John 08:31-36, “Life’s Greatest Freedom!”

Jesus Will Set You Free

Jesus Will Set You Free (Photo credit: Kevin Shorter)

Freedom. Every year, around the world, many countries celebrate independence. In less than two months, here in Vanuatu we will celebrate 34 years of independence on July 30, 2014. When we think of independence, we think of freedom. Freedom is one of the great ideas associated with independence. Freedom. But what is freedom? Today I’d like to speak to you about Life’s Greatest Freedom…

Introduction

What is life’s greatest freedom? We live in a free country. We have many freedoms. We have

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to live and to travel
  • Freedom to work
  • Freedom to marry and to raise a family
  • Freedom to vote

We can be grateful for these freedoms. We can be thankful for the heritage that we have that enables us to enjoy these freedoms. It is a great thing to take responsibility. It is wonderful for a people to be able to govern themselves, choose their own leaders, provide for their own children, and live in a way that glorifies the Maker of Heaven and Earth. Long God yumi standup.

We also have freedom from certain things. We have…

  • Freedom from tyranny
  • Freedom from oppression
  • Freedom from persecution
  • Freedom from slavery

But are we really free?

Many people think that they are free but have never experienced the freedom that God wants to give them.

We have been considering the message of the Gospel of John. Last week we saw that Jesus is the Light of the World. As he was teaching in the temple, “many believed in him” (John 8:30). And so we arrive at…

John 8:31-36 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 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’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

So we come today to this most important passage about life’s greatest freedom. This passage contains one of those verses that is so well-known, that we don’t really know it at all. How many times have we heard the phrase, “The truth will set you free”? Many universities around the world take a motto from this passage. These universities are places of higher learning. They are interested in knowledge and in the communication of knowledge. Universities sometimes think that they have a corner on truth and knowledge. And as I said, some of them have adopted the motto, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

But the problem with this motto is that it is taken out of its context. This motto, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” is often used without any consideration of who said it, to whom it was addressed, or the conditions that are necessary to receive the benefit of this promise.

 

2.         THE PROMISE OF FREEDOM

2.1.      The Addressees

First we should note that Jesus makes a great promise in these verses, but that promise is addressed to a particular group of people. Jesus is not making a general promise that applies to all people in all places at all points of time. Jesus is not saying that all people will know the truth. He is not saying that everyone will be set free. This promise is made to those who are truly his disciples. Verse 30 says that many of the Jews believed in him as a result of his teaching in the temple. The next verse says, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

2.2.      Jesus’ Promise

Second, this not some general principle that knowledge leads to freedom. Jesus is not telling us that education will set people free. Education can be good, but education is not the solution to the problems that we face in society today. There are many people with great knowledge who have not found freedom. The Book of Revelation speaks of those who have “learned what some call the deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). They are not free.

In the beginning, God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Up to that point, everything was good. Everything that Adam and Eve knew was good and they were free. But with disobedience came the knowledge of evil. That knowledge of evil did not liberate; it enslaved. That knowledge of evil did not lead to freedom; it led to bondage, slavery.

It is not general knowledge that leads to freedom. It is the knowledge of the truth that leads to freedom.

2.3.      THE Truth

Jesus says, “…you will know THE TRUTH, and THE TRUTH will set you free.” Some deny the possibility of knowing the truth. Some deny the existence of the truth. “There is no absolute truth,” they say. Is that true? It is absolutely true that there is no absolute truth? You see, such a statement is self-defeating. To state that there is no truth is to make a truth claim. If you say that all truth is relative, you are contradicting yourself for you have just made a truth statement about all truth, not just some truth.

Jesus speaks about THE truth, the truth that sets men free.

The Bible mentions “the truth” 76 times. The Bible speaks of…

  • Knowing the truth (Joh 8:32)
  • Believing the truth (2Th 2:12)
  • Listening to the truth (2Ti 4:4)
  • Speaking the truth (Pro 12:17)
  • Bearing witness to the truth (Joh 5:33)
  • Rejoicing in the truth (1Co 13:6)
  • Loving the truth (2Th 2:10)
  • Being established in the truth (2Pe 1:12)
  • Standing in the truth (Joh 8:44)
  • Keeping in step with the truth (Gal 2:14)
  • Walking in the truth (3Jo 1:4)
  • Practicing the truth (1Jo 1:6)
  • Obeying the truth (Rom 2:8)

It also warns about…

  • Swerving from the truth (2Ti 2:18)
  • Wandering from the truth (Jam 5:19)
  • Turning away from the truth (Tit 1:14)
  • Exchanging the truth for a lie (Rom 1:25)
  • Suppressing the truth (Rom 1:18)
  • Being false to the truth (Jam 3:14)
  • Opposing the truth (2Ti 3:8)

But the promise that Jesus makes here is “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

3.         THE SHOCKING TRUTH

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

3.1.      Different levels of belief

The Jews took issue with Jesus over the question of freedom. Many of them had professed to believe in Jesus. It seems that they had taken the first steps of discipleship: they believed on him.

