If you’ve been around in church for any length of time, you may have heard that the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of their sin. After all, Jesus says this:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-8)
Additionally, we know that Christians should always be repenting of their sin. After all, as Martin Luther famously stated in the first of his 95 theses:
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. (Martin Luther, 95 Theses, English Translation, Copywrite KDW Wittenberg, 1997)
This leads to a common Christian idea – an incorrect idea, mind you – that one of the works of the Holy Spirit is to convict Christians of their sins. In fact, I heard it myself this past Sunday. However, this understanding is NOT true, and I intend to show it through this post. Rather, the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit is different, and it involves John’s important metaphor (which he received directly from Jesus) of the work and role of “The Light of the World.”
Explaining “The Light of the World”
The verse from John that seems to indicate that the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of sin is when Jesus gives the following saying to his disciples about the work of “the Helper,” who is the Holy Spirit:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-8)
But the question is this: Who is “the world”? At one time, we were all a part of the world, as Paul makes clear in his letter to the Ephesians:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
But Jesus himself gives definition to the world when he was speaking to his disciples. Look what Jesus says of his followers just before what he explained what the Holy Spirit would do:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
This perfectly matches what Paul also describes about the work of Jesus Christ:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
In other words, we were pulled from the course of the world through Christ. This was not of our own doing. Instead, we were taken from one path to another path so that the works of Christ Jesus can be displayed in coming ages in the heavenly places. Now that we are on this new path, we are called to do good works, which God desires for us to do. In fact, the entire purpose of our creation was for these good works.
However, our question was about the role of the Holy Spirit as it relates to this verse in John. Notice what this means. This means that “Christians” – that is, those who follow Jesus – ARE NOT A PART OF “THE WORLD.” In other words – and here is the key point – that verse does not say that the Holy Spirit convicts Christians of their sins.
Instead, the Bible consistently explains that it is non-Christians who are “convicted” by the Holy Spirit. You can see this reflected in various places, including Romans 8:1-17, 1 Corinthians 14:24, Jude 1:14-15, Revelation 14:1-13, and Revelation 20:11-15.
To understand this, we need to understand that the work of the Holy Spirit is analogous to “light.” This light exposes the darkness. This light of the Holy Spirit is exactly the same light that Jesus brought to the world. This is why the church is called the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). The same light and the same Spirit of Christ is now with us, and with it, we expose the darkness. It is this exposure of darkness and evil that is “the conviction of the Holy Spirit.”
The Analogy of Light in the Gospel of John
However, to understand this, we need to see it in the context of John and how important this analogy of “light” is to John’s gospel and to Jesus himself. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is the exposure of darkness and evil. It is a big theme in the book of John. I wish I could explain how this “life” and “death” and “light” and “darkness” actually works in a pithy way, but I think the only way to do it is to just read it for yourself.
Therefore, this post is going to be long. We’re going to survey a lot of the Bible, starting with the gospel of John, where he identifies this “light” and talks about it A LOT:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. (John 1:9-10)
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Now, this “light” is equated in the book of John with understanding and receiving Jesus. That is why Jesus says this, right after telling people that he is the “Light of the World”:
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47)
The Sign of Jesus in Making the Blind Man See
Furthermore, in this line of understanding, this is why it is very important that one of the “signs” of Jesus is that he makes a blind man see. Right after Jesus tells everyone that he is the light of the world, this happens:
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. (John 9:1-7)
Now, there are two things to notice here. The first thing to notice is that this is a “sign” (σημεῖον) it is not merely a “miracle” (δύναμις). A miracle is just a work of power. A sign is a work of power that has a special significance to it. This is a METAPHOR of something that Jesus is doing.
Therefore, notice the sign. Jesus tells the Pharisees that he is “the light of the world.” Then he tells them that the Pharisees do not hear what Jesus says because they are doing the works of their father, the Devil. But immediately after Jesus tells the Pharisees that they do not know him, he works a miracle to where a man BORN BLIND can now SEE. Not only that, the man born blind doesn’t even know how it happened or who did it to him. Instead, his testimony is this:
He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.” (John 9:11-12)
That is the “sign.” If you are a Christian, who has made you see? It is Jesus. Where is he now? I do not know. Those who revile you for that are not of God, because they do not have faith. Those who believe you are of God, because they do have faith.
That’s the sign.
