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Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants (seed) and have never been slaves of anyone. How can You say that we shall be set free?”[1] As you read on, that conversation deteriorated to the point that by verse 59, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. Now remember, the people who were picking up the stones were the same people who believed in Him.[2]

Why were Jesus’ words of verse 31 so offensive to the Jews? It was because the teachings of Jesus, if anyone holds to them, will reveal the truth about God and about themselves, and when the truth about ourselves is revealed to us, the truth about God will set us free.

What the Jews were in denial about was not about the truth of God or about God, for these were God-believing Jews who believed in Jesus as One sent from the God they believed in. What they were in denial about was this truth that they needed to be set free. Their thinking was so deluded that they said, “We… have never been slaves of anyone,” denying conveniently the years of slavery under Egypt, the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and even their present state of enslavement under the Roman Empire. With one sentence, they denied the very reason they are Jews and are the seed of Abraham, for God’s promise was that His seed would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years and that they would be rescued by Moses, whose law they lived by. They were not holding to the truth of who they are, their truth, which is why though they believed in Jesus, they could not hold onto His truth.

When people cannot hold to the truth of who they are, they cannot hold to the truth of who God is as revealed by Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ came to make known to us this truth about God, that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to save the world so that whosoever would believe shall not perish because there is repentance and forgiveness in His Name. There isn’t just forgiveness in His Name, but there is repentance and forgiveness of sins in His Name. There is repentance in the name of others, but only in Jesus’ Name is there repentance and forgiveness. However, before the repentance and forgiveness can be enacted, there must be an acknowledgement of truth.

For the Jews of John 8:31, their acknowledgement of the truth about them would be this, that they do need to be set free, for just as their forefathers were slaves in Egypt, now they were slaves of sorts to the Roman Empire. Their question to Jesus should have been, “Can Your teachings set us free from Rome like Moses set our forefather’s free from Egypt?” If they had at least asked that, then they would have at least acknowledged their truth and shown themselves to be children of God, people who at least hold to the truth about themselves. But because they even denied the truth about themselves and the truth about their forefathers, saying, “We have never been slaves,” that is why Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil… not holding to the truth.”[3]

Those who deny the truth of who they were and are, yet call themselves Christians, see themselves as little messiahs given the mandate to dictate to the world their sense of right and wrong, and their opinion of good and evil, and so you have the religion called Christianity. In denying what and who they are, in denying the truth that a Christian is first and foremost a sinner, they have not and cannot hold onto the truth, so no truth is found in them. Indeed, the very teachings of Christ and its practice seem so foreign to them that at best they can only tolerate a tepid, watered-down, dilute version of the teachings of Christ. And their practice of the words of Jesus is selective, restrictive and ritualistically repetitive without any reality in their lives. To them, God’s healing of the sick is a doctor with antibiotics and a blind man seeing is a cataract operation. The feeding of the 5000 is a United Nation’s food drop and walking on water is walking on ice. All the miracles of Jesus are neatly rationalised and packaged away, and the love of God is doled out palliatively until the person dies. All very nice… sugar and spice…

The unsavoury truth for the Jews of John 8 was that Jesus was telling the truth that they needed to be set free and they were descendants of slaves. The unsavoury truth about us is that the only reason God drew us to Jesus was because we are sinners. And if we are born into a Christian family, we are born into a family of sinners, sinners so bad that without Jesus, we could not have survived God’s judgement. For there are sinners who never get to see Jesus or hear about even the Law of Moses, yet God is able to judge them. Paul wrote: (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thought now accusing, now even defending them.)[4]

It is like the Jews and the Romans. Though the Romans were not descendants of Abraham, they were born freemen. The Jews, though they were descendants of Abraham, are children of slaves. So the Jews have less to boast of than the Romans. Likewise, we who are Christians are Christians because God drew us to Jesus so that we might be saved, meaning without Jesus we cannot be saved. Yet others, who are not drawn to Jesus by God, must mean that somehow they can survive the judgement of God without Jesus. So, wherein lies the boasting? It is not on the basis of our inheritance, lineage, traditions, or righteousness, for there is none. Our boasting then must be like that of the apostle Paul, the worst of sinners, who by the grace and mercy of God, was given the opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

So, no one who calls himself or herself a Christian and yet denies this truth that they are sinners, and it is because they are sinners that they are Christians, can hold onto the teachings of Christ. For the teachings of Christ are for sinners who have been drawn to Him by the Father, and the foundation stone – the basic doctrines of Christ and about Christ – is all about repentance and forgiveness of sins. How can you repent of a sin if you are not a sinner in the first place? Thus, the truth that is revealed through holding onto Jesus’ teachings is only revealed to those who love and acknowledge the truth about themselves that they are sinners saved by Grace.