But Jesus knows that there are many levels of belief.

  • Some believed that Jesus was a man sent from God, like one of the prophets.
  • Some believed that he was going to set them free from the Romans.
  • Some believed because of the miracles that they saw.

Jesus knows that there are people today who know and believe that he lived.

  • Some believe that he lived and died and rose again, but it has no impact on their lives.
  • Some believe because their parents believed.
  • Some believe because they grew up in the church.
  • Some believe because other people in their village believe.

Jesus knows about all about the different ways that people believe in him. So Jesus said to these believing Jews:

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This was a shocking statement to the Jews. They reacted strongly to what Jesus had said. They were supposed to be believers, but they couldn’t believe what Jesus had just said.

John 8:33 ESV 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’?”

Jesus had said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The implication was that although they believed, they did not know the truth and that they were not free.

How would you like to be a slave? Nobody wants to be a slave. Nobody wants to be called a slave. If someone were to tell you that you were a slave, you would probably be insulted. And even if we were slaves, we wouldn’t want someone reminding us of the fact that we were slaves! Imagine being a slave and having someone walk past you every day saying, “Hi slave!” We wouldn’t like it one bit! How much less would we like it if believing we were free, someone were to tells that we were slaves! Jesus told these believing Jews that they were in effect slaves: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“We are the offspring of Abraham!” Don’t you know who we are? You’re a Jew! We’re Jews! We are the offspring of Abraham. We are his seed. Don’t you know who our many times great grandfather is? He’s Abraham! We are the descendants of Abraham!

Jesus is telling us that freedom is not a question of genealogy. It is not a question of physical descent. Freedom is not the result of having the right father or grandfather. You can be a direct descendant of Abraham and not be free. In fact, Jesus is telling all of these descendants of Abraham that they needed the freedom that Jesus alone could give them.

“We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.”

This is an amazing statement: “We have never been enslaved to anyone!” It was made in the heat of the moment. They are angry at what Jesus said. By offering them freedom, Jesus implied that they were slaves, and they were offended. They quickly respond that they were the offspring of Abraham and had never been enslaved to anyone.

How quickly we forget! How little we know our own situation! The Jews had been slaves for 430 years in Egypt. They had been forced to make bricks of mud and straw. Pharaoh was killing off their baby boys to keep their population under control. It was only by the strong hand of the Lord and 10 plagues that God had delivered them from bondage in Egypt by the hand of Moses.

“We have never been enslaved to anyone,” they said. Had they forgotten about the Assyrians who carried away the 10 tribes of the north, never to return again? Had they forgotten about the Babylonians who had carried the Jews away into captivity for 70 years? Had they forgotten about Persian rule, and the Greeks, and the fact that they were under the dominion of Rome when Jesus spoke those words?

And yet, Jesus was not talking about political slavery. He was not talking about other countries or empires that had ruled over Israel in the past or present. He was talking about something much more cruel. He was talking about a slavery that was worse than their 430 years in Egypt, working in the hot sun, making bricks for others to build with. He was talking about something far worse than having authorities rip baby boys from their mothers’ arms and throwing them to the crocodiles in the Nile river.

John 8:33 ESV 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’?”

When we look at the world today, we can be thankful that we don’t live in countries like Syria where the government is killing hundreds of citizens every week.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a country like North Korea where there is no freedom of religion.

We can be thank that we don’t live in a Muslim country like Iran where Pastor Josef has been in jail for five years and is awaiting execution simply because he is a Christian. Assemblies of God churches have been shut down. Church members have been arrested and others have lost their jobs for one reason: they are Christians.

We can be thankful that we don’t live in a country like Sudan or Eritrea where Christians are raped, tortured and killed.

We have

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom to vote
  • And many other freedoms.

But Jesus is not talking about freedom from political oppression. He is talking about a far greater freedom. He is talking about freedom from a far greater oppression. Jesus is talking about freedom from the slavery of sin.

