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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Don't be sad that Jesus is gone; instead, rejoice because he sent his Spirit!
Text:John 15:26-16:15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 121

Psalm 139:1,13 (after the Law of God)

Hymn 39

Hymn 48

Psalm 148

Scripture reading: Acts 4:1-22

Text: John 15:26-16:15

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

I read a lot of military history.  You sometimes read about military leaders who inspire their subordinates to great acts of courage.  They have a good rapport with those under them, they’re highly respected, and so their troops will do almost anything with them and for them.  These guys are the reason why snipers try to take out obvious leaders on the field – if you can kill these leaders, morale often plummets.  Their presence is what they call a force multiplier.  Such leaders disproportionately magnify the tactical impact of their soldiers.

In John 15:18-25 Jesus spoke about the hatred of the world.  The world has hated him and it will hate Christians too.  There is hostility against those who want to follow Jesus.   This hostile world is out there, but it’s in here too with the church.  There are hypocrites and unbelievers in the church – they may be members of the church, but they’re actually part of the world.  Elsewhere the Bible speaks about this hostility in terms of spiritual warfare.  Christians are living on a battlefield.  Satan is the commander-in-chief of the opposing forces and he wants us dead, eternally dead.  This theme of hostility comes back in the first verses of chapter 16.  Jesus warns his disciples how there’s going to be hatred and that hatred will lead to excommunication from the synagogue and then even to death.  It’s going to be all out war.      

But Christ is our commander.  Not only is he our leader, he is also our friend.    We highly respect him, but we also know that he loves us dearly and we love him too.  If we’re going into a battle, he’s the greatest commander we could hope for.  We’d want him right there alongside us.  Surely he’d inspire us to fight well.

That’s why once it sunk in that Jesus had gone away to the Father, it could have been somewhat alarming and sad for the eleven disciples.  Jesus had told them he was going away – that happens in two stages, one brief stage with his death on the cross and then another longer stage with his ascension into heaven.  He was going to be absent and then how would they be able to face the hatred of the world?  How could they do it without him?  Jesus acknowledges that realizing he was going away would at first fill them with sorrow – that’s in 16:6.  But he says in the next verse that it would be to their advantage for him to be absent.  He would be in heaven as their Friend and Advocate.  And he would personally send another Helper to be with them – and with him present, they would be able to endure his absence.  This Helper would be there for them just like Christ was there for them during his earthly ministry.  This Helper is here for us even to this day.  I’m speaking about the Holy Spirit and he’s really the focus of our passage from John this morning.  I preach to you God’s Word:  Don’t be sad that Jesus is gone; instead, rejoice because he sent his Spirit!

We can rejoice because the Holy Spirit:

  1. Bears witness about Jesus
  2. Convicts the world
  3. Guides us into all the truth

In verse 26 of chapter 15, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper again.  He has used that term before back in chapter 14.  The Greek word that’s translated as Helper can also be translated as Counselor, Comforter, or Advocate.  The Holy Spirit is all these things for Christians.  Christ promises that he will send the Holy Spirit – he fulfilled that promise at Pentecost.  At Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church – he came to dwell among God’s people in a richer and more powerful way. 

One of the things he does is bear witness about Jesus.  He testifies to everything Jesus has said and done. 

The way this takes place here is through the witness of Christ’s disciples.  Here we’re thinking particularly of the eleven who were with Jesus when he spoke these words.  The Holy Spirit would come to them and fill them and lead them to bear witness in the world.  We see that happening in Acts 4.  In Acts 4:8 we read that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.  And when Peter and John were told to shut up about Jesus, they said in Acts 4:19-20, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”  They were compelled to bear witness.  The Spirit of Truth led them to speak the truth about what they’d seen and heard in their time with Jesus.  And the opposition they were facing, the hostility confronting them – none of that mattered.  It didn’t matter because the Holy Spirit filled them and led them to bear witness fearlessly.  They were prepared even to die for Jesus.

