So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31-36, ESV)
- - - - -
Freedom is attractive.
Children grow weary of bedtimes, the constant restraint in the toy sections of stores, and in having to eat their vegetables. Teenagers long for the day when parents no longer restrain them with guidelines, time limits, rules, and regulations.
You may chuckle at these examples, knowing full well: “They will realize when they are older. These things are good for them, and they’ll do it to their kids too!” So lets try something closer to home:
College students eagerly hunt to find the right career, hoping to be free from student loan payments. Those in the workforce hope one day to own their own business, free from the restraints of their employer; or simply to retire well - free to live their life unshackled.
The whole world surrounds freedom with celebration. America is praised as a great nation because of its liberties. People have fled hostile territory, at the risk of their lives, to arrive in a land where no one else dictates life for them.
Freedom certainly does sound attractive; but are we striving for the right thing? Is this kind of freedom actually what we want?
Before we dive into our passage today, let me make a bold claim: Your “freedom” might be sin.
Certainly, freedom is worth celebrating, and it is clearly a promise of God; but what God has actually promised us may not align with our cultural understandings of what we hope freedom to be.
In today’s passage, Jesus is speaking again to a large group of people. Many had heard Him and believed in Him, and to those people He spoke truth; however, the Pharisees were close by to respond (representing the they in verse 33). While He spoke freedom for those who had been lost in sin, the Pharisees, with their understanding of freedom, spoke up.
They make a bold statement: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you will say, “You will become free?”
The Jews had been enslaved by seven mighty nations, as we see in the book of Judges. The ten Northern tribes had been carried away as captives by Assyria, and the two Southern tribes had gone into seventy years of captivity in Babylon. In fact, at that very moment, the Jews were under the iron heel of Rome!
Yet recognizing their pride, Jesus responds on a deeper level than just national captivity. If you practice sin - you belong to sin. Another potential translation of this verse would be: If you remain in your sin - you belong to it. A simple way to phrase this truth is:
What we remain in, we belong to.
He continues: “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” There is a difference between slavery and sonship. A slave may live in the house, but a son belongs to the house.
Now, we return to the first thing Jesus said in this passage: If you abide - or remain in - My word, you are truly my disciple. When we remain in Christ, we know truth - and the truth is freedom. Freedom does not mean that we dictate our own direction, our own lifestyle, or even call our own shots.
Freedom is remaining in the Truth.
I truly believe that we have made freedom sinful and selfish. In our younger years, we desire to be at the wheel of our own lives, calling the shots and charting the map forward. In every example we gave from the perspective of children, teenagers, and young adults; the goal was autonomy, or, a strong individualism to what is wanted.
Leave it up to a child, and they will always choose what they want over what they need. Accelerate it a few more years, and we see the same grapple for control, but now in the form of our workplace or our retirement. Simply put: freedom can easily be misrepresented as selfish control.
Freedom in Christ, however, does not always look like the American Dream. It’s not a quiet life that does what it wants, when it wants, because we are “free” to do so. Freedom in Christ is freedom from sin. He frees us from our slavery to sin, and provides a true home in Him - an inheritance in God’s House, that we would remain forever.
So what does this mean for us? Let me be clear: we still enjoy and experience a great deal of individualism thanks to God’s grace. For the majority of us, we are blessed to have a lot of autonomy over our own lives. The point we are illustrating is not to ignore the freedoms of our country and our life, but to reevaluate what true freedom looks like.
You were not set free for control - you were set free to be with Christ.
I think we often use our freedoms poorly by living life as “free Christians” without sincerely taking time to turn back to the God who first freed us.
If you are not abiding in His Word, you only know a superficial freedom that might be more about control than Christ. Do not let your job situation, your family, your country, your status, or anything else define your freedom. Let the Son set you free by remaining in Him.
So today, thank God for your freedoms. Be grateful that we are able to make decisions for ourselves, our family, in our jobs, and in many areas of our lives; but let us not get too far away from what freedom truly is: remaining in Christ and His Word, delivered from the shackles of sin to a glorious future.
You are free from sin. Celebrate your freedom by leaning in even deeper to submission to Christ and His word.
guest writer: Andrew Layden
Today's Image by God's Fingerprints: