We welcome you to North Shore Church located in beautiful Menominee, MI. Pastor Duncan Ross shares a heartfelt introductory message to all who are looking for a place to worship, grow, and connect.
This week, we continue to examine Jesus’ farewell address he gave to his disciples on the night he was arrested. Last week, we saw Jesus warn his disciples that the world would hate them as it had hated him. In our text for this morning, Jesus returns to a familiar topic in this discourse. That is—the coming of the Holy Spirit. Why would Jesus come back to this topic at this point in the discourse? Think about what he has just said to them. He’s going to send these men on a mission to preach the gospel to people who will hate them.
On its face, that’s a mission with no hope for success. Unless, God somehow overcomes the world’s hatred and causes them to see their need of the gospel. It makes perfect sense for Jesus to speak of the Holy Spirit here because only the Spirit can miraculously change the hearts of people from hating Jesus to loving Jesus and submitting their lives to him. The main section of Jesus’ teaching on the Spirit begins with verse eight, but he introduces it in verses four through seven. Jesus begins in verse four with, “…I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”
Jesus hasn’t said a word to his disciples about the coming of the Spirit before this night, because HE was on earth and the Spirit wasn’t necessary until after he ascended to his Father. His point is NOT that two members of the godhead couldn’t be on earth at the same time. His point is that the ministry of the Spirit in God’s people could only occur after Jesus had gone to the cross. Because Jesus was still with the disciples (he had not been crucified, risen and ascended) what theologians call “the age of the Spirit” had not yet begun.
What that means is–only after Jesus had done his redemptive work on the cross was there any need or purpose for the ministry of the Spirit of God. Until the Redeemer had done his saving work on the cross, there was no need for the Spirit because a big part of his role is to APPLY the redemptive work of Christ to the lives of people and bring them into the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit cannot APPLY the work of redemption to believers until Jesus had DONE the work of redemption by dying on the cross for them.
Jesus continues with a difficult saying, “5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” This is a challenging verse to understand because the disciples had asked Jesus where he was going, so what can he means by “…none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?” In 13:36, “36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
What then can Jesus mean when he says here in verse five, “none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” The answer to the seeming contradiction probably lies with the way the disciples were asking the question. When the disciples earlier asked the question, their concern was that he was leaving them, not where he was going. Their root question was really, “WHY are you leaving us?”
In this sense, they weren’t asking him for his travel itinerary. Verse six confirms this when he says, “6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” Jesus’ point seems to be, “your concern is not with what happens to me. You’re more concerned about your own sorrow over losing me.” That is not self-pity or cynicism on Jesus’ part. Sadly, the truth of their self-centeredness was validated later when they all deserted him.
Jesus addresses their sorrow with a hopeful statement in verse seven, “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.” It will be to YOUR advantage for me to go away and the Spirit come to you. We know from the Old Testament promises that this is because when the Spirit comes, Jesus’ promised New Covenant—a new and much better way of relating to God, will be inaugurated. God will use this New Covenant to create a new race of people—people who are not only in Adam or, in their case—people of Abraham. No, this will be a new people—rooted in his saving work on the cross and created by the Holy Spirit from every nation and united with Christ.
The Spirit will create a people very different than those under the Old Covenant. This will be a people who, not only know God’s forgiveness, but will also receive from the Spirit a new, softened, spiritually sensitized heart that cause them to WANT to serve and obey God. The rest of our text this morning answers this question—In what ways will the ministry of the Holy Spirit be so advantageous to followers of Christ?
The broad answer to the question from the text is—The Holy Spirit will, through Christ’s church, manifest and glorify Jesus Christ by continuing through them his ministry on earth. To manifest Jesus, the Spirit makes him clearly seen in our lives, our marriages, our churches, our relationships, attitudes, desires and decisions. When unbelievers get to know genuine believers well, they will see Jesus’ life manifest in our lives. The Holy Spirit alone can manifest Christ through his church. The Holy Spirit alone produces the life of Christ in us so that others can see him in us.
Closely related to this, the Spirit will also uniquely glorify Jesus. That means that he will powerfully reveal to the church and through the church how beautiful and magnificent Jesus is—how glorious he is as the Son of God. Only the Spirit, through the witness of the church, can open the eyes of spiritually dead people to see the glory, wonder, beauty and supremacy of Christ. Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the spiritually blind and dead people in this world will never see Jesus as anyone more than some sort of iconic religious figure.
