Wildflowers from my hike this last weekend. See more photos from my hike here.
I previously wrote about the grace movement and one of the scriptures that they talk about is John 16:8-11. Phil Drysdale has an article on the subject:
To quote him:
“…not only will the Holy Spirit never convict you of your sins, He actually convicts you of your righteousness! Verse ten [of John 16] outlines who will be convicted of their righteousness – believers, followers of Jesus. So the Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of their sinful nature and convinces believers of their new righteous nature, that they are new creations AND convicts Satan of his judgment.”
You can see how they get this because they basically say the verses in John outlines three groups of people that the Holy Spirit convicts:
John 16:8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
John 16:9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
John 16:10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
John 16:11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
When it comes to the righteousness part, since the word “convict” is rather harsh, they change the word to mean “convince”, as in the Holy Spirit will convince believers of their righteousness. But when I look up the word convict in Strongs, it says it means things like, “to find fault with, to correct, to reprehend severely, to chide, to admonish, to reprove, to call to account, to refute with a suggestion of shame, to expose”. I don’t see how you can convert that to say it really means “to convince”. And moreover, verse 8 applies the word equally to all three categories. So if it means “convince” for the righteousness part, then it must also mean merely “convince” when it comes to the world’s sin.
But what does the word “world” refer to anyway? Is it indicating that ALL these verses apply only to non-believers. Or is it a expansive term that encompasses all categories, from un-believers to believers to the “ruler of this word” (Satan)? The grace teachers are clearly using the expansive sense, because then they can apply the righteousness part to believers. But the righteousness part could just as well mean that the Holy Spirit will convict un-believers not only of their sin, but also of what righteousness they should be doing.
Note, that Dr. Michael Brown points out that the same Greek word for “convict” in John 16:8 is also used in Rev 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke [convict] and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” This is followed in verse 22 by, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”, which shows us that the Holy Spirit is the one who is doing this convicting. So the idea that the Holy Spirit will never convict us of our sin seems a bit off to me.
Looking at this a bit closer I notice two Greek words “kai peri” are used in verse 8 in front of each of the three words sin, righteousness and judgment. I’m no Greek scholar, but Strongs says peri means “about, concerning, on account of, because of”. In other words, verse 8 literally reads more like:
John 16:8 And when He has come, He will convict the world on account of sin, and on account of righteousness, and on account of judgment:
This makes the meaning of this verse a little clearer to me. The world is convicted on account of its sin, and on account of God’s righteousness (and their lack thereof), and on account of the fact that the kingdom of this world will be judged.
Thus, I would tend to agree with the side that says that all three parts of these verses are talking about the world, not just the conviction of sin part.
Except that I also look at this from a kingdom perspective. Every day we decide what kingdom we will walk in. When we walk in God’s kingdom, then we walk in His righteousness and are not judged. When we walk in the world’s kingdom. Well, I fail to see how a Holy God, by His mere existence, cannot help but to convict us.
The grace teachers say we are not convicted of sin because we believe in Him. But I tend to see that many Christians are fairly lukewarm in their belief. The word “believe” in verse 9 (pisteuo) means putting your trust in God, and even having fidelity towards Him. It does not mean believing in Him and yet doing our own thing.
But one last thing. Why does verse 10 mention “because I go to My Father and you see Me no more”? For me, this ties back to the overall context of this chapter, where Jesus is preparing His disciples for what things will be like when He is gone. Verses 2 says, “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service”. Clearly Jesus wants his disciples ready for when this time comes, for in verse 1 He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble”.
And why would they stumble? Well if they began to think that they were the ones in error, the ones in fact in sin. But this is then why the Holy Spirit’s coming is so important. The Holy Spirit will not only be their Helper, He will also put everything into true perspective. When He comes, it will become clear to the disciples that it is the world and not them who is error. Why? Because they believed and the world did not. The Holy Spirit will also make it clear that Jesus was righteous. Why? Because the world nailed Him to a cross, but the coming of the Holy Spirit proves that Jesus has gone to be with the Father. And it will become clear to the disciples that it is the ruler of this world who is judged (perhaps even Caiaphas the high priest specifically) and not them.
In other words, Jesus is saying that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will expose who is truly in error. It is the world who is in sin for not believing in Jesus, it is also in error for not seeing Jesus’ righteousness, and it will be judged because as the ruler of the world it is the one who is responsible (for what was done to Jesus and in the future for what will be done to the disciples).
Thus, you could say that the Holy Spirit is the living word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing between joints and marrow, showing who is really in sin, who is really righteous, and who will be judged.
To me, that is what these verses mean. What do you think?
Amazing view from my hike on the Incinerator Ridge Trail this weekend:
I have recently come across numerous people talking about “contemplative” or “centering” prayer. Some disparage all forms of contemplative prayer as forms of New Age Eastern religion, and others encourage it as a way to come into the presence of God. Many talk about learning from the Desert Fathers and early Christian Mystics like St. Teresa of Avila who taught “ways of attaining spiritual perfection through prayer and its four stages, as in meditation, quiet, repose of soul and finally perfect union with God, which she equates with rapture”.
Jim Goll, who I respect, has taught on contemplative prayer for some time and wrote a book on it in 2006 called, The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence. He writes that the difference between the New Age and what he practices is that they seek “awareness”, while he is “concerned with divine love between God and a person”. But when you look into this a bit further, things tend to get a bit muddled. For instance, the New Age is focused on becoming aware of the god within us, while Christians are focused on God outside of us, but who also so happens to live within us.
Take a look at this YouTube video by a Catholic priest named Laurence Freeman, who teaches on the contemplative life and Christian meditation:
The techniques he teaches sound exactly like New Age meditation which he appears to speak of approvingly. He simply comes from a Christian faith tradition and so he puts a layer of Christian terminology on top of it.
