But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.
Before the flood God said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Gen. 6:3). The Spirit of God sought to win people in that day to His wisdom and righteousness, but instead humanity sought its own will and angrily rejected God’s Spirit – striving with Him or fighting against Him. The result was a shortening of the average life span of people, because God saw that their hearts ran contrary to the witness of His Spirit.
In today’s world people likewise hate without reason the witness from heaven. Grace, as the Bible presents it, necessitates guilt, and that is where the offense comes. It is not, so much, that people are opposed to the forgiveness of God in Christ, or that they are offended by Christ’s death, rather it is in the thought that they needed forgiveness in the first place, that the Christian message of grace includes by necessity calling sin what it is.
The Spirit continues to strive with humanity and through the gospel give witness to the righteousness of God and the forgiveness He offers to all in Christ, as well as to the application of His Lordship in all areas of our lives. Even in the lives of believers, there is a bit of striving against the Spirit. The Old Man in each of us can push back against His urgings toward holiness, and that is exactly what we mustn’t do.
We believers have already accepted the fact that we are guilty and deserving of death and hell because of our sins, and have trusted in Christ, repenting of our sins. That was the once-for-all decision, but the Spirit still seems to strive with our stubbornness to surrender to Him every moment of every day, seeking to win us over. God has no illusions about what is in the heart of man. He knows what we are, that the inclinations of our hearts run toward evil all of the time (Genesis 6:5). So He sets about His work in our hearts, not to win us but to defeat us.
Victory is found when we admit our defeat, when we surrender, when we take up our cross and follow after Him. We then bear in the world the good news of His love and grace, a message that will often be rejected, angrily so, but that will also bring the aroma of life into the hearts of those who will, like us, stop and listen, turn and believe, and receive.
Lord, thank You for Your grace, that You did not leave us in our sin but You came to redeem us unto Yourself. Let us cease our striving and turn to You in surrender. Amen.