Verses eight through 15 more specifically answer the question—How does the Holy Spirit manifest and glorify Jesus Christ to the world? Most of the New Testament’s teaching on the Holy Spirit relates his ministry to those in the church—what he does and how he works in the lives of believers. This teaching is different because much of it is about how the Spirit of God works in the lives of those in the world who by nature, hate Jesus. Jesus gives three ways in which the Spirit of God manifests and glorifies Jesus to the world and another way in which he manifests and glorifies Jesus in the church.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says in verse eight, “8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” The key word here is the verb “convict.” What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to “convict” someone? The word occurs 18 times in the New Testament and the meaning is very consistent. In almost every case, the word means to “show someone his/her sin, usually as a summons to repentance.” It is sometimes also translated by the word “exposed.” Jesus says in John 3:20, “20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” That’s the same word as “convict” in chapter 16 in the original.
The Holy Spirit exposes to a person their sin in the sense that– they NOW see them, NOT as mistakes or bad decisions or even as something that’s not wrong at all. The Holy Spirit will cause them, for the first time to see their sin as something evil and shameful before God and he will bring them genuine heartache over it. For instance, only the Spirit can take a person (who has prolifically spoken profanities for 30 years without even a twinge of guilt) and cause him/her to feel ashamed for using words they were not even conscious of saying only a couple of days earlier. That kind of radical change does NOT come as a result of cultural conditioning. It’s not about bowing to a new form of peer pressure. It’s the Holy Spirit’s miraculous work in them because they don’t just feel uncomfortable about using profanity, they feel a new sense of shame before God. The Holy Spirit causes people to blush over things they’ve never blushed about.
Only the Holy Spirit can take a sexually immoral person and cause him to think that an activity that, for the last decade he has practiced with little if any guilt, is in fact, evil and bring massive amounts of guilt and shame to his soul. This new sexual ethic is NOT brought on by a self-improvement program. It’s not the result of education or moral enlightenment. It’s God Almighty taking a dark, hardened and perverse heart that is blind to his own sin and shining a supernatural light on a behavior he never before had any reservation about.
Conviction shouldn’t be thought of primarily in legal terms–as if God the Spirit puts us on trial and declares us guilty. This is more than that. As politically incorrect as it is today, the Holy Spirit brings a healthy sense of holy shame on people and that causes them to think completely differently about their sinful attitude, desire, or action.
We see this same dynamic in the ministry of Jesus in our text from last week. In John 15:22, Jesus says about the world, “22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, [their sin would not have been exposed] but now they have no excuse for their sin.” The lost world hated Jesus, but it wasn’t until HE came and spoke the word of God to them that the Spirit through him exposed that hatred that had been in their hearts all along. So, the Spirit will be doing through the church what the Spirit did in the ministry of Jesus.
In verse nine, Jesus explains what specifically the Spirit’s conviction of sin will primarily be exposing in the unbeliever. He says, “…concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” The first way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Jesus is by: convicting the world of its sin and unbelief. Jesus shows that the root sin any person must be convicted of to be saved is… unbelief. People don’t go to hell for sexual sin or murder or lying. People go to hell for unbelief—because they refused to believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness and repentance from their sins. Jesus says in John 3:18, “18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
It’s the Spirit of God alone who can cause a sinner to recognize and see the peril of their unbelief mainly by causing him/her to realize he/she can never be good enough for God. The Spirit does not cause them to simply acknowledge mentally that they are not good enough for heaven. This is the sense of horror and dread in the life of sinners when they realize that, as an unbeliever, the wrath of God is awaiting them! It’s only the Spirit of God who can dramatically convince people that they’re lost in unbelief and must repent and trust in Christ if they’re to be saved.
Apart from the Spirit’s work of conviction, the sinner will be largely indifferent to their sin and deceived about their souls. They may go to church, but church attendance alone doesn’t impact how we view our sin. Only the Spirit of God can cause a spiritually dead and indifferent sinner to have a sense of holy urgency about the state of his/her soul. Only the Spirit of God can convince a person that he/she is absolutely and without doubt headed for hell apart from faith in Christ.
We can tell people that, but unless the Spirit of God makes that truth real to them in their hearts, it will have no redemptive impact on them. Unless the Spirit of God—the Spirit of TRUTH invades the sinners’ heart to convince and give him/her a sense of fear and urgency about their unbelief, they will not be saved.
A second way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Christ is in verse 10. He convicts the world “10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;” A second way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Christ is by: convicting the world of its sham righteousness. The world in their unbelief assumes that God will accept them in spite of their sin. Only the ministry of the Spirit can convince them that the alleged righteousness they’ve been trusting in is sinking sand, a false hope—a counterfeit, a lie.
Most of those in the world that Jesus confronted were the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders. These leaders were confident God approved of them based on their religious works and outward piety. Jesus tells them in Matthew 23, “27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
He pronounces seven of these woes or curses on the Pharisees, all of which were intended to expose their unrighteousness—that their righteousness was only external and in the words of Isaiah–like filthy rags before God. What they thought was pleasing to God was in fact, repulsive to him. The Spirit of God continues Jesus’ ministry of exposing and convicting the world of its sham righteousness.