Today the Holy Spirit continues to bear witness like this.  He is with and in Christians, giving them strength and courage to bear witness about Jesus in this hate-filled world.  The Holy Spirit gives us the strength and courage to share the gospel.  All of us can pray to him to be our Helper so we can either start witnessing about Jesus to unbelievers we know, or keep on doing that.  The Spirit of Jesus is here with us to be our Helper in this calling of witnessing.  We can be so glad for that. 

The Holy Spirit not only bears witness, he also convicts the world.  Here we’re looking particularly at verses 8-11 of chapter 16.  Our Lord Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will prove the world is guilty.  It’s sort of like that old story about the Emperor’s New Clothes.  The story is told of an Emperor who prided himself on wearing the best and most fashionable clothes.  One day two tailors approached him with the offer of something unique.  They’d fit the Emperor with a suit of clothes that would only be visible to those who were highly intelligent and fit for their position.  After the tailors finished the outfit, the Emperor’s ministers raved about it.  Even though they couldn’t see it, they said it was great.  You see, they were afraid of being exposed as incompetent or, in the words of the two tailors, they didn’t want to be seen as hopelessly stupid.  Of course, the Emperor did the same.  Finally, the day came when the Emperor paraded in front of his subjects with his “new clothes.”  The crowds too were afraid of what others might think, so they ooohed and aaawed over the Emperor’s new fashions.  You probably know what happens next.  A little boy cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”  It’s a lightbulb moment for the crowds and soon they join in.  But the Emperor is unfazed and carries on with his parade – in his proud mind the crowds are too stupid to see his clothes.  But that little boy exposed the objective truth of the situation.  Everyone else was too blinded by their pride to admit what they were really seeing.

Well, Jesus says the Holy Spirit is going to come and do something like what that little boy did.  He is going to expose the objective truth of the situation.  So many have blinded themselves to what’s really going on.  In their pride, they’ve convinced themselves things are one way, when they’re really another way.  But the Holy Spirit will come, says Jesus, and he’ll be the one to tell the truth.  He’ll tell the truth concerning three things:  sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The Spirit will prove the world guilty concerning sin, because they don’t believe in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is going to expose the sin of unbelief.  The reality is that everyone is called to repent and believe in Jesus.  Everyone is called to turn their backs on sin, have a change of mind about it – to repent – that’s what repent means, to have a change of mind or heart.  Instead of loving sin, the person who repents hates it.  Instead of being opposed to God, the person who repents loves him.  Instead of seeing themselves as not needing a Saviour, the person who repents acknowledges their deep need for Jesus.  Everyone is called to repent.  Everyone is also called to entrust themselves to Jesus as the only one who can save from sin and its eternal consequences.  The call to repent and believe is not optional.  Listen carefully, you can refuse to believe, but you’re not allowed to.  There are consequences for refusing God’s call.  Refusing to repent and believe in Christ is a sin.  That was true for the Old Testament church in the days of Jesus, true for the Jewish people back then.  It was true for the Jews and Gentiles after Jesus ascended into heaven, after Pentecost.  It remains true today.  It’s true for us, for you.  The Holy Spirit says you must repent from sin and rest and trust in Jesus Christ alone.  If you refuse his call, you’re with the world and the Holy Spirit proves you guilty.

According to Christ, the Holy Spirit will also prove the world guilty concerning righteousness.  Here we’re at verse 10.  The Lord says the Spirit will do this because he is going to the Father and will no longer be seen.  What does it mean that Jesus is going to the Father and how does that connect to righteousness?  As I mentioned earlier, it has to do with both the cross and Christ’s ascension.

When Jesus died on the cross, he did so as the perfectly righteous Son of God.  He bore our sins on the cross, but he himself was not a sinner.  Instead, he was perfectly obedient to the will of God for the salvation of sinners.  The Holy Spirit proves this through Peter on the day of Pentecost.  Peter proclaims that Jesus was a man attested to the people by God.  He was accredited by God – in other words, in himself righteous before God.  When he dies, he disappears and goes to the Father as one who, in himself, was completely righteous.  The Righteous One dies at the hands of unrighteous men.

