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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 23, 2016
The Truth That Sets You Free
Society and Truth
We live in a society that struggles with the truth. At one time a man’s word was considered true and could be trusted. Basic honor demanded a man keep his promises. Business was done simply on a handshake. I remember my father doing that. Now business is done with detailed contracts and teams of lawyers trying to find a way to either break the contracts or enforce them.
Reporters at one time were taught to investigate and report the facts. That is what I was taught in my journalism classes back in the mid-1970’s. That could be a difficult task, but the effort was made to find out all you could about the story and work hard to keep personal bias out of the story. These days it is difficult to find a news source that can be trusted to tell the truth. Journalists are now taught including personal bias is to be expected since you cannot eliminate all of it anyway. Besides, truth is irrelevant compared to swaying people to your own opinion. The collusion between news media and political candidates that has long been suspected by observation was recently confirmed in the emails released by wikileaks. Don’t expect the major news media to tell you the truth or even care about it unless it happens to align with what they want you to think.
Science is supposed to be built on a quest for truth in understanding the physical world we live in though observation, experimentation and verification. True science is observable, testable and repeatable. Yet much of what is reported as science is pseudo-science at best. Observations are purposely limited to exclude unwanted data. Experiments are specifically designed to only allow the desired results, and unwanted results are ignored. The most flagrant example is Evolution which is presented throughout our society as science and fact when in actually it does not even meet the definition to qualify as a science theory. It is not observable or testable much less repeatable. At best it could only be a science hypothesis, but in reality it is a philosophical system that has not only perverted the physical sciences, but also social “sciences,” history, religion, government and law.
The Importance of Truth
We could go on in this vein for sometime, but I think we all understand that we live in a society that has trouble with truth. Yet, this is nothing new. Recall what Pilate said to Jesus in John 18:38 when Jesus was on trial, “What is truth?” Pilate had heard the truth, but he still did not know the truth, and because of that he was unwilling to act on the conclusions of his own investigation. His ambivalence was caused by two factors. First, he did not have a solid foundation for determining truth for he lived in a society that sought to explain the world through imaginative mythology. Second, even when he knew the truth, it was secondary to keeping his masters in Rome pleased, and Rome did not want another uprising in Judea. He did what was expedient for himself resulting in being guilty of sentencing Jesus to death. Washing his hands in water could not remove his own responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion.
Christianity is based on a belief that what Jesus said and did is true. We believe it to be true that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe it is true that He lived a sinless life. We believe it is true that He willingly died on the cross as the substitute payment for the sins of man. We believe it is true that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and 40 days later ascended to Heaven where He makes intercession for us at God the Father’s right hand. We believe that is true that those who place their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ are forgiven of their sins and can live for Him in the present. We believe it is true that Jesus is preparing a place for His followers and will return one day in the future to receive them to Himself. We believe is true that Jesus is exactly who He continually claimed to be, God Himself in human flesh. We believe each of these to be true facts.
Paul points much of this out in the first part of 1 Corinthians 15, and then he makes a powerful statement in verses 12-19 concerning the truth of these beliefs.12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
In short, Paul is stating very forcefully that the veracity of the object of belief is of critical importance. Believing something to be true does not make it true and neither does believing something to be false make it false. That something is either true or it is false. Your belief does not change the facts of reality. Those who verify truth and then act on it are wise. Those who believe and act on what is in fact false are to be pitied. They will undergo a lot of unnecessary suffering in this life, and if it is a rejection of Jesus Christ, they will suffer for all of eternity. In compassion we seek to warn them, and in defense of others, we seek to keep them from forcing their beliefs or its consequences on others.
Please understand that you will act upon what you believe or perceive to be true regardless of whether it is true or not. Let me give you a few simple illustrations of this that I have experienced. A few days ago I found something at a store that I thought was an excellent price on something I wanted. I knew I had enough money in my wallet to get it, so I took the items to the checkout counter. I was then embarrassed to discover that I did not have my wallet. Belief and reality did not match and I had to come back later that evening to make the purchase. Perhaps you have had similar experiences to that one and these next ones. I make a purchase at one store and then find the same item to be less expensive in the next store. I buy something and then discover when I get home that it will not meet the need for which I purchased it. I would like to be one of those people that buys something at a yard sale and finds out at Antiques Roadshow that it is a valuable heirloom, but that has not happened. I have to be content on getting a good price for someone else’s junk. Or in view of the current political season, I vote for a candidate based on political party affiliation only to discover after the election that the person did not hold to the party platform and was diametrically opposite of my positions. I acted based on my beliefs and perceptions, but final results were based on truth.
