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There's Someone Better Than Jesus

John 16:5-11

Knocked Down But Not Out:  There’s Someone Better Than Jesus

John 16:5-11

     “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have…lost at all?”  No, that’s not quite how Tennyson put it.  He wrote, “…than never to have loved at all!”  But, is it ever better to have loved and lost than never to have lost what we loved?  It’s hard to think it could be so.  There are few sadnesses more intense than the loss of one loved.  As far as real love is concerned, anything seems better than separation… anything. That’s why bereavement is the most disturbing event to our emotions that’s found in this world.  For those who love, really love, you know there usually is little positive about having loved and lost.

     And yet Jesus in John 16 insists in v. 7:  Very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you.

     If you’ve been here at LAC these past few months, you’ll know that as Jesus speaks those words, he’s on the threshold of His arrest and execution.  As he speaks, he’s walking with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane.  They’ve taken many such walks, but this is the last one… and Jesus knows it.

     Jesus’ opportunity to prepare them for life without his physical presence is almost at an end.  The disciples can’t handle much more and the time is drawing to a close, so Jesus must bring His long farewell discourse to a conclusion.  V.12: I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.

     But before He leaves, Jesus wants them to know that His leaving isn’t the disaster they think it is. Jesus insists that his leaving is a blessing.  In this case it will be better to have loved and lost than never to have lost him at all.  The reason is that Jesus must go so that the Holy Spirit can come and dwell within us. 

     Over the past several months, we’ve had several sermons on the Holy Spirit.  I urge you to go online and listen to two of those.  The first was in our “Shared Faith” series.  I recommend Pastor Jeff Liou’s sermon on the Holy Spirit:  Jeff clarified that the Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus in and through our lives – individually and as a church.  Then, a few weeks ago, Pastor Jeff Mattesich’s spoke to us from John 14 and how the Holy Spirit is the Person who facilitates our experience of God’s presence:  And, for further study, I recommend looking at the commentary on what we believe about the Holy Spirit at

     Today, I simply want us to consider what Jesus meant when he said: “One of the reasons I’m leaving you is that the Holy Spirit may come to be with you.” Jesus’ death and resurrection was necessary before the Holy Spirit could do his work in our lives.  Sin had to be dealt with before God’s Holy Spirit could take up residency in unholy people like us. 

     But for what purpose will the Holy Spirit dwell within us?  We saw that the Spirit ministers to us personally in John 14.  Jesus said that the Holy Sprit would make God’s presence real to us.  He is our Helper and Advocate in this tough time when Jesus is not physically present.

     But, in John 16:7-11, Jesus spoke of the role the Holy Spirit plays in working through people like us to further God’s mission in the world.    Do you remember last week’s message?  Jesus said we all are to be witnesses to our world about him.  But, as we give witness to him, Jesus said we will face opposition – and sometimes hatred.  So, can you imagine being there when Jesus said, “You are to be my witnesses.  When you go, you will sometimes be hated.  And oh, you should know this: I am leaving you even as I send you out into the hate-filled world!”  I think I too would have been one of those people about whom Jesus said, “Sorrow has filled your heart.”  But, then Jesus says, “When you give witness, you will experience the power of the Holy Spirit through you.  But, I must go for that to be take place.”

    Let me tell you that, when you talk about the Holy Spirit, there is always a lot of mystery – because the person and work of the Spirit goes beyond human comprehension and beyond our empirical senses.  Jesus – became flesh.  People could see and hear him.  We still have his words and the reports of what people saw in him.  But, the Holy Spirit ‘s work is not to bring attention to himself but to Jesus.

     Here, I’ll take a moment to see whether artists’ depictions of the mysterious work of the Spirit might help us.  The Holy Spirit is usually described in the Bible in terms of a dove, fire or wind.

     So, let’s let Jesus teach us about the Holy Spirit working through us in vv.8-11.  There are parts of this paragraph that are mysterious aren’t there?  As difficult to understand as some parts of his statements might be, the general sense is clear, isn’t it?  Jesus is saying that it’s the specific work of the Holy Spirit to awaken in people a sense of moral conviction about sin and people’s need of Jesus in human hearts.

     Why is it that a person can live a whole lifetime without any concern for God – and live that way for years – then one day is suddenly arrested with a sense of things that are wrong in his life? Why is it that sometimes, the person will be suddenly consumed with spiritual things when he hasn’t been before? I’ve seen it happen often.  What’s the explanation for that?

     Jesus would say, “It’s the work of the Holy Spirit.”  It’s the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.”  That word “convicts” is a technical world in Greek legal jargon.  It refers to the one who cross-examines a witness in court.”  Remember that the word Jesus has been using for the Holy Spirit, i.e., “Counselor” or “Paraclete”, is a word used for the person who stands with you in a law court.  What Jesus is saying is that the Holy Spirit not only stands with us and supports us as we are on trial by the world.  He also works through us in people’s lives when we give witness to him to draw them to God. We witness and, according to John 15:18, the world accuses and sometimes hates us.  But, at the same time, God’s Spirit often calls the world to be believers through our witness – even as they accuse us. 