But this same Righteous Son of God is also raised from the dead, testifying to his righteousness.  God raised him from the dead to announce that his obedient sacrifice was accepted, it was exactly what was needed to redeem sinners.  As Paul says in Romans 4:25, “he was raised for our justification.”  God raised him to show that his work accomplished exactly what it was supposed to.  The body and soul of Jesus were gloriously reunited and there was a mighty message in that.  The Holy Spirit proved that too through Peter on the day of Pentecost.  God exalted Jesus in his resurrection to prove he was righteous – the world said he was a sinner, a blasphemer who deserved to die shamefully on a cross.  But God said this is the righteous Son of God in whom you need to believe if you’re to be saved from your sins. 

The resurrection set the stage for his going to the Father in his ascension.  Jesus was to be in the Father’s presence, not only in soul, but also in body.  Jesus was to go to the Father with his whole glorified humanity.  The ascension saw Jesus being taken into the Father’s presence and that too announced his righteousness.  After all, a sinner can’t dwell in God’s presence. He had to be perfect.  So you see, the ascension too announced that Jesus was the perfectly righteous Son of God.

The Spirit takes the Word to the world and says, “World, you’re wrong when you say that Jesus was just a mere man with faults and weaknesses like everyone else.  World, you’re wrong when you say that Jesus was a sinner like everyone else.  The cross proves otherwise, the resurrection proves otherwise, and the ascension proves otherwise.”  The Holy Spirit through the Word of God convicts the world and says, “This is the perfect and righteous Saviour you need.  You need a Saviour who is sinless in himself.  Jesus is that Saviour.  You need a Saviour whose sacrifice for your sin was accepted by God, guaranteed.  Jesus is that Saviour.  You need a Saviour who is in God’s presence right now ready to speak up for you.  Jesus is that Saviour.” 

He’s also the one who has victory over the ruler of this world.  That’s what we see in verse 11 where the Spirit proves the world guilty concerning judgment.  The judgment is over “the ruler of this world.”  Again, notice the mention of “this world.”  That’s not really a reference to the earth as a physical place.  “This world” refers to the mass of humanity in rebellion against the divine Judge.  You could say, “this sinful world.”  It’s the world of traitors, rebels, and malcontents.  Who is the ruler of “this world”?  Satan, the devil.  He rules over all this rebellion and treason against God.  Satan is the one judged here in verse 11. 

How has Satan been judged?  Verse 11 is looking at things from the perspective of Pentecost.  This is looking at things from the perspective of Jesus’ work on the cross having been completed and accepted by God.  The cross was where our Saviour crushed the head of the serpent.  Satan thought he was dealing a death blow to Jesus by entering into Judas and having him betray Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders.  Satan didn’t understand that this was all part of God’s plan to destroy his power and rule.  When Jesus died on the cross, the guilt and power of sin were vanquished, and so was the one who cheer-leads sinners.   Satan wants sinners to continue rebelling against God, to live in sin, and follow him to hell.  At the cross, Jesus said, “No, you’re not going to have my sheep.  I’m going to bear their penalty, take their sin on my shoulders and there’s nothing you can about it.  Satan, you’re finished.  You are conquered and soon you’ll be cast into the lake of fire where you belong.”

The Holy Spirit convicts the world on this score too.  The world is Satan’s willing ally.  The Spirit comes with the Word and says, “World, you’re in the wrong and you’re guilty for siding with the one who has been judged.  You’re on the wrong side.  World, if you follow your ruler, you’re going to receive the same judgment as him.  Unless you repent and believe, you’re also destined for the lake of fire.  You’re guilty and this is what you deserve.”  The Spirit announces that through the Word of God.  The Spirit expressly says that all who follow the Evil One will be judged with the Evil One – that’s in Revelation 20, verses 10 and 15.  The Day of Judgment is coming and it will not go well with those who heard the Spirit’s call to repentance and refused to obey.  Loved ones, that stands as a warning for all of us too.  Don’t be found with the world destined for judgment.  Be found in Jesus Christ.

