Four weeks ago this evening we began this special series of lessons on the promise of the Spirit; and if you recall it, among the very first things studied was that we wanted to learn what stood in the way of receiving the Spirit, because when that was learned and that difficulty removed, and the Spirit came in, the Spirit itself would teach us more about itself in a very short time than we could learn as a matter of theory in an indefinite time. We have been trying to work on that line, not only in this series of lessons, but in every lesson that has been given; and I thought in some measure we were learning just a little what that meant last Friday night.
Now is it not so, that everyone whose heart was opened then to receive the Spirit learned more about what the actual work of the Spirit is, so that he knew himself what that was, and when anyone speaks about it he knows what it means, in a different way than he ever knew before? That is so, isn’t it? Yes. Well, that is just the starting point; that is the beginning of it. But that is simply in the line on which we have been working, that the way might be cleared so that the Spirit itself might come and tell us about itself, that we might know from our own experience what the movings of the Spirit are, and what the Spirit does when it comes to us. I am more thankful than I can tell, that it is the beginning to teach us about these things itself.
I thought we could perhaps profitably consider this evening something that the Scriptures speak of, and put that right beside the experience that God has given us already, and in this way be prepared to recognize the work of the Spirit. It is so easy for us to get wrong ideas about these things, and in that way we ourselves be deceived about it. I have thought that some would have a wrong idea about what is meant when we say that we must go forth in the power of the Spirit, and that we must have power when we go forth. I do not understand that to mean that we are to come here to be consciously loaded up, so that when we go from this place we have a certain feeling of a conscious power in our own selves that has been given to us, and that we have it, and carry it with us, and can handle it, as it were, and measure it, and look at it, and. when we need it take it out and use it. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore.... Lo, I am with you.”
The power is in Christ, not in us, and the having the power is the personal presence of Christ in us; and that does not necessarily mean in the sense of a thrill of power in us all the time; but it means an abiding faith that Christ is in us. And then when we go out, no matter what the difficulties are, we are not appalled by them; because of the conscious faith that Christ is with us, and he is all powerful. Well, when he is with us in the fullness of his power, our faith grasps him continually. It is not a question of feelingthe power, it is a question of knowingthe power; and if we take counsel with our feelings when difficulties arise, we will certainly be overthrown. It is not a question of our feelings, or of our power; it is a question that he abides in our hearts by faith, and he is the power.
I will read you the following very familiar scripture:-
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go unto my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself: but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” John 16:7-14.
Notice how positively the work of the Spirit is stated. The Spirit is to do a certain work, and what it is to do is in a positive, unwavering manner; and just as here it is stated distinctly and positively what he will do, it is just as true that the one who is imbued with the Spirit will also bear the positive, unwavering testimony. It is as true when the Spirit works nowthrough the one who gives the testimony as in that case.
How many are the statements and admonitions that have come of late with reference to giving the positive, earnest testimony; it is not now time to hesitate, to question, but the watchman is to give the trumpet a certain sound. If one does not give the trumpet a certain sound, who will prepare himself for the battle? It is time that the positive, earnest testimony be given in a positive, earnest manner. Those who go out with the message are to know what the message is, and then they are to carry it as though they believed the message with all their souls, and put their whole life right into it. If there is any mental reservation, or anything of that kind, it will be a death-trap to them, as well as to others. There is no other way now than to be positive in the work of God as never before. If we have ever been wavering or hesitating, it is time for that to be put away. But that does not mean for us to be defiant. It is a very, very different thing to go forth and declare the message of God with positiveness, without wavering, and going out in a defiant spirit. Remember that Christ never showed that defiant spirit in all his teachings.
Now we see what the positive testimony of the Comforter will do. He will convince the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. He will convince of sin in our own hearts, and he will show to us more and more God’s idea of sin, not our idea of sin. You know there is a very wide difference. The Spirit is to convince us of God’s idea and God’s view, of what sin is.
I notice that many here have from time to time asked the Lord to show them themselves just as he saw them; and I suppose that is one petition that the Lord saw best not to grant us. And I don’t believe we ought to ask him to do it. Now you see what the effect is apt to be when he begins to show us ourselves; we begin to question right off whether the Lord loves us or not, and whether the Lord can save us or not, and whether the Lord can take any one of such a character as that and fit him for his kingdom; I had no idea of my character.
