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WHITEFIELD ON CONVERSION #2
"THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCING THE WORLD"

 

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr

.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 18, 2001

"And when he is come, he will reprove (convince) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment"
    (John 16:8).


Introduction: The following information about George Whitefield (1714-1770) is from Ed Reese, Christian Hall of Fame Series, Fundamental Publishers, 126 Pine Lane, Glenwood, Illinois 60425.
Whitefield was the most traveled preacher of the gospel up to his time, and many feel that he was the greatest evangelist of all time. Making 13 trips across the Atlantic Ocean was a feat in itself, for it was during a time when sea travel was primitive. This meant he spent over two years of his life traveling on water – 782 days. However, his diligence and sacrifice helped him turn two nations back to God.
Jonathan Edwards was stirring things up in New England and John Wesley was doing the same in England. Whitefield completed the trio of men humanly responsible for the Great Awakening on both sides of the Atlantic. He spent 24 years of ministry in the British Isles and nine more years in America, speaking to some ten million souls.
It is said that his voice could be heard a mile away, and his open air preaching reached as many as 100,000 in one gathering! His crowds were the greatest ever assembled to hear the preaching of the gospel before the days of amplification…and if we might add, before the days of advertising.
Concerning the uproar that followed his very first sermon, Whitefield wrote:
Some few mocked, but most for the present, seemed struck, and I have since heard that a complaint was made to the bishop, that I drove fifteen people mad during my first sermon.

Such complaints were often leveled against Whitefield for preaching the absolute necessity of real conversion. But the more he was criticized the more God blessed his preaching.

We need fearless preachers like Whitefield today. Sadly, most preachers are not willing to tell the church people, seated in front of them, that they are lost. There is a great need for men like Whitefield in our time.
The following sermon is changed to modern English to make Whitefield's message more accessible to this generation.
Sermon:

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

The words contain part of a promise Jesus gave to His Disciples. They were filled with sorrow. The time of Jesus' death on the Cross was near. Jesus was very kind to the Disciples throughout His ministry on earth. He did not treat them as servants. He treated them as friends. And he revealed secrets to them from time to time. He explained to them the hidden mysteries of the Kingdom of God, although He spoke to others in parables. He became the servant of the Disciples, and even washed their feet.
The thought of losing so dear a friend as Jesus must have saddened the Disciples very much. When He was only going to leave them for one night, He had difficulty getting them to let Him go. No wonder they sorrowed in their hearts when He told them He was leaving them entirely.
Notice John 16:5,

"But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart"
    (John 16:5-6).

The expression is very emphatic; their hearts were so full of concern, that they were ready to burst.
In order to comfort them, Jesus showed them that it was necessary for Him to leave them:

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient (necessary) for you that I go away" (John 16:7).

It is like He said, "Don't think that I am leaving you out of anger. No, it is for your sakes. It is to help you. If I don't go away – to die on the Cross, rise from the dead, and ascend into Heaven – if I don't go away and do these things, the Holy Spirit will not come to you. But if I leave you, I will send the Holy Spirit to you."

And then Jesus explained what the Holy Spirit would do:

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

The Person referred to in the text is clearly the Holy Spirit. And the promise was first made to the Disciples. But though the promise was made primarily to them, yet they were representatives of all true Christians. Therefore, we must infer that this text speaks directly to us. This promise of the Holy Spirit is for you, for your children, and to as many as the Lord our God shall call (ref. Acts 2:39).
My purpose in this sermon is to show you how the Holy Spirit generally works on the hearts of those who are converted. I say "generally" because God is sovereign, and His Spirit blows when and how He wishes. Therefore, I cannot confine Almighty God to act in the same way on everyone. He does not give all people equal degrees of conviction. No, there are various ways of God calling those who will be saved. But we can be sure of this: wherever there is a real work of conviction and conversion, it is always the Holy Spirit who does the work. Whether by greater or lesser degrees, it is always the Holy Spirit who brings inward soul-trouble, as Jesus told the Disciples, in our text, that He would do when He came:

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

If you think the inward working of the Holy Spirit is a big joke, or if you think there is no such thing as receiving or feeling the Holy Spirit, I am afraid my preaching will seem foolish to you. But since the promise in the text is made to "the world," I will explain how the Holy Spirit works on every unconverted sinner's heart. And I hope that God will work in your heart and reprove you of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The word translated "reprove" ought to be rendered, "convince." In the Greek it implies a conviction which comes with great power into the mind through argument – as a lawyer "convincing" a jury. So, the Holy Spirit convinces sinners of sin, righteousness, and judgment. How does it feel when the Holy Spirit does this to you? How do you know it is the Holy Spirit? You may as well ask how it feels or how you know when the sun shines on your body at the beach! For with equal power and proof the Holy Spirit works upon sinners to convince their souls.



I. First, He convinces of sin.

Generally He convinces of some enormous, great sin, the worst perhaps that you are guilty of. When Jesus spoke with the woman of Samaria, He convinced her first of her adultery.

"Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband…The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly" (John 4:16-18).