Finally, we want to consider briefly the Holy Spirit’s work of guiding us into all the truth and how that makes us rejoice.  There is truth with which he has been entrusted by the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit guides us to it.  The first thing we need to ask is:  what is the truth to which he guides us?  It’s everything we need to understand and know concerning Christ.  The Holy Spirit tells us the truth of Jesus as the incarnate Son, true God and true man, our prophet, priest, and king.  In the Bible, the Holy Spirit tells us all the truth we need about Jesus and everything he has done for our salvation – the gospel.  The gospel is the good news that cheers our hearts – the Holy Spirit has delivered this great news to us.

“All the truth” here refers to everything given to us by the Holy Spirit in the Word of truth.  It doesn’t mean the Spirit will grant us insights into the physical workings of a black hole at the far edges of the galaxy.  The point Christ is making is that the Holy Spirit would come for the benefit of Christians and he would fill in the gaps and show how all the pieces fit together.  He would do that through the Scriptures he inspired.

Note in verse 13, Jesus says the Spirit “guides” us into all the truth.  That word is used to describe the leading of the blind elsewhere in the New Testament.  It’s like we’re blind people who need to be guided.  Of ourselves, we are blind and so we stumble into slimy pits of lies and deception.  However, the Holy Spirit comes and he takes us by the hand.  He then leads us on the straight and narrow way to truth about everything important.  As Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:12, the Holy Spirit not only gives us the Word of God, he also illumines our understanding.  He regenerates our heart, makes us born again.  He gives us eyes to see and ears to hear the wisdom and truth of God in his Word.  Through the Spirit, we’re not only exposed to God’s true revelation about everything important, but we also understand, accept, and believe it.  Isn’t that awesome?    

Those important things include “the things that are to come” – that’s at the end of verse 13.  In Scripture, the Holy Spirit speaks to us of the judgment to come.  He speaks to us about the return of Christ, of the resurrection, of the new creation and life in it.  Throughout the pages of the Bible, we’re encouraged to hope for “the things that are to come.”  The Spirit of Truth guides us to the truth of all these things and they’ll surely come to pass.

Loved ones, since the Spirit of truth guides us to all the truth, we’re called to reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with the truth of God revealed in Scripture.  The world tells us there is no truth.  Everything is relative, everything is subjective.  But if we give in to that way of thinking, why bother sharing the gospel with anyone?  Why care about the lost?  They have their truth and I have mine.  They have their reality and I have mine.  In my reality I go to the Lord when I die; in their reality they just expire and cease to exist.  If that’s the case, who cares about witnessing for Christ?  But all true Christians know this is wrong.  The Bible tells us something vastly different, something true, and this is where we have to stand. We have to stand on the truth of God’s Word which has been delivered to us by the Holy Spirit.

We’re so blessed to have the Holy Spirit with us.  His presence comforts us as we wait out the temporary absence of our Lord and Friend Jesus.  We can rejoice because Jesus is in heaven on our behalf and his Spirit is here to strengthen us for witnessing, to work for the conviction of sinners, and to guide us in the truth of God’s Word.  We’re living in a hostile world, but having the Holy Spirit means we have both the strength and courage we need to not only survive, but also flourish as God’s beloved children.  AMEN.


O Holy Spirit,

We rejoice at your presence in our lives.  Thank you for being our Helper, our Comforter.  We praise you for how you strengthen us for the work of witnessing for Christ.  Please continue to do that.  Help us to have the courage and wherewithal to speak about our Saviour to those who need to hear about him.  We also worship you for your work of convicting the world.  We pray that you would continue to do that too – bring more sinners to see the truth about their guilt so they would turn to Christ.  And we adore you, O Holy Spirit, for guiding us into all the truth we need for our salvation and our daily life.  Thank you for giving us the Bible to teach us and lead us.  Without you, we would be blind.  With you, we see, we understand, and we believe.  Praise be to your Name for the love and care you have for us.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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