What does Jesus mean when He says we will be set free? And how do we achieve freedom status? Dive into Scripture today with Julie Jenkins as we study John 8:31-47.
Welcome to Walking in the Word, the biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders’ podcast. My name is Julie Jenkins, and it’s my honor to be your host as we study Scripture together.
I hope that you had the opportunity to join us for our leadership meeting Monday. We heard from one of our leaders, Michele Hughes, who taught us and led a discussion on how we can be physically heart-healthy. The Bible teaches us that our bodies are God’s temple, and as Christians, we can attest to the power of the Holy Spirit that resides in us. There is no doubt God has work for us to do, and the means by which we get around this world are our bodies! These bodies certainly won’t last forever – can I get an Amen and a Hallelujah? – but they are what we have while we are here, and God DOES call us to take care of ourselves so that we can serve Him and others. If you weren’t able to join us, I do invite you to mark your calendar for the third Monday of each month at 7pm ET to join us for our leadership meeting. Next month, October 17th, we will continue our teaching and discussion on healthy leadership. To join us, sign up on our website, www.womenworldleaders.com.
While you are on the website, I do hope you will consider becoming a monthly donor to the ministry. Your donations are tax-deductible and will allow us to continue providing excellent Christian guidance and empowerment. AND, when you become a monthly donor, we will, as a thank you, make sure you receive a physical copy of Voice of Truth magazine in your mailbox.
Well, let’s dive into today’s Scripture, which comes from John 8:31-47. But before we do, let’s pray.
Dear Most Holy God – we come to you today in total submission, asking you to teach us what you want us to know. Father, as we open your Word each day, we are blown away by your wisdom and the relevance of your teaching in our lives. These words were written so many years ago, but you breathe new life into them each time we study and read. God, help us know your thoughts as we study today and help us walk away with you on our minds, allowing you to reach deeper into our hearts. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
You likely recall from our recent Wednesday podcasts, that we are currently walking through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John studying the life of Jesus as chronologically as the Holy Spirit guides. For the last few weeks, we have been listening in on Jesus’ teachings to the crowds on the temple grounds in the days around the Festival of Tabernacles. We have seen many question him, but we can’t ignore the fact that many also came to a saving belief in Jesus. Last week, in fact, we wrapped up with John 8:30 which says, “Then many who heard him say these things believed in him.”
In the very next verse, where we begin today, Jesus continues his teaching. We haven’t spoken on this podcast about different Bible translations recently, so hopefully, you will indulge me for a minute. For this podcast, I tend to read out of the New Living Translation because I find its language clear and its phrasing understandable. But sometimes questions can arise from how something is worded – in any translation. All scripture was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. So ANY other translation, is, well a translation. When questions arise regarding specific words, it is best to go back to the original language, or, at the very least, look at other translations and see what we can learn. The NLT tells us that many people believed IN Jesus, and then, in the following verse, says that Jesus spoke to those who believed IN Him. But if we look at other translations of the same verse, verse 31, it is clearer that Jesus was not responding to those who believed IN Him, but turning and speaking to those who merely BELIEVED Him.
I bring this up because WHO Jesus is talking TO in this set of verses is important. Many theologians and scholars think that Jesus was NOT, at this point, speaking to those who had put their faith in Him, but instead, He was speaking to those who believed all that He was saying, but weren’t ready to accept Him as their Lord.
Do you know anyone like that? Perhaps you are like that. Perhaps you see nothing wrong with believing that Jesus IS God, but that fact has never made a difference in how you live your life. The distinction is kind of like going to the doctor for a physical health issue and having the doctor prescribe medicine that will help your condition. You walk away with the prescription in hand, but that prescription will do you no good unless you ingest it into your body and let it do its work. Those who BELIEVED IN Jesus, took the medicine – they consciously choose to receive Jesus into their lives. While those who BELIEVED Jesus, simply held the medication in their hands. As we read today, we can imagine Jesus saying – TAKE THE MEDICINE ALREADY!
With that thought in mind, let’s begin by reading beginning in John 8:31 out of the New Living Translation…
31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus is giving his listeners who believe, instructions on what to do with that belief. He instructs: remain faithful to my teachings. And He says the result of remaining faithful to His teachings is that the believer will know the TRUTH, and will be set free by the truth.
