So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, "You will become free"?' Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-36).
Jesus, truth, freedom: big words. Jesus claims to bring freedom. Does He make men free?
What must we think about this condition, "If you continue in My word"? Suppose you want to be a great painter. How would you become a great painter? A professional painter will tell you, "continue painting; you will improve." Suppose you want to be an airplane pilot. What will the pilot tell you? "continue in flying." Pilots are rated based on the number of hours flown. More hours means more experience; more experience means a better pilot. If you want to learn another language, how do you do it? You begin to learn and you continue in the language.
So how do you become a Christian, a disciple, a learner and follower of Jesus? You continue in the word; not in random things claimed to be the word or to be correct expositions of the word, but in the word--in the Bible. Continuing in the Word means continuing in obedience to the word.
Many, at the first moment it becomes fashionable, are ready to question God. Continuing in His word requires a faith but few possess. People place enormous confidence in the words of scholars and pastors. But the Bible--the Bible was written by prophets and inspired men. We can have a deep and abiding faith in the Word of God that we can never have in fallible man--either a pastor or in ourselves.
Jesus told His hearers that they would know the truth. It was through their connection with Jesus. As they did Jesus' word, they would be doing the truth. But we live in an age when "doing the truth" more often is doing "your truth," as if truth-doing were mere opinion and preference. Truth is what's left when our opinions and pretensions are peeled away.
In the passage we started with today, others who were listening to Jesus, interjected. They heard Jesus say that the truth made Jesus' disciples free. Aroused, they claimed they were true Jews and they had never been in bondage to anyone. They claimed already to be free. Here's where we pause to think about bondage and freedom.
We are all born with an unnatural inclination to serve self in a universe Jesus designed for other-serving. The first human pair were themselves designed for other-serving. But when Adam and Eve sinned they damaged themselves. From then until today, all are born having weaknesses and tendencies to evil.
All of us have in ourselves a desire to be free from bondage. We are very ready to be free "from." No one wants to burn out their life in building projects for pharaoh. But when we are delivered from power that is imposed over us, we are still empty. God does not deliver from bondage but leave us without meaning. We are made free for a purpose.
More important than being freed "from" is being freed "for." God makes us free but when He grants us His freedom He makes us responsible to protect our brother. We are made free that we might protect the stranger for we are brother to all strangers. We are freed in order to partner with God. He invites all made in His image to join Him in His purpose to redeem His creation, to perfect and complete it, and to restore selflessness everywhere across His starry sky. Everywhere in this universe is unselfish--everywhere but earth. Earth is the last battlefield. All the universe beats in unison with God's unselfish heart, but on earth there are two differing kingdoms. We are choosing our kingdom right now.
Jesus is right. Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave's residence is temporary. A person lacking unselfish purpose is still a slave. He may not be under thrall to pharaoh, but if he has not found his path to God he remains in bondage to his own self-seeking heart. He's still a slave making useless bricks. When the Hebrews left Egypt still they needed learn to look and live. Although you and I've left Egypt, so to speak, how easy it is for us to plod onward as poor brick-makers rather than follow through and find freedom.
In the Bible Jesus tells us the truth: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32).
The Hebrews in the desert were descendants of Egyptian influences reaching back four hundred years. They were a degraded, enslaved race now groping for freedom in harsh desert setting. They needed to learn all over again how to believe, how to exercise faith. In one emergency, God's people providentially learned they had sinned and sought from Moses instructions about what to do next. They were commanded to place the likeness of a serpent on a pole and look to it to live. They were not saved by magic in the image, but when they looked, they lived. They responded with faith to the instructions God had given them.
That was the pattern. You and I must look to Jesus. He said that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself. Notice, all men, all people; all need Him as Savior, and He is ready to be the Savior of all men. He draws yet does not compel; He does not force.
We are to look in faith. As we do, as we follow Jesus, we do what He says in His Word. But we are not saved by our works. Listen to this from The Desire of Ages, pp. 175-176:
There are thousands today who need to learn the same truth that was taught to Nicodemus by the uplifted serpent. They depend on their obedience to the law of God to commend them to His favor. When they are bidden to look to Jesus, and believe that He saves them solely through His grace, they exclaim, 'How can these things be?'
like Nicodemus, we must be willing to enter into life in the same way as the chief of sinners. Than Christ, 'there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.' Acts 4:12. Through faith we receive the grace of God; but faith is not our Savior. It earns nothing. It is the hand by which we lay hold upon Christ, and appropriate His merits, the remedy for sin. And we cannot even repent without the aid of the Spirit of God. The Scripture says of Christ, 'Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.' Acts 5:31. Repentance comes from Christ as truly as does pardon.
How, then, are we to be saved? 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,' so the Son of man has been lifted up, and everyone who has been deceived and bitten by the serpent may look and live. 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' John 1:29. The light shining from the cross reveals the love of God. His love is drawing us to Himself. If we do not resist this drawing, we shall be led to the foot of the cross in repentance for the sins that have crucified the Saviour. Then the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, 'I delight to do Thy will, O my God.' Ps. 41:8.
God is drawing us. We choose to resist or not to resist. If we choose not to resist, we are drawn all the way to the cross, repent, and receive new life in ourselves from the Holy Spirit. This changes our thoughts and desires and finally God's law is written in the heart.
Jesus enables us to see spiritual things with clarity. When we see with more clarity we are enabled to act on a correct understanding of reality. God gives us the freedom to act rightly.
Jesus, truth, and freedom are big words. The fruit of God's goodness is a changed person. This can never happen unless we consent and cooperate with Jesus making us free. That is the gift He offers today. When we are free through Jesus we are free indeed.
Deer Park, WA SDA 2018-02-03
Chewelah, WA SDA 2018-02-10