Saturday, August 3, 2013

Living in Freedom

John 8:31-33 Read it yourself

This is Jesus' statement to the Pharisees he has been in dialog with. Throughout the dialog I can sense the Pharisee's frustration and anger building in their responses to Jesus. The conversation is between Jesus, (the truth incarnated) and Pharisees who are very religious, but who have no spiritual light. They are completely oblivious to the fact that they are blind, in fact they are insulted with the thought. A few short verses (minutes of real time) Jesus is going to tell them that their father is the devil.

Jesus, on the other hand, is open and inviting to these blind and deaf spiritual guides. His every word seems to be focused on taking a jack hammer to the foundations of the wall they have put between themselves and others, especially God.

Jesus is speaking to the Jews who had believed in him. "who had" is past-tense, bringing to my mind that there is a difference between believing in and putting ones faith in Jesus. My guess is that this was a mixed crowd. That there were some who were truly Jesus' disciples and some who were good at faking it. Jesus is speaking to all of them at once. The true disciples will hear, the fakers will be insulted.

"If you abide in my word." At the time that Jesus spoke these words, and even the time the author penned them, there was no formal Bible. There wasn't a published book or scroll that one could carry around and read on a regular basis. Abiding means to stay, or to dwell in. Perhaps meditating on and remaining within close proximity captures the thought. It may not be comfortable, it may not even be perfectly clear, but true disciples will remain close to Jesus' words. 

Jesus' declarative statement is, "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jesus is talking about slavery to sin. I have heard sin defined as missing the mark. The significance of the term "missing the mark" is the presupposition that firstly there is a mark. 
The mark is godliness, being seen as righteous in God's eyes, being found acceptable and pleasing to God. This is certainly true of the people to whom Jesus is speaking. Being Pharisees, they have spent their lives attempting to hit the mark. They, in their more honest and reflective moments, know for a fact that they don't hit the mark. They are angry with Jesus because he is setting a standard for them that they know they don't meet. We can see this in their anger in a few short verses when they accuse Jesus of being illegitimate (v. 41). If Jesus is not sinless (in their eyes) then they are tacitly agreeing with God's assessment of the sinfulness of man, which naturally includes them.

The second significant presupposition about "missing the mark" is the idea that you are trying to hit it. An unregenerate pagan, completely living for himself without any conscience thought of accountability to any higher power may be thought of as someone who is not even trying to hit the mark. However, even that person is living up to some sort of moral standard they have set for themselves, and more often than not, wants others to conform to their standard as well. It is a universal truth that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). 

Therefore Jesus statement about knowing the truth and the truth setting you free is a universal invitation to all who are sinners. The sad thing about Jesus' listeners is that they were convinced of their own moral superiority and thus were blind to the truth and confident in their heritage. They exchanged the opportunity of abiding in the light of God's truth for the worship of a dead idol (their own heritage). In my mind, this is no different than someone who clings to the fact that they were born in a Christian family, or said the sinner's prayer in the past, but there is no flesh and blood expression within their own life in the here and now present.

Abiding in the word today is significantly easier in that we have the Bible, the Word of God. "To whom much is given, much is required" (Luke 12:48) This is especially true when you see yourself as the recipient of God's grace (as did the Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking). With whatever grace you believe you have received it will be placed within your account and measured against your generosity.

Lord, help me to live with courage and faith and to generously give not only my time and money, but the words of life you have been so abundant to share with me.

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