Well, the Lord probably has not begun to show us ourselves as he sees us; I do not suppose we have any idea; or any conception at all, of the way we look in God’s sight; if we had, I suppose we would wonder more and more that he ever thought he could make anything out of us fit for his kingdom. But let him have his own way about that, and do it in his own way, and in his own time. Just let him do that as he thinks best. He wants that we should be fitted for his kingdom; he wants that everything that is unlike Christ shall be removed from us; and he will take the very best way to do it, if we will just let him.
Now, how is it that we are convinced of sin our selves? It is when we see Jesus Christ. There is nothing about sin by which looking at sin convinces us of the enormity of sin; we are not convinced about it in that way. We are convinced of the character of sin, and the enormity of sin, when we look at righteousness-just the opposite. It is by the contrast between sin and righteousness that we get an idea of what sin is. Sin cannot be explained; if it could be explained, there would be excuse for it. It cannot be explained. The way to tell about it, as to what it is, is to contemplate the character of Jesus Christ-the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
God’s Spirit is to convince us in respect of sin in several ways. It does not stop by convincing us of the enormity of sin. Now the Spirit of God convinces us of sin; and Satan brings past sins to us. God’s Spirit never brings up a sin to us, and convinces us in respect of that sin, when once it has been heartily confessed and forgiven; but the devil never brings up any other kind. What is the purpose that God has in bringing up sin to us? It is that he may forgive it and remove it from us. That is so. So the Spirit is the Comforter all the time; it is the Comforter that convinces us in respect of sin.
But when that is done, and the sin is forgiven, then what? Then the devil takes hold of that case; then he begins to tell us about that sin, and he says, What a sinner you are. He did not say that before. Didn’t he know it before? Why certainly. But he did not want us to know it. He did not want us to think anything about it. His very purpose is to keep us right there. Now God’s purpose is to bring us out of that condition, and he wants us to co-operate with him in that work-that is always the case in any work he does with us and for us-God says, See that sin, I want to take it away. We say, That is so, I see that sin; take it. He wants to take it, and we give it to him, and he takes it and puts it as far from us as the east is from the west; he put it behind his back; he puts it into the depths of the sea. Then the devil says, Look at that sin, do you see that sin? Now what are we going to say? [Congregation: “No.”] He says, Don’t you see it right there? Well, if you will always say “no,” and that it is not there, he will not catch you on that point. But he says, Do n’t you see that sin? Then perhaps you say, Where? He says, Right there in front of you, do n’t you see it? Well, I thought that sin had been taken away. Well, do n’t you see it is not? Well, I declare, I was taught to believe that the Lord would take away my sins. Well, don’t you see he has not.
Now, every time you answer him back you begin to hesitate more and more, and pretty soon you think the sin is right there, and you will agree with him; and then what? Then that sin is present; just so fur as your experience is concerned, it is right there; is that not so? What does he bring it up for? Because he wants to try and convince you and me that the Lord does not forgive it, and he starts right in on that same old line that he did at first. What was it he said? Cannot you eat of the fruit in tins garden? The answer was, We can eat of every fruit in the garden but that one tree; we cannot touch that. Why not? Because if we do we will die. How do you know you will die? God said so. That is not so. God knows that the day you eat thereof you will become as gods, and know good and evil. Well, I guess that is so.