The second thing to notice about this incident is the shocking answer to the question that the disciples posed to Jesus. The answer is shocking, because there is an easy and traditional answer that is typically given to explains ALL suffering, even down to this day. Why do people on Earth suffer? The answer is “sin.” It may not be your sin, but it is definitely someone’s sin. And the “original sin” that explains all suffering is the sin of Adam and Eve. Paul himself points this out:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12)
Who is the “one man”? That would be Adam. And I don’t care who this man is, this man has a first parent, and his first parents were Adam and Eve. So “who sinned”? Surely it is Adam. Surely this is the answer. But Jesus answers quite differently, and here is what is shocking:
He explicitly REFUSES to convict either this man or Adam and Eve (that is, his parent) of sin.
This is also extremely important to the message of Jesus and the light of the world.
Jesus as the Righteous Judge of the Earth Who Does Not Condemn Mankind
What is important is that Jesus is the righteous judge. His disciples ask him a question, and he doesn’t give the obvious answer in his judgment of “who is to blame” in a situation. Why not? Why isn’t he judging here? Why does Jesus refuse to give the obvious answer to this simple question?
If you’re looking at the gospel of John, the answer was already explained in the previous chapters:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:16-21)
So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. (John 8:25-27)
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:47)
The reason he doesn’t give the “obvious answer” is that Jesus did not come to judge the world. The judgement is to come later. In other words, at the level of Earth, and even at the level of the heavenly places, the answer is clear. But Jesus is giving more testimony. He is giving the testimony of one who is above both heaven and earth. He is telling what he has been told by the Father. When the disciples ask Jesus a question with an obvious answer (“Adam and Eve”), he does NOT judge the world with that answer.
The reason for this is very complicated.
The Cosmic Courtroom
When Jesus came to Earth, the situation is FAR more complicated than people think. How complicated? Well, look at this verse, also in the gospel of John:
You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)
How many times have you heard it discussed that the Father is greater that Jesus? And while that is true, we also need to recognize that the Father and Jesus are one:
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:11)
You lost yet? The Father is greater than Jesus, but the Father and Jesus are one? And Jesus is going to the Father and he’s going to send the Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus? And Jesus is talking about all this stuff like it’s NOTHING and we’re just supposed to UNDERSTAND IT???
I hate to put it this way, but it helps if you understand this at the level of dimensions. I’ll just leave it at that. Going to “the heavenly places” is not an issue of distance. It’s an issue of dimension. And Jesus, being God, of course, exists in all of the dimensions. That is how “the Word became flesh” and dwelt among us. That is also how Jesus is in the Father and the Father is greater than Jesus. Anyway, that’s too big of a tangent to go down for now.
All you need to know is that this world (and your salvation) are far more complicated than you ever imagined. When we speak about “heaven and earth,” we are not dealing with different places, we’re dealing with different DIMENSIONS.
And not only that, but there isn’t just ONE heaven. Instead, there are MULTIPLE levels of “heaven,” each of which seems to be its own dimension, with the “heaven of heavens” as distinct from “heaven” as the sea is from the earth:
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
So, even though these things don’t seem to make sense, we need to realize that the REASON they do not make sense is that we do not know what is going on. But back to the question. Why doesn’t Jesus JUDGE, even though he is the cosmic judge over everything? Well, that’s a hard thing to explain, but what I can say is that the FACT that he would not judge based on what he sees and hears was EXPLAINED by the prophets:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
This judge will NOT judge by what he sees? Isn’t that what a judge should do? Decide based on the evidence? Apparently not. Instead, it seems that it is with “the Spirit” that this judge will decide disputes. We know this judge is Jesus. And we should notice something in this, too:
This idea of not noticing what you see in this world is very much tied up to the work of the Holy Spirit.
It comes to the defeat of Satan, which will come up later.
The Location of the Light of the World
But back to the gospel of John. Look what else we read about the work of this Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus. The thing is that JESUS is the light of the world. But he makes the point that this light is soon GOING AWAY:
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:9-10)
So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:35-36)
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:46-48)
So, judgement is coming.
And Jesus is going away. Or…. is he?
This is where the work of the Holy Spirit comes into play. Yes, Jesus is leaving, and he WAS the Light of the World. But doesn’t this mean the world is in darkness? That doesn’t sound right. So who IS the light of the world now?
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)
Notice that THIS is the context of this passage about what the Holy Spirit does in “convicting the world” of sin:
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:4-11)
Wait a minute! Jesus before said that he wasn’t going to judge. But now, he is giving a judgment. But wait…. …who is judged?
The ruler of this world.
And who is the ruler of this world?
Technically, that picture is of Smaug. But Smaug is a red dragon, so it is the best representation of Satan that I have. But let’s look at the word “Satan” in the context of a “judge.”
THAT is who is convicted by the Holy Spirit.
