by Mike Ratliff
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Legalism is something that is not as easy to define as we first think it is. Many definitions talk about a system of laws that must be obeyed in place of simply belief in order to have salvation or eternal life. However, I contend that there is a form of legalism that most of us are guilty of committing in our interrelationships with other believers. That legalism is that we try to force others to submit to us in one-way or another. We become a law unto ourselves. If we take this to an extreme then we will find ourselves using threats or even extortion to get others to bow to our will. When those we are abusing refuse to submit we label them as proud, arrogant, or worse when all along they are simply refusing to, perhaps, not compromise the truth. They may be only responding in self-defense against accusations of which they know that they are guiltless. Soon, they are in a no-win scenario. If they defend themselves then they are accused even more. If they give in then they admit to a lie and that is abhorrent. If they walk away then they will be quickly accused of being proud, arrogant, and dishonest. What must they do?
We make a mistake in trying always to clear ourselves. We should be wiser to go straight on, humbly doing the next thing, and leaving God to vindicate us. “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day.” There may come hours in our lives when we shall be misunderstood, slandered, falsely accused. At such times it is very difficult not to act on the policy of the men around us in the world. They at once appeal to law and force and public opinion. But the believer takes his case into a higher court and lays it before his God. – Dr. F.B. Meyer
This may be hard for us, but as we mature as believers I guarantee that each of us will find ourselves in a position of perplexity at some point where we are being falsely accused by one or more persons that we thought were our fellow believers. However, instead of seeking retribution or to have ourselves cleared the way the world does, we must do as Christ did and how He teaches us to handle this. The main rule of conduct our Lord gave His disciples and us is that we are to move on in our faith instead of being complacent, mired in spiritual immaturity. The very situation that has brought clouds of doubt, confusion, and perplexity into our lives is actually a tool in God’s hands to prune us that we bear more fruit.
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2 (NASB)
Are you in the fire? Congratulations, you are being pruned that you may be fruitful according to God’s will. I have found in conversing in various ways with other believers through this ministry that there is a vast difference between the discipline of God that comes in our lives because we have unrepentant sin and that which comes upon us as it did upon Job or David in Psalm 109. When we are being disciplined for sin, we know it. There is no doubt is there? However, when we find ourselves in situations that seem to be alienating us from every place of security, where we are cast adrift in a sea of flames that seem to be for no reason at all, we find ourselves perplexed, (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) but we must not allow our accuser to drive us to despair. Instead, we must seek the face of God in all humility.It is at this point that we return to the fundamentals.We realize that our peace and joy come only when we are abiding in the Lord. We seek that closeness in prayer and humility fully devoting our hearts to obeying Him in all things. None of us are as mature as we can be. We will never reach total Christlikeness in this life. However, we can walk in victory. How? We must continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, growing more and more dedicated to abiding in Him. When we do this, we will find that we will be “abiding in our Lord’s Word.” The result of that is that we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. Free from what?
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 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’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36 (NASB)
The more spiritually mature we become, the more we abide in Christ and that results in the Son setting us free from the power of sin. This is speaking of the power of our Sanctification where we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. What is the truth that we know which sets us free from the power of sin? This is speaking of both the facts about Jesus as well as His teachings. The immature believer knows very little of this truth, but as we mature through becoming more and more committed to the truth in Jesus we will find true freedom. The more we submit to His Lordship the freer we become. The progress of this freedom is manifest in our abiding in Christ.There is a false teaching in our time that there are two types of Christians. This lie says that there are carnal Christians and Disciples. This is a lie. All in Christ are called to abide in Him and walk through this life in repentance. Therefore, in vv33-34 we see that many new believers mistakenly believe that its ok with God if they continue in their sin, after all they are saved aren’t they? In their minds, they aren’t really enslaved to their flesh. However, Jesus says, that those who are His will be drawn into freedom from sin. How? We already saw that it is God who cuts and burns away that in us that is not of Christ. This breaks the power of sin in our lives through the pruning.
To know the truth and to be made free by it is to know Christ and become free from the power of sin in our lives by abiding in Him through the pruning of our Father, the vinedresser, and what it does to us. Why does He do this? It is so we will be fruitful. Therefore, if you are in the flames and are perplexed, do not despair, but, instead, draw near unto God and He will draw near unto you. Walk away from your accusers, forgive them and pray for God to vindicate you.
Soli Deo Gloria!