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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.45am service, 2009-02-22

Text: John 8:31-37

The desire to be free is one of the strongest desires in human nature. Some have sought for freedom and some have fought hard for it. Others have made long speeches about freedom and sung inspiring songs about it. In the sixties people used to sing the award-winning song, 'Born Free.' In the eighties they were singing, 'I Want to Break Free!'

Freedom has also been used as a subject for many stories. These stories are often exciting and even captivating - Stories that relate a heroic deliverance from tyranny, exploitation or oppression, or stories of an escape from a seemingly inescapable situation. Till today many are still intrigued by Mas Selamat's amazing escape from detention almost a year ago. And he is still enjoying his freedom! 

Now, to some people freedom is the right to do whatever they desire, whenever they desire, with no one telling them what to do. One such person was the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-24). He asked his father to give him his share of the inheritance and then he left his father's home and went to a far country so that he could be free to live without any interference or constraints whatsoever. But was he really free? No. After he had squandered everything he had on pleasure and prostitutes he ended up with pigs. And he was so hungry that he would not even mind eating the horrible stuff he fed to the pigs! 

I don't think any of us would like this kind of freedom. A ship without a rudder is free, and a train without tracks is free. Both are free to travel wherever they can go. But both cannot travel in the direction they really need to go, and they will surely end up in a terrible wreck.

Therefore freedom is not the right to do what we desire, but rather the desire to do what is right. This is the freedom we should be seeking for, and the good news is that we can have this freedom through the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is what we will learn this morning from our passage of Scripture in John 8:31-37. Here in this passage there were actually two groups of people that Jesus spoke to. The first group was the Jews who had believed on Him. According to verse 30, the words that Jesus had spoken earlier declaring that He is the Light of the world had caused them to put their trust in Him (cf. 7:31). These Jews who believed in Jesus were mainly from outside Judea. They were part of a large crowd who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 

But as Jesus spoke to the crowds during that Feast, there were among them another group of Jews who were very hostile to Jesus and were actually looking for an opportunity to accuse Him, arrest Him and kill Him (7:1,25). They were none other than the Pharisees. They had rejected Jesus because He had spoken boldly against their sins (7:7) and because they had judged Him to be a Sabbath-breaker and a blasphemer (5:16-18; 7:23).

In the first 2 verses of our passage we see Jesus speaking to the first group - the believing Jews - encouraging them to continue in His Word in order to be His true disciples. If they did this well they would know the Truth, and the Truth would make them free. But in verse 33, the Pharisees who were there listening to all that Jesus said challenged Him for implying that they were in need of freedom. And so, from verse 34 until the end of the chapter we see Jesus debating with the Pharisees. From what Jesus said to these two groups, we can learn two lessons: Firstly there is-

I. Comfort for Those Who Have Believed in Him

The comfort that Jesus gave to those who had believed in Him consists of 3 parts: Firstly,

a. The Prospect of Being Known as True Disciples of Christ (v.31)

According to v.31, Jesus said to those Jews who believed on him, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.' When a sinner makes a profession of faith to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour he has not reached the end of his journey. He has only just begun his journey as a disciple of Christ. If his profession of faith is genuine, he will not remain spiritually stagnant but will go on to follow Christ faithfully and make good progress in learning from Him. This proves that he is a true disciple. 

The Lord's will for you and me is that we will be His disciples indeed - disciples that He will be pleased with and proud to call His very own. Are you truly His disciple? We move on now to look at the second part of the comfort that Christ gave to those who had believed in Him which is:

b. The Privilege of Knowing the Truth (v.32a)

In v.32 Jesus said, 'And ye shall know the truth.' What is this truth? It is all that God has revealed to us in His Word. The Truth consists of all His priceless oracles, and timeless words of wisdom and instruction as given in the Bible. But only those who know Christ can understand these things the way they ought to be understood. The word 'know' here does not refer to mere factual knowledge. It refers to a spiritual knowledge.

Those who have not believed in Christ yet cannot have this kind of knowledge, because their minds are blind to spiritual things. They may try to interpret the Bible using their own methods, but without the Holy Spirit's illumination it will just remain a collection of sayings and stories to them and they will not have the Truth. (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14 'But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.') 

Since the Truth can only be fully known by true believers, knowing it must be a privilege we should all cherish. But how much effort do we really put in, to enjoy this privilege? How much time do we give to feasting on spiritual food and nourishing our souls with its richness? Please give the highest priority to this, for by doing it you will experience:

c. The Promise of Being Made Free (v.32b)

This promise is the 3rd part of the comfort Christ gave to those who believed in Him. It is found in the latter part of verse 32 where Jesus said, 'The truth shall make you free.' The more you understand the Truth - God's Truth - the more you will be freed from the darkness of ignorance and deception that is so widespread today. The Truth will help to see things for what they really are, and not what they appear to be. Knowing the Truth will enable you to assess the true value of all things - to see them the same way that God sees them. You will look at life differently; you will look at yourself differently, you will look at others differently, you will read the news differently, you will see trials differently, and you will begin to understand what is really happening around you.

