The truth will set you free

brokenchainOne of the benefits of living in a democracy is we get to enjoy a lot of freedoms. Take the New Zealand Bill of Rights – it’s a public document – you can look it up online. Under the section “Democratic and civil rights” you’ll find this:

nz-bill-of-rights13 Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.

14 Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

15 Manifestation of religion and belief
Every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.

16 Freedom of peaceful assembly
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

17 Freedom of association
Everyone has the right to freedom of association.

But for many in our society, when they hear the word “freedom”, they are not thinking civil rights. They are not thinking freedom of speech and religion. They are thinking from all moral restraints.  “Real freedom,” they say, “means doing whatever I want, whenever I want, without anyone stopping me.”  And we all know where that kind of freedom takes us – don’t we?

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son. He wanted to leave home. He didn’t like living under his Father’s restraints. So he demands his inheritance and goes off to live a life of self-indulgence and instant gratification.  But it doesn’t take long before he realizes it’s another form of slavery. Thomas Huxley – a famous atheist was right. “A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes.”

If we are to be truly liberated or truly free, that liberation must take place deep within. That’s where Jesus comes in. According to Jesus, there is a special kind of freedom that only HE – the Son, can give us.

In John 8:31-32 Jesus speaks these most profound words,

“If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The Jews respond in the next verse:

“We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered Him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Well this is a very interesting response isn’t it, considering their history. They were slaves of the Egyptians. They were in bondage to the Assyrians and Babylonians, and then the Medo-Persians and the Grecians. And now they’re in bondage to the Romans.

Jesus replies with these words:

 “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34)

Now this would have hit them like a slap in the face, and it does the same for us.  Jesus is telling us something here about our true problem. It is sin. And sin, Jesus says, is not just something bad we do but a power deep within us that makes us do those things.  We sin because we are sinners.  We are in bondage.  And the more we repeat an act of sin, the more that bondage grips us.

We know this to be true – don’t we?  You remember the first time as a child that you stole something –  perhaps it was some money from your mother’s purse. You felt terrible doing that.  You lay on your bed that night crushed by guilt.  A day later you take some more.  And then some days later, some more. Each time it is less of a struggle. Some weeks later it comes normally.  You have been overtaken by that sin.  You are now completely enslaved.  It’s the new normal.

This is how addictions develop. Take the man addicted to pornography. He begins by looking at one or two pictures.  Just a little bit, I’m just curious, he says. The image flashes and his heart races – he gives him a high. Then he needs a little bit more – something more explicit; more exciting, more lewd. As time goes on his craving increases as his satisfaction level decreases.  He’s on the way to prison. He’s enslaved.

John Calvin mentions this when he says, “The greater the mass of vices anyone is burdened under and buried under, the more fiercely and bombastically does he extol his free will. Isn’t that interesting? The more we are overcome by sin, the more we are inclined to say we are free.

It is from this bondage and this misery that Jesus gives us hope.  He says in verse 35:

“A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (John 8:35–36)

A slave’s position in a house is tenuous, shaky and fragile. A slave could be sold, or traded or simply got rid of.  But not the Son.  The remains in the house forever.  The Son has the authority to liberate a slave and change his status. If the Son sets you free, you are completely free.  This is what Jesus, the Son of God, can do for us.

Spurgeon calls this text the “The great liberator.” That’s who Jesus is – He is the great Liberator. Can He free me from guilt? Yes, He can free you from guilt. Can he free me from the punishment that I deserve because of my sin? Yes, he can free you from that too.  Can he free me from the power of sin in my life?  Yes, he can free you from sin’s power. Can he free me from the fear of death? Yes he can, for he has taken the sting out of death and death is no longer an enemy.

So we now see our problem.  Our problem is slavery.  We are in bondage to sin.  And we have seen Jesus’ promise that he can set us free from that bondage.  The only question we are left with now is HOW?  Go back to the beginning. Look again at verses 31-32:

 “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Note the chain reaction.  It begins with BELIEF.  That’s the first step. You look closely at the person called Jesus.  You listen to what he says. You hear his claims. And you make a conscious decision: “This man is the real thing. This is the Son of God. He came to take away my sin.” And you put your faith in him.

But that’s only the first step. You can’t stop there. You must CONTINUE IN HIS WORD.  This is the Greek word meno.  It means to stay or abide.  You don’t just visit God’s Word as an occasional guest. You move in and live there. You wake up with the Word and you return there every night.  The word begins to have a deep effect on you. It changes your worldview. It governs and guides your thinking, your attitudes, your speech and your behaviour. There isn’t any area of your life that not influenced by the Word in some way.

And then, what is the result of continuing in his word?  YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH. He’s not talking about rational or logical truth. He’s not saying you’ll know that 2 + 2 = 4. Jesus is talking about spiritual truth. Truth about God and man and sin and man’s need for redemption.  Truth about why we are here and where we are going after we die. Truth about life and death, heaven and hell.  Truth about how sin enslaves and how we can be free, you see.  That’s the truth he’s talking about.

When we know that truth, Jesus says, THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.  Really free.  Truly free.  I like how John Piper puts it: Free is the sense that you have the desire, the ability and the opportunity to do what makes you happy – not just for today, not just for a week from now, but 10,000 years from now.  A freedom that leaves you with no regrets forever. That’s the kind of freedom Jesus promises.

It’s a terrible thing to live in bondage to sin, while all the while thinking you are free. I lived that way for the first 20 years of my life. I looked at Christians and thought to myself, “those poor people – look what they’re missing out on in life!  All that Jesus stuff – studying their bibles and going to church. How boring!  How dull!”  And so I continued to enjoy my life of sin – my so-called “freedom.”  But there was something about those Christians that bothered me.  They had a joy and an inner I didn’t have.

Then one day I started to investigate Jesus for myself.  I read through the New Testament.  And I came one day to these words, “If the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” And I said to myself, I want that freedom. I want that peace and joy those followers of Jesus have. And so I surrendered my heart and life to Jesus. I began to study His Word.  I began to understand spiritual truth.  And that truth has set me free.

Do you also want to be free?  Then recognize your true condition. Believe the wonderful message of Jesus – that he died and rose again for us, to set us free. Come to Him.  Put your trust in Him. Have him break the chains of sin give you true freedom.

For if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

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