James Merritt - I Stand Convicted
When Jesus came back from the dead and He ascended into heaven, He kept a promise that He had made to His disciples. He said, "I will not leave you without a divine presence. I'm not going to leave you alone. You're not going to be out on a limb. You're not going to be out in the middle of the ocean on a raft with no help and no guidance and no stream". He said, "I'm going to send you the Holy Spirit. He's going to live in you. He's going to empower you to live the Christian life". Now, as a reminder, the Holy Spirit is a person. He's not a thing. He's not an it. He's not a force. He is a real person. And just as God the Father's a person and God the Son is a person, God the Holy Spirit is a person. And we've already learned that the person of the Holy Spirit lives in every follower of Jesus.
Now, the Holy Spirit is not just important to believers, though obviously, He is. He's also very important to unbelievers. And let me tell you. To understand why both believers and unbelievers need the Holy Spirit, I want to take you back to something absolutely amazing that Jesus said about the Holy Spirit to His disciples before He was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. If you brought of God's Word, you have a smartphone, or an iPad, or whatever it is you might use, I want you to turn again to the Gospel of John. If you don't know much about the Bible, there are four Gospels right in the middle of the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I want you to turn to John 16. Let me kind of set up what we're going to be reading. Jesus has been giving His disciples a heads up. He said, "Look, I'm not going to be with you much longer. I am going to die, but I am going to be raised from the dead. And then after that, I am going to be leaving you. Furthermore," He said, "I want you to know that I'm not just going to leave you, I'm going to give you a job".
And He told them later, their job was to make disciples of all peoples around the world. In other words, it was going to be their job after He left to take the message of the gospel that Jesus is the Savior of the world, that He died on the cross and came back from the dead and that through Him we can know God. It was going to be their job to take that message around the world to unbelievers and lead them to faith in Christ and to grow the church. Now, you put yourself in their position. They're uneducated. They're illiterate. They're basically fishermen and farmers and He's telling them, "You are going to take this message around the entire world. You're going to stand before kings and emperor's, dictators, rich and poor, the powerful and the disenfranchised. You're going to talk to everybody and you're going to preach to everybody and it's going to be your job to grow the church".
Well, they absolutely must have been terrified. Because, remember, for the most part they're uneducated. They have no money. They have no power. They have no political influence whatsoever. And so, the question is, how in the world are they ever going to convince anybody of who Jesus was and what Jesus did when He's not even around anymore? How in the world were they going to carry out this work that Jesus had given them to do? Because they knew one thing, they were totally inadequate for the job. And by the way, let me just go ahead and tell you something you already know, and I'll agree with you, we're totally inadequate for the job, too, on our own. We've got the same problem today. Because at least 90% of all people who call themselves Christians, have never shared their faith in Jesus with anyone. And you know, part of the big reason why is, they feel like they can't do it. They feel like they're inadequate.
Listen, let me you in on a little secret. I know every time I stand up here to preach that on my own and by myself, I can't change anybody's mind about anything. I can't change anybody's heart about anything. I can't change anybody's attitude about anything, especially God, Jesus, life, and death, and salvation. There's nothing on my own that I can say, no matter how well I say it that will ever transform anyone's life. I totally get it. But then Jesus comes along and He tells the disciples that one of the greatest blessings that could ever happen to them and to us would be for Him to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come. Listen to what Jesus said in Verse 7, John 16, "He said, 'Nevertheless,'" that is, "'Nevertheless, even though I'm about to leave you, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away.'" That's a shocking statement. "'For if I do not go away the Helper will not come to you. But, if I go, I will send Him to you.'"
Now, did you hear what He just said to those disciples? And I promise you they didn't believe it then and some of you don't believe it now. Here's what Jesus said. He said, "It will be far better for you to have the Holy Spirit inside of you, then for Me to be right beside you". So, let me ask you a question. You're about to go, let's say, I've given you assignment. You're going to go out and talk to somebody about Jesus. You're going to go out and say a word about Jesus. You're going to go out and speak a word for Jesus. I have a question. Would you rather have the Holy Spirit inside of you or Jesus right beside you? If you take Jesus, you don't understand what Jesus said. You don't believe what Jesus said. And you don't even understand the incredible power of the Holy Spirit. Now, why and how is that true? How could it be true that having the Spirit inside of us is better than having Jesus beside us?