And the Truth - God's Truth - will also set you free from other things besides ignorance and deception. When you apply it in your own life, it will gradually get rid of all the selfishness and unedifying habits that still remain in you. While you may have victory over most of our sins you may still be struggling with a certain sin that refuses to budge (e.g. lust, lying, gossiping, or losing one's temper easily). This besetting sin keeps on bothering you, and you want very much to break free from its grip. 

What should you do to have victory over a besetting sin? By applying God's truth found in Romans 13:14 'Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.' You can apply this by examining all the factors that precipitate the sin - is there a consistent pattern of circumstances that tend to lead you into it? If there is, see if any of them can be removed or avoided. Stay clear of any place or scene that triggers off the besetting sin. Change your pattern of life so that the opportunity for the sin to occur will be minimized. 

Some of us may be indulging in certain activities or pleasures that by themselves are not sinful, like playing electronic games, sleeping, eating and watching TV. But please remember that anything good that is done in excess becomes bad. If you pursue something so intensely that you neglect your spiritual life, or compromise your stewardship, or forget the needs of your loved ones, then that pursuit has become a form of bondage or slavery. It dominates your life and you cannot live without it. Then you must apply the truth that is found in 1 Corinthians 6:12 'All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.'

In a book of European history, Thomas Costain relates a story about a 14th century duke named Raynald who was overthrown by his younger brother, Edward. Edward built a special room for Raynald in the castle and promised him that his title and property would all be restored to him as soon as he was able to leave that room. This would have been easy for most people to do since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none of them were locked or barred. The problem was Raynald's size - he was so fat that he could not get through any door or window of that room. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew that Raynald could not resist food, and so every day he sent a variety of delicious food to him. Instead of losing weight to get out of prison, Raynald grew fatter. When Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer: 'My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.' Raynald stayed in that room for 10 years and wasn't released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health had so deteriorated that he died within a year - a prisoner of his own appetite.

I trust that you will take stock of your life this morning to see whether you are a prisoner of your own appetite or become addicted to any pursuit or pleasure. What should you do if you have come under the power of some addictive pursuit? You must seek the power of Christ to overcome it. Jesus Himself said, 'He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.' Paul, in Philippians 4:13, said, 'I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me'

The power of Christ who indwells every true disciple is able to make you free from any kind of addiction or bondage. At the beginning of this message we had seen that freedom is not the right to do what we desire, but rather the desire to do what is right. God wants you to experience this freedom so that you will not be hindered from doing all that you should be doing. He has provided the means for you to experience that freedom. Will you not make good use of the means He has provided? And now we turn our attention to the second part of the passage where Christ gives:

II. Counsel for Those Who Have Been Deceived by Sin

According to v.33, when Jesus said, 'The truth will make you free,' the Jews replied rather arrogantly that they don't need His freedom at all, because they were already free. They were Abraham's descendants and were never in bondage to anyone. At first sight this claim appears to be rather strange, because it was common knowledge that the Jews were slaves in Egypt before Moses brought them out to their Promised Land. But perhaps what they meant by saying they were never in bondage to any man refers to a different kind of bondage. They had probably understood correctly that Jesus was speaking of the bondage of ignorance and false beliefs. What they were saying is that they had always known the Truth of God and had never been misled or deceived by anyone. So they did not need Jesus or anyone else to make them free from ignorance or false belief. They believed that as Abraham's descendants, God had made them superior to everyone else since they had the right knowledge. Everyone has to listen to them and accept their judgments.

What these Jews were not aware of is that by making such bold claims as these, they were flaunting their own sins and hence revealing their dire need for salvation and deliverance. Jesus pointed this out in His answer to them. The counsel that He gave them in vv.34-37 consists of 2 parts: Firstly,

a. The Tyranny of Their Slavery to Sin (v.34)

Jesus said in verse 34, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.' This is one of the most profound statements ever uttered by our Lord, and we need to interpret it carefully. The words 'committeth sin' in this verse are found in a grammatical form that implies repeated or habitual action. Jesus was therefore talking about a continual habit of sinning rather than an occasional sin. He was telling the Jews who claimed that they were never in bondage to anyone, that they are actually slaves of sin. In fact by what they had just said they had committed the sin of pride. And verse 37 shows us that they were also guilty of seeking to kill Jesus and of rejecting His Word. Our Lord could see every hidden thought and motive of their hearts and what He saw was a sorry sight of bondage to sin. Although they would refuse to admit it, their lives were dominated by sin. 