This same basic principle applies to our moral behavior and to our eternal destiny. Turn to John 8:31 where we learn Jesus’ lesson on this subject.
The Passage – John 8:31-36
31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free’?”34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 “And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
This dialogue goes on and the antagonism of these people against Jesus continues to increase to the point that they even picked up stones to throw at Him (vs. 59). We will look at their full response in the coming weeks. This morning I want us to concentrate on this section and what Jesus says here about truth.
Jesus’ statement in verse 32 is true based on its premise, but it is often quoted out of context. How often have you heard someone say, “-you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” without a reference to abiding in Jesus word and being His disciple? Without a correct context, the statement can be utterly false. Consider the criminal who breaks into your house. You come home and find the truth that you have been freed of your valuables, but your mind and time will be in bondage to filling our reports, filing claims and repairing damage. If the fellow is caught and the truth comes out in court, he is going to lose his freedom and go to prison.
Let’s set the context and then analyze this passage to make sure we understand what Jesus is talking about. We will do that this morning by asking some questions about the text and see what the answers reveal to us.
What is the Setting?
First, what is the setting for this conversation? From our previous studies in John 8 we know this is the Sabbath after the Feast of Tabernacles has concluded. Jesus is teaching in the temple and He had just made His proclamation that He is the light of the world and that those that follow Him would not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (vs. 12). This corresponded to one of the ceremonies during the Feast of Tabernacles which set the context that this proclamation was a claim to be the promised Messiah. The Pharisees challenged Him and charged Him with being a false witness. Jesus responded with three reasons that His witness was true. First, He was from heaven so He knew what He was talking about. Second, He is in agreement with God the Father who sent Him. God is true and He was revealing what the Father had told Him. Third, God the Father bore witness about Jesus. The level of antagonism increased and Jesus very pointedly told them they would die in their sins unless they believed in Him (vs. 24). (See: The Light of the World)
To Whom is Jesus Talking? (Verse 31)
As a result of Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees, they became more antagonistic while others in the crowd listening believed (aorist tense) in Him as they heard Him speak (vs. 30). They were rejecting the arguments of the Pharisees and accepting the arguments of Jesus. This was not saving faith yet, as we shall see in a few minutes, and in fact even this belief was short lived in some of them. But this verse answers our second question. Who exactly is Jesus talking to in this section? Verse 31 states it is “those Jews who had believed Him.” The Pharisees are still present, but Jesus turns his attention to those mentioned in verse 30 that believed in Him to tell them what was required to be a true disciple of His.
The perfect tense is used for believe verse 31 signifying that the belief that began as they listened to Jesus speak had progressed to a particular level of faith. However, Jesus’ statement to them brings into question whether that belief would continue or not. Jesus’ attention is now focused on those who were favorable to Him and had reached a certain level of faith, but it remained to be seen if they would be true disciples or not. Mental assent or a brief belief is not enough to be a true follower of Christ. Saving faith is a continuing belief in Jesus Christ that directs life and not an ignored or discarded historical relic of the past.
What Does It Mean to Abide? John 8:31
Jesus’ statement in verse 31 is conditional followed by three results each of which is conditional on the previous result. It begins with the condition of abiding in Jesus’ word, so it is critical to understand what that means. To “abide” (mevnw / men ) is to “dwell in,” “live in,” “remain in,” “continue in.” The word is used to describe physically dwelling in a house (John 1:38-39) and living with the people in a home (Luke 1:56). In John 15 it is used to describe the relationship of God the Father with God the Son and of Jesus’ followers to Him. It is used figuratively in this passage to describe a person continuing on and remaining true to what Jesus says. A person who picks and chooses among Jesus’ teachings and decides for himself what he will believe and what he will ignore is not abiding in Jesus’ word. Neither is the person that obeys sometimes when they feel like, but does whatever they want at other times.