Only the Spirit of God can convince someone to repent, not only of their sin, but also of their sham righteousness and cause them to renounce it as shameful in God’s sight. Only the Spirit of God can convince an outwardly religious person that what they thought was earning them salvation is in truth, condemning them. Only the Spirit of God can convince someone who thinks he/she’s a believer that they’re lost and that their reliance on their own good works will in truth, land them in hell, not heaven.
We see this work of the Spirit powerfully in Paul’s life. In Philippians chapter three, he describes how the Spirit exposed his phony righteousness. Speaking of his own righteousness he says in verse six he was “…as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Paul says that “what I used to think of as my righteousness I now see was rubbish in God’s sight—dung.”
It was the Holy Spirit who caused that radical shift in his thinking and revealed his desperate need to renounce his own righteousness and place his trust in the righteousness that comes from God—the righteousness of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Spirit of God alone convicts the world of its phony righteousness. One way the Spirit does that is by manifesting genuine holiness/righteousness in the holy lives of believers. When he was on earth, Jesus’ holy life exposed the unrighteousness of the world and now the holiness worked into the lives of believers by the Spirit does that as well.
Jesus says the reason the Spirit of God will convict the world of their sham righteousness is “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” The Spirit of God will do this—Jesus says—because I will not be here to do it. I will be out of your sight with the Father. In verse 11, he gives a third way the Holy Spirit will manifest and glorify Christ. That is–he will convict the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
The Spirit will manifest and glorify Christ by: convicting the world of its false judgments. When we think of judgment, we tend to think of God’s judgment of sin, but Jesus is referring to the world’s twisted moral judgment. This is the world’s upside-down, ethically twisted, selfishly permissive and culturally debased judgments, values and priorities—their moral worldview.
Jesus implies that the world makes its judgments based on the lies fed to them by their prince—Satan. Lies like—“you won’t be held responsible for your behavior,” “short term pleasure is better than eternal bliss,” “riches and material wealth will make you happy,” “commitment is costly and should be avoided,” “if something is hard, it must be wrong,” “life should be easy” “the bible is just another religious book,” “personal sacrifice is a waste,” “the church is a fraud—stay away” and finally,” “God promises far more than he can deliver.”
Those are the kinds of lies that provide the foundation for the perverse judgments this world makes. Believing those lies—that are becoming increasingly widespread and, in your face,—predisposes sinners to making rotten judgments.
The Holy Spirit alone can cause someone to believe that a judgment or world view or value system they have held for decades is actually a lie from the devil. Jesus says the reason the Spirit of God will convict the world of their lie-laden judgments is: “because the ruler of this world is judged.” That means that the Holy Spirit will be able to convict the world of its morally perverse judgements is because the one who conceived those lies and empowers them will be judged and defeated at the cross. Only the Holy Spirit can so radically change a person’s belief system that, what they once thought was sound judgment, logical, thoughtful, enlightened, broad-minded, even loving—is in fact based completely on lies told them by a vanquished foe who was defeated by Jesus at the cross.
Only the Spirit can snap someone’s head around that dramatically. You cannot educate this into a person—though the Spirit can use the word of God to reveal the lies underlying these false judgments. We must see that, apart from the ministry of the Spirit, it doesn’t matter how eloquent or compelling or logical or winsome or impassioned our arguments or evangelistic appeals are, they will either bounce off the person or simply irritate them. This why prayer is the most important part of missions and evangelism—because unless God shows up in power to do his miraculous work, nothing is happening.
Unlike the first three truths, a fourth and final way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Jesus is directed toward believers. His work on behalf of believers is: revealing to Christ’s followers the implications of the Person and work of Jesus. He introduces the section in verse 12 saying, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” The apostles are not ready to hear anything more because they don’t yet know that Jesus’ main mission is to die for sin and rise from the dead, defeating death, hell and the grave. He has only been able to assure them in a general sense that it’s better for him to go away and the Spirit to come because the Spirit will enable God-haters to become God-lovers.
Verse 13 continues, “13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….” Jesus says the Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth who will guide believers in all the truth. We already know from chapter 14 that Jesus is the truth. That means the Spirit’s truth-guiding ministry is to reveal the implications of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection accomplished. The Spirit’s main way of doing this is through his inspiration of the Word of God. It’s the New Testament that wholly and absolutely points to Jesus and reveals who he is and what he has done for us in the cross. The Old Testament looks forward to Jesus, predicts him through the Spirit-inspired prophets and explains what his salvation will bring to God’s people.