You will remember the instructions how we can recognize the voice of the true Shepherd; and if it is not the Shepherd’s voice we know whose voice it is talking that way. We have the authority of the Scripture to say to him every day and every night, and every hour of the day and night, You are a liar. [Congregation: “Amen.”] That is not very polite language, but it is my candid opinion that he does not deserve any great courtesy when he comes to us in that way. I do not think we want to treat him so well that he will want to stay around. I should say, get up and call him a liar, and say to him, “Get out of here.” Now we have a promise that he will go out,-if we resist the devil he will flee from us. Now I tell you that the devil himself really feels that every soul who grasps the word of God, and has faith in Jesus Christ, can hurl anything and everything at him, and he will be perfectly helpless. You remember the word that we read here yesterday, where it says the devil looks at the saints of God who are taking hold of this truth in this way as an impregnable fortress, and it is incomprehensible to him. That is just the way the Lord wants it to be. The Lord does not want his children to be down all the time, to be overcome by Satan; he wants them to be victorious all the time. [Congregation: “Amen.”] And victory now does not consist of a flight of feeling; victory consists in the faith that grasps the victory all the time, no matter whether it be darkness or light; no matter what it is. In spite of everything, it says, Victory, Victory; Thanks be unto God which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. Then we are not to take counsel of others; we are not to take counsel of our friends; we are to take counsel only of Christ Jesus. He has the power and he wants each his of children to be victorious all time.
The Spirit convinces us of sin as a Comforter; and while it will perhaps give us views of sin-just so far as we are able to bear-it does not stop there. The devil shows us these things for the purpose of discouraging us and holding us in sin; but the Spirit of God shows us these things for the purpose of bringing us out. And so it brings words of comfort, words of life, words of cheer right with the sin. Now those who know what it is to be reproved by the Spirit of God in a special way and to accept that reproof and yield to it have known some of the most comforting experiences of their lives right in that. We say we can hardly understand how that can be; but it is so. The Spirit that convinces of sin is the Comforter.
But while the Spirit convinces us in respect of sin and that we have need to be relieved of sin; it also convinces us in just as positive a manner, if we will accept the same testimony, of the forgiveness of sin; just as positive that the sin has been forgiven as that it was there in the first place. And we want to step right along with this instruction of the Spirit, so that when it convinces us with respect of sin that we are sinful, we are to know by the same convincing power that God forgives those sins. So, when he says to us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” we are to be just as sure of that as we were sure that we were sinful.
That is where many in their practical experience rest under a cloud all the time. They are perfectly willing to acknowledge that the Spirit speaks to them when it reproves them of sin and tells them they are sinners. But when the Spirit brings also the word of forgiveness, they hesitate and question, and doubt over that. You know many persons who have had the same experience. When you have gone out to labor you have found those who have been professed Christians for years and years, and you have worked perhaps half an hour to get them, to say positively and plainly, just the simple statement, I know that my sins are forgiven. Why, you know how that, is without referring to some cases where you have labored, don’t you? [Voices: Yes.]
We used to think it was presumption to say we knew our sins were forgiven. It was all right to say we knew we were sinners. The Lord was right when he told us that but when he told us that he had forgiven the sin and that we were made righteous by the power of his word speaking righteousness to us, then we doubted that, and we thought it was presumption to say that. Well, God has been teaching us that all that he says to us is true, and that we are to say Amen to what he says and take it just as he says it for all that he says.
That is what he wants us to do. He will take care of his truth. When we just stick to what the Word of God says, there is no trouble. If you cannot explain it, do not try to explain it. Keep saying over what ho says. You cannot go wrong then. If you do not understand it, and cannot see light in it, you keep right on saying what he says.
I was troubled over that for some time. I did not dare to say anything else than what he says, and because I did not know what there was in it I was very careful to use exactly the words that he used, for I feared if I should use any other language a different meaning than the right one would be given to it. It helped me just to believe the very words, and so I kept on saying them, being careful not to turn them or twist them in the least, and after a while I began to see what they meant. And the experience of those words came to my life and I began to be more and more thankful for them, although I could not understand what I was saying when I preached them. It is safe always to say just what the Lord says.
He will convince of sin, and then convince that that sin is forgiven. You will remember when the apostles went out to preach, and the Spirit came down upon them. You know what a simple story they told,-about Jesus and him crucified, and how the Lord raised him up from the dead, and thus the Scriptures were fulfilled in him. Right after that they were convicted of sin. What was it that convicted them? That story has been told thousands and thousands of times since in every land, sometimes with apparently no effect, and sometimes with much of the same effect as at that time. What was it that gave the effect, that convicted them of sin? so that they said, “What shall we do?” It was the Spirit convicting them of sin. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38. And there were three thousand that received the further conviction of righteousness.