What Does It Mean to Be a True Disciple? John 8:31
The condition is that you must abide in Jesus’ word. The first result is that if you do, then you will be a true disciple of His. What then does it mean to be a true disciple?
A disciple simply defined is someone who follows the teachings of another. There are true disciples and there are false disciples. Just because a person claims something does not make it true. For example, one woman from many years ago still sticks out in my mind. She told me how much she liked a particular Christian teacher’s parenting material and listened to him regularly. I knew her and her children well. I also knew the teachings of the man she was claiming to follow. The behavior of her children made it very evident that she did not put into practice what she heard. Her claim of what she believed and to be a disciple of that teacher was proven false by what she did and said herself.
The same is true with people’s claims to believe in Jesus. The truth of the claim will be demonstrated by whether the person follows the teaching and commands of Jesus or not. That is why being a true disciple is conditioned on abiding in His word.
Jesus said in Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” To be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Him and become like Him. A true disciple of Jesus will be diligent to study His teachings and strive to apply what is learned to life. A true disciple of Jesus will come to love Him and demonstrate it by keeping His commandments (John 14:21). True disciples of Jesus will make His life their example and strive do what He would do in life’s situations. A true disciple of Jesus will have a change of heart and attitude to match His. If you are a true disciple of Jesus, you will rejoice at God’s work in you to conform you into Jesus’ image for that is the quest of your life.
What Truth is Jesus Talking About? John 8:32
If you meet the first condition of abiding in Jesus’ word and it has resulted in you being a true disciple of Jesus, then the condition is met for the second result of knowing the truth. What truth is Jesus’ talking about?
This is not a general philosophical statement, though it certainly has some philosophical ramifications. It is a statement made to a certain group of people at a certain time in a certain context. Jesus is not talking about truths of physics, math, chemistry, biology, or even history. He is talking about the truth of the revelation of God to man. That truth touches on physics, math, chemistry, biology, history and many other subjects, but the thrust of this truth is what God has done and how man is to respond. It is dealing with the truth of how man can be right with God.
The truth is only known to those who are Jesus’ true disciples because they abide in His word. Either you learn and follow Jesus’ teachings, or you will remain ignorant of the truth. We live in a time when the results of being ignorant of the truth is seen all around us. This is not only in the obvious moral decline and its negative consequences of crime rates, immorality and its related diseases, societal factions and economic decline, but is also in the inability to even determine what is real and what is false. The prevailing view in our post-modern society is that truth is relative and changing not only over the course of time, but also from person from person and from situation to situation. The only absolute our society is proclaiming is that there are no absolutes.
The truth Jesus is talking about is the recognition of reality which comes from and is defined by the God that has created everything. It not only cuts through the foolish musings and speculations of man in describing the physical world we live in, its history and how it is designed to function, but it also reveals the spiritual realities of how to be prepared for eternity. What is truth? It is that which conforms to reality, and ultimate reality comes from and is controlled by God.
What Freedom is Jesus Talking About? John 8:32
The final result of meeting the conditions of abiding in Jesus’ word, being a true disciple and knowing the truth is being made free. What freedom is Jesus talking about? What does this truth set you free from? It sets you free from the bondage that comes from living in ignorance according to the course of this world with a mind blinded by the deceit and lies of the god of this age. Jesus is talking about the truth that sets you free from the bondage of sin.
Those listening did not understand what Jesus was talking about. As 1 Corinthians 2:14 points out, “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Verse 33 records, They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”
There is some question about whom exactly is stating this. The answer certainly fits what would be expected from the Pharisees with whom Jesus had been arguing, but the near context is it is “those Jews who had believed in Him” in verse 31. That seems incredible, but that is the nature of the fickle response of a crowd. While it may not have been all of them, and it would fit the character of the Pharisees to quickly join in, the immediate context and grammar points to them. Remember, those who were shouting out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” at Jesus trial no doubt included some that had been shouting out “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” a few days before.
