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How did you get to where you are? In the final session of the 2021 GARBC Conference, keynote speaker Knute Larson challenged conference attendees to consider what has shaped their character. The last in a three-part series, Knute’s sermon “Unleash the Spirit of Conviction” from John 16:7–15 unpacked ways the Holy Spirit works in combination with believers’ consciences to convict and guide them.

Knute began with a humorous analogy to demonstrate how Creation can give believers confidence in the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Knute pulled out his iPhone. “Hey, Siri,” he asked, “how many stars exist?” Siri responded that there are an estimated 300 billion stars. And when asked about the number of galaxies in the universe, Siri replied, “. . . an estimated 2 trillion.” Knute confirmed, “If God can create that, He can work in our conscience and guide us in unseen ways.”

Before His ascension, Jesus explained to His disciples three reasons He would send His Spirit: to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:7, 8).

Conviction of sin

The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, and that conviction is felt in our spirits. When a believer feels that conviction, the believer should follow God’s leading and obey. God guides believers through the Holy Spirit, though Knute noted that they often only notice it “in the rearview mirror.” The main sin, as Jesus states in verse 9, is not believing in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Conviction of righteousness

Knute related a personal story in which he visited a man on his deathbed. The man seemed aware that he needed some kind of righteousness to enter Heaven, and assured Knute he had displayed integrity in his three jobs. But Knute reminded the man that God requires perfection to enter Heaven. This perfection, or righteousness, is a gift from God available through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus is no longer on earth to teach what is right and wrong. It is now the Holy Spirit Who convicts the world of the need for righteousness.

Conviction of judgment

Satan will one day be judged, and the certainty of this fact should give believers confidence in a coming judgment for all. Before Jesus’ death, He lived with this certainty, knowing that Satan will be conquered. And Jesus showed His love for us by dying to make available the gift of righteousness that saves all who believe in Him from the coming judgment. Knute reminded believers not to take advantage of Jesus’ love, just as a loving husband or wife would not take advantage of his or her spouse’s love. Believers’ confidence in salvation from judgment should give them rest, knowing it is not accomplished by their works.

Knute also encouraged believers that the Spirit guides them in truth if they “study [Scripture] with a clean heart and expectancy.”

So how did you get to where you are? Knute concluded, “By the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.”