Jesus says the reason the Spirit of truth will guide his disciples into all truth is “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.” As we’ve seen several times in this discourse, Jesus didn’t speak or act on his own authority and neither will the Spirit. This utter dependence upon God ensures—as it did with Jesus–that the Spirit will be speaking on behalf of the entire Godhead. There is no difference between the truth of Jesus and the truth of the Father and the Spirit of truth.
They’re all the same. When Jesus says the Spirit will “declare to you the things that are to come” he’s not speaking of futuristic prophecy. He’s referring to his death and resurrection. He’s saying, “The Holy Spirit will unpack for you disciples the implications of what is to come in my passion—what all this means to you and my church.”
Verse 14 reveals the main truth of this section. “14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit will glorify Jesus as he unfolds for his people what Jesus did on the cross for them. Jesus promises the Spirit will do this to “glorify” him. That is his purpose—to shine the light—to reveal to his people the beauty and supremacy and glory of Jesus. Jesus wants to clarify however that this glorifying ministry of the Spirit doesn’t in any way diminish the Father. That is—because the Spirit is expressly sent to glorify the Son, that doesn’t take away from the Father because—verse 15, “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to manifest and glorify Jesus Christ and what he has received from his Father in the church.
As we close, let’s bring out two crucial implications of this vital truth. First, as we say repeatedly, we must keep the main thing the main thing in Christ’s church. If the ministry of the Holy Spirit indwells the church for the purpose of manifesting and glorifying Christ, then that should be the passion and heartbeat of believers and of Christ’s church because the Spirit who lives in us and guides us has as his agenda–the glory of Jesus. If we’re NOT driven by a passion to see Jesus made much of, we are not being driven by the Holy Spirit.
If the Spirit of God is active in our lives and in our church, then what we think, say and do will be an expression of loving Christ, treasuring Christ, savoring Christ, following Christ, sharing Christ, fellowshipping around Christ, living for Christ, dying for Christ, seeking after Christ, worshipping Christ and serving Christ. Those are Christ-centered manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Churches can do many outwardly impressive things without the Holy Spirit. Several years ago, one of the leaders of the house church movement in China was invited to America and he visited several well-respected American churches. Before he left someone asked him his most powerful impression of the North American church. His response was, “It’s amazing how many things you can do here without the Holy Spirit.” Human ingenuity and entrepreneurialism and advanced technology can be very impressive—so impressive that we THINK we are witnessing the ministry of the Spirit, when we’re really just seeing the fallen glory of humanity.
This much we DO know: the only believers, churches and ministries the Holy Spirit will empower are those with the ongoing, self-conscious mission of bringing glory to Jesus Christ—making much of him. So, if we want to have a Holy Spirit-empowered life or ministry or family or church, we must orbit very tightly around Jesus. To the degree that we stray from that focus, we will not be empowered by the Spirit which means we will fail dismally.
Another implication for us is—we should never lose hope for our lost loved ones because the Holy Spirit can convict anybody and save them. Its tempting to give up when we’re praying for lost loved ones as we see them spiraling off in directions that seem to be further and further away from God. It can be so disheartening. And it SHOULD be disheartening IF we’re relying on THEM to change their minds or become positively influenced for Christ by someone. If THAT is our hope, then we have every right to be disheartened.
But Jesus is clear here. Every person who is converted is a miracle of the Holy Spirit’s power and there is NO ONE, NO ONE, NO ONE, the Holy Spirit cannot convict of his/her sin. He is the omnipotent God and his purposes cannot be thwarted! [Job 42:2] There is no one who is too tough a nut to crack—no one whose heart is too hard—who is so in love with their sin—who has wandered so far from God that the Spirit cannot transform them. We should never lose hope for any of the lost people we love, and we are praying for. Continue to boldly plead with God for a saving miracle by the Spirit in their lives!
Finally, as you sit here this morning listening to the work of the Spirit, have YOU ever been awakened to feel that sense of deep shame about your sin? Have you ever been intensely awakened to the fact that—because of the horror of your sin before a holy God, you deserve hell? That’s the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. If you haven’t had that kind of awakening in your soul, you have reason to question your salvation.
If you DO experience this at some point, now or in the future, it’s because the Spirit of God is at work in your heart. He’s calling you to give up on your own efforts to make it to heaven but instead, place your trust in Christ—in what he did to purchase your forgiveness and impart his righteousness to you through the cross.
Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, confess your sin, feel the mercy of his shame for your sin and place your trust in Christ today. May God give us the grace as individuals and as a church to manifest and glorify Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit for his glory and our joy.
 Carson, D.A. Pillar N.T. Commentary, Gospel of John…
 Carson, D.A., Pillar, pp. 532-542.
We will be Christmas caroling at Atrium Post Acute Care in Menominee next Sunday, December 22nd at 2:00 pm. We’d love to have as many people as possible, so grab a friend and come join us! For questions on this event, please contact the church office.
