Finding Freedom in Christ
© 2022, C. O. Bishop
We addressed the issue of discipleship last week, but only the fact that Jesus wants us to transition from just being His offspring, having been born again into His family. He asks that we grow up, into full-grown mature sons, who can actively follow Him in true discipleship.
He concluded by saying that they would know (experiential knowledge—”gnosko“) the Truth, and the Truth would make them free. We determined that, since the word He used for “know” was the experiential “gnosko,” as opposed to just knowing a fact, that He was inviting them to learn to know Him, through an ongoing, permanent relationship, and that that relationship would set them free. But, the Pharisees found this promise offensive. They said that they were already free, and always had been!
Freedom From What?
33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Now, they were talking utter nonsense! It was denial of the silliest kind: Why? Because, as they spoke, they were currently a slave-state to Rome, and they had been enslaved to other enemies, listed in scripture, at numerous times throughout their history! But Jesus did not address their political history. Jesus addressed the real issue: their Spiritual Slavery.
What Does His Name Mean?
Go back and see why Jesus was named “Jesus,” in the first place: in Matthew 1:21, the Angel of the Lord commanded Joseph that he would “…call his name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their Sins.” (This promise adressed the reality of original Sin! It was a more precious promise than the promise of the land, or the promise of the kingdom!)
Save His people from what? The Roman government? Some “internal political danger?” No, it was far more basic and powerful than that: the entire Human race has been enslaved to Sin, and, through sin, we are also enslaved to the fear of death, ever since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. The Law of Sin and Death has shown every single one of us to be enslaved to sin, in all ages, through every culture.
Who are His People?
He came to save His people from that slavery! So, who are His people? We can pretty much guarantee that those who originally heard that promise would have assumed He meant them: the Jews! (“Well, obviously, WE are the people of God!”)
But; remember the earlier chapters of John: who did we see Him claim as “His people?” He claimed the believers, not only there, but throughout all History! Before the Jews existed, He claimed the believers! In every country, He chose believers! Naaman, the Syrian, became a believer, and God accepted him. The thief on the Cross became a believer, and Jesus accepted him. Abraham, who lived three or more generations before the name “Jews” was ever used, believed God, and God credited it to him as righteousness.
And, yet, as we read those histories, we see that those individuals were not “free from sin.” They still sinned. Some of them sinned a great deal!
What does Jesus mean, then?
“Positional truth versus Conditional truth” may be part of the answer: God said that in the believer’s case, He would no longer remember their sin. That is true, but it isn’t very satisfying, by itself: we want a practical freedom from sin.
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
So, here, Jesus begins to answer that question: He said whoever “practices sin” is a slave to sin. The King James Version translates that word as “commits”…we use the word “commit,” to indicate any single offense. (Either I have or I have not “committed” a crime.) But that word “poiōn” is almost always (353 times) translated “do”, and only nine times is translated “commit.” And, in this particular passage, it is a present tense, active verb: it is someone practicing sin in the “continuous, present-tense” sense of the word.
So, while positionally, I am no longer a slave to sin, the warning is, that when I exercise my will to practice sin, then I have placed myself back under the authority of my old sin nature, and I have again become currently enslaved to it. My condition is terrible at that point, but my position is still unchanged.
The people to whom Jesus actually was speaking were positionally free already, because they had already believed in Him (see verse 30.) The Pharisees who were rebelling against His words were positionally enslaved: they had never laid claim to Jesus as their Savior: they did not believe in Him.
He offered that practical freedom only to those who believed, according to verses 31 and 32…He tells us, as believers,that we can walk in holiness and obedience. How? By immersing ourselves in Him! By continually building that relationship, and with it, the relational, experiential knowledge of the God we serve, we allow the Son to make us Free! That is what sets us free! An unbeliever can’t walk with Him at all! That offer can’t even be made to them, except in the smallest sense. If they chose to know Him as their Messiah—their Savior—then they would have been positionally clean; Positionally free.
But the unbelievers were not qualified to even begin that journey! They were truly enslaved to Sin. They proved it by their response to the Light that He was shining into their lives. Jesus had already warned them that unless something changed, they were going to die in their sins. He went on to address the Pharisees as a group:
Who is your Father?
37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
Jesus said that He, Himself, was imitating His father: and that they were failing to do so, because they were imitating their spiritual father, whom He has not yet identified.