With this there came such a powerful conviction of all her other sins, that she "left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:28-29).

This is also the way Christ dealt with the persecutor Saul: He convinced him first of the horrible sin of the persecution. Jesus said to him,
"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4).
All his other sins then came to his mind, and he died to all false confidences. He was thrown into such an agony of soul, that he did not eat or drink for three days.
This is the method the Holy Spirit usually takes with sinners. He first convinces them of some terrible sin, and at the same time brings all their other sins into remembrance. "When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin." And did this ever happen to you? Did the Holy Spirit ever bring all your sins out in your memory? Did the Holy Spirit ever make you cry out to God, "You write bitter things against me"? Did your sins ever appear before you as though they were drawn on paper? If not, you have never been convicted or converted! You are still lost! The promise of the text has never been fulfilled in your life – yet.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin…"
    (John 16:8).

But, further, when the Holy Spirit first convicts a lost sinner, He generally shows him his actual sins first. But then he is shown and led to grieve over his original sin, the fountain from which all other sins flow. Everything in human experience proves you have a corrupted nature, that

"By the offence of one judgment came upon all men"
    (Romans 5:18).

Although everything in human experience proves the corruption of your nature in Adam, yet most people are so hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, that even if they agree with it in their minds, they do not feel in their hearts how awful it is. Some will deny that they have a totally depraved and corrupted nature, even though their lives plainly prove them to be the degenerate children of a degenerate father. But when the Holy Spirit convinces a sinner, all his false reasoning is immediately thrown down. He is made to cry out, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24). He now is not as grieved over his actual sins as he is over the perverseness of his own heart. He now finds that his own corrupted heart is an enemy of God. Instead of lying to himself, he now admits that he is God's enemy, deep in his own ruined and corrupted heart.

My friend, have you ever experienced this convincing power regarding your corrupted heart? Were you ever made to feel that in you there is no good thing? Did you ever feel that you are a child of wrath by nature? Did you ever feel that you were born in sin? Did you ever confess that there was no good thing in you? Were you ever grieved at the remembrance of your actual sins and the original sin of your corrupted, godless nature? Was the burden of these sins ever intolerable to you? If not, you are still lost. You have never been converted. The Holy Spirit has never yet effectually awakened or convinced you. As a consequence, right now you are in a state of damnation. You are not a Christian.

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin…"
    (John 16:8).

Again, when the Holy Spirit begins to work on a sinner, He not only convinces the sinner of his sinful nature, and the actual sins in his life, but he is also convinced of the sin of his religion and morality.
All lost people think that they are religious enough and good enough. When a sinner begins to be awakened to his sin, he tries to think of good things he has done, to justify himself, and establish his own goodness. But these are false resting places. The Holy Spirit must make you see that all of your righteousnesses are but filthy rags. The cleanest and best person deserves nothing better than the doom of the unprofitable servant, to be cast "into outer darkness (where) there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 25:30).
Did the Holy Spirit ever give you this kind of conviction? Did He ever come to your heart and make you sick of your morality, goodness, and religion? Were you ever made to hate your own righteousness, and did you ever admit to yourself that you deserve to be damned? Did the Holy Spirit ever make you feel that your very repentance needed to be repented of, and that everything in yourself is no better than dung? Did you ever feel that you were unworthy and sinful in every way? Did you ever cry out, "God be merciful to a sinner like me"? If you have never had these thoughts brought to you by the Holy Spirit, you are not a Christian. You have never been converted yet.
But there is a fourth sin, of which the Holy Spirit convinces the soul, when He comes to a person. And this is such a remarkable sin that it is the only one Christ mentions. It is the main sin of the whole world. It is the cursed sin, the root of all other evils. I mean the sin of unbelief in Jesus. Notice verse nine,
"Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:9).
There are people here this morning who do not believe in Jesus. This is your greatest sin – the sin of not believing in Jesus. Jesus loves you. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He arose from the dead, literally, and ascended into Heaven, into another dimension. He is alive right now, seated at the right hand of God in Heaven. You can come to Jesus. You can be saved by Him from your sins. But you refuse to believe in Jesus. This is a horrible, soul-damning sin – your sin of not believing in Jesus. You may say you believe in Him, but you have no more faith than the demons themselves. Maybe you think you believe because you know John 3:16 or have said the "Sinner's Prayer," or have been baptized, but this does not mean that you believe in Jesus. All this may be done without being a true believer in the Son of God.
I do not know a better test than this: when did you believe in Jesus? If you cannot say when you definitely believed in Him, then you have not believed in Him in a saving way. If you cannot think of a specific time when you first believed in Him it is a certain sign that you have no true faith at all. You are still lost.

"When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin…Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:8-9).

These are the ways that the Holy Spirit convinces the soul of sin.



II. Secondly, what is the righteousness of which the Holy Spirit
        convinces the world?


Look another time at the text:

"When he is come, he will reprove (convince) the world… of righteousness…Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more" (John 16:8,10).