Now notice, Peter told them of circumstances with the outward nature of which they were perfectly familiar. It was no news in Jerusalem to tell them that Christ had been crucified. The circumstances were perfectly familiar to them. But it was the Spirit that brought this thing before their minds in such a way that they saw what they had done when they crucified Jesus Christ. The Spirit knows these things. “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him, even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” You let one be telling that simple story, and it may be that it means a great deal more to some one who hears it than to the one who tells it. It is very possible for that to be so. The Spirit works with the one who hears, and presents to him the real picture. The words draw the attention of the mind to a certain line of thought, but it is the Spirit that repeats that in its fullness to the mind, and when it does that with the power of the Spirit, and the real picture is presented; the real Christ is presented the real righteousness of Christ is presented, then comes with it the conviction of how far we are different from that.
Sin is the transgression of the law. Sin is the being different from God; being out of harmony with him. Now when the real picture of Christ is presented, and the Spirit interprets the character of Christ, there comes a perfectly overwhelming consciousness of how different we are from that, and along with it is awakened the desire to be like that. You see the Spirit is not to discourage us by showing us the difference, and to encourage in our hearts the desire to be like Christ, to have the same character.
So the Spirit convinces us of sin. But it convinces us of righteousness. That is, as already brought out, the Spirit gives us a true idea of righteousness. Whose righteousness? Christ’s, to be sure, Now the Spirit convinces in respect of sin, “because they believe not on me.” “Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God: even to them that believe on his name.” It was through faith in his name that the lame man was healed. It is through faith in his name that we are healed. And it is the only escape from sin, and those who do not believe on Christ are still in their sins. It does not make any difference about the profession. It is a question of actual experience.
No one can know God except the one to whom the Son revealeth him. Now if Christ is rejected, there is no channel through which God can be revealed to the man, and so all he will know about God will be his own idea of God. And the veriest heathen that makes a wooden image, sets it up as his idea of God, and worships it, is no more an idolater than is the most highly educated and civilized man in the world who tries to worship a God he does not know, except by the mental image he has set up in his mind. There is no difference in the principle of it. It is only by seeing Christ that God can be revealed to anyone. “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Matthew 11:27. God is revealed to the world in Jesus Christ, and when Jesus Christ is refused, and rejected, there is no way that a man can learn God and what he is.
Now he convinces us of the righteousness of God in Christ,-the righteousness of Christ. And he convinces us that that is a wonderfully desirable thing to have, and then he goes on and says that we can have it, and from that he convinces us that we have it, if we follow him. He proves to us that the righteousness of Christ,-the character of God in Christ,-is wonderfully attractive. And he will convince us that there was never any other righteousness; that there can never be any other righteousness. Then away goes all thought of our own righteousness. We have no righteousness! The very contrast you see between his righteousness and ours convinces us that ours is all wrong. What a contrast between that garment woven in the loom of heaven, in which there is not a single thread of human invention, and our garments! We see right off that our garments are nothing but filthy rags,-nothing else. That is righteousness; it is the only righteousness; it is the righteousness that we must have.
But he says he will convince of righteousness, “because I go unto the Father, and ye see me no more.” When Christ was here in this world he was interpreting to the world the righteousness of God.
Now you see at once that the righteousness of God is not a theory. It is a living experience, and he was presenting to the world in himself the righteousness of God; he was interpreting to the world what the righteousness of God is. Nothing can separate the righteousness from the life. Righteousness is not a theory that is to be held separate from the life. The righteousness of God in Christ was the life of Christ. But he has gone away. He is not here before the world presenting the righteousness of God in person, but he says that when he goes he will send the Comforter to do that work. He will send the Spirit that will still interpret the character of God; because the Spirit brings the personal presence of Christ just as before. He will manifest himself to us as he does not to the world, and the personal presence of Christ by the Spirit will show us the righteousness of God just the same. The difference is in our favor; because the union is closer than when he was personally present with his disciples.
Then he was to convince of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. [Here a lady in the audience arose and said that she praised the Lord because he convinced her of righteousness; to which the speaker replied: “He does convince you of righteousness? Praise the Lord. I hope he is convincing many hearts of righteousness right here.”]
