“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” (verses 8-11)
Doesn’t it seem that the world is moving further and further away from a perspective that is in line with the Lord’s?
At least in the West, there is a relentless encouragement to focus on self – self-fulfilment is the goal, together with such a strong focus on personal rights that we become disconnected from the common good and the needs of others. Selfishness is the result. Consumerism captures hearts and wallets – “Greed is Good” (the mantra from the 1987 movie “Wallstreet”) seems to be an accepted perspective, making it so difficult to adequately care for either the needy or a global issue like the environment. Scriptural guidelines for sexual behaviour have been jettisoned – instead, lack of personal constraint is championed as freedom. Relational faithfulness and commitment are weakened. While there is a newly emerging concern for racial justice and equality, racism and injustice and violence continue to infect our world unabated. Truth is undermined, but people don’t seem to care. They crave affirmation of their own pre-set opinions rather than truth-filled new insight – untruth, lies, and disinformation fill our political discourse and social media platforms.
How do we respond? We’re meant to be faithful in our own obedience to the Lord, shaped by his will rather than the perspective of the surrounding culture. We’re meant to be salt and light in the world, eager to bring preservation where there is rot and to bring sight where there is blindness. We’re meant to speak the truth in love. We’re meant to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
But conviction of sin and righteousness and judgement is beyond us. Not that we don’t grieve its absence. Not that we don’t yearn for transformation of individuals and society as a whole. But it’s beyond our own ability to implement.
Oh, how we need the intervention of God himself!
Which is exactly what Jesus has promised. The Spirit, who comes to live within us, will not only work in us (oh, how we need him!), but also in the world. He is the One who will carry out that necessary work of conviction. Praise his name! Yes, we’re meant to engage. Yes, we’re meant to have this deep yearning in our hearts for transformation in the world around us. But we can’t do it. Only he can.
This awareness brings with it a certain freedom. It’s meant to keep us from frantic, frenetic intensity. Instead, we’re meant to trust.
Oh, there will be work, too. But it’s not our responsibility to wrestle the world into submission. It’s up to the Spirit.
Billy Graham preached again and again and saw conviction and transformation in thousands of individual lives – but it was clearly the Spirit at work. William Wilberforce, two centuries earlier, after years and years of parliamentary debate and struggle, saw conviction of British society leading to the abolition of the slave trade – but it was clearly the Spirit at work.
So, make yourself available. Pray. Work hard. But remember: it’s the Spirit’s work. He alone brings conviction of sin and righteousness and judgment.
Trust him to do it.
Holy Spirit, how our world needs your convicting presence. Come. Reshape me. Use me, however you choose. Do your work here. Do it in the world around. Your kingdom come, your will be done. Amen.
Reflect: What is one aspect of the world (close enough that you’ve seen it firsthand) that needs the convicting and transforming work of the Spirit? Take time to pray. Put it in his hands. Ask him for his intervention. Watch.