The Counselor Comes

A sermon preached on John 16:5-11 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD, on May 31, 2020.

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What is a counselor? What does a counselor do? Well, I suppose it depends on what kind of counselor we’re talking about. A tax consultant? A camp counselor? A family counselor?

We hear Jesus today talking to his disciples on the first Maundy Thursday. He told his disciples in no uncertain terms that he would be leaving them. “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.” Soon they would not see him anymore. This caused them great grief. Yet, Jesus tells them, it is a good thing for him to leave them. “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

His visible work on earth would soon be done. God’s plan of salvation would soon be transitioning from Jesus’ redemptive of saving us work to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work of building our faiths. Just as a starting pitcher in baseball puts it all on the line and doesn’t hold anything back, Jesus had not held anything back. He had one focus – saving you, and now he would soon be leaving and sending in the closer. Jesus assures them, “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”

It would be for their good that Jesus was leaving them. Then the Counselor would come – one who would be willing to do anything necessary to help and save them. Jesus says the Spirit would do this in 3 different ways:

The Counselor Comes:

To convince people of:

  1. Sin
  2. Righteousness
  3. Judgment

Jesus says of the Holy Spirit: “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.” Jesus says the Spirit will convict the world. We can understand that but perhaps it might be better to say convince. Both in Greek and in English “convince” is found as a possible use for convict. The Spirit comes to convince us of sin. What does he come to convince us about sin? First, Jesus says he will convict those who do not believe in him. Unbelief is not just another sin – it is the sin. “whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). In many ways the Holy Spirit acts as a doctor who has to convince a terminally ill patient in denial they are indeed sick and in need of help. More than anything, the Holy Spirit wants to heal and restore us with the good news that Jesus lived and died for you. But first he needs to crush an unbeliever and convince them of how sorely they need his healing.

Of course, I am preaching to believers though. Do you need the spiritual doctor to sit down and give you bad news? No, but we need to remember that each of us is born sinful and desperately need to drown our sinful nature in the waters of our baptism daily, lest we too fall into spiritual terminal cancer. Rather, find joy when the Holy Spirit assures us: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).

You also are blessed by the spiritual doctor when you don’t just listen to him in his Word but you actually do what he says. How many times has your dentist told you to floss and you haven’t? How many times has your doctor talked to you about your cholesterol and it went in one ear and out the other? Jesus encourages you in me in regards to following the Spirit: “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).

Jesus said the Spirit also came to convince us about righteousness: “in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer…” Jesus is saying to the disciples, guys you have seen me and been with me for some time now. But I will soon be leaving your physical sight. Remember that there is only one way to heaven and it’s through me. Trying to do it on our own, even in part, means failure. Jesus once said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Rather, the Holy Spirit’s greatest joy is to convince you of righteousness. Not your righteousness, but of righteousness. Jesus was leaving their physical sight to rule over heaven and earth for their good. He is preparing a place for us in heaven. And the Holy Spirit wants you to be certain of one thing more than any other: When God looks at you, he doesn’t see someone stricken with spiritual cancer. He sees Jesus’ perfect life and perfect spiritual health in your place. For God has wrapped you in Christ’s righteousness, his right relationship with God. If I ask you if you’re going to heaven, you don’t have to answer I hope so. You don’t have to list things you’ve done to get there. You can confidently shout, yes, because Jesus lived and died for you. And he has given you his right relationship with God through faith.

The third work or duty that Jesus says the Spirit will come to do is to convince of Judgment. He says, “and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” Judgment is coming one day. On the last day, God will bring all people before him and he will judge the world. This can be a comforting thing when you’re frustrated as a believer and God assures you that, no, you are not missing out as a believer. It’s a scary thing to think about how many nice friends and even family members I have that put their hope in their niceness…and God will judge them for their unbelief and hell will be full of some of the nicest people in the world.

Yet, as the Spirit convinces me that judgment is indeed one day coming, he points me to that righteousness that is mine in Christ. For in Christ, the Spirit doesn’t just treat my spiritual cancer, he eradicates it. For here is what I am convinced of in the Spirit:

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:1) “For it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:8). “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord – and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). And finally, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

That is why today is such a wonderful day. Not just because it is the birthday of the Christian church, but because we see God’s wonderful love for us. Not only did he live on this earth and suffered and died for us, but he constantly cares for us each and every day. When I share God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is there working through that Word. When I read his Word, the Holy Spirit is there, convincing me of Christ’s love and righteousness for me. Amen