This is the Holy Spirit convincing a sinner of the all-sufficient righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit must show you that Christ alone is righteous. You must "put on" Christ. His righteousness must clothe you. As the old hymn says:
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the Throne.
    ("The Solid Rock," by Edward Mote, 1797-1874)
The Holy Spirit must convince you to come to Jesus and have His goodness and righteousness imputed to your record.
When the Holy Spirit convinces you of your need for Jesus' righteousness, how wonderful the blessed Jesus appears! You will see the Lord as your righteousness! But merely seeing the righteousness of Christ will do you no good. The Holy Spirit must make it your possession. You must possess the righteousness of Christ yourself to be saved.


III. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit, when He comes to a person, convinces
         of judgment.

Notice the text one last time:

"When he is come, he will reprove (convince) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

Poor Christless soul! Do you know what condition you are in? Why, you are ruled by the wicked one, the Devil! He rules you. He walks and dwells in you, unless you are converted to Christ. But what will the Devil give you? He will give you eternal death, damnation forever in Hell.
O that you would come to Christ! Jesus gives the free gift of eternal life to all who come to Him. Give Christ your body and your soul.
Judgment! What a terrible word! The Holy Spirit must show you that judgment is coming to you if you do not have Christ. The Holy Spirit must make the Last Judgment of the unsaved dead real to you. The Books will be opened. Your sins will be read out of the Books by God. You will then be thrown into Hell (ref. Revelation 20:11-15). The Holy Spirit must make you see this. Then you will see why you need Jesus. You need the Blood of Jesus to wash your sins out of God's Books in Heaven. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (I John 1:7).
Come then, do not send me away full of sorrow. Hear my sermon and believe in Jesus now! He will save you! He will save you now!
Send down, Send down, O God, Thy Holy Spirit to convince those who are lost of their sin, of Christ's righteousness, and of judgment if they reject thy Son, O God. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.



Scripture Read Before Sermon: John 16:7-11

Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "God Calling Yet"

                                         by Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769).


Biography of Whitefield: George Whitefield was born in Gloucester, England in 1714. He was the son of a tavern owner. In this environment he had little Christian influence as a child, but he had unusual ability in school. He attended Oxford University, where he became friends with John and Charles Wesley and became part of their prayer and Bible study group.
While he was a student at Oxford he experienced conversion. Shortly thereafter he was ordained in the Church of England. His preaching on the absolute necessity of the new birth resulted in the churches closing their doors to him, as pastors were afraid that his sermons on the necessity of conversion would anger their parishoners. He resorted to preaching in the open fields, for which he became renowned.
Whitefield traveled to America in 1738 and founded an orphanage in Georgia. He subsequently traveled throughout the American colonies and Great Britain preaching and raising funds to support the orphans. He preached in Spain, Holland, Germany, France, England, Wales, and Scotland, and made thirteen trips across the Atlantic to preach in America.
He was close friends with Benjamin Franklin and John Wesley, and was instrumental in persuading Wesley to preach in the fields. Benjamin Franklin once estimated that Whitefield spoke to an audience of thirty thousand people. His open-air meetings often exceeded 25,000 in attendance. He once preached near Glasgow, Scotland to more than 100,000 people in one gathering – in a day when there were no microphones! Ten thousand people professed conversion in that meeting.
He is considered by many historians to have been the greatest English-speaking evangelist of all time. Although Billy Graham has physically spoken to many more people with electronic aid, Whitefield’s impact on the culture was unquestionably greater and more positive.
Whitefield was the leading figure of the First Great Awakening, the intense revival that shaped the character of America in the middle of the 18th century. The colonies in our country were set ablaze with revival as he preached. The height of this revival came in 1740 during a six-week tour Whitefield made of New England. In just forty-five days he preached over one hundred and seventy-five sermons to tens of thousands of people, leaving the region in a spiritual uproar, marking one of the most important periods of American Christianity. The growth of the Baptist movement in the United States is directly attributable to the ministry of Whitefield during this period.
By the time of his death he had won the admiration and commanded the attention of the entire English-speaking world. He was instrumental in founding Princeton University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania. He died shortly after preaching in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1770, six years before the American Revolution. (For a brief biography of Whitefield see "The Life and Ministry of George Whitefield" by Ed Reese, Fundamental Publishers, 126 Pine Lane, Glenwood, Illinois 60425).


You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."

THE OUTLINE OF

WHITEFIELD ON CONVERSION #2
"THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCING THE WORLD"

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"And when he is come, he will reprove (convince) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment"
    (John 16:8).

  (John 16:5-8; Acts 2:39)

 

I.    He convinces of sin
                                    1. Generally some large sin, John 4:16-18;
                                               John 4:28-29; Acts 9:4.
                                    2. Original sin – a corrupted nature,
                                               Romans 5:18; Romans 7:24.
                                    3. Sins of your best efforts to be good, Matthew 25:30.
                                    4. The sin of unbelief in Jesus, John 16:9.
                         II.   He convinces of righteousness, John 16:8,10.
                         III.  He convinces of judgment, Revelation 20:11-15; I John 1:7.