The youth will be having their annual bake sale this Sunday and next Sunday, December 22nd both before and after service. Baked goods will be available for purchase by the tin at a variety of prices. All funds raised will help the youth go to the Districts youth conference in early January. Grab your Christmas goodies and come support our youth!
Celebrate Recovery will not be held tonight due to inclement weather. As a rule of thumb, church activities will be cancelled when Menominee schools are closed. For questions, please contact the church office.
This morning, we continue with Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples in John’s gospel, chapters 13-17. You may recall from a few weeks ago that, in the first half of chapter 15, Jesus tells the disciples that they were profoundly united with him—so much so that he calls himself “the vine” and the disciples, “the branches,” that grow out from him and are dependent upon him for life and bearing fruit. We saw last time from the immediate context that this “fruit” these human branches produce at least in part refers to the new converts they win to Christ.
The crucial requirement for the branch (or, anyone united to Christ) in order to remain healthy and fruit-bearing is that he/she must abide in the vine. That is–the branch/the disciple remains in—depends upon, draws its strength and nourishment from the vine/Christ. We saw from 15:11 that abiding in Christ is experiencing the very joy of Christ and the very love and peace of Christ. Our joy is dependent on his joy because it IS HIS joy we express as we abide in him. The main point is that if our relationship with Christ is to be healthy and fruitful, it must be characterized by our abiding in Jesus.
As Jesus moves to the section we looked at last time, he tells the disciples that their relationship to one another should be marked by love and not just any love, the same kind of sacrificial love that characterizes his relationship to them. THIS is part of the fruit that is produced in disciples as they abide in Christ—love for one another. So, we’ve seen how we are to relate to Christ—abide in him and how that causes us to relate to one another in love for one another. But what about everyone else—those outside the church? What does the relationship between the fruit-bearing disciple and the world look like? As we’re seeking to win the lost and bear the fruit of new converts, how will the world relate to us?
That’s what Jesus addresses in our text for this morning and he introduces the section in verse 18 with, “18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” The world’s relationship to you, if you are abiding in Christ and are fruit-bearing, is—hatred. The world will hate you. Jesus doesn’t want this impending hatred from the world to be a surprise to the disciples. They’d watched Jesus for three years endure the hatred of those who didn’t know God—often Jewish religious leaders. Jesus says that the disciples are to expect nothing better from those outside the kingdom of God than what HE received from the world.
For lack of a better approach, this morning we want to look at three “R’s” surrounding this issue of the world’s hatred. In verses 18-21, Jesus spells out the reasons for the world’s hatred. In verses 22-24, he moves to declare reasons why those who hate believers are guilty before God. Finally, in verses 25-16:4, we see the responses we’re to have to this hatred from the world. First, Jesus gives two reasons for the world’s hatred of his followers. Let’s read verse 19 again. “19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” The first reason the world will hate believers is because: Believers have been transferred spiritually to another kingdom and the world is at war with it. At the root of this is the truth that believers are not of this world. We have been taken out of the world.
We can think of it like this. The world is made up of rebels in revolt against this world’s rightful King, King Jesus. Before the fall, humanity was loyal to their King, but because of the fall, they’re now in rebellion, warring against him and his kingdom. They are unaware of this because they’re spiritually dead and blind, but they’ve now fallen under the command of another—Satan—the prince of this dark world. According to verse 19 however, from out of that group of rebels in Satan’s kingdom, Jesus chooses some people for himself and transfers them into his kingdom. These folks are miraculously changed, and they now willingly submit to Christ’s authority as their new King.
So, if you’re a believer, you were at one time part of the rebel kingdom of darkness that hates the kingdom of light and Jesus, its King. But one day, you were miraculously transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. You consciously change your allegiance from the prince of darkness to the King of light. Jesus is saying that in response, the kingdom of darkness will hate you with the same hatred they have for your new King—with whom they are (unknowingly) at war. Being newly joined to the kingdom of light, you are now consciously warring against those you once served and who now relate to you as a turncoat. Jesus is teaching that this is what’s going on in this spiritual conflict between the believer and the world. That’s the spiritual reality confronting any follower of Christ.
Jesus puts it this way in John 3:19-20. “19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” The world hates the light that exposes their sin and followers of Christ radiate HIS light, HIS joy, HIS peace and HIS love. A fundamental change has occurred in all followers of King Jesus. You are no longer defined by the things of the kingdom of this dark world—wealth, politics, social standing, possessions, popularity, power.
