True Freedom [4-14-19]

***NO AUDIO WAS RECORDED FOR THIS SERMON***


John 8:31-59


In John 8:31, Jesus says, "If you abide in my word." Abide in his word.


What does it mean to abide in something? It means to live in something. It means to hold on tightly to something. It means to draw your life from something. When you are abiding, you are holding on tightly to something.


Picture yourself on a mountain climbing expedition. You're a newcomer to mountaineering. You are climbing with an expert climber. The expert goes ahead of you. She places the ropes, anchors, and belaying device. That last one is really important, because it stops a climber's fall. That piece is essential. There's also carabiners and camming devices and a chest harness. That last one keeps your body upright in case of a fall. You don't want to be dangling upside down off the face of a mountain. Your equipment list is substantial.


As the rookie climber, you are trusting the experience and expertise of the lead climber. You look, seeing how far you've gone up, and how far there is to fall, and realize then and there how much you're going to abide in the rope and the climbing guide. You're not going to shrug and say, "I can do without the expert. I can do without the rope. I can do without the belaying device." No, you are going to abide in all those things.


Jesus Christ has gone ahead of us. He has shown us the way. Jesus has left us something to hold on to. He's taught us how to live. We need to abide in what Jesus has taught us. But it's deeper than that. It's more than what Jesus taught us. It's who he is. Jesus hoists us up on his back and takes us up the mountain. We draw our life from him. And if we abide in his word, we will know the truth. The word of Jesus is truth, and truth is life.


I think most people want to know what's true and good and right. What does the truth do? It sets us free. I think we all want freedom. Some people might say, well, I live in American, land of the free and all that. But that's not the kind of freedom Jesus is talking about. He's talking about freedom from sin and death. And without Jesus Christ, we don't have that. Without Christ we are not free. The Bible says, without Christ, we are slaves to sin. Paul puts it this way - I do what I don't want to do and I don't do what I should be doing. Does that sound like freedom? Look around the world…look around our community…look at your family…look at your life…and tell me sin isn't real and ugly and scarring and deadly. That's why we need the truth. We need freedom from sin and death. So we're going to follow Jesus. We're going to listen to his words. We're going to follow his pattern. That is where there's real truth.


Abide in Jesus and his word. Draw your life from him. When you do that, Jesus says the truth will set you free.


It gets tougher and tougher to know the truth. When Jesus stood before Pilate, Jesus told Pilate he was the truth. And Pilate asked, rhetorically, "What is truth?" Even back then, truth was fuzzy. It's even fuzzier today. Photoshop has gotten super-sophisticated. Years ago, newspapers published a photo of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding practicing together. Only problem was, it never happened. Fake news is everywhere. Jesus said it's not difficult to know what's true when it comes to essential truths. "Abide in me," Jesus said, "and you will know the truth." When you are in Christ, you experience true freedom in your life. It's like you are now the expert climber scaling the mountain. When you are in Christ, the Bible says, you will know love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For example, when someone lashes out in anger, they are the opposite of a lot of those things. They are slaves to their sin-nature. That's hardly freedom. When someone is holding on to a grudge, they are far from the forgiveness Jesus calls to show others. That's not freedom. We draw our lives from Jesus. We let his truth become a part of our lives. That truth sets us free.


As we seek to walk in the truth, there are three barriers we have to break through.

1. We have to be able to admit that we're prisoners.

You won't know what freedom looks like until you realize you're in a prison. We have to admit we are slaves to sin. How many times have we made our lives miserable by sinful choices we've made? How many time have other sinful people made our lives miserable? Sin is real. Sin is a shackle of death. We cannot free ourselves.


Verse 33 has the religious people saying, "We have never been enslaved to anyone." Talk about being in a state of denial. Just because I say something isn't true doesn't make it false. It is so easy to blind ourselves to the things that enslave us.


So, two questions. Are you a child of God or are you a slave to sin? Are you spiritually free or are you spiritually in bondage to sin? It's never both/and. It's one or the other. Child of God or slave to sin?


The next barrier we need to break through is:

2. Are we leaving room in our lives for Jesus' word?

Jesus says to the religious people, you are arguing with me because my word finds no place in you. Don't be the kind of person who doesn't make room for the word of Jesus in your life. We can get so over-packed and overstuffed that we ignore what is necessary. We need to be spending time with Jesus, in prayer and in the Bible. Certainly we're not too busy to

neglect those things?


I once heard a restaurant owner say, "I don't think I'm a hoarder. I just don't like to throw things out."


Don't be like that guy. If you're not spending productive time in the Bible and prayer, then you've got some uncluttering to do. Do you need to adjust some personal habits? Or some of the things you're involved in? Give Jesus some space to work in your life.


The third barrier we need to break through is:

3. We have to stop resisting and start trusting.

People have always resisted Jesus. They did it then and they do it now. Jesus says, "You can change. You can have freedom." But people will always push back. I think it's pride, mostly, that keeps people from trusting Jesus. Here's what I mean:

  • People argue with Jesus. How does he know what's good for me? Does he think he can run my life? It's the 21st century…I don't need any of that mumbo-jumbo.

  • People also make empty promises. I'm really coming around, Jesus. I'm going to get serious about following you. I'm doing a 180. But soon enough, whether it's distraction or temptation or pride, the 180 turns into a 360. I see that cycle repeated all the time.

We have to stop resisting and start trusting Jesus.


So, again, the three big barriers to walking in the truth are:


1. We have to be able to admit that we're prisoners.

2. Are we leaving room in our lives for Jesus' word?

3. We have to stop resisting and start trusting.


Once we break through those barriers, Jesus says the most profound thing of all:

Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

That is so profound…so startlingly powerful…the religious leaders immediately want to kill Jesus.


Here's what Jesus is saying. He is God. Jesus cuts right to the chase. Do you want to know the truth? Do you want to be free from sin and death? Then you need to know that he is God. That's what those simple two words mean at the end of verse 58. "I am" is the sacred name for God that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai.


Who created the world? God did. Who freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt? God did. Who is the only one who can give our lives meaning and purpose? God. Who saves us from sin and death? God. Who loves us so we can love each other? God. Jesus Christ is not only a wise teacher. He is God. That's where freedom comes from. That's the truth that sets us free. Jesus Christ is Lord.


John 8 has been an interesting chapter. It began with some men wanting to pick up rocks to kill a woman caught in adultery. It ends with people wanting to pick up rocks to kill Jesus. That's a great lesson. We're either going to end up throwing stones at Jesus, or humble ourselves before him in service and praise. The choice is ours. We all have a stone in our hand. Are we going to throw it at Jesus? Or are we going to see it as a reminder that he is our Rock and our Redeemer? Is he the solid rock of truth upon which we stand?

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