And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Lost souls are captivated by sin, so God uses the fear of hell to shift their focus from this world and the pleasures of sin to their need for salvation. It give the sinner the opportunity to put his eyes on eternal things so that he might choose life instead of wrath. But the fear of wrath is not enough to set the soul free from the love of sin. A person who only fears the consequences of sin will not leave sin because it is evil, but simply because it is not worth it. The sinner will begin to hate sin because of its ultimate outcome, but he will still love sin itself. The only way for a heart to be truly freed from sin’s hold on him is by glimpsing the goodness of the One Whom he has sinned against. When a lost soul faces the consequences of sin he realizes his danger, but when he sees to beauty, love and grace of the God he has rebelled against, he begins to see the evil of his sin.
After getting the attention of the sinner with warnings of wrath and judgment, God then seeks to turn the affection of the lost soul away from sin by exposing the rebellion of the sinner in light of the kindness of God. It is one thing for a rebel to turn from his rebellion because he realizes His Master is angry and powerful, it is quite another for a sinner to turn from sin because he becomes ashamed of how he has treated the One who loves him and gave him life. Without shame being produced in the heart of the lost soul he can never come to true biblical repentance. He must not only acknowledge his guilt and fear the consequences of it, but he must also be grieved at what he has done. He must not merely hate the sin because of its consequences, he must learn to hate it because of how it has hurt the heart of God.
Jesus taught that when the Holy Spirit comes to a sinner He will convince him of sin and judgment. That is, the Holy Spirit will reveal to the sinner his guilt and corruption as well as the judgment that is waiting for him in eternity. But Jesus also taught that the Spirit would convince people of righteousness. By this Jesus means that the Spirit will testify about the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit does not only point to the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God, but He also shines a spotlight on the salvation that Jesus Christ accomplished through His death resurrection. The good news about what Christ has done for lost sinners is a double edged sword. Not only does it grant hope to the hopeless, but it also produces godly shame and remorse in the hearts of those who have ears to hear; and this godly shame contributes to a righteous life.
As co-laborers with God we must preach the whole counsel of God’s word to the lost. We must preach the law of God in order to reveal the sinfulness of the sinner. We do this in the hope that God will humble his heart so that he can receive grace from Him Who opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Along with exposing sin by the preaching of the law, we must also proclaim the justice, righteousness and holiness of God Himself. We must declare the glory of God and warn the soul exactly how dangerous his situation is. He must become aware that he has not offended some pagan idol, but he has offended the almighty and everlasting Judge of all the earth. We do this in hopes of capturing his full attention so that he might awake out of his sin-induced slumber and cry out for God’s mercy. After pointing to the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God we must make much of the goodness of God by proclaiming His crowning act of grace which He performed when He offered up His dearly loved Son as an atoning sacrifice for those who rebelled against Him. With this proclamation we show the sinner why sin deserves an everlasting judgment; namely because sin is rebellion against One Who is infinitely loving and kind. Our goal in presenting the kindness of God through the work of Jesus Christ is to bring the sinner to godly sorrow which can lead him to repentance and then onto faith in the Lord Jesus Christ who gave up His life for him.