Now, what defines you is your new King. HE is what gives your life meaning. HE is your great love, your new Master. Your life orbits around him–he even calls you his friend. The world no longer owns you—controls you, your agenda, your attitudes and desires. Unless you willingly allow it, they’ve lost their capacity to hold—lost their ability to significantly influence you and those dark spiritual forces of this world hate that. If you were converted in a non-Christian environment—whether family or the workplace, you’ve experienced this firsthand. For many of those in the world you were formerly associated with, your conversion to Christ was NOT good news. The first reason the world hates followers of Christ is because his disciples have been transferred to another kingdom with which the world is at war.
A second reason the world hates followers of Christ is: We are profoundly related and radically connected to Jesus. Look in verses 20-21. “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 they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” The first truth Jesus states here is the same saying he used in chapter 13, “a servant is not greater than his master.” There the focus was on humility—washing feet. The disciples were not greater than Jesus. Here he turns the focus onto their expectations from the world. As his servants, disciples of Jesus should expect no better treatment from the world than he received. “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
Jesus presses the point in verse 21 when he tells the disciples those who persecute them will be doing so on account of him—his name. This is consistent with his teaching of the vine and the branches. You cannot hate the vine but love the branches because they are one. Our union with Christ means that Christ is in us and the world hates Christ. They will see Christ—his love, his joy, his peace, his attitudes, actions and desires in genuine believers and they now hate HIM …in YOU. Finally, if we’re producing the fruit of more new converts, the spiritual darkness will hate us even more because we are purging members from their kingdom and, by God’s grace, bringing them into the kingdom of God.
Again, because of their spiritual blindness and deception, they won’t be aware their hatred is for Christ. They’ll make it about YOU—what a crazy, closed-minded, intolerant fanatic you’ve become. But Jesus says in effect— “their hatred for you is only an extension of their hatred for me.” We see what this looks like in Acts chapter five. The Jewish leaders have ordered the apostles not to preach in Jesus’ name and the apostles responded by telling them that they would obey God—who called them to preach Christ.
The Jewish leaders arrested them and, before releasing them, had them beaten and again, ordered them not to preach Christ. The story concludes in verse 41. Luke records, “41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” The dishonor they suffered was as a result of their association with the name/person of Jesus. The hatred the Jews had for Jesus is now transferred to them.
This is what’s implied by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20. He says to the believers in Corinth, “20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us…” The message of the gospel is God’s appeal/message, not ours. He simply makes his appeal through us. An ambassador is a representative of the government who sent him or her and who conveys the message from their country. If you’re an ambassador to Libya, you’re representing America, not yourself.
You are only speaking what your president and State Department tell you to speak. But if Libya gets angry at America—their first act of retaliation is not to bomb America. They will throw you—the ambassador—out of the country or perhaps even imprison you. You’re the one persecuted because of their hatred for America. Likewise, the world hates Christ—we are united with Christ, so they hate us.
Again, those unchurched folks around you think the reason for the change in their relationship with you is because your interests have changed—you’re not as much “fun” as you used to be—you talk differently and have a set of new, weird church friends. Those things ARE true on a human level, but behind all that is the spiritual reality that—you’re in love and lovingly, willingly enslaved to someone they can’t stand—as much as they might deny that. Jesus says, those are the reasons the world hates his disciples.
In verses 22-24 we see reasons those who hate followers of Christ are guilty before God. The first reason for their guilt is—they rejected Jesus the Messiah who had clearly revealed his identity to them. He says in verse 22, “22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.” Jesus is NOT saying that if these Jews had received him, they would be innocent of ALL sin.
He’s saying that they would not have been guilty of rejecting him. The main truth Jesus spells out here is similar to what he teaches in a parable in Luke 12. At the end of the parable he says in verse 47, “47…that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” This teaches that there will be degrees of punishment in hell, among other things.
Jesus is saying to these Jews that—”those who have received much—who have heard my teaching and witnessed my works—those who know the truth about me, they will be punished at the highest level of accountability for knowingly rejecting me as their Messiah.” These people who’re guilty will receive more profound levels of punishment at the judgment because of what they know about Jesus. Those who are aware of Jesus’ teaching and miraculous works and who reject him will be punished far more severely than those who reject him but were far less knowledgeable about him.
These Jews had rejected a Christ who had repeatedly and compellingly proven to them who he was.
Another reason for Christ declaring these Jews guilty of great sin in rejecting him is—they were guilty of rejecting not only Jesus, but also the Father. Verse 23 says, “23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.”24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.”
This makes perfect sense in light of what we’ve seen in this gospel where Jesus so closely identifies himself with the Father. In chapter 14 Jesus says to Philip, “9 … Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?” He also says in John 10:37 that he is doing “the works of my father.” That means if you hate Jesus, you are by definition hating the Father because he does just what the Father does. You cannot love God the Father if you do not love Jesus.
