Convincing You of Righteousness

They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.” Isaiah 45:24

It wasn’t one of my better days. It began as a delightful treat—an unexpected outing with my husband to check out a piece of furniture. It ended with me telling him I felt like throwing my phone at him.

I remember walking out of the store thinking, “What just happened?” And I really had no idea. Anger erupted out of me like someone had flipped a switch. And over what . . . a phone call? A tone of voice?

Let’s face it; the flesh is just plain ugly. In our unguarded moments, we can be capable of just about anything. And unfortunately, the selfish tirades of our flesh often end up directed at those we love the most. Oh, how we need a Savior!

Ah, but we have One. Jesus. And through Him, God did something wonderful.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus bled and died so that we could become righteousness. Did you get that? Maybe you should read it again. In Christ, we have been given a divine capacity for righteousness. He doesn’t ask us to imitate His righteousness; He asks us to exchange our old nature for His own (Ephesians 4:22-24). He promises to release us from the destructive nature of our flesh, and He sent us His Spirit to do the work. Celebrate 2 Corinthians 3:18,

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

It’s a great plan. Trouble is, we have a hard time seeing it come to light in us. We’d like to be different, but those old habits are difficult to break. The power of that sin nature seems so strong at times—too strong to overcome. So we reason that everyone slips up sometimes and resign ourselves to remaining unchanged.

Thank God for sending the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, who “convict[s] the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). 

We’re very familiar with the Spirit’s role in convicting us of our guilt over sin. It was He who whispered into my heart in that furniture store, “What would people think of Me if they were watching you right now, beloved?” His words pierced my heart and resulted in confession to both God and my husband.

But what about His role in convicting—or convincing—us of our guilt in regard to righteousness and judgment? Verses 10-11 reveal some powerful truths that can help us to walk in victory and live as overcomers. Let’s begin with John 16:10:

“in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer.”

What is Jesus doing right now before the Father? He’s interceding for us (Romans 8:34). Remember, Jesus bore our sin so we could bear His righteousness. Now when the Father looks at us, He no longer sees our sin ravaged flesh. He sees His Son.

I wish I could say the same about us. We still tend to see ourselves as we were— unrighteous sinners— rather than the pure and holy vessels we have become. And so we act like it. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV).

But Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to change our view. We are already righteous! Our thoughts just need to catch up with our reality. So the Spirit of Truth works within our hearts to convince us of our righteousness in Christ.

Verse 11 gets me even more excited.

“11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

Look at the target of the judgment described. It’s not you, dear one. This judgment is against the prince of this world. And notice something else. Jesus isn’t describing a judgment to come; this judgment has already taken place: the prince of this world now stands condemned.

Rejoice over Colossians 2:13, 15:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins . . . And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The enemy of your soul has been judged. He has been disarmed, beloved, and any power he exercises over you is nothing but a lie. Your sin isn’t stronger than Jesus; Jesus has already conquered your sin. What remains now is for you to believe it.

And that’s where the Spirit becomes strength in your weakness. He convinces you of your righteous standing before God and of the victory you’ve already been given. Then He provides you with the power to live like the righteousness you are.

No wonder Jesus told us He was sending the Counselor for our good. Perhaps it’s time we believed Him.

Lifting the Veil

“When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:8

We have no idea how very desperately we need a Savior. And that, dear one, is precisely why He came.

One of my friends used to have a saying, “I just want to be in the happy place.” It was her way of expressing, “I’d rather not deal with this right now.” When difficulty would come, it was easier to just pretend everything was fine and get on with being happy. At times the illusion seemed far more inviting than her reality.

All of us can relate on some level. We often want to run from uncomfortable truths, and many of us do. But don’t we at least deserve the right to choose?

The enemy of our souls doesn’t think so. And because of that, the vast majority of people spend their lives embracing an illusion instead of facing the reality of their dire circumstance. Unfortunately for them, they don’t know any better. They’ve been deceived.

Have you ever wondered at Jesus’ teaching in John 6:44?

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Scripture states that we are unable to come to Jesus unless the Father has drawn us to Him. This means we can only find Jesus and attain salvation in response to the invitation of God. We will not simply stumble upon the truth or decide we need redemption. God must pursue us, reveal truth to us, and then empower us to receive it. Consider Jesus’ words from John 6:65,

“ . . . no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

Why would God need to enable us to come to Jesus?

The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 4:4. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

People are incapable of seeing the truth of the Gospel on their own. They won’t seek salvation because they can’t understand that they need it. No wonder Jesus could cry out on the cross on behalf of His accusers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). They couldn’t know. Their minds were held captive by the deceiver. Praise God that Jesus bled and died to set captives free!