Listen to Verse 8, "And when He comes," that is the Holy Spirit, "He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment". Sin, righteousness, and judgment. Now, that word 'convict', it's a legal term. It has legal connotations. It literally can refer to the cross-examination of a hostile witness or it can refer to a judge or to a jury that hands down a verdict of guilty or not-guilty. As a matter of fact, the word there literally means to convince beyond all doubt. Now, let me tell you why that's so important. Let me tell you why it's important for believers and why it's important for unbelievers. There are three things that an unbeliever must be confronted with, must be convicted by, and must be convinced of before he or she will ever be converted and come to faith in Jesus Christ. I can tell you this right now. If you're not a believer, if you're not confronted by, convicted by, and converted to three things, you will never, ever become a disciple and a follower of Jesus Christ.
And what I'm going to tell you is this, those three things, only the Holy Spirit can do. Billy Graham can't do it. The Pope can't do it. The President can't do it. I can't do it. All the pastors and church attenders in the world cannot do it. Only the Holy Spirit can do it. And here's what we're going to learn in this message. We can only come to God through Jesus. And we can only come to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Now, I want you to be encouraged today. If you are a believer, here's all God wants you to do. All He wants you to do is this, just be a witness. Just be a witness, that's all. It is the Spirit's job to bring people to Jesus. It's our job to witness for Jesus. It's His job to bring people to Jesus. And so, when you stand convicted of three spiritual truths, then and only then, will you come to Jesus.
Now, one of the three truths you're going to have to believe, anybody has to believe if they're ever going to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Well, number one, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Until you believe that, get that, understand that, and buy into that, you'll never, ever see your need for Jesus. I am a sinner in need of a Savior. The first thing we're told the Holy Spirit convicts of us is the fact that we are sinners. Now, listen to what He says in Verse 8, "And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin". Now, there's a reason why sin comes first on this list. Because believe it or not, sin is the world's number one problem. By the way, sin's not just the world's number one problem, sin is also the world's number two problem. Because the world's number two problem is, it doesn't know what it's number one problem is.
Let me give you an example. There was a poll that was recently taken and it asked this question. It said, "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today"? It was a Gallup poll. "What do you think's the most important problem facing the country today"? Well, you probably know some of these. The number one answer, the economy. They said, "That's our greatest problem". And every poll I've read says the same thing. America's greatest problem is the economy. Number two, bad government. OK, I vote for that one. All right? Number three, immigration. We all know about that, right? Number four, racism. Can't deny that. Number five, and I know we'll all say this is problem, obviously, terrorism.
Now, let me just stop and be honest with you. They're all problems. I'm not denying that. I'm not trying to be flippant about it. I'm not trying to ignore it. They are all problems. But, not only are they not the number one problem we face, they are only symptoms of the number one problem. Because the number one problem is sin. Because let me... by the way, did you notice what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do? He didn't say the Holy Spirit will convict you of sins, He said, "He will convict of sin". Sins, those are the symptoms. Sin, that is the problem. See, sins are the fruit of our problem. Sin is the root of our problem.
And I'm going to tell you something else. You won't believe anything I just said unless the Holy Spirit convicts you. Because not only is sin our number one problem, our number one sin, which is the root of all other sins, is the refusal and the failure to believe in Jesus Christ. Because listen to what Jesus goes on to say. He says, "Concerning sin," He said, "this is your problem with sin because they do not believe in Me". Jesus said, now listen, Jesus said the number one sin in the world, the number one sin in America, the number one sin in your heart and my heart, if we're not believers is the refusal to believe in Jesus. And let me just say this, everything I've already said and I'm about to say, you will not believe unless the Holy Spirit convicts you it's true. For example, most people think this. Most people think that bad people, people are bad because they do bad things. A bad person is someone that does bad things.
The Bible says just the opposite is true. People are not bad because they do bad things. People do bad things because they are bad. And the reason why they are bad is because they have never believed in Jesus Christ, who came to deliver us from all of our badness. You see, there is one sin that is worse than murder, rape, child molestation, terrorism, and all the other sins put together, and that is the sin of refusing to believe in Jesus. You say, "I don't get that. Why? Why is refusing to believe in Jesus worse than murder? Why is refusing to believe in Jesus worse than rape? Why is refusing to believe in Jesus worse than terrorism"? I'll tell you why.
