“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’…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32, 36)
We speak differently to different people in our lives. Sometimes we are corny, mildly sarcastic, or lovingly chiding with those closest to us (not so extreme as to offend anyone, hopefully). With strangers we may be politer, guarded, and unfortunately, even indifferent. We speak one way with Christians and another with Jews, Muslims, or others who are not of the faith. It is right that we do so since our Lord also spoke differently with those who believed. As a believer, I appreciate the emphasis that Jesus placed on freedom in John Chapter 8. I heartedly give thanks for his warning to stick to his word for liberty, not to customs, rituals, or legalistic ideas.
Faithful disciples of Jesus should jettison the idea that there is any soul liberty in following rules or laws. As long as we put our faith in doing the right thing, doing enough good for others, or being a good person for approval from God we are enslaving ourselves to the Law. Grace says that we do right from the good God has done in us, through regeneration, not for his approval but his glory (Ephesians 2:9-10). The world lives by rules, moral imperatives, and social justice. This is the wisdom that is “from below,” and has nothing to do with the sinfulness of humankind (John 8:23-24). Therefore, it is worthless for freedom from the consequences, power, and presence of sin, which is our greatest problem of all.
Freedom is possibly the most sought-after ideal in our world, through wealth, nationality, position, or social class. Who doesn’t want to be free? The problem is that the freedom the world provides is an outright lie. Satan, the ruler of this world, uses deception and illusion to imitate the truth of God, to lure us away from Christ, the only giver of real freedom. Jesus alone can free us from old beliefs, reliance on worldly information, and Satan’s elaborate schemes. As children born in sin, we often feel more “comfortable” with sinful ways and moral platitudes than with grace and repentance. Paul reminded the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Peter reminded the believers, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16). We should remind ourselves daily that Christ died to give us true freedom and have it in full.
Will you reject the world’s focus on relative morality and relational truth? Will you ask God to help you see how you may still revert to old ways of thinking, rather than live by his grace? Will you do so not just for yourself, but to be a more effective witness of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for those who are still enslaved by the lies of the world?