John 8: 31-32: 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.” My scripture notes tell me that to “abide” means to continue believing in and continue obeying. So, if we believe in and obey His word, then we are His disciples….then we will understand the truth….and that truth will set us free.
I am always drawn to the final phrase from verse 32, “the truth will set you free.” That sounds good, and it seems consistent with the language repeated many times throughout the New Testament.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17
“For freedom Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
“Live as people who are free.” 1 Peter 2:16
As good as this sounds, my gut reaction is to ask for a little clarity on what this “freedom” refers to. He’s not actually saying that life is easier if you’re a Christian, right? But I flip back to Matthew 11 and read, “I will give you rest….For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30) and again in 1 John, “His commands are not burdensome” (v. 3).
The diligent little legalist on my shoulder is chirping in my ear….’that’s not really true, and it doesn’t apply to you. You were born a sinner, and you’ll always be a sinner. Liar, cheater, lazy, divorced….that’s you, Jon. If His “yoke is easy” why are you so terrible at carrying it?’
I’ve often felt like this “Christianity” thing is a really complicated game….full of so many rules that I’m constantly breaking them. I want to do better, I really do. But the last thing that I feel is “freedom” from my sin. I want to know what the secret is…what it means to “abide in my word.” Apparently that’s what it takes to get this mythical freedom.
I think that my confusion was somewhat valid. I honestly did not know what to do. But I also think that there is almost a universal belief that it is incredibly difficult to be a real Christian. We believe that it’s too hard, and therefore many times we just don’t try. G.K. Chesterton said “Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.” I know that’s been the case with me.
I’m glad Mr. Chesterton has it all figured out…because I sure don’t. But if there is one truth I’ve taken from my 30+ years of professing Christianity, it’s this: When I step out onto the field, in the game of life, if I haven’t been “training” like a disciple, I won’t play (live) like one. If I can take the sports analogy a bit further….I wouldn’t expect it to be easy to play like an athlete in a game if I hadn’t been practicing like an athlete prior to the game. For me, it’s the same in my faith journey. In pressure situations I will consistently fail to be Christ-like…unless I’ve been putting in my practice. (through prayer, Scripture reading, service, etc.) That seems to be the only way for me to feel “free” from the bondage of sin.
Lord, please give me the will and the strength to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action I know to be right. I know that I can’t behave “on the spot” like you if I live the rest of my life like a non believer. Thank you for forgiving me when I fail, and loving me as I grow. Bless me by making me more like you. I love you. Amen.