We cannot free ourselves from the deception, and we can’t free anyone else. We’ll never talk someone into faith in Jesus without a work of grace produced in his or her heart by the Spirit of Truth. He alone enables us to see and understand. He alone has the power to lift the veil on the enemy’s deceptions, and one of His primary tasks is convincing us of our “guilt in regard to sin” (John 16:8).

I remember the day He convinced me. I had grown up in church my whole life. As a child, I had followed someone through the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to be my Savior. It seemed the logical thing to do because everyone else around me had done it. And I certainly didn’t want to go to hell if it existed.

So for years, I went through the motions of going to church and trying to be a good person. Then I had my first son and something began to tug incessantly at my heart. I reasoned that I should probably try to become “more spiritual” for his sake, so I joined a Bible study and set about doing my lessons.

I wasn’t looking for it when it happened. I was simply trying to finish my homework so no one would see the blanks in my book when we met the next time. But God had plans for this lost and wandering sheep. Four words stared back at me from the page seeking response: Do you love Jesus?

The question should’ve been easy to answer, and I tried to. But my hand began to tremble as a fresh revelation dawned on me. The Spirit of Truth invaded my thoughts and allowed me to see what He saw. I didn’t love Him.

I had thought I did. I’m sure I’d said it a hundred times in my twenty-six years, because I knew it was the right answer. But this time, the Spirit lifted the veil so I could see the truth about myself, and I realized I had been a pretender, living a lie. I couldn’t love Jesus because I didn’t even know Him. But I realized something else that day that was even more important: I wanted to. And so, undone by the Holy Spirit in my living room, I confessed my sin, exited the kingdom of darkness and gave my life to Jesus. I have never been the same.

Have you had your encounter with the Holy Spirit, dear one? Does your Christianity bear the marks of religious chains, or a transforming work of grace?

If you’re not certain, ask the Lord of Glory to reveal Himself to you. He will never withhold Himself from a seeking heart. In fact, He’s the One stirring you to seek Him. And when you do, He promises,

“I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:14

He will lift the veil for you to see, piercing darkness with glory and disclosing your truth. And then, you have a choice to make. Will you step into the light and head toward Jesus? Or will you prefer to remain in the darkness (John 3:19-20)?

Through His work on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus has restored your right to choose, but ultimately the decision rests with you. Choose life, beloved, and experience the promise of 2 Corinthians 3:17:

“ . . . where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom .”

Embracing the Spirit of Truth

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13

I sat with my Bible and my journal, eager to spend some time with the Lord. Well, that’s what I told myself anyway. I really just wanted to feel better.

“Here I am Lord,” I wrote. Worship music filtered through my headphones while my pen scratched out the words. A song began to invade my thoughts and my mind tuned to the lyrics, “All we need is you.” Instantly, conviction pierced my heart with the unsettling knowledge that I didn’t agree. At least not today. Today I needed more than Jesus. I needed Him to fix things.

I felt compelled to confess. “I’m sorry Lord. I want you to be enough, but this is too much . . . ”

A jagged scar from an old wound had just been torn open. The familiar longing for acceptance tugged at my heart and cried out for satisfaction. Rejection had found me again. But this time, it had come for my son.

That changes things. I can handle the battle when I’m at the heart of it. I’ve learned to trust God’s plans for me even when I can’t make sense of them. But it’s different for my kids. I can’t be expected to idly watch one of my precious ones suffer.

And then the Spirit lifted the veil so I could see. Realization dawned, penetrating my grief with this truth. God knew. He understood rejection. He understood the pain of seeing His Son cast aside. Of wanting the world to recognize His great value, yet seeing it deny Him. 

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” John 1:11

Today, I knew His suffering. I felt His pain. How the Father must have wept when they rejected Jesus. How He still must weep as we repeatedly devalue His only begotten Son. The Son He loves. The Son He gave.

I asked God to speak . . . to help me trust Him with my own son’s fragile heart . . . to know that His plans for Him are far greater than my own.

And once again, the Spirit reminded me of truth. God never allows suffering for its own sake. Suffering, dear one, is the path to glory.

“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13 

God has glory to reveal in the life of my son.

I sat in the stillness, pen in hand, and listened, inviting the Spirit to show me my son’s truth. Soon my hand was moving once more across the page.

He is mine, beloved. Just as you are mine. I AM greater than his pain . . . than your pain. You will soon see.

A promise. I thought of Abraham, and how fearful he must have felt as he placed his son, Isaac, upon that altar. I imagine he lifted him there with trembling hands and a breaking heart. But place him there, he did. And Isaac received the blessing of his father’s promise.

