Are you free? We live in a country that for the longest time has prided itself of advertising that its citizens are free. But are you free? Or do you just think you are free? This is the question that the Gospel of John poses in this section of our study.
One of the problems recorded in the Gospel of John is that there are people who seem to believe in Jesus, but are shown to lack saving faith. Their belief is shallow and not life changing. It is minimalistic. They have not experienced a new birth in Christ, but are simply following Jesus at a very selfish, surface level. Verse 30 of John 8 tells us that there are many who are believing in Jesus after teaching the people that his authority comes from the Father and he always does what is pleasing to him. So Jesus is going to challenge their shallow belief and demand for it to be a full trust in the Lord.
True Disciples (8:31-32)
We are noticing that Jesus continues to define who are truly his disciples. Please consider and reflect on this declaration.
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. (John 8:31 ESV)
This word translated “abide” is the same word used by Jesus in John 15 where we are commanded to abide in Christ because we are the branches and he is the true vine. When you abide somewhere, that is where you live. It is where you are dwelling and continuing. Abiding is not a short term concept. Where you live is called your abode because you abide there. Abiding is where you stay. Who are those that are truly disciples of Jesus? They live in his words. They continue in his words. There is a picture of constantly remaining in the words of Jesus. No competitor will drag us away from his words. We remain in his words. Listen to the scriptures that tell this truth repeatedly.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4 ESV)
69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.
97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:69, 72, 77, 97 ESV)
True disciples are Word oriented. Abiding in his words begins with being students of the Word of God. The word of Christ is to dwell in us richly, not sporadically or occasionally. Disciples live on the word of God, not bread or the things of this world. They are consuming every word from God’s mouth. That is what disciples consume. The words of God are a delight to his disciples, as the psalmist repeated proclaims. You stay in the word because you know that nothing else can sustain you. I think it is important to remember that Jesus is talking to believers, not unbelievers. Look at it again in John 8:31. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him.”
Notice the results of living in the words of Jesus. “You will know the truth.” When you stay in the words and teachings of Jesus, the result in your life will be that you will know the truth. This last summer we took a trip to Boston. If you have ever been there, you know that they have a walking path so that you can see 18 historical sites in Boston that center around the time of the establishment of this country and the Revolutionary War. The city painted a red line on the sidewalk. All you must do is follow the red line and you will see every historical site on this path with the least amount of walking. This is what Jesus is teaching. True disciples see Jesus’ words as the red line path to guide you through this world and they do not stray from that line. They live in the teachings of Jesus and follow his teachings wherever those words lead. Abiding in his words means being nourished by the word. Abiding in the word is drinking the living water of Jesus, drinking deeply what he has to say. You are being refreshed by his words. You are illumined in this dark world by Jesus’ words. You are captured and held in the word of Christ, desiring it, enjoying it, and drinking from it.
Now we must consider this statement a little further. Living in the words of Jesus is the only way to know the truth. You no longer have the truth is you are not looking at the words of Jesus. The world does not possess the truth. Books do not possess the truth. God is the standard of truth. One must look at his words to know truth. When you live in the words of Jesus, then you are truly his disciple and only then will you know the truth.
The Truth Will Set You Free (8:32-36)
Jesus continues with another powerful declaration. “And the truth will set you free.” What a statement! Set free from what? What do we need to be set free from? And this is the response of the people. Look at verse 33.
They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33 ESV)
This reflects the common human response. We are not enslaved! I am free! I do not need to be set free because I am already free! Notice that they are looking at their physical lineage as proof that they are free. They are children of Abraham and that means that they are not enslaved. But Jesus speaks the truth to us.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34 ESV)
You think you are free? You are like a prisoner who claims freedom because he can walk around in his cell. That is what we do. We point to all these things that delude us into thinking we are free rather than recognizing that we are slaves to sin. They thought because they were the recipients of God’s covenant that they were exempt from any spiritual danger. We think because we are trying to be good people that we are not enslaved either. We look to our own righteousness to delude us into thinking that we are free. But Jesus speaks truthful words: when you commit sin you have become a slave to sin. The chains are shackled to your hands and feet. Satan has you. You are caught and imprisoned to sin. Listen to how Paul described our condition.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. (Titus 3:3 ESV)
We are slaves to these things and we do not even see it. We are enslaved to our passions and pleasures. You are not doing what you want to do. You are slaves to the flesh. Your mind desires to obey God but you still in sin. You are a slave to sin. So we just think we are free and fail to observe that every sin shows our slavery. God’s law does not create a relationship with God, but condemns us, revealing that we having nothing in common with God.
In verses 35-36 Jesus presses the slave analogy even further. “The slave does not remain in the house forever.” A slave has no inherit privileges. A slave is owed nothing. The slave has no security because he has no family ties or claim. Being children of Abraham means nothing. Looking to something of ourselves as the solution is foolish. We are slaves. The son has the power and right to confer family privileges on others. True freedom is only found in the Son. He has the authority to release you. You cannot release yourself. You have nothing of yourself to offer to be set free. Only the Son can set you free from sin. With this truth in mind, listen again to verses 31-32.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32 ESV)
We need to be set free from lies, spiritual ignorance, spiritual death, sin, judgment, and condemnation. If you abide in the words of Jesus, you will know the truth and that truth will set you free. Jesus’ words are the light shining in the darkness showing us the way to the Father. His words are the line that takes us from this world to a saving relationship with the Father.
Have you been set free? Or are you still enslaved to sin and Satan, all the while thinking you are free? We can be freed from our self-deception. The point of this message is not to tell you to read your Bible. The point of this message is to see that true disciples live in the words of Jesus. If you are not staying in God’s word, listening to his word, and follow the path given in his word, then you are not a disciple. This is Jesus’ judgment to us. The solution is not to read your Bible because that will die because it is not based on the right power. The solution is to know you are enslaved and need to be set free. You are in the shackles of sin. Do you want to be free? Abide in his word and you will be set free. Now you have the right motivation for life.