Notice the order. The listener had to understand, and then, by faith, follow Jesus’ teachings. THEN he or she would know the truth, and THEN they would be set free. Back to our medication analogy. They held the medicine in their hands. But they HAD to ingest the medicine, in FAITH, that it would affect their bodies the way Jesus said it would. And THEN, they would get better. And THEN, they would be empowered to live their best lives for God.
I keep saying they, but again, Jesus was talking to US. To you and me. There comes a time – whether it has been in your past, your present, or your future – when YOU are holding the medicine to life in YOUR hand. God makes SURE that we each hear and know about Jesus – that’s a miracle in and of itself. But what we EACH do with that information is up to us.
If you don’t yet get it…keep listening…verse 33…
33 “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
These listeners were Jews. They were part of God’s chosen people. They were the children of Abraham. And they assumed, in their pride, they were automatically free.
Maybe you can relate to this statement. Many people grow up in the Christian faith. They might even go to church with their families every week and attend Sunday school. But until the individual CHOOSES to put his or her faith in Jesus, they are simply holding on to the medicine. And holding onto the medicine gets you nowhere. Verse 34…
34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. 37 Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message.
Sin is a deadly disease. And in this life, it carries the symptom of enslavement.
The Jewish people considered themselves one big family, and Jesus teaches them that as sinners, they are actually slaves to God’s family, not sons of God’s family. The slaves in that time often enjoyed the benefits of the family they were serving, so from the outside, who truly belonged and who didn’t may not have been readily apparent. But at ANY time, the slave could be cut off from the family, and indeed, would DEFINITELY be cut off at some point. But a son of the family would enjoy the family and the benefits of the family for life.
Remember the prodigal son that Jesus had taught about? He ran off and squandered his inheritance, and yet, he was invited back with a party, because he belonged.
As children of God, we will always be invited back; God will search for you and forgive you NO MATTER WHAT you do. Because you belong; you are a part of His forever-family. But before you can move from slave to child status, you have to CHOOSE to. God is waiting with open arms for each of us to CHOOSE to become a member of His forever family.
Jesus continues, making the point to His listeners that though they have BELIEVED Him, they have not yet put their belief IN HIM…verse 38…
38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”
This went all over them – see if you recognize their pride. Verse 39…
39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared.
“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example.[a] 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”
They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”
42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me!
Did you hear the pride? The people couldn’t put their pride aside to listen and learn from Jesus. They were like entitled children who thought that they knew everything there was to know and they had everything under control.
I’m willing to bet that as you listen to this, you can think of a circumstance when someone dismissed your knowledge – when they simply didn’t understand what you were trying to tell them and went their own way. In fact, I KNOW this has happened to you, because it is such a common occurrence that humans swell up with pride and close their ears to others.
Even as you think about that person or instance, however, I want you to intentionally wipe that out of your mind. And instead, ask God to show you your OWN pride. Where have YOU steadfastly turned the teaching of someone else away because it ruffled your feathers? Maybe the words came from a boss or a relative. Or maybe, the words and teachings you didn’t want to hear came directly from God’s Word.
Love your neighbor – yeah, the one who parks his big RV and boat in the street making it difficult to pull out of your driveway.
Give to the poor – yes, perhaps that surprise bonus in your paycheck wasn’t meant for you.
Or maybe you are ignoring the teaching to put your faith in Jesus Christ. To say yes to Him. If that is you, will you pray for God to help your unbelief and give you the courage to take the medicine – so He can set you free. Not just to live for eternity, but to live EMPOWERED to serve Him in JOY today.
Maybe it’s US who need to let go of OUR pride and give ourselves FULLY to God’s call on our lives. We say He is righteous, we say He is perfect, we say He cares for us and loves us and will always take care of us – but are we willing to put ourselves in His hands, and like a child held swaddled in her mother’s arms, completely and peacefully rest in His provision and protection?
Jesus continues to his listeners…
46 Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”
Do you listen to God? Do you belong to God? Are you healed, forgiven, accepted as a child into His forever family? You can be! You just have to choose it. And He will set you free. Let’s pray.
Father God…we believe you and we want to be in your forever family! Jesus, we seek today to be faithful to your teaching. Give each listener a special word right now – a teaching to follow today. Whether you are guiding the one listening into a freedom-filled relationship with you or moving her deeper into a life of obedience as you empower her to walk in your will and your way is personal, just between you and her. God, I ask you to guide her clearly – what is it that you want her to do for you today? …. Thank you for your Word to our hearts. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.