And if you are not saved, God wants you to know that your life is dominated by sin. When you allow yourself to follow wrong and do wrong, whether in thought or in action, you become a slave of that wrong. You keep on doing it because of the momentary pleasure it gives you. Did you ever feel the pleasure of telling somebody off when he is wrong? Or the delight of showing yourself to be better than someone else? Or the thrill of indulging in a little gossip that damages someone's reputation? Or the sweetness of taking revenge? Or the excitement of viewing pornography? 

These momentary pleasures of sin make it impossible for sinners to make a clean break with these habits. When you resolve to quit them you find that you can't. You are under their control. You are a slave to sin. And sin is a cruel taskmaster - it brings the most awful consequences on all its slaves, and in the end it gives them the wages of sin which is death! (Romans 6:23) Slavery to sin is therefore the worst kind of bondage. The ruin which sin brings is brought out in the first part of the next verse:

b. The Terror of Their Insecure Status (v.35)

'And the servant abideth not in the house for ever.' A servant or slave never enjoys the rights and privileges of ownership or tenancy. He has no part or inheritance in the family estate. He cannot stay in the house forever but he may be cast out at any moment. Only the son of the family is secure and gets to enjoy permanent residence in the house. And that makes the lot of a slave a very insecure one. Unsaved sinners are therefore in a very precarious position - they stand to lose everything!

Jesus used this point to shake the Jews out of their false security. They mistakenly thought that since Abraham was their father, and God had made a covenant with him, nothing could dislodge them from their privileges. They mistakenly thought that the blessings God had given to Abraham were their birthright, not realising that sin had reduced their status to that of slaves.

There are many Christians today who are like these Jews: They think that they are right with God just because they were born into a Christian family and they have fulfilled all the outward requirements - they were baptized by their parents, they have gone through catechism class, answered a few questions before the congregation, and received a certificate. Hence they assume that their salvation is settled beyond all doubt. And they would be quite upset at anyone dares to suggest to them that they may not be saved yet. 'How can you say such a thing? I have been a church member for umpteen years and I have attended most of the worship services, and taken Holy Communion regularly.'

Let me warn all of us that it is very possible to have done all that and not be saved, because we may be deceived by our own sin into having a false security. Application: Our first response then to what we have learnt from God's Word today should be to examine our hearts. We must examine our hearts to see whether we have truly believed in Christ, or whether we have been deceived by sin. How can we tell? By asking yourself two basic questions. 

Firstly, does the Lord's Word have a place in you? And secondly, Do you continue in His Word? The first question is based on what Christ said to the Pharisees in v.37 'My Word hath no place in you.' Please ask yourself whether the Word has a place in your life. Is there room for the Word of God in your life? When you read God's Word or hear it being preached, does it make any lasting impact on you, or does it make no difference at all? Do you take it seriously and treasure it in your heart? Or do you simply forget it after a while, as the cares of the world come flooding in to occupy your thoughts? Your response to the Word of God indicates whether you have truly believed in Christ or not.

In the parable of the Sower (Mark 4) one of the grounds on which the seed fell was the thorny ground. The thorns that choked the seed represent the care of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lust of other things. They stifle and choke the Word preventing it from producing any fruits. This would be true of you if you have not believed in Christ. But if you have truly believed in Him, there would be ample room for the Word to grow, flourish and bear much fruit in your life - you will gradually see good changes in your attitudes, your values, your conduct and your desires. This leads us to the second question which is based on verse 31. Jesus said, 'If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed.' Ask yourself: Do you continue in His Word?

Has the Word of Christ which you have read or heard produced the fruits that God wants to see in your life? Has it produced humble repentance from your sins? Has it made you love God more? Has it made you more obedient to Him? Has it caused you to love what God loves and hate what He hates? Has the Word of God produced more courage in you to do what is right even though it may cause you to suffer much inconvenience to do it? Has it borne fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness and self-control? 

If it has not produced any of these things, please watch out - it may mean that you have not truly believed in Christ. What should you do then, if you realize now that you have been deceived by your own pride all this while into a false security and a false hope? What can you do to stop being a false disciple and to start being a true disciple of Jesus Christ? You must come to Jesus and acknowledge your bondage to sin. Cling to the wonderful promise that Jesus gave in v.36 'If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.' 

Come to Him right now and receive the freedom you need from your bondage to sin. Tell the Lord Jesus that you realize that you are not born again because His Word had no place in your heart and it has not produced any lasting fruits in your life. Tell Him that you do not wish to put any more confidence for your salvation in outward things like church attendance or a Christian upbringing, but that you truly want to receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you to do this, please don't ignore Him. Settle this matter right now before the Gospel seed is snatched away by the evil one.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25