In yesterday’s post, we looked at the nature and mission of the church. Now, we take a look at the actual experience of the church. Jesus is preparing His disciples for life after He departs—a life that will be marked by the same kind of suffering that He experienced.
SEPARATION FROM “ORGANIZED RELIGION”
John 16:1-15 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 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.
Christianity represented a major break from the traditions of the past. The early Jews couldn’t tolerate this, so Christians found themselves increasingly unwelcome in Jewish places of worship. In fact, there’s even some evidence to say that within John’s lifetime, some local synagogues actually banned all Christians from attending.
These days that almost seems preferable—or at least fashionable. We don’t like to be associated with “organized religion.” But the early Christians struggled because of this. The seeds of faith had been planted, but they remained a long way from blossoming. Peter and Paul had tended the soil, but both men died in John’s lifetime. Christians were becoming untethered from the past without a secure future to hold onto. Only through the promised Spirit could the church hope to continue forward.
THE ROLE OF THE SPIRIT
4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
The Spirit would serve as a “Helper.” The “advantage” of Jesus’ death is that we receive the promised Spirit. But notice that the Spirit has a role to play in relation to the world: one of strong conviction. One of the surest distinctions between the church and the outside world is the recognition of sin and righteousness. In today’s world, these terms have blurred. No one can say with absolute certainty what is “good” or “true.” In fact, the only true “sin” in today’s world is to infringe on the “rights” of another.
In the Christian community, we rightly recognize the standards set for us by God’s character—revealed in Jesus and magnified through the witness of His Spirit. Do we take sin seriously? Do we take God seriously? We have to take sin seriously to take God seriously. And it is through the cross that our sin is dealt with and God is further revealed to us.
A LIFE LIVED FOR GOD
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Spirit has another role: to point us to God. He “glorifies” Jesus. Do you remember what “glory” meant? The word “glory” has its origins in a Hebrew word meaning “weight” or “mass.” It’s not that different from when we talk about a “heavy subject.” So for God to be “glorified” means that God is revealed to be “significant.”
Is God the most significant thing in your life? If my life is guided by self, then I become the center of my own universe. Left to my own devices, my life implodes. My soul shrivels. Nothing is more damaging than self-interest. But if my life is guided by God—by His Spirit—then God takes His rightful place at the center of my universe. And nothing is more healing than self-denial—so long as we replace “self” with God.
As we continue on, we’ll see that these values run counter to those of our surroundings. But we also see that the gospel offers the greatest and lasting solution to the hostility thrown at us by an unbelieving world.