Recently, I spent time watching a BBC documentary called The Big Silence, that was presented by a Catholic monk who sought to teach five volunteers the benefits of having regular times of silence in their lives. While each of the volunteers had spiritual experiences during their eight day retreat (including one businessman who at the start was anti-God, but who significantly changed after hearing God speak to him), in the end three of the five said they didn’t want to join a “religion” (the other two started out as Christians). Worse, the businessman said, “when we came out of the silence, I said I’m just going to invite the universe into my life now, and I’m going to go with whatever the universe brings me”. The documentary says he is planning to study psychotherapy, a course that “he hopes will take him further into himself”.
Clearly a crucial difference here is that Christians should be focused on Jesus, not just the inner self.
But even that is perhaps not sufficient. I noticed that the monk in the documentary believed that by being still or silent, that people would first find the “very center of who we are” and that would then lead them to finding God. And it is true that when we quiet down we begin to confront all the issues in our hearts that we have pushed down. So while there is a good aspect to this, it can also unfortunately lead us to be more focused on ourselves than on God.
Part of my concern here is from my experience with the prophetic and seeing how prophetic words are so frequently a mixture — part of a prophetic word may indeed be from God, but other parts are often from our own hearts. For me, what this comes down to is our tendency to what to control our own lives. We like what God does for us. We like some of the things He says to us. But in the end, we tend to want to run our own lives.
Thus, I’m thinking that a better way to do contemplative prayer would be to not just invite God into our stillness, but to invite His kingdom to reign in our stillness, i.e., we should purposefully recognize that we are coming before our King who rules and reigns, at the same time that we are seeking to know and Him.
But isn’t this exactly what Jesus taught when he taught us the Lord’s prayer? He said to pray, “Thy kingdom come”!
I listened to a Dayspring podcast recently that had sociologist Tony Campolo (and fantastic storyteller) speaking about contemplative prayer. I liked how he used the Lord’s prayer as a basis for how we should do it.
We do need to know our God, to experience Him, to hear Him, to be close to Him. But we also need to test and discern what we hear (or experience) much more than we seem to be doing. People in the world today seem to be more accepting of spiritual and mystical experiences, but they also seem to be open to just about any type of spirituality or experience. So, how do we help people differentiate between what is good and what is not good? What are the core differences between Christian mediation and Eastern meditation, between Christian contemplative prayer and New Age contemplative prayer?
For me, some of the core differences are – Who are we seeking awareness of, ourselves or God? Who are we inviting to speak into our hearts, the universe or God? Who are we putting our faith in, our experiences or God?
Further, do we test what we hear (against scripture) and attempt to discern what the source is (God, spirits, our own souls, or a mixture)? In the end, are we contemplating who God is and how He has reached out in love to us through His Son, or are we contemplating who we are and whatever we happen to experience a connection to?
Wildflowers on the Aspen trail from my hike this last weekend:
A German Green Party politician writes in the New York Times about how the German people can no longer trust president Obama after Edward Snowden’s revelations on the NSA. He writes:
In Germany, whenever the government begins to infringe on individual freedom, society stands up. Given our history, we Germans are not willing to trade in our liberty for potentially better security. Germans have experienced firsthand what happens when the government knows too much about someone. In the past 80 years, Germans have felt the betrayal of neighbors who informed for the Gestapo and the fear that best friends might be potential informants for the Stasi. Homes were tapped. Millions were monitored.
Now we’re told that the NSA only collects “metadata”, not our actual conversations. So how bad can that be? Could the Stasi have functioned with such limitations on it?
Well, it appears the NSA can and does store much more data on us than just our phone metadata, tapping in as it does to the entire Internet, but the metadata by itself allows the NSA to know far more about us than we realize. Here’s how the German politician puts it:
Lots of young Germans have a commitment not only to fight against fascism but also to stand up for their own individual freedom. Germans of all ages want to live freely without having to worry about being monitored by private companies or the government, especially in the digital sphere.
That was my motivation for publishing the metadata I received from T-Mobile. Together with Zeit Online, the online edition of the weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, I published an infographic of six months of my life for all to see. With these 35,830 pieces of data, you can follow my travels across Germany, you can see when I went to sleep and woke up, a trail further enriched with public information from my social networking sites: six months of my life viewable for everybody to see what exactly is possible with “just metadata.”
Three weeks ago, when the news broke about the National Security Agency’s collection of metadata in the United States, I knew exactly what it meant. My records revealed the movements of a single individual; now imagine if you had access to millions of similar data sets. You could easily draw maps, tracing communication and movement. You could see which individuals, families or groups were communicating with one another. You could identify any social group and determine its major actors.
All of this is possible without knowing the specific content of a conversation, just technical information — the sender and recipient, the time and duration of the call and the geolocation data.
Click on the link he gives to the “infographic” and press the “play” button, and then watch how the metadata shows all the traveling he did over a six month period, all the people he called or who called him, all the times he received or sent text messages, and all the time he was connected to the Internet. Add to this data all the other “metadata” the NSA must be collecting on us, and then all the actual data they likely are accumulating, and no doubt the government will soon be able to draw up “lists” of any class of people they want to.
I understand the power of this to help the government discover the bad guys. What I am concerned about is who defines who the “bad guys” are. Didn’t the IRS just define being a member of a Tea Party group reason for increased scrutiny and abuse? Hasn’t the government recently been tapping the phone lines of reporters to uncover who is leaking things they don’t want leaked? Didn’t we just learn this weekend that the U.S. has been conducting extensive surveillance on most of our allies?
These are all examples of a government that has far less restraints on it than we only recently believed it had. But then what should we expect when government continues its explosive growth in these areas and keeps so many secrets that “consent of the governed” is literally impossible?