And this is where things get WILD. You know who is the only other person in the New Testament (other than Jesus) who is called a “son of God”? It’s Adam in the genealogy of Jesus:
the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:38)
And when we see how Satan, the “adversary” is described in Revelation, we can see who it is that he is “accusing”:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers [footnote: or brothers and sisters] has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10)
But remember that the speaker here IS AN ANGEL. This angel in the Old Testament would have been called one of the “sons of God,” which is a common name for heavenly beings. And Adam and Eve WERE ONE OF THESE SONS OF GOD. And Satan accuses them. When did this happen? You know when it happened:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:8-11)
THAT is the Courtroom scene in which Satan accuses humanity of evil. Even though Satan is the tempter, he tries to use the sin of Adam and Eve to condemn Adam and Eve when HE is the true cause of their downfall. That is the context of God as judge.
To put a cherry on top of this tangent, notice that there are two times when Jesus talks about a lost sheep. In one telling (Luke 15) Jesus is speaking to a large group of people talking about leaving sheep in “the open country” to find the lost one. This is the telling when Jesus says that the sheep is a lost sinner.
But in the other telling, the sheep are not in “the open country.” Instead, they are on “the mountain,” which is a parallel to where God resides:
See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:10-14)
The “man” in this parable is God himself. The “mountains” are heaven itself. The ninety-nine are the sons of God. The lost sheep in this parable is Adam, a representative figure of ALL OF HUMANITY. You get it now?
The gospel is the story of the shepherd – Jesus Christ Himself – is going out to search for the lost sheep. And the work of the Holy Spirit is getting that lost sheep back after it has been attacked by — not a wolf or a bear or a lion – but by a cosmic dragon of immeasurable size and power.
The Work of the Spirit as the Light of the World
And so in that context, look at what the work of the Spirit is:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
Notice that “the light” is only here while Jesus was here. And Jesus is about to go away.
So, Jesus came, spoke, and he left, but what did he leave us with? He left us with LIGHT. That light is the Holy Spirit of God. This Spirit lets us SEE, so that we will no longer follow our father the devil, who is the ruler of this world. But instead, we will follow our Father in Heaven, who is the Father of Lights (James 1:17).
The weapon and the treasure that Jesus gives is light that will expose the darkness and defeat the accuser of humanity, who is Satan. And the Lord will defeat Satan with LIGHT.
A picture of this battle of “light” and its connection to the work of Jesus is shown in the story of Gideon. I wrote about this connection here. In the story of Gideon, the person who plays the role of Gideon here is not Jesus, but YOU. You see, Gideon is an idiot. The Lord came to him, and he had no idea it was the Lord until the Lord literally disappeared right in front of his eyes. And when Gideon saves Israel, he doesn’t really do anything. But we do see one thing about Gideon in this process:
But the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh, and they too were called out to follow him. And he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they went up to meet them. (Judges 6:34-35)
But the thing to notice is that Gideon’s work of defeating those who oppress Israel doesn’t involving him doing ANYTHING. All he and his companions have are lights jars of clay. They broke the jars, and light shone out, terrifying the enemy, and saving God’s people in Israel. That’s what happens.
AND YOU SHARE THIS ROLE WITH GIDEON IN THE DEFEAT OF SATAN.
Because remember what happens at Pentecost:
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. (Acts 2:1-3)
Similarly, look at what Paul describes about how Christians are supposed to approach our present life:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
All of this is in the context of Jesus being the “Light of the World.” And continuing this metaphor, look what John writes in his first epistle. Keep in mind that the “him” in the first sentence is Jesus Christ himself:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 1:5 – 1 John 2:6)
If Paul is speaking about how we should walk, he would say something like this:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
If John is speaking about how we should walk, he would say something like this:
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Why does Paul tell us to walk in the Spirit while John tells us to walk in the Light? The answer is simple:
THE LIGHT AND THE SPIRIT ARE THE SAME THING, JUST AS JESUS AND THE LIGHT THAT IS THE LIFE OF MEN ARE THE SAME THING.
This is what is going on, and this is why the Holy Spirit does not “convict us” of sin. Instead, the Holy Spirit – Just like Jesus – convicts SATAN of sin. This is the judgment of the world: Satan is judged. The only thing that is left to decide is this:
Who do you follow? Do you follow Satan in darkness, or do you follow Jesus in light?
As such, we should realize that the Holy Spirit does not convict us of sin. Instead, it convicts the accuser himself of sin. That is the gospel. Therefore, knowing the good news of the gospel, let us follow Christ.
But even though Gideon did not do anything worth bragging about in his battle, we should remember that he did do something. This is why we say that Gideon defeated the Midianites. And so with that in mind, remember what Paul says about the defeat of Satan:
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20)
Yeah… …you read that right. YOUR feet. How will this happen?
