Jesus said that the Holy Spirit convicts the world about “righteousness, because he [Jesus] has gone to the Father”. Many miss the whole point here. They act as if the Holy Spirit was supposed to talk about unrighteousness, but that’s not the topic. No, the Holy Spirit persuades the world about Jesus’ righteousness, not society’s unrighteousness.
I don’t think for a moment that the topic of righteousness is something that occupies the mind of many unbelievers. If it crosses their thinking at all, they see it as something religious, or that to be righteous is impossible, a mere wishful thought.
In spite of the world’s apparent lack of interest in righteousness, God knows people better than we know ourselves. Secular people don’t talk about righteousness. Instead, they may discuss the purpose of life, that there’s something missing, a void in the heart, or that they feel isolated, ashamed and struggle with guilt.
To enjoy righteousness is to be assured that everything is all right, as it ought to be. The Spirit convicts people that everything is all right because Jesus has gone, on our behalf, to the Father, as the guarantor that the world’s sins have already been paid. Study this! Ponder it! Get this truth deep inside!
How does the gospel reveal Christ’s righteousness? It shows that God didn’t take sin lightly. In fact, God was so serious about what sin and evil had done that He sent Christ to identify with the totality of humankind’s enslavement to satan and to triumph over it. The world longs to hear of a righteousness that is greater than anything human effort can attain to, a righteousness which is a gift from God through Jesus Christ. That’s the message the Holy Spirit is eager to get across to the world.