The third major truth Jesus speaks here details the proper response to persecution. The first of three responses he gives to the disciples is: be assured that your persecution does not necessarily mean you have done something wrong. Most of us are conditioned to believe that if someone attacks us or shuns us or hates us, we must have done something wrong. Jesus shuts down our impulse for self-blame in verse 25 where he quotes King David’s words from Psalm 69. “25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” David writes of his own experience of being opposed because of his zeal for the God of Israel. Jesus is saying that by the Spirit, David and his experience foreshadows Jesus and the opposition he faced as the Son of David. “They hated me without a cause.”
Another function of this reference from Psalm 69 and Jesus’ understanding that his persecution was a fulfillment of the Law is to assure the disciples that their persecution will not threaten God’s redemptive plan. He is saying in essence, “The persecution you will experience is not a hindrance to God’s plan—it’s PART of God’s plan that he foretold. Your persecution will actually fulfill what was written about you in the law.”
Persecution is absolutely inevitable for the genuine believer—you WILL suffer loss in this world for Christ’s sake if you’re growing to resemble him. Paul says in Second Timothy 3:12, “12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Paul implies that—if you have NOT suffered for Jesus, something may very well be wrong with you because this is the way of the cross.
Jesus had warned these disciples many times about the cost of following him, but in this last extended teaching, he wants to buttress his earlier warnings. This is because if we expect persecution as inevitable, that helps keep us from losing hope which more easily happens if, when we are persecuted, we think that something strange or wrong is happening to us. Peter says in First Peter 4:12, “12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you but rejoice insofar as your share Christ’s sufferings…”
Another proper response to persecution is to be assured because you will not be alone. Verse 26 says, “26 “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.” Jesus again refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Helper”—the One who comes alongside believers. When you are persecuted, the Spirit will not only be with you, but will bear witness about Jesus—he will help you in your task.
The idea is similar to the assurance Jesus gives to the disciples in Mark 13:11 “11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” This verse also puts to rest any temptation for the disciples to think— “when Jesus goes away, why would the world hate us?” Wrong. If the Helper comes—he will in some sense take Jesus’ place and will bear witness about Jesus in the same manner he did. Expect persecution because, though Jesus whom they hate is ascending to the Father, the Holy Spirit whom they also hate as God will be here with you. You will not be alone—a Helper will be with you always.
A third and final response to persecution is: Remember both the assurances of Jesus and the self-deception of those who persecute you. Twice in these last four verses Jesus tells the disciples WHY he is warning them of the world’s hatred. In 16:1 he says, “1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” Notice that it is Jesus who keeps us from falling away. We cannot remain faithful to God apart from the ever-present “keeping” ministry of Jesus. We should pray regularly that God would keep us saved. The New Testament repeatedly teaches that Jesus not only saves us initially, he is the One who keeps us saved. This keeping work is part of his saving work in us as our Shepherd. This is in the Old Testament in verses like Psalm 121:3. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.”
We see this in New Testament texts like Jude, verse one. 1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:” To the believers in Corinth, Paul promises that it is Jesus “8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The final verses in Jude echoes this truth. He says about Jesus, “24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,”
A believer will reach heaven, NOT because he/she gutted it out through thick and thin. None of us would persevere to the end without the keeping ministry of Jesus. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts of love.” That’s a prayer for God to keep us saved. We would wander away in no time if he weren’t keeping us. Any saint in glory will be there because, against our own sinful inclinations, Jesus kept us saved through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus clearly expects that these warnings will protect his disciples from falling away from being so discouraged or confused by their suffering. The first part of 16:4 is similar. Speaking of their inevitable persecution he says, “4 But I have said these things to you, that when their [the ‘darkness’] hour comes you may remember that I told them to you…” Again, it’s not IF the dark hour of hatred will come, it’s WHEN it comes.
That means that when we’re mocked or lose friendships or promotions at work or are reviled by this world, we should remember, “Jesus said it would be this way.” It’s not us they hate, its Jesus. Suffering for Christ is not a cosmic malfunction of some kind—it’s just part of being a disciple of Jesus. This is born out in the last beatitude in Matthew chapter five. Verse 11 says, 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus wants to further assure us by communicating just how deceived these persecutors will be. “2 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. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” The first persecutions of the church came from the Jews who refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Saul of Tarsus is a great example of someone who, from his religious zeal actively persecuted the church.
He was utterly sincere in his belief that he was absolutely and without a doubt doing God’s will as he hauled believers off to jail and to their execution. This is a grand delusion and Jesus wants his disciples to be assured that, even if your opposers out-number you 100 to one, the problem is with the 100 deceived zealots, not you. Even if they fast and pray for God’s blessing as they abuse you, THEY are the ones who are deceived. Today, we see this level of delusion among those who practice radical Islam. Scores of believers have been murdered across Africa in the last several years because Muslims believed they were carrying out a sacred mission from Allah to rid the world of infidels.