     Look at the three ways Jesus puts it:

#1:  The Spirit convicts people of the sin of not believing in Jesus.  …about sin, because people do not believe in me (16:9)

     The way this often seems to happen is that people may have a belief in God – or some sort of a god.  But, they begin to have a growing awareness that they don’t really know God personally.  Or, they may have always thought they didn’t need to believe in God but then they begin to wonder, “Is it possible that there is a God?  If so, what is he like?”  “There must be something more in this universe than material things?” 

     Often, as witness is given or a sermon is preached, questions begin to arise in their minds that they had never before had.  “Why do I have this sense that certain things are right and wrong?”  These are often promptings from God’s Spirit.  These are the kinds of things that happen when God’s Spirit is at work.  When the Spirit is at work in this way, his prompting always has the goal of leading people to Jesus.  In 16:14, Jesus says the Spirit glorifies him.  When people begin to be drawn by the Spirit toward God, they will ultimately be drawn to Jesus. The Spirit convicts people specifically of not believing in Jesus.

#2:  The Spirit convicts people about our need to be made righteous in Jesus.  … about righteousness, because I am going to the Father (16:10).

     I know v.10 can be confusing – until you realize that Jesus was always speaking to people who thought – or tried to make others think – that they could be righteous on their own.  Here, I’m quite sure Jesus had Isaiah 64:6 in mind when the prophet had declared,  “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  When the Spirit is at work, people will soon realize that all their efforts to be righteous on their own are insufficient.

    In Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, he tells of the time when, as a boy, he realized, “There’s something wrong with me.”  He had to own the fact that the very things he didn’t want to do were often the things he did.  Miller tells of a time when he began to realize that he needed a provision from outside himself to make him right because he surely wasn’t right on his own.

When you begin to know that something is wrong inside you that needs to be forgiven and changed, you can be sure the Holy Spirit is working in you.  Then, when we read about Jesus in the Bible, we see true righteousness.  We see how life is to be lived.  When we look at Jesus, we see the only righteous person who ever lived.  Then we learn this same Jesus was willing to die in our place for our sin – and was able to defeat sin and death by his resurrection.  Bottom line: When God’s Spirit works in our hearts, we look at Jesus and we know what true righteousness looks like. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the fact that our self-directed lifestyle and values won’t work.  Jesus said, “Through the witness of your life and words, the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of the world to what true righteousness is all about.  They’ll know they’ll need the only one who can bring them to the Father.”

#3:  The Holy Spirit convicts us that evil must be judged. … about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned (16:11).

I’ve sometimes been surprised when people who don’t believe in God at all argue that those who abuse children or who cut off the heads of innocent people (like ISIS) should be punished.  “They shouldn’t get away with what they’re doing!” I hear supposed atheists cry out things like that.  But, that word “should” is such a powerful word.  “Should” suggests that there is a right and wrong that stands outside ourselves.  Atheists supposedly don’t believe such things.  The word “should” suggests that there is no justice unless evil is punished.  Do you believe that’s true?  I do.

And, when you begin to have questions like that -- about matters of justice and evil being punished, it often is the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart and mind. Those promptings will ultimately lead you to the God whose own character is the basis of right and wrong.  You will find it leads you to Jesus whose life was the only sinless life and who was willing to die in order to pay the punishment that you and I deserve for our sins – for we are sinners in need of judgment too.  And, if you do not put your faith in Jesus, then your place is exactly the place of the prince of this world, who is judged and whose defeat is declared by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  That’s what Jesus is saying here.  The Holy Spirit uses our witness to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.  Is that clearer to you?  Let me illustrate it:

     Do you remember Dr. C. Everett Koop, the pediatric surgeon who became America’s Surgeon General in the Reagan administration?  In his Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor, Dr. Koop wrote of how he came to faith in Jesus.  His testimony is just like what Jesus spoke of in John 16.  While living in Philadelphia, Dr. Koop started showing up at the 10th Presbyterian Church.  At first, he hid away as far as possible in the back of the balcony while Pastor Donald Barnhouse preached.  Koop wrote of how he began to be disturbed by the preaching.  “How dare the preacher say such things?  Where did he get these ideas?”  But, Koop wrote that his questions one day changed from accusations to personal introspection.  He said, “I saw one day that I was, at best, a nominal Christian trying to be decent.  But, I had no real knowledge of God.”  I think Jesus would say that the Holy Spirit was being convicted him of his sin of unbelief.