And again, only the Holy Spirit will convict you that this is true. The reason why that has to be true is this. Refusing to believe in Jesus Christ and to receive Jesus Christ into your life is the only sin that God can't forgive. God can forgive any other sin. God can forgive a murderer. God can forgive a rapist. God can forgive a terrorist. As a matter of fact, God can forgive a terrorist who is a murder and a rapist, but He cannot forgive anyone who refuses to believe in Jesus Christ. There's only one sin that will cause you to be eternally separated from God and, if you die in that sin, you will be separated from God and it's not murder, rape, lying, stealing, killing, getting drunk, or cheating. Jesus died for all those sins. He paid for all those sins. But there's one sin that even God cannot forgive. There is one sin that will kill you eternally. And it is the sin of refusing to surrender your life to Jesus Christ.
See, we believe people are bad because of the bad things they do. God says, "No. People are bad because of the one good thing they don't do, believe in Jesus Christ". By the way, earlier in this Gospel, Jesus said this. He said, "God didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. But," watch this, "whoever does not believe," let's say you're one of those people right now. Let's say you're listening, you're watching live streaming or you're in one of our campuses or you're watching on television and you're one of those people and you say, "You know, I'm not a believer in Jesus. I'm not a follower of Jesus". Listen to this, "Whoever does not believe is condemned already". Not, you're going to be condemned. You're condemned already, because you've not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Jesus said, "If you don't believe in me, it's not that you're going to be condemned, you're already condemned". But you know what? Only the Holy Spirit can convince you that's true. In a courtroom, a judge can convict you of a crime. Your conscience can convict you of your guilt. But only the Holy Spirit can convict you of sin. And if a person refuses to believe in Jesus, it is not primarily because He's got intellectual problems with Christianity. It's not because Christianity doesn't add up and doesn't make sense. It's not because he has a head problem. Jesus said it's because he has a heart problem. See, you know things in your head, but you believe things in your heart. And that's why our job as believers is simply to share Jesus. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict people that they need Jesus.
So, there's one sin that God cannot forgive. Only one. And that is the sin of refusing to believe in Jesus. There is only person that God cannot save. And that is the person that refuses to believe in Jesus. I am a sinner in need of a Savior. The world are sinners in need of a Savior. But, you know what? Only the Holy Spirit can convict you. That's true. Now, here's the second spiritual truth you have to believe. I'm a failure in need of forgiveness. I'm not just a sinner in need of a Savior. I am a failure in need of forgiveness. Now, the Holy Spirit will not only convict us of what is wrong, that's sin. You know what else He'll do? He will also convince us of what is right. So, we read this in Verse 8. "And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness".
Now, this is going to get a little deep, so stay with me. Why does the Holy Spirit have to convict us of what's right? Well, it stands to reason if we don't really understand what's wrong with us apart from the Holy Spirit, we won't really understand apart from the Holy Spirit what it means to be right. Now, again, we've got a problem. We not only think that bad people do bad things or that people who do bad things are bad. We also think that people who do good things are good. Or to use His terminology, we think unrighteous people do unrighteous things and righteous people do righteous things. Bad people do bad things. Good people do good things. Well, if you listen to what Jesus said about sin, if you think that's different, now listen to what He says about righteousness. Listen to this verse. "Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see Me no longer".
Now, trust me, I know what you're doing right now. You're going, "Huh? I don't get it. I don't understand the connection". Well, stick with me. It's a very obscure verse. But there's one thing you see immediately. When Jesus talks about righteousness, He doesn't talk about what we do. He doesn't talk about our good deeds. He doesn't talk about our good intentions. He doesn't talk about all the good things we give away or all the things that we try to do for other people. He doesn't talk about what we have done, He talks about what He has done. He doesn't talk about who we are, He talks who He is. Now, why does He do that? Well, keep with me. Stay with me. We have already established that we've got a sin problem. But God doesn't have a sin problem. That's why He's God and we're not. We've got a sin problem, but God doesn't. We're sinful, but God is perfect.
So, think of it this way. If God is righteous, but we're not, and that's true. God is righteous, we're not. God is perfect, we're not. Then is that is true, we've got to be righteous in order to be right with Him. But if we already said we're not righteous. You're right. Because there's only one kind of righteousness that will get that done. If you want to be righteous in a way that will make us right with God, we've got to have a God-kind of righteousness. Because our righteousness will never be right enough. So, in other words, listen carefully, everyone is so bad they need a Savior. That's the first thing that Jesus tells us. Here's what He's telling us now. And nobody is so good they don't need a Savior. Everybody is so bad, everybody is so bad they need a Savior. Nobody is so good that they don't need a Savior. So, this is what Jesus meant when He said in Verse 9, "I go to My Father and you see Me no more".
