masons all working on stone. They were all doing exactly the same task. The man asked one of them, what are you doing? And the reply was, I'm chipping stone. He said it like that. He was just, like, I hate my job-- I'm chipping stone.
He asked a second man, what are you doing? He said, I'm making a wall. He was doing the same thing. One's chipping stone. The other's making a wall.
He asked a third, what are you doing? He said, I'm building a cathedral. Guess what? We're building a Kingdom. The Holy Spirit and us, together on this earth, we are building a Kingdom. How's that for a noble task?
Father, thank you that your Holy Spirit is in this world, convicting the world of the sin of unbelief, of a righteousness that can only be the righteousness of Jesus to get somebody into heaven, and of the guarantee of future judgment. Oh, how we need Him at work in our lives, at work in the world around us, in our relatives or friends, at work, neighbors.
I pray, Lord, that we would be faithful to distribute what only You can manufacture. By Your grace, help us. In Jesus' name, Amen. Let's all stand and we'll sing together.
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