For a long time, this verse has challenged me. Clearly, we need conviction about the sin in our lives, but why do we need conviction of righteousness? It may help if we understand that the word that is translated ‘convict’ can also be rendered as ‘convince’, which may give a hint of what Jesus is saying. We know that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things (John 14:26), but are willing to be convinced about the extent of our sinfulness?
Clearly, the Holy Spirit wants to teach us how to discern what is out of line with God’s ways (sin) and to convince us of what agrees with God (righteousness). At a superficial level this may seem straightforward, but is it possible that our perceptions may not always be reliable?
Let us consider what we do when we deem someone to be in a dire situation. My experience is that sometimes what seems a compassionate, and therefore righteous, act can later be revealed as not God’s best for that person at that time. Our human sense of righteousness has led us to do something that has hampered God’s greater purpose. Of course, if our heart desire is to do kind and good things, then God will cover any mistakes, but it is easy to assume we know, with our own human understanding, what is the righteous thing to do. The action which clearly doesn’t register as sinful is thus proved to be unrighteous.
Maybe this is what was happening when Simon Peter was trying to stop Jesus going to His death (Matthew 16:22). His human compassion for his dear friend and Master, Jesus, was cutting across God’s perfect will for the life and death of our Saviour Jesus. Jesus’ response to Simon Peter’s outpouring of human compassion is sobering, what he had said out of his desire to do good was clearly sin.
Furthermore, I wonder if what we, in our humanity, discern as righteousness i.e. our understanding of being right with God and doing righteous acts, could in fact often be based on our own search for, and efforts at, achieving righteousness, which is plainly self-righteousness which Jesus exposed as sin.
It seems we not only need conviction of what is obviously sin but also things we might have erroneously taken to be righteous. The process of allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt our every action, so we allow Him to convict us, convince us and lead us into, what is His righteousness is not achieved easily. Jesus tells us that He only says what the Father has told Him to say (John 12:49) and only does what the Father has told Him to do (John 5:19). This is true righteousness. Speaking for myself, as I contemplate this verse, I recognise my fervent need of Holy Spirit wisdom and His ongoing conviction of all that is sin, however hidden it might be, and what is truly righteousness as He defines it. Perhaps you feel the same and you might like to pray the following prayer.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to teach me all things and to bring to my remembrance the things that Jesus said. I know I need His help each day in my desire to be increasingly moulded into the character of Jesus. Today I ask You, Holy Spirit, to convict me of what in my life is sin, including what is fallen human nature and what is my self- righteousness. My desire is to only say or do that which Jesus is asking of me, nothing more and nothing less. Holy Spirit please help me each day, in Jesus’ name I ask it. Amen.
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