Their blindness to truth is seen in the absolutely false nature of their claim to have never been enslaved to anyone. They celebrated Passover and the Exodus each year, but now they deny they had been in slavery in Egypt? How could they forget the deportation of Israel by Assyria and Judea by Babylon? How could they ignore their current subjugation to Rome? Even if you assume they understood the spiritual nature of what Jesus said, could they really claim that they had never been in spiritual bondage like the rest of the nations who were enslaved to idols. Could they forget about all the warnings and condemnations by so many prophets because of their idolatry? They were blessed to be descended from Abraham, but that had not kept them free.
Jesus destroys their argument and their hope in being Abraham’s descendants in one pointed sentence in verse 34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” Genealogical inheritance did not matter. Anyone who sins is the slave of sin. Jesus gives the solemn introduction to this, “Truly, truly” to emphasize the importance of what He was saying. This is truth and not open for negotiation. Man is the slave of sin and unless there is a radical change he cannot be freed from it.
Paul addresses this issue in Romans 6 in his charge to Christians to no longer live under sin’s slavery. Starting in verse 16 he says, 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members [as] slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in [further] lawlessness, so now present your members [as] slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
These Jews thought themselves superior to all other people, but Jesus quickly showed that they had the same sin problem as everyone else. Sin is a master and the chains it forges on a person must be broken by someone stronger. Jesus Christ is the only one that can do that. People can try to deny they are enslaved to sin, like the drunkard that denies he is an alcoholic, but the truth is the truth. Everyone was born enslaved to sin.
Hope in the Son – John 8:35-36
These Jews should have understood Jesus’ comments in John 8:35-36, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
A slave can enjoy the privileges of his master’s house while he is there, but he has no right to remain and could be thrown out at anytime. Hagar’s son enjoyed the privileges of Abraham’s home until the son of promise, Isaac, was born after which Hagar and Ishmael were cast out. The Jewish nation had enjoyed the special privilege of relationship with God through the Mosaic Law, but the Law was a tutor to lead to the truth, not the final truth itself. Jesus had already been making the claim that He was the promised Messiah, the light of the world, and with that light would come the new covenant. The slave was about to be cast out to make room for the son who would remain forever and could not be cast out.
Only in Jesus Christ can there be true freedom because the one He frees from sin is indeed freed from it. Sin is no longer the master, but righteousness. Until that happens, the person remains a slave to sin. The non-Christian can strive to do what is right, but the motives will be impure resulting in righteous deeds done with sinful hearts. That is why Isaiah 64:6 states that “all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags” before God. A right action is better than an evil one, but when done with a wrong heart, it is still sinful.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is all about the breaking of this bondage of sin. It is all based on facts the Bible presents as true. Jesus was born of the virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. He lived a sinless life. He willingly died on the cross as the substitute payment for our sins. Jesus rose from the dead on the third day and 40 days later ascended to Heaven where He makes intercession for us at God the Father’s right hand. Jesus is preparing a place for His disciples and will return to receive them to Himself. Jesus is God Himself in human flesh. You can believe those facts or reject them, but the truth will not change.
Jesus came because of God’s love. His promise is that whosoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life (John. 3:16). Jesus said in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
If you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, then you will abide in His word. You will know the truth and the bondage of sin will be broken. Your life will continue to change as God works in your life to conform you to the image of His son (Romans 8:29).
If you playing games with God and fooling yourself about being a follower of Jesus Christ, then you will pick and choose among Christ’s commands according to your own will. You will not abide in His word. You will remain ignorant of the truth. Your life may improve outwardly here or there, but your heart will be far from God and you will remain in the bondage of your sins. The great tragedy is that you may not even recognize it. If you do, then don’t play games. Follow Christ.