I will read on this point of judgment: “For God sent not his Son into this world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned.” Now what is the proof as to whether we are condemned or not? He that believeth on him is not condemned. That is what the Lord says to us. “He that believeth not is condemned already; because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God; and this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” John 3:17-19.
On this point also read further: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my word, hath one that judgeth him; the word that 1 have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. John 12:46-48. The word “judge” used here is the same word as used in the third chapter “condemn,” and in the sixteenth chapter as “judgment,” and “judge.”
It is utterly impossible for me, and I have been thinking about this scripture for years, to see a half or a quarter of what is in it. But some thoughts that have come to me on this question of condemnation have helped me, and I will give them to you if they may possibly aid you in the study of the subject.
He will convince you concerning condemnation. Now the purpose of the Spirit in revealing sin to us, and in revealing the righteousness of God to us is not to bring condemnation upon us, but to save us from condemnation. The purpose is not, I will convince you that you are a sinner, and then convince you that you are condemned. No, the work of the Spirit is to convince us that that condemnation has been taken away. Sin means death. “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin and so death passed upon all men.” Romans 5:12. As though my name were written on this page, and right opposite is my condemnation. The very deeds that I do are my condemnation; my life is my condemnation. Now I accept Jesus Christ and his righteousness by faith. By faith I say, All that is wiped out. By faith I say The life of Chist: write that in place of it; for there is no condemnation in him. Now the Spirit convinces me that that condemnation is taken away; that the sentence stands no more; and that my name is entered in the book of the life of the Lamb.
I notice that it says, He convinces of judgment or condemnation, because, “The prince of this world is judged.” The revised version says, “hath been judged.” On this point let me read: “Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” John 12:30-33.
Now you see that the judgment of this world and the casting forth of Satan are connected with the death on the cross. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Hebrews 2:14, 15. The thought is that the death of Christ on the cross is what takes away our condemnation, and seals the condemnation of Satan. Now the two want to go together; it takes away our condemnation, but it forever fixes the condemnation of Satan, Satan knew that. And did he not make every effort possible to defeat it? To prevent it, you see, would have a double meaning for him. It meant preventing our being saved, and preventing his death being eternal.
Now the Spirit convinces us concerning condemnation; because the prince of this world hath been judged or condemned. What was it that condemned the prince of this world and forever sealed his case?
It was the death of Christ. What is it that takes away our condemnation, and gives us life, and peace, and joy? The same death of Christ. The cross estimates what sin is; and sin can only be understood in the light of the cross. The cross estimates the value of eternal life, and eternal life can only be properly appreciated and valued in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything gathers right there, in Christ and him crucified. So Paul said he was to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Notice this thought. When Christ was on the cross, they reviled him. Then they said, If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross; ...he saved others, himself he cannot save.” Yet, that very moment of his deepest humiliation, was the hour of his greatest victory. It was then he made sure our escape from condemnation.. Looking at it in another way, It was then that he saved both himself and us. They reviled him, saying that he could neither save himself nor others. But in his refusing to listen to their revilings and come down from the cross, he saved both himself and us.
It is a wonderful thought to me that after Christ had come here to this earth and taken on him our nature, then he put himself right where we are. The only way back to heaven for us is by way of the cross. The only way back to heaven for him was by the way of the cross. Then comes in that wondrous thought that when he was in heaven and was sure of all heaven, and we were lost and deserved to be lost, he put himself where he himself risked the loss of heaven, in order that he might share heaven with you and me. That is the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Now the Spirit comes and convinces of sin; it convinces of righteousness; and then it convinces that the condemnation has passed away, and witnesses that we are the sons of God. Now, I say, let us welcome such an offer from God as that. Just open wide the heart and let it come in. Just let. it. And let it convince of sin; for when the Comforter convinces of sin there is comfort in it. There is a purpose in it. It is a very different thing when the devil convinces of sin. Let the Spirit come in and convince us of just what we need to be convinced of. But do not forget that while it convinces of sin, the same Spirit convinces of righteousness, and that the righteousness of Christ. And it convinces us in respect of condemnation; that the condemnation of sin; and Satan is fixed; that our release from condemnation is complete. Then we can thank God for the Spirit.
“Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17.
Taken from the General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 2, 1893