John 8:31-32 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.”
Verse 32 is widely quoted, but almost always out of the context of verse 31. We like the idea of being set free by knowledge alone, but we don’t like the precondition of obedience. It is fascinating that Jesus said this immediately after the events leading up to verse 30: “Even as He spoke, many put their faith in Him.” We get all happy the moment anyone believes, and that’s not wrong, but Jesus immediately set about “winnowing out the chaff,” so to speak. This is the opposite of “easy believeism.” He was essentially saying, “So you like what you heard? Stick with it, if you want the full benefit.” Modern society knows very little of “holding to” or “abiding in” something. We tend to be all about instant gratification, wanting what we want when we want it, but that is the opposite of genuine maturity. If we are genuinely “seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness,” (Matthew 6:33) then we will set the distractions aside to focus on God and what He has said to us. Jesus said a lot about “abiding” in the Upper Room Discourse just before He was crucified, sometimes using the word and sometimes not. (John 13-17) Actually, the theme permeates the whole New Testament, as my father discovered when he wrote his dissertation on “In Christ.” However, he told me that he didn’t really understand it until after he was in Japan as a missionary, and he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit in which he opened himself up in a commitment to obedience. In other words, it was a clear-cut choice to abide in Christ, in His Word, in His Spirit. If we want to be set free by the truth, we need to be committed to follow the truth.
This is something in which I continue to grow, and in which I expect to continue to grow until I am before God’s throne. It’s been 64 years since I was baptized, and it’s been quite a journey so far. I am constantly confronted with the choice of following Christ and His Word, or the world and my flesh. Thankfully that choice is more and more automatic, but I must not take it for granted, and I must not assume that I automatically discern the choice correctly. Deception is the devil’s specialty, and I’ve got to be on my guard. (1 Peter 5:8) I need to let God’s Word “percolate” through me, or to use another metaphor, to “chew the cud” of the Word so that I may live it out in fullness. (John 15:7) Only then will I walk in the freedom of being Christ’s disciple indeed.
Father, thank You for this powerful reminder. I’m speaking on “Born Again” this morning, but this is the natural and necessary outgrowth of that. I pray that Your Word would flow unhindered through me so that many would receive it with joy and let it transform them into Your disciples indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!