by Mike Ratliff
15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 (NASB)
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. John 14:23 (NASB)
God’s ways are not our ways. Man’s natural understanding is that freedom is found only in not being in bondage or servitude to anyone or anything. For thousands of years nearly every culture on this planet had slaves. Slavery still exists, but in our day most people see it as repugnant and as something we must fight against to gain the freedom of those in bondage. Tragically, also in our day, the vast majority of professing Christians are in bondage to their flesh. Their flesh is a cruel task-master demanding fleshly pursuits continually in a desperate drive for fulfillment. The problem with this, of course, is that the first time anything fleshly is pursued for this reason it may very well bring fulfillment or enjoyment, but each time after that it brings less and less. That is true of any form of entertainment. That is why it must continually change. That is why the first time we hear a certain song it pleases us greatly, but after the 900th time of hearing it, we don’t even pay attention to it anymore. This is just an example. There are innumerable other fleshly pursuits that our sin nature craves and attempts to force us to feed it by going hard after them. If we give in to this, we are not worshipping God. We are not walking in the Spirit. We are not being Spirit-led. Instead, we are doing what our flesh wants and are, in fact, worshipping self.
Again, God’s ways are not our ways. In God’s economy, being His servant is where we find the ultimate freedom. By being His obedient disciples, we find that we can tell our flesh no and, in fact, mortify our sins.
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 book of John is the most profound statement who Jesus really is, why He became a man, why He went to the cross, and the nature of genuine salvation and true discipleship. In these 6 verses we arrive at a pivotal part of John’s thesis of these realities. In this passage he stresses truth and freedom. In v31 we see who Jesus is addressing. Who is it? It is new Jewish believers. Unlike many teachers and preachers today who stress that salvation is a reality even for those who fall away, Jesus wants His believers to move on in their faith. I know that some disagree with our teaching that Christians must mature and grow in grace by working our their salvation with fear and trembling, but here we see our Saviour speaking to new believers in order to encourage them to remain firm and committed in their spiritual growth and walk. Saving faith is not fickle or fly-by-night. Genuine salvation is born in those whose faith is strong, full, and committed to the truth in Jesus Christ. These are the disciples of our Lord and they find genuine freedom in Him.
I dare say that we all desire to be free from the tyranny of sin. We want those chains broken. This happens when we become Spirit-led. However, we cannot become Spirit-led unless we follow and obey what our Lord tells us in this passage. In the second phrase of v31 we read part of Jesus’ statement, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine”. After salvation, after believing and repenting, which is step one in becoming free indeed, the second step is perseverance. Abiding (continuing) in Christ is to persevere in Him. True disciples of our Lord Abide in Him. They don’t follow for awhile then do their own thing, then come back later when they feel like it. No! Instead, true disciples remain in Him. This perseverance is marked by obedience to scripture. These are marks of genuine saving faith, alive and growing in the heart. The word “abide” means to remain or continue in Jesus’ words habitually. A genuine Christian is one that holds fast, obeys, and practices Jesus’ teachings. This is why genuine discipleship is so important. However, tragically, it is also greatly lacking in today’s church. Christianity “lite” does not cut it. Genuine disciples of our Lord are both continually learning and also faithful followers. If genuine disciples end up in churches that go “lite” they will experience spiritually malnutrition. That is why I hear from so many people who tell me that they were starving for the meat from God’s Word and weren’t getting it at their former churches. Genuine disciples want to be fed.
In v32 we have one of the most often quoted verses in the Bible. However, I would be surprised if most of those quoting it really understand what Jesus was saying here. Remember, the result that is being experienced in v32 comes only to those who are doing what Jesus said in v31. Those who abide in Him are His disciples and only they know the truth. By knowing the truth they are set free. Knowing this truth is far more than simply knowing who Jesus really is and knowing what He taught. These genuine Christians will know divine truth along with experiencing freedom from sin. As a result they will also become free from having to continue to search for the truth. They have the truth. Those who live committed lives to Christ are given insight, wisdom, and discernment that the uncommitted will never have.
1 Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, Titus 1:1-2 (NASB)
Look at v34. Jesus tells us that all who commit sin are slaves to sin. He is speaking of sinning habitually. This is a contrast with those who abide in Him. Jesus disciples abide in Him habitually while those who do not abide, and, therefore, are not His disciples, are those who sin habitually. If we abide in Christ, the power sin has over us is broken. If we habitually sin then it has us in chains. Look at vv35-35. What is Jesus talking about here? Those who habitually sin are slaves to sin. Christ’s presence in a saved person sets him or her free from the tyranny of sin. The chains are broken and true freedom is experienced by the disciple.
True freedom comes only to those who obediently abide in Christ. Because of their perseverance, God gives them knowledge, insight, wisdom and discernment. Why? Because of their godly lives, they are experiencing living in the truth. They are no longer having to seek the truth from various sources. Instead, they have the truth and as they study the Word of God, more and more of that truth is opened up to their heart and given to them. They are building up a treasury of godliness in their hearts that is displacing the evil there. They have freedom, but do not become proud or arrogant. If they did then their spiritual growth would stop. Humility is the key. Those who abide in Christ, persevere in humility. They know the truth and the truth as set them free.
Soli Deo Gloria!