God has spoken blessings over my son as well. I will not withhold him from the God who loves him even more than I do. I lift him to the Father with open hands so that he may receive His promise. How thankful I am for the Spirit of Truth.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13 



Grace for the Moment

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

Do you ever feel like less than a conqueror? I do. In fact, I visit that place far more frequently than I would like to; I was there a few days ago.

I can’t even explain to you how it happened. No earth-shattering event crashed in on me. Rather, it was lots of little things. One tiny frustration after another until the pile got so heavy I felt crushed under it. And to be honest, I wanted out. I didn’t want to do “ministry” anymore.

I wish I could say it was the first time I’ve felt that way, but it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong. I love sharing God’s truth with anyone who will listen, and seeing Christ work His transforming power in a life lifts my heart in ways I can’t express. But intermingled with the many blessings of touching lives with Glory come many challenges and frustrations. And through it all, the constant hiss of the serpent sows seeds of doubt . . . and tells me to run. “Who do you think you are? Your life would be so much easier if you quit.”

I’m not alone. Scripture tells us that Elijah, one of the great Old Testament prophets through whom God revealed Himself, had moments when standing up for the LORD he served didn’t seem worth it. In fact, right after God displayed His power mightily through him by consuming a water soaked altar with blazing fire and defeating 450 prophets of Baal, we read,

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life . . .  He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life . . .” 1 Kings 19:3-4

You see, we say that if we could just see God move in the miraculous ways described in the Bible it would give us the boost we need to keep going. We think that if we saw what the OT prophets saw—or even what the Disciples saw—we would have the strength to persevere with boldness. Yet Elijah witnessed marvelous displays of God’s power . . . so did the Disciples. And all of them ran when it got hard (Mark 14:50).

It isn’t witnessing external works that will give us the strength to stand, beloved. It’s grace, poured out for the moment, that causes buckled knees to rise. Strength and sustenance loosed by God’s hand restores, renews and enables. We don’t need to see more works; we need grace. We must learn to draw on the Spirit Jesus sent us to strengthen us in our weakness.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12-13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

The thought seems absurd to the natural mind. To experience equal contentment from both nourishment and hunger? Whether having plenty or suffering abundant need?

Yet Scripture offers this secret to contentment in any and every situation. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Consider Max Lucado’s description of the apostle who penned those words. (Grace for the Moment, p. 328)

Peer into the prison and see [Paul] for yourself: bent and frail, shackled to the arm of a Roman guard. Behold the apostle of God. . . .

Dead broke. No family. No property. Nearsighted and worn out. . . .

At times his heart was so heavy, Paul’s pen drug itself across the page.

We might not find ourselves shackled in a prison cell like Paul. But when oppression comes, the black hole it creates feels as real and constricting as a locked cell. And we can’t free ourselves. But, praise Jesus, He can.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 teaches,

But we have this treasure [the Holy Spirit] in jars of clay [our human bodies] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

I’ve journeyed far enough with Jesus to know that the victory is worth the battle. As the overwhelming desire to run crashed in on me last week, I decided I would. But I didn’t run away from the ministry God has called me to. No, I ran straight to Jesus.

I wept with Him. I told Him how I felt, although I know He already knew. And I asked for His help. For strength to go on. For peace to revive my soul.

As I knelt in prayer, my eyes rested on a devotional book someone gave me that sits on a table in my bedroom. I felt compelled to open it for the very first time. It was written for each day of the year, and I opened the book to that day’s date. I saw these words at the top of the page:

“You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God.” 1 Peter 2:9

I felt His presence pour over me and wash me in His love. I read further, and the oppression began to lift, pushed out by the all-encompassing presence of the God who fills.

He’d always been there. I just forgot to quiet myself so I could see Him. I let the onslaught of frustrations get me down instead of letting Him lift them from me. I should’ve known better. A couple of months ago, He gave me this promise.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Now I rest, safely under the shelter of my strong tower. I think I’ll stay right here for a while.

You Will See Me

“Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” John 14:19

Do you see Jesus, beloved? According to Jesus’ own words, that’s one of the rights and privileges of being His disciple. While the world cannot see Him, His followers can.

Perhaps that statement causes your eyebrows to rise in disbelief. Seeing Jesus was a blessing reserved for those who lived in His day, before He returned to the Father, right? How can we see Jesus? Yet before He left, He told His Disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.” John 14:18-19

I will admit to you that for many years I didn’t see Jesus. I went to church. I had memorized Scripture. I had followed someone through the recital of the “sinner’s prayer” and had asked Jesus to be my Savior, but I couldn’t see any evidence of Jesus at work in my life. It left me doubting my salvation and wondering if He was even real.