39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
The Jews claim Abraham as their father…so do the Arabs! And both are technically correct, in terms of physical genealogies! Abraham was the father of Ishmael, through Hagar, and he was the father of Isaac, through Sarah. And, relationally, it wasn’t doing either group a bit of good! Neither group is emulating their physical forefather, Abraham.
You are acting like your Father!
Jesus pointed out that they were not acting like Abraham’s children. Abraham demonstrated real faith in his life, and, when confronted with Melchizedek, he accepted Him for who He was, and he brought an offering. Jesus revealed that they were not acting like that, thus they must have a different father than whom they claimed.
41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Now they increased the stakes, and claimed God as their Father! So, what is wrong with that? I have lost count of the number of times I have had someone tell me, with great piety and dignity, that “Everyone is a Child of God!” (Well, we are about to discover that it is simply not true!)
Physical Behavior reveals Spiritual Parentage
42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Response to the Light reveals Character
43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
You are probably getting tired of hearing me repeat J. Vernon McGee’s story about the animals’ responses to his lantern, in the barn: they reacted differently to the light, because they were different inside. The rats fled from the light because they were rats, creatures of the night, and they saw the young man with the light as their mortal enemy. The birds in the rafters sang when they saw the light, because they were creatures of the day; creatures of the light, and they thought the lantern was sunrise!
Jesus said that His detractors were behaving just like their spiritual father.
44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
He said their spiritual father was Satan, and that their incompatibility with truth (and therefore light) as well as their insatiable desire to kill anyone who called them on their sin, were the evidence that proved their parentage. They were at that moment (and repeatedly) showing themselves to be liars and murderers. I remember the first time I read this, thinking, “But Satan never killed anyone!” Then I realized that when he convinced Adam to sin, he killed the entire human race! Yes, Satan was a murderer from the beginning! The question is, what are we going to do about our spiritual heritage?
Why Did they Not Believe?
45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?
When the woman caught in adultery was accused, in verses 1-11, Jesus dismissed the accusers by suggesting that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone. Here, He did no such thing: He simply challenged them to make the accusation. (“What sin am I accused of? Which of you can rightfully accuse me?”) Then He pressed it further, saying, “and if I have been telling the truth all along, why have you not believed Me?
We are uncomfortable with this exchange, because it accuses us as well. (If I know that God’s Word is true, then why do I still rebel against it? Why do I not agree with it across the board?) The problem is that I still sin: I still have a sin nature, and I am prone to deciding, “Well, this is ok! This is small! I can do what I want, here! I’m the one in charge right now!”
Who is in Charge?
But that sort of thinking has no real stopping point: once I decide that I can rebel against the truth, there is no logical stopping point. I declare myself to be the Sovereign in my little sphere, and I effectively attempt to “evict God”…or, at least, “dethrone” Him!” At that point I am as surely enslaved to sin as if I had never been saved!
The only saving Grace is exactly that: Saving Grace. I have peace with God, in the sense that He will never again treat me as His enemy. But I do not have the Peace of God! I am not experiencing that love-relationship that He promised would free me from my sin. Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said,
47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
The Pharisees were proving their parentage. We, as believers, need to carefully consider what we are demonstrating: In our lives, every day, we have choices to make. How we make those choices at least shows “who is on the throne” in our lives. Our old Sin nature is still there, and it will still “take charge” if we allow it. It will then manifest itself in our resulting behavior. We will behave in a self-centered manner, thinking primarily of how things affect us, rather than how we can affect others for good.
How I respond to God’s truth, as a believer, demonstrates my condition: am I in fellowship with God, or am I just living the self-willed life?
Peace and Freedom are for Believers!
Jesus spoke to the believers when He made the promise of Freedom! Peace with God can only come to those who have received Gods Grace. The Peace of God can only come to believers who are in fellowship with Him and are living in His Grace.
You have to decide. I have to decide, moment-by-moment and day-by-day, “Will I choose to experience His Peace, and His Freedom from the tyranny of Sin in my life?” The Freedom He promised only comes as we walk with Jesus in faith and obedience. Yes; as born again believers, we belong to Him. But we still need to live as His disciples, by Faith and Obedience..
Lord Jesus, we desire to be free from our slavery to sin. We desire to experience your Peace and Your Freedom. Free us from our sins and teach us to walk with You by Faith. Teach us to Obey by faith. Teach us to Love by Faith. Make us your disciples in Truth.
One Reply to “Finding Freedom in Christ”