 3.2.      Slavery to Sin

John 8:34 ESV Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

This is a very solemn statement that Jesus makes. He draws our attention to its importance by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you…” He wants us to know that this is a most serious issue: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”

  • It does not matter what country you live in.
  • It does not matter whether your country is independent or not.
  • It does not matter what political freedoms you have.
  • It does not matter whether you are Jewish or not.
  • It does not matter who father or grandfather or great-grandfather was.
  • It does not matter what church you belong to.

“Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” He did not say that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. He said that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. He is talking about the habitual sins that rule over your life. He is talking about sins that dominate and control. He is talking about those sins that we can’t get rid of. It might be any of a thousand sins:

  • Pride
  • Self-destructive habits
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Kava
  • Abuse
  • Uncontrolled anger
  • Lust
  • Pornography
  • Adultery
  • Fornication
  • Self-abuse
  • Private sins
  • Evil thoughts
  • Jealousy
  • Covetousness

Anything sin that is controlling your life: you are a slave to it. You think you are free. You are not free; you are a slave. The man who sins does not do what he likes; he does what sin likes (Barclay).

2 Peter 2:19 ESV They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

 3.3.      Jesus Gives us a Warning

Now here is a warning:

John 8:35 ESV The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

Slaves to sin will not enter the kingdom of God (v. 35).

The slave does not remain in the house forever. Jesus is saying that if you are a slave to sin, you will not remain in his house. Slaves to sin will be removed from the Father’s house.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:5 ESV For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

3.4.      Jesus Also Gives Us a Promise

But at the same time that Jesus gives us a warning, he give us a promise:

You can be free from the slavery of sin! The son remains forever. The son has rights that the slave does not have. Jesus is telling us that He can set us free.

John 8:36 ESV So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

How are we set free?

Jesus has already given us the steps to freedom from sin:

John 8:31-32 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

4.         THREE STEPS TO FREEDOM

4.1.      STEP ONE: Abide in my word.

Abiding in my word is the mark of a real disciple. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Abiding in the word means that

  • We have determined to live in the word of Christ.
  • We have determined to live by the word of Christ.
  • We are continuously reading, studying, and listening the word of Christ.
  • We are continuously reflecting and meditating on His word.
  • We hold fast to the word of Christ.
  • We DO what he commands.

This is the mark of a true believer, the mark of a true disciple. Jesus said that we are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere, teaching them to obey everything that He has commanded us (Matthew 29:19).

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” A true disciple obeys the word. This is the condition to life’s greatest freedom: IF you abide in my word. The promise of being set free from sin is only for those who abide in God’s word.

 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46 ESV).

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21 ESV).

How often we wish to think that we are Christians, but Jesus said to those who believed that the mark of the true Christian is living according to his word: “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples” (Joh 8:31 NET).

4.2.      STEP TWO: You will know the truth.

You will know the truth of God’s word. You will know the truth about Christ. You will know who he is. You will know that He is the Son of God. You will know that He was in the beginning with God and was God. You will know that all things were made by Him and without Him was not anything that was made. You will know that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. You will know that he is the only God who is at the Father’s side (1:18). You will be able to worship Him in spirit and truth, because you will know the truth. You will know that he went to the cross not only to bear the punishment for our sins, but to break the power of sin so that we would no longer be the slaves of sin and that sin would no longer have dominion over us.

4.3.      STEP THREE: The truth will set you free.

Christ, who is himself the way, the truth, and the life, will set you free. You will know Him, and He will set you free from sin. You will experience the greatest freedom there is: freedom from sin.

 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36 ESV).

This is the gospel. This is the joyful news! Free from the tyranny of sin!

 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life (Romans 6:16-22 NLT).

“Well,” you say, “what about grace?”

Paul tells us in Titus 2 that grace will not leave you a slave to sin:

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14 ESV).

Everywhere the Bible gives the same message: Christ came that we might experience life’s greatest freedom. How about your life? Are you a slave to sin, or has Christ set you free?

Here is the condition to experience life’s greatest freedom: “If you abide in my word,” Jesus said. Get into the Word of God. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Allow God’s Word to set you free.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

True disciples don’t simply believe. They live according to the Word. They obey God.

You will know the truth about Christ, and the truth will set you free. Who is the truth? The Son is the way, the truth, and the life. “If the Son sets you free, you will be really free.” You will experience life’s greatest freedom.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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