John 16:7-15 “But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgment: regarding sin, because they do not believe in Me; and regarding righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you no longer are going to see Me;and regarding judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
Our greatest advantage in this life is found in the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Here, Jesus refers to the Spirit as “the Helper,” the one called to go with us as our help and source for living. The Holy Spirit is sent from Christ to live Christ’s life in us. We are to live in this world by His life lived in us.
Jesus describes the Holy Spirit’s work in the world that forms the counterpart to His work in us. The Spirit convicts the world of sin. Here this conviction is focused on those who live apart from our God – “who do not believe in Me.” True disciples do not need this because the life of Christ Himself is present in us and becomes the life we live daily. We have less need for this level of conviction as the Holy Spirit is driving all our living.
The Spirit convicts the world of righteousness. People who do not submit to our God are nonetheless subject to the Holy Spirit’s conviction regarding sin. This is our God’s loving reminder that they are lost. His purpose is to draw them toward repentance.
The Spirit also convicts the world of judgment. Even the lost have a sense of an impending accountability for their actions. People can try to put the thought out of their minds, and over time some will indeed do so. For most, there is the gnawing fear of being before a righteous judge after death.
This convicting work of the Spirit in the world is experienced in people individually as what we call “conscience.” Every person has a conscience because the Holy Spirit is doing this work in all people around the world.
There are few places where this convicting work is more clearly seen than in a true revival. In 1949, two old women named Peggy and Christine Smith, one of them 84 years of age and the other 82 were greatly burdened because of the state of the body of Christ in Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. These women took it upon themselves to pray until revival came. They spent hours in prayer, sometimes praying from 10pm to 3 or 4am in their little cottage.
Soon, seven ministers and church leaders joined the sisters for prayer every Tuesday and Friday. They began to pray the promise of God in Isaiah 44:3; “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”
During one of their prayer sessions, God showed Peggy and Christine that a Scottish preacher was to visit them and that he would be used to bring about revival. After a series of events, Duncan Campbell arrived for a two week visit that ultimately lasted for about 2 years.
Soon after Campbell arrived, about 30 persons gathered at a cottage to pray. At about three o’ clock in the morning, God swept in and touched many who were gathered. As they left the cottage in the morning, they found men and women along the roadsides seeking God. Some were found lying by the roadside in conviction crying for God to have mercy upon them. The whole Island was shaken by the direct moving of the Holy Spirit.
The next night, buses came from around Lewis island bring many people the Smith sister’s church. Seven men were being driven to the meeting in a butcher’s truck, when suddenly the Spirit of God fell upon them in great conviction and all were converted before they reached the church.
And so things went for the next three years. It was not long until thousands had been similarly convicted without a word from a preacher. This spread from the Hebrides onto the Scottish Isle. This is true Holy Spirit conviction, and can only be explained by the work of the Spirit.
More on the work of the Spirit from John 16 in the next post.
Image via author, West Ten Sleep Creek, Bighorn Range, Wyoming