Can you relate to my experience? Do you see Jesus at work in and around you? Or are you left trusting that Jesus exists only because you’ve heard stories of how others have experienced Him? Are you secretly longing to have your own stories to share?

You, dear one, are meant to witness Jesus revealed in your life. That blessing is available to you by the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus sent. Consider Jesus’ words from Luke 4:18.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.”

Jesus came to set the oppressed free and restore sight to the blind. His promise wasn’t only for those suffering the limitations of physical blindness. Jesus speaks that promise to you and me. The gift of the Spirit He sent us after His death and resurrection restores our spiritual sight.

How can you experience the revelation of Jesus in your life? Let’s see what Jesus had to say about it.

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” John 14:21

Did you see His promise, dear one? Jesus claims He will love and reveal Himself to a very distinct group. He will show Himself to those who love Him.

Seeing Jesus isn’t about how often we go to church or how much Scripture we know. Seeing Jesus at work relates directly to the condition of our hearts.

If you want to see Jesus, He simply requires that you love Him. That was the part I missed all those years. All the ritual of religion couldn’t open my eyes to see what I desperately needed. I had to open my heart to Him. I had to love Him. And I had to demonstrate that love by walking in obedience to His commands as He led me.

Here’s the great news. Ezekiel 36:26-27 teaches,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

The ability to love and obey Jesus has been given to you by the Spirit Jesus sent. You need only ask Him to empower you to love Jesus as He deserves. The Spirit within you will “circumcise your heart” to love Him (Deuteronomy 30:6). And as you draw on His strength and submit to His authority, He will “move you to follow” His commands. As you follow Jesus through loving obedience, you will see Him revealed in your life.

Don’t settle for someone else’s experience of Jesus. Perhaps it’s time you had your own.


The Greater Gift


“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.” John 16:7

Jesus made a profound statement to His confused followers while preparing them for His departure. He told them that He was leaving them for their own good.

Can you imagine their disbelief as they listened to Jesus—the promised Messiah they had waited centuries for—tell them He was leaving them again? They had just gotten started! And to top it off, He said that His departure was for them!

I imagine you and I would have been right where the disciples were: dumbfounded. In fact I know we would be, because we still continue to argue with God’s plan just like they did. We grumble that the disciples had it so much easier than we do. After all, they could see Jesus and touch Him. They were eye witnesses to His miracles! We reason that we can’t be expected to impact the world like they did because their faith grew out of what they saw. We’re simply asked to believe in the unseen.

I suppose it’s a reasonable argument when we consider those facts. Our problem is that we neglect to contemplate all of them.

Let’s consider these Disciples, ordinary men who enjoyed the enviable privilege of ministering along-side Jesus and seeing Him face to face.  

  •          They spent time daily in Jesus’ presence.
  •          They were taught Scripture by the Son of God Himself.
  •          They witnessed miracle after miracle and even performed miracles themselves by His power.

And yet, when an angry mob came to arrest Jesus, “all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56). Even with all of those things going for them—things we wish we had—when they were faced with something they didn’t understand, all of them turned their backs on the Messiah they claimed they would never deny.

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you I never will.” Matthew 26:33

We know how that turned out. Peter, so certain that Jesus was the promised Messiah and that he would never disown Him (even if he had to die with Him, verse 35), denied that he even knew Jesus on the night of His trial. Not once, but three times.

The original Disciples had everything we claim we need, and still, they couldn’t stand up against their unseen enemy. Standing side by side with Jesus on this earth didn’t empower them for victory. When push came to shove, they deserted and denied Him.

Do you know what they lacked, dear one? The one precious gift that we have been given.  

“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.” John 16:7

According to Jesus’ own words, we have the greater gift. His death and subsequent return to the Father released the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ. He has sent us the Counselor to guide us into God’s will and empower us for victory.

Jesus walked beside the Disciples; the Spirit dwells within us. People had to fight through the crowds to get near to Jesus; the Spirit is accessible everywhere and at all times. Jesus taught them from the outside; the Spirit teaches and transforms us from within.

What if we decided to actually believe that Jesus’ words to us are true? What if we chose to quit complaining about what we didn’t get to experience with Jesus and start taking hold of what we have available to us in the Spirit He sent us?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

It wasn’t the fact that they had Jesus for a teacher that ignited the Disciples to risk their lives to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. They stumbled and fell like the rest of us until they received Jesus’ gift. But after He sent them the Holy Spirit, they were empowered to become what they could never be no matter how much time they had spent listening at Jesus’ feet. Steadfast . . . victorious . . . changed.

Let’s spend the next few weeks getting to know the Spirit Jesus sent us. After all, Jesus claimed He was sending Him for our good. Perhaps it’s time we discovered just how good.