In verse three, Jesus clarifies that this deception that they violently manifest—is rooted in their ignorance—they don’t know the Father or me. Because they don’t really know God (in spite of what they think), they will serve their counterfeit gods and counterfeit gods always pose a threat to believers—whether it is the idols of our own heart or the false gods of this dark and deceived world.
In closing, let’s think about three questions. First: Are we living mindful that our great blessings in Christ make us highly accountable before God for our unprecedented riches? Again, remember verses 22 and 24. John 15:22 “22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.” Verse 24, “24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.” No group of people in world history has had the access to the truth about God and what he has done for us through Jesus than we now do in America.
The tools we have available to us to know what God has done for us are amazing. There are so many translations, concordances, dictionaries, study helps, commentaries, books on reading and understanding the Bible. We can go to the internet and listen to great preaching from godly and anointed teachers and preachers. Any believer can take very good seminary courses online for no cost. And wherever we go, we can carry all that around with us in our pockets and purses on our smart phones! No church in history has remotely had the opportunities we have had to know the truth of what God has done for us—his saving works.
In light of that, what does it means in our context for Jesus to say, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” Given the theological shallowness of the North American church, I can’t help wondering Jesus isn’t saying something like, “If my church in the Middle East or Africa or my church in Asia—all of which are under profound persecution—had access to the truth that you have, there would have been a powerful, global revival years ago. They would be sanctified by my truth—they would be encouraged in their trials by my truth—they would be aggressively evangelistic about the wonders of the gospel that you can access on your smart phone any time you want.” We will be held responsible for the unparalleled spiritual resources we can access by God’s grace. The good news of course is—these materials ARE a blessing from God and, as we rightly use them, we CAN grow to be strong in the Lord.
A second question is: Is Christ seen clearly enough in you to arouse opposition? We’ve seen repeatedly that the world hates Jesus and by extension hates his followers because they are like him—he is clearly seen in them and they are hated for HIS name. Because that’s true, what does that imply about a professed believer who has seldom if ever been ostracized, opposed, mocked, derided or in some way persecuted for being a follower of Christ?
Think about it. The world hates Jesus. If the world doesn’t at some level oppose you as a follower of Jesus, it’s NOT because they’ve lost their hatred for him. It’s because they just don’t clearly see Jesus in you. Don’t misunderstand, there are those in the church who are persecuted, NOT because of Christ in them, but because the world knows they don’t love them. All the world feels from these self-righteous believers is disdain and condescension. But on the other end of the spectrum are those who avoid the hatred of the world by living like the world—by keeping their mouths shut about their faith or refusing to let their faith impact the issues of the day.
The reason the world doesn’t hate them is because they’ve given them no reason to think they’ve been taken out of their kingdom. Going to church on Sunday or teaching Sunday school or preaching a sermon doesn’t bring the opposition– resemblance to Jesus’ character and continuing his fruit-producing ministry does. Still other believers suffer no persecution from the world because they tragically avoid any meaningful relationships with unchurched people. They seal themselves safely in the Christian ghetto.
A third and closely related question is—Is the reason you are not persecuted because Christ is not in you? Again, Second Timothy 3:12 we said says, “12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Paul is not saying you have to be a spiritual giant—an extraordinarily godly saint to qualify for persecution. His stipulation for the inevitability of persecution is simply—do you desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus?
For some here, if you’ve been a professing Christian for a long time but have never been confronted for your faith in Christ, examine yourselves to see if you have genuine faith in Christ. Many in the much more tolerant western church don’t see the bible’s instruction on persecution to be all that relevant to them. But, the presence of absence of persecution says something vitally important about where we are with God.
That will be even more the case in the years ahead as the persecution of the church becomes more pronounced and socially accepted. If you don’t know Christ today, come to him and confess to him that you are a sinner—a sinner who loves the comfort of being safe and unassailed more than you love Christ.
Receive him by faith—accept his righteous life in place of your sinful one. Receive his blood shed on the cross to forgive your sins. Receive his Holy Spirit who will give you boldness and direction as you follow his lead. May God give all of us the grace to expect and not shy away from the persecution that will come when the world sees Christ in us for his glory and our joy. Let’s pray.
 Carson, D.A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (pp.524-530). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
 Keller. T.J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church. January 26, 1992
 This is a phrase D.A. Carson uses in his commentary on John, Pillar series.
 Carson, Pillar
The youth and their parents are invited to the Horvath home on Saturday, December 14th from 10:00 am-6:00 pm to make and decorate cookies for Sunday’s bake sale! If interested in attending or if you have any questions, please contact Bethany Salzman at 715.551.1156.