Thus, those who call themselves Christians, but deny the truth, will not practise repentance and forgiveness of sins, though they may preach it. But then, the preaching without the practice is just the proof that they are the hypocrites that they are. And they will hate those who insist that repentance and forgiveness of sins must be practised. They will hate those who insist that our enemies must be loved, blessed and prayed for, for they know that those who love the truth about themselves will come to know the truth about God who is our Maker.

Had those Jews acknowledged this truth about themselves, the holding onto Jesus’ teachings would set them free, not only from their sins, but from the Roman Empire. For what imperial system could oppress a people who could change water to good wine, walk on water, heal the sick, raise the dead, calm the storm, multiply the food and cause the blind to see, (and make those who can see, blind)? The power of the Holy Spirit that is afforded to those who hold onto the teachings of Jesus will set them free not only from sin and death, but from any imperial or political system that is oppressing them. They did not, and except for a few like Paul, even those who called themselves disciples, let go of the teachings of Christ and went back to holding on to the teachings of James the Younger and Judaism. They did not hold onto the teachings of Jesus, and they never got to know the truth that would have set them free, but created another religion that enslaved them all over again.

Likewise, those who call themselves Christians but do not acknowledge the truth that Christians are sinners drawn to Jesus by God so that they may practise repentance and forgiveness of sins, have lost the power of the Holy Spirit to bear witness for Jesus, so that the blind can see, the lame can walk, the deaf can hear, the lepers are cleansed and the dead are raised. By forsaking the fullness of Jesus’ teachings and by not holding onto it with all our lives, we lost the power. And now, the time is coming and has come when God will prove Jesus Christ to be true as He unleashes the days of distress unequalled since the world began to test the work of everyone who calls themselves a Christian. For God is looking for a harvest, a harvest of His word and a harvest of His Son. The words of Jesus are S/spirit and life,[5] like a fire and a hammer,[6] a double-edged sword, able to create, heal, deliver and provide miracles. It is food for all who believe. So now, the Lord will unleash His abundance of calamities, plagues, disasters, famines and sicknesses to see who really has the words of Jesus, to see who has really practised the words of Jesus, and to see who has really held onto the teachings of Jesus. The truth that will be revealed will truly set all Christians free, some free to die in the last days and await the Resurrection, others free from all constraints of men and nature to raise the dead, heal the sick, multiply the food, change blood to water, set free to die and wait, or set free to live and wait for Jesus.

Those who deny the truth about themselves as Christians and do not practise repentance and forgiveness will be set free to face the truth of what they are. And those who rejoice at the truth of what they are because they are Christians will be set free to live the truth they have believed and held onto, and so they will know the truth and be set free by the truth.

Those who acknowledge the truth and love the truth of what a Christian is will see forgiveness as the truth they need to set themselves and everyone else free by. And as they hold onto that truth, they will come to know not only their truth, but the truth Jesus has, the truth about God. That is the truth that Jesus has for us.

It is not the truth that we are sinners that Jesus was sent to make known to us. This first truth is already with us, if only we acknowledge it. It does not take a Christian to acknowledge that we are sinners. All men can acknowledge this truth that we are sinners. But the truth that the teachings of Jesus reveal and make known to us is this: God loves and enjoys forgiving sinners who repent and He does all this in Jesus’ Name so that Jesus is lifted above all other names. Knowing that God forgives sinners in Jesus’ Name is the truth we need to be set free to repent. And if we love the truth, we will share the truth and not be ashamed of it.

Thus, those who deny the truth will eventually deny Christ even though they were once Christians. Those who love the truth will continue to hold onto the teachings of Jesus only, even if it costs them their lives, for they have been set free from sin and death, and to lose their life for the sake of Jesus and the word of God is to gain the greater freedom… freedom from the Second Death.

So rejoice that God has called you to Jesus because you are a sinner in need of salvation. Repent and forgive even as you are forgiven, and share the good news of the repentance and forgiveness of sins that is available in the Name of Jesus and live the life God meant for you to live… in freedom. Amen


 

[1] John 8:31-33

[2] John 8:31 NLT

[3] John 8:44

[4] Romans 2:14-15

[5] John 6:63

[6] Jeremiah 23:29

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