It will happen through the work of the Holy Spirit. It will happen when the light convicts Satan and defeats the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that in a cosmic sense is shining light on the evil works of Satan, who has led the entire world into sin and death. Through the light of the Holy Spirit, Satan the accuser will be defeated by everyone who walks in the light of Jesus Christ.
To try to make sense of this, I present to you another poem I wrote, called “Jars of Clay.” This is the best I can do to explain how this works:
Jars of Clay
by J. Caleb Jones
I read a metaphor of treasure placed in jars of clay–
A treasure that protects from all that steals our lives away.
It sounds quite like that ancient story–
Battle, victory, and glory–
Epic tale of Gideon,
Defeating mighty Midian.
The word of God commanded that most men be sent away,
But God, with chosen few, would save his people on that day.
When spear and shield in darkness slept,
The hidden cohort closer crept.
On hilltops chosen men surround
A sleeping army on the ground
In jars of clay, they hide their might
And keep its secret safe from sight.
The jars of clay, they shatter. Light shines out, and horns blow free.
The mighty host of evil men, in terror, break and flee!
I read again that metaphor,
And search for what I’m hoping for.
Why is it veiled? I want to see
The treasure that’s awaiting me.
Tell: what treasure lies inside?
What is this thing the clay now hides?
What must I give? What must I break?
What lesser men must I forsake
To make the world that I can see
A place of rest that’s safe for me?
At night, I read those words of Paul. The jar contains a light;
A proclamation that our God has given blind men sight.
Is this what God gives to the weak?
A torch of light? Some words to speak?
I may trust that God will save,
And break the prison of the grave,
But what great foe, when light draws near,
Will flee in terror; run in fear?
If I wish to make things right,
Why not a sword to join the fight?
A weapon wielded in the dark
Is all I need to leave my mark.
My passion is to use my skill,
And I don’t need a torch to kill.
But meditating on the words of treasure made of light
I realize my passion is to murder in the night.
The treasure kept in jars of clay
Is light that burns the dark away.
But if I throw away my shield,
So light in darkness is revealed
And if I cast away this sword
Relying only on the Lord,
And if I run into the fight
Holding nothing but a light –
A fight of more than metaphor,
With pain that I cannot ignore –
What will then become of me?
Anyone with eyes can see:
I’ll suffer in the vi’lent fight,
And fall to pieces in the night.
But – prophetic words do not relent from what they claim.
The treasure and the weapon of the Lord is light and flame.
The jar of clay contains a light.
By breaking jars, the Lord will fight.
And being made of dust, I see
I know the jar. The jar is me.
All ambition, all success,
And ev’rything that I possess
Is dust and ashes, nothing more.
Ev’rything that I adore
Will shatter to reveal a light.
And in exchange, the Lord gives sight.
And meditating on this thought, a vision fills my mind.
It feels as if a lucid dream has found my waking mind.
I recognize the dreary space.
I’m quite familiar with the place.
But in this dream, I’m shocked to see
A phantom that resembles me
With eyes of terror, labored breath,
And skin as white and pale as death,
Crawling, struggling to flee
From blazing light he fears to see.
And as he flees, on high I hear a shout of victory,
Behind and far above, a cry of “Jesus died for me!”
An army clothed in white now stands
Behind a man with bloody hands
Who reaches out and says to me,
“Come and live and follow me.
And when your eyes, in time, adjust
Away from darkness, night, and dust,
Afflicted much, but never crushed,
Perplexed but strengthened through your trust,
Persecuted, day and night,
But finding through the pain, your sight,
I promise, brother, you will see
A shattered jar that sets you free.”
And just before my eyes adjust to see Him in the light,
The vision fades, and I return to ordinary sight.
The phantom crawling on the ground
Does not seem to be around.
The army and the man are gone,
But now, I see the light of dawn,
And as the stars begin to fade,
I realize I’m not afraid.
My outer self in suffering is broken day by day,
As ev’rything I loved before begins to pass away.
A light I feel, but cannot see,
Shines and burns and touches me.
And only by my faith, I see
What this great light has done for me.
It burns away iniquity
And shows me what I am to be:
A man who suffers in his fight,
And loses. Yet, he gives out light.
And when he stands with newfound sight,
He’ll see that he is made upright.
I know the metaphor of treasure placed in jars of clay.
The treasure is revealed when pieces break and fall away.
In conclusion, I want to return to the story of Gideon, and how light in jars of clay defeated an enemy. Do you remember how many people God used to accomplish that feat?
And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. (Judges 7:7-8)
And do you remember how many people the spirit came upon at Pentecost?
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)
Do you think that parallel number, increased by an order of magnitude is an ACCIDENT? No, my friend. NOTHING in your Bible is an accident.