If you are without Christ, you have been given the truth. He gives the invitation to you to come to Him. It is now up to you to respond. Talk with myself or any one of the leaders here. We would love to show you from the Bible how you can be free from the slavery of sin through forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
Sermon Notes – 10/23/2016
The Truth That Sets You Free – John 8:31-36
Society and Truth
We live in a society that struggles with the ____________
It is hard to find news reporting and media that can be ______________
Science is observable, testable and repeatable – but has been usurped by evolutionary _________________
The Importance of Truth
People have always struggled with truth – the example of ___________- John 18:38
Christianity is based on a belief that what Jesus said and did is __________
1 Corinthians 15:12-29 – if what we ___________is not true, we are of all men most to be pitied
The veracity of the ___________of belief is of critical importance
You will _________upon what you believe or perceive to be true regardless of whether it is true or not
The Passage – John 8:31-36
Jesus’ statement, “the truth shall make you free,” can be utterly _________when applied out of its context
What is the Setting? – John 8
Jesus is in the Temple arguing with the ______________on the Sabbath following the Feast of Tabernacles
The Pharisees ________Jesus of being a false witness and Jesus has given three reasons His witness is true
To Whom is Jesus Talking? – John 8:31
Some of those who were listening to Jesus’ arguments have come to a ___________in Him – verse 30
Jesus is addressing Jews who have progressed in belief to a particular ____________of faith
Jesus is telling them what it would take to be true _____________of His
What Does It Mean to Abide? John 8:31 The first condition of Jesus’ statement
“Abide” (mevnw / men ) is to “dwell in,” “live in,” “remain in,” “______________in.”
Figuratively used to describe a person continuing on and ______________true to what Jesus says
What Does It Mean to Be a True Disciple? John 8:31 First result, second condition of Jesus’ statement
A disciple simply defined is someone who follows the _______________of another
The truth of a claim to be a disciple will be demonstrated by whether the person ________the teacher or not
Luke 6:40 – To be a disciple of Jesus means to _____________Him and become like Him
What Truth is Jesus Talking About? John 8:32 Second result, third condition of Jesus statement
The truth of the ________________of God to man – which includes both the physical and spiritual realms
Either you learn and follow Jesus’ teachings, or you will remain ________________of the truth
Ignorance of the truth is seen in the consequences of society’s moral decline & ________to determine reality
Truth is the recognition of _______which comes from and is defined by the God that has created everything
What Freedom is Jesus Talking About? John 8:32 The final result of Jesus’ conditional statement
Freedom from the bondage of living in ignorance according to the course of this world with a mind _______ by the deceit and lies of the god of this age – truth that sets you free from the bondage to sin
Those responding include those who “had believed in Him.” Crowds are ___________
Their claim is ___________- They had been in slavery to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Rome
They had been in _______________slavery to idols as warned and condemned by their own prophets
Genealogical _______________does not matter. Anyone who sins is the slave of sin
Sin is a ___________and the chains it forges on a person must be broken by someone stronger – Jesus Christ
Hope in the Son – John 8:35-36
A slave can enjoy his master’s house while he is there, but he can be _________at anytime. Example: Hagar
Only in Jesus Christ can there be true freedom for He becomes the ______________instead of sin
You can believe the facts about Jesus or reject them, but the truth will ___________________
True belief in Jesus results in being a ______________that abides in His word, knows the truth and is free
The self-deceived claim to believe, but their manner of life ____________the claim
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “true/truth” is said. 2) Discuss with your parents what Jesus meant that the “truth will make you free.”
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Does the truth matter in our society? Why or why not? What examples can you think of where a falsehood has been presented as true. How important is truth to you? How do you know when something is true? How would you have answered Pilate’s question, “what is truth?” What basic facts does Christianity claim to be true? What determines your decisions and actions? How do you respond when your perceptions turn out to be wrong? What is the setting for the dialog John 8:31-36? Who was Jesus talking to in these verses? What does it mean to “abide in “Jesus’ word? What does it mean to truly be a disciple of Jesus? What condition(s) must be met in order to know the truth? What will the benefit of knowing the truth? What will you be freed from? What would the Jews listening to Jesus have thought? Why did they respond so harshly in verse 33? What kind of bondage were these Jews in that they were denying? What does it mean to be a slave to sin? Do those in bondage to sin always know they are in bondage? How can that bondage be broken? How can Christians keep from living in that bondage? How does Jesus free people from sin? Are you free from your sin? Are you a true disciple of Jesus Christ? What evidence backs up your claim? Are you playing games with God? What do you need to do to get serious? If you do not believe Jesus’ claims, what evidence would change your mind? Are you willing to search for the evidence and the truth?
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