     Koop also wrote that, in that time, all his efforts to reform himself were to no avail.  He saw things in his life that he knew were wrong but were not improving.  And, Koop wrote, he began to realize that the essence of a true religion could not be in what we do – but in what God does for us.  He wrote, “I began to realize that either my sins were on my own shoulders or on Christ’s.  I had to be humble enough to own up to the fact that I needed him.”  I think Jesus would say that the Holy Spirit was convicting him of righteousness.

     Then, there was one day when, after Koop had sat through services for about a year, he realized that he no longer sat through the sermons thinking, “That’s stupid!” Or, “Who do you think you are, Mr. Preacher.”  He said, “I realized I wasn’t observing worship any more.  I was a participant.  I knew I was in.  I was a believer in Jesus.”

     This is how the Spirit works.  And it’s still happening.  (Here, I’ll do a brief interview with John White who has recently come to Jesus is a similar way to Dr. Koop.)

  • John, what was it that first brought you to LAC?  
  • The first time I remember speaking with your wife Lauren, she said something like, "My husband John has all sort of questions?"  What do you think led to that?  What kind of questions were they?  
  • Did Lauren ever tell you she was praying for you?  How did you feel/think about that?
  • Now, I watch you singing with such joy and leading our soccer ministry with Josh.  What happened?  


How This Sometimes Plays Out:

     As I studied this passage all week, it brought back memories of times when I saw this playing out in my own life.  I remember how, while I was in high school, I sensed this prompting to speak to one of the leading athletes in my class about Jesus.  I didn’t want to do it at all!  But, I did it.  And, when I did, I remember that he wanted nothing to do with this topic at all.  He just walked away and I felt like a failure.  A number of years ago, at a class reunion, I saw him again.  He pulled me to the side and said, “I’ve wanted to thank you for years for the way you talked to me about Jesus.  After you did, I went months without getting that off my mind.  That next year, when I was at the university, I looked for a Campus Crusade guy and, with his help, gave my life to Jesus.”  Do you see it?  I was prompted by God’s Spirit.  I had to obey by giving witness.  When I did, I felt rejected.  But, the Spirit took my frail words and used them in my friend’s heart.

     This sort of experience has happened often in my life.  There was a time when I was living in Germany that the evangelistic team that I was a part of was invited to a church in Northern Germany.  At the last minute, the leader of the team decided he didn’t want to go.  And I didn’t want to go either because I knew the pastor of the church didn’t want us to be there – because he didn’t like the simple gospel message we brought.  But, grudgingly, I went.  When the pastor introduced us, he said, “I don’t want these people in my church.  But, someone invited them so I have no choice. I’ve decided to let these evangelicals show us what they can do.”  What an introduction!  That night, it was like singing to a morgue.  There seemed to be no response at all.  But, after the program was over, a dozen young adults came up to us and they all said, “We know we need to believe in Jesus.”  And they did.  They started a Bible study that continues even to today.

     What do I want you to do today in the light of this message?

     Believers, what I want you to do are simply to be open to the Spirit’s promptings in your life.  When you sense God would have you speak to someone about Jesus, just do it.  It may not seem to go well at first.  But, all Jesus asks you to do is to give witness to Jesus.  As Peter would say in 1 Pet 4:11,  “Speak as one speaking the very words of God.”  Don’t get down on yourself if it doesn’t go well and don’t give up on the person if their first response isn’t all you had hoped for.  There is hope for even the most resistant of people – yes, even your spouse or your children or your parents.  You must testify about Jesus (15:26-27)! When you do, you are not alone.  The Holy Spirit is active convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.  And, it’s clear to me that He often does this work through people like you and me. 

     Jesus said that it was better for him to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come.  After three years of Jesus being here and calling people to believe, there were only a few believers – and they were quite weak.  But, then, the Holy Spirit came convicting the world.  It began at Pentecost.  3,000 of those who had been hard-hearted were convicted by the Holy Spirit, fell on their knees and gave their lives to Christ.  And so it has gone on.  The influence of Jesus is a million times greater today than it was in His own lifetime.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit has come and convicted the world of its unbelief, of its sin.  That’s why.

     Perhaps you have felt that inner prompting to believe today – or to turn from some sin today.  You feel the need to decide for Jesus.  Well, it’s not just your imagination or something you ate that makes you feel that way.  Something may hit you as God’s Word is spoken that’s never quite hit you that way before.  It has little to do with the speaker’s eloquence.  After all, others snooze through the same message that may be stirring you. 

     If that’s happening, be grateful.  It’s God personally loving you and calling you.  If God calls you to a decision today, thank Him for it.  Jesus went to a cross and died so that His Spirit could work this way in you.  Thank him -- and after you thank Him, say “yes” to him.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ – and you will be saved.  That’s what the Spirit calls you to do.


To His glory,

Dr. Greg Waybright
Senior Pastor

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Greg Waybright • Copyright 2015, Lake Avenue Church