Now, here's what He was saying. He was referring to the fact that He was about to go to a cross and die for our sins. He was going to come back from the dead. And then He was going to go back to His Father where He came from, but now watch this, He was going to do this all on His own. Remember we said earlier, you can only go to God through Jesus and you can only go through to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn't have to go through anybody to go to God the Father, because He is God the Son. He can go to God on His own. You know why? He is perfectly righteous. He can go to God on His own. Because, listen, there are two kinds of righteousness. There is a human-righteousness and there is a God-righteousness. Now, the only righteousness that God can accept and will accept is His righteousness. There's only been one person who could go to God on His own righteousness and stand equal with God and that is Jesus. And I just want to say this.
If for whatever the reason, even after everything I've said, you still think you're good enough to go to God on your own, if you still think you can get to God any other way except through Jesus, if you still believe that, one question and we're done. Then why did Jesus die on a cross? Just tell me. Why did Jesus die on the cross? If there's any other way you can get to God, if you're good enough to go to God on your own, why would Jesus die on the cross? What kind of a God would let His Son die on a cross if our goodness and our good works were good enough? So, put it simply, sin is not doing bad and righteousness is not doing good. Sin is rejecting Jesus. Righteousness is receiving Jesus. I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I'm a failure in need of forgiveness. Everyone is so bad they need a Savior. No one is so good they don't need a Savior, but only the Holy Spirit will convict you that's true. Now, there's one last thing you have to believe if you're ever going to come to God through Jesus. And that is, I am a prisoner in need of a pardon. I'm a sinner in need of a Savior. I'm a failure in need of forgiveness. And I am a prisoner in need of a pardon.
Now, here's the last truth that the Holy Spirit convicts us of. Remember, He convicts of us sin. He convicts us of righteousness. But now look what He convicts us of. "And when He comes, He'll convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment". Judgment. Does that make sense? I mean, if I am a sinner in need of a Savior. And if I am a failure in need of forgiveness, then if I refuse that Savior and I reject that forgiveness, the only thing that could be possibly be left is judgment. In other words, without Jesus, we all stand convicted. We all stand convicted. See, the world is wrong about what's wrong. And the world is wrong about what is right. And the world is wrong about what happens to those who are wrong and not right. Because the Bible guarantees two things are going to happen one day. You can mark this down, take this to the bank.
The Word of God says, two things are going to happen one day. There's going to be judgment of the wrong and there's going to be justice for the right. There's going to be judgment of the wrong and there's going to be justice for the right. How do I know that? Because Jesus now goes on to say this in Verse 11, "He says, 'Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.'" Now, what does that mean? Well, who is the ruler of this world? Well, temporarily, the ruler of this world is Satan, the devil. Now, why does Jesus bring him into the discussion. Because the devil is the father of all sin. The devil is the father of all moral failure. Therefore, he is the father of all sinners. And what Jesus is simply saying is this, "Look, if the father of all this mess has been judged, so will his children".
If the devil is not going to get away with anything, neither will people. How could anyone understand and know deep in their heart, "Yes, I am a sinner and I need a Savior. And look at the One who died on the cross and gave His blood for our sins and say, 'No thanks.'" How could anyone know, "Yes, I am a failure. I'm not perfect. I've got faults. I've got problems. I think things I shouldn't, do things I shouldn't do, say things I shouldn't say. I need forgiveness, but I turn it down". You know why they do that? It's because they do not accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit. But you know what? Only the Holy Spirit can convince you of that.
So, let me just close with this. The reason why we ought to be talking to people about Jesus without fear, without being afraid, without even being nervous, is because it's not our job to convince them, convict them, or convert them. It is the job of the Holy Spirit. And He does His job perfectly well. To the unbeliever that's here, you got to make a decision. Everything I've said to you just now is just a bunch of malarkey. If you don't buy it, you don't believe, it's just a bunch of religious rigmarole or there's a fire burning in your heart right now. There's a restlessness in your soul. There's a discomfort in your spirit, because deep down you're knowing everything you've told me is true and I know that I need Jesus. It's not because I told you that. It's because the Holy Spirit is telling you to do it. The Holy Spirit is convicting you and convincing you and now, on your own, by His grace, you can be converted to that truth.