John 16:8-11  “When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;  In regard to righteousness because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, becasue the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

    Convict means to ‘prove guilt’.  Convicting is a lot more than just convincing someone of something or swaying a person’s opinion.  The Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of the matter and speaks directly to a person’s spirit.  Guilt is a loaded term but the dictionary just defines it as ‘the fact or state of having done wrong’.  Everybody is guilty of something at sometime.  Human nature being what it is doesn’t like to admit to guilt.  Yet, admission(recognition of a problem) is a very important step to healing.

     The Holy Spirit convicts the world in regard to sin because people don’t believe in Jesus.  We sin or miss the mark in our lives not because we sometimes doubt, not because we sometimes have anxiety and get short tempered; we sin when our actions expose deeply held disbelief in Jesus’ Gospel.  Belief is more than saying and feeling.  Belief is living and doing.  Motivations are slippery territory.  It’s hard to know where altruism ends and self interest begins.  We can do much religious ‘Good’ with very cold hearts.  In the end God says;  “I desire mercy not sacrifice …” (Hosea 6:6).  Mercy towards our neighbour is the hallmark of belief.  For each of us, one very important test of our belief is how we forgive.  Jesus said; “But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:26)  Heaven isn’t full of ‘good people’, it’s full of FORGIVEN people.

  The Holy Sprit convicts the world in regard to righteousness because of what Jesus did for us not because of what we have done or may yet do for Jesus.  There are two kinds of righteousness – being right with God and being right with your self.  The former is God’s doing and the latter is your doing.  Both kinds of righteousness work in this world but only the former will get you beyond this world. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8,9)

     Self righteousness shows up most often in comparisions of our self to others.  Jesus’ parable of the two men in prayer sums up the attitude of the self righteous person:  “And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.  But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner.  I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”   (Luke 18: 10-14)

   The Holy Spirit will convict the world in regard to judgment because the ‘prince of this world’ stands condemned.    Jesus came into this world to save you and me, not to condem us.  If you see yourself as a ‘sinner’ the Gospel is greatest news you’ve ever heard.  If you see yourself as basically a ‘good person’ and Jesus just makes you better then the Gospel is simply another nice story for you.  It all depends on your attitude;  “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15)  If you make a habit of judging others to be worse sinners than you are or you judge yourself to have ‘arrived’ while others haven’t (to use secular terminology)  then check your loyalties – you may find yourself standing with the ‘prince of this world’.  The world takes in all kinds – secular and religious.  The Holy Spirit works on sinners.