“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'”
John 8:31-32, 36 (NIV)
I had the privilege of sharing a sermon this morning from John 8:31-59 as I chose to address the topic of freedom on this Fourth of July holiday weekend. I opened by reading a poem, Freedom, that God had put in my mind to write yesterday morning. Then, as my custom is, I used a word of the sermon title as an acrostic to outline my sermon. God calls His followers to know, live, and share a freedom that can only be found in the truth of Jesus who claims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As we unwrapped “The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom”, we first looked at the Teaching that leads to freedom. Jesus stated that by holding fast to His teachings we show that we are His disciples and will be set free by the truth of them. Jesus made it clear in the story of the wise and foolish builders, that there is a difference between knowing the teachings of Jesus and actually putting them into practice. It is by being a “doer of the word and not a hearer only” that we find the Teaching that leads to freedom.
The second point of the message addressed our need to practice a Repentance that leads to freedom. Repentance is a word, and practice, that most of us tend to avoid because it requires an admittance that there is something not right in our life. Often lost in a culture that loves to quote “judge not”, is the clear message of Jesus that He came not to call the righteous but to call sinners to repentance. The real excitement in that last sentence ought to be the realization that Jesus came to call you and I to a Repentance that leads to freedom!
Through Jesus, we also gain an Understanding that leads to freedom. Some of my favorite passages in the Bible are when Jesus addresses His disciples and refers to them as “dull” or asks them, “do you not understand?”. I love these because it shows that Jesus knows that my understanding of who He is and the freedom He offers is a growing process. In one of those passages there is an expressed concern about the keeping of some Jewish ceremonial practices to be considered clean. Jesus explains that it is what is inside of a person that makes them clean or unclean It is knowing, and trusting, the promises of Jesus to wash away my sins that gives me an Understanding that leads to freedom.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the message was this fourth point as I addressed the Traditions that lead to freedom. I must make it very clear, it is not the traditions themselves that lead to freedom rather an examination and understanding of why I practice them. Jesus made it clear to those accusing Him of forsaking the Law of God, as found in the Old Testament, that His intention was not to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it. He was keeping and fulfilling the law not for the sake of tradition but because he understood and believed the purpose behind it. When we seek the old paths, paths founded in the truth of God’s Word, and walk intentionally in them as part of our relationship with God, we discover Traditions that lead to freedom.
Finally, we considered the Honor that leads to freedom. Jesus could do and say the things He did while on earth because He wasn’t concerned about bringing honor and glory to Himself. He was despised, ridiculed, rejected, and crucified all while living in complete freedom. His stated goal was to not bring glory to Himself but to honor His Father. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of compromise as we become afraid of what people will think of us. Most of us want people to speak well of us and to honor us for our accomplishments and for who we are. The problem is not so much in honoring people or being honored by people — God tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. What keeps us from experiencing freedom is our desire to bring honor to ourselves. It is when we make the focus of our life all about bringing glory to God that we can experience the Honor that leads to freedom.
Like the Jewish listeners in the days of Jesus, I think many people are disgusted with the idea that someone would set them free. That original audience believed they were already free and had never been enslaved to anyone or anything — sounds rather familiar and contemporary to today’s culture, at least to me. As much as we like to fight for our freedoms and shout to be heard, it doesn’t appear to be working all that well. Perhaps it is time we turn to The TRUTH that Leads to Freedom!