Well as we all know, today is the fourth of July; and it is historically a day when, in this country, we celebrate freedom, going back to when America was born out of a revolution and earned its freedom. Freedom has always been something highly valued in our society, at least up until now. Through the last couple of centuries, freedom seemed to be at the top of the list of things that folks wanted to maintain in our culture and our society. And over the years there has been a phrase that has been used with regard to freedom—it’s the phrase “The truth shall make you free” or “The truth shall set you free.”
It’s interesting to know how many ways that phrase has been used. It’s familiar. There are myriad applications of it. There are myriad interpretations of it. There are even some bizarre memes built on that statement, “The truth will make you free.” I suppose it’s broad enough to be embraced by so many diverse aspects of our culture. Plato sort of started what became a philosophical approach to that statement; and the philosophers have said, following Plato, that “Find the truth that is in you—self-knowledge, be true to your truth—and you will be free.” That’s the philosophical interpretation of that statement.
There is a psychological interpretation of “The truth will make you free,” and it’s this: “Tell the truth, and you’ll be free from guilt.” Tell the truth no matter how much damage it does to anybody else. Be brutally honest; don’t keep it in, or you’ll do some psychological damage to yourself. Freedom is found when you rebel against all the lies that you tell yourself about yourself and that other people tell about you. “Your truth will free you, but you have to work to birth it,” one psychologist said.
And then there is the cynical approach to the statement “The truth shall make you free.” One cynic said, “The truth will eventually make you free, but at first it’ll just make you angry.” Mostly the truth doesn’t make you free, it makes you frightened, anxious, depressed. Some truth will put your life in jeopardy. Some truth, if you told it, would get you arrested, put in jail. Some truth could even expose you to the threat of death.
And oh, by the way, most of the philosophers and psychologists and cynics would agree that there is no real, absolute truth. Truth is whatever you want it to be; there’s no objective, absolute truth. Truth is whatever you want to be truth for your well-being. Be true to your own truth, and you’ll be free from the kinds of things that torture your own psyche.
The problem with objective truth and the problem with absolute truth is it’s very uncomfortable, because absolute truth and objective truth raises your moral responsibility. And you really don’t want that, not in a hedonistic culture. Increasing your moral obligation, increasing your moral responsibility doesn’t feel like freedom.
“The truth shall make you free” has also found its way into academia. It is the statement of California Institute of Technology—Caltech. They adopted “The truth shall make you free” back in 1925. And since 1925, that really hasn’t worked out too well in the scientific world, because if you read recent articles written by Caltech scientists, they will tell you that no longer is science driven by a search for the truth, it is basically driven by a grant from the political party in power. And consequently, science has given way to politics. So whatever the search for truth once was, back in 1925, it is now completely compromised by politics.
And then there is the government itself. If you were to see the original building of the CIA, you would see carved on the front of that building, “The truth shall make you free.” And we all are pretty convinced that the CIA would not be a good place to go to find the truth. They have been so utterly compromised by the politics and the ideologies of our culture. They would be assumed to be, at one point in our history, the protectors of all that is true and right and good. But they have been corrupted by the rest of the corruption that they can’t escape.
There’s, then, political and social freedom. “The truth shall make you free.” How does that work out in our society? I’m not a social critic, as you know, but I think there might be a perspective that will help you, as we talk a little bit about these sort of temporal, earthly perspectives on freedom.
Back in 1932 a devout atheist by the name of Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World. Brave New World was a dystopian novel that looked at the future and assumed that it wouldn’t be very long before the West was completely captive to totalitarianism—that is rule by a dominant force, where you have only two classes: the ruling class and all the people who are subjected to them. In Brave New World, he portrayed what life would be like.
It was about seventeen years later that George Orwell, another devout atheist, wrote 1984, another dystopian novel that looked at the future. And just examining those recently in my own thoughts, I drew out of those two pictures of totalitarianism in the future of the West, what are pretty amazing, prescient insights from a couple of atheists. Totalitarian rule, both of them say, is essentially the absolute political-social slavery of everyone. We are used to what is called chattel slavery. C-H-A-T-T-E-L. Chattel slavery is when one person owns another person; political slavery is when the state owns everybody—but the effect on the individual is identical. We have come to the place in American history where we hate chattel slavery. In fact we’ve created a massive movement, racial movement, now, based upon past chattel slavery. People rise to noble heights to condemn chattel slavery, while at the same time they are willingly becoming slaves of the state. And the end is exactly the same: Somebody owns you, and you give up your freedom.
Now what elements of society and politics produce this willing kind of state slavery? Drawing from both Orwell and Huxley, this is what they say totalitarianism would look like. Here are the necessary elements. One: a crisis. A crisis puts freedom in danger because a crisis elevates government control. And the more severe the crisis, and the more control the government gets, the more freedoms begin to disappear.
Secondly, the collective is more important than the individual. The greater good is the good of society, not your good. “We don’t care what you want or what you think, we’ve got to stop global warming. We don’t care what your freedoms are, the things that you desire and you want, you can’t say that; you can’t believe that; you can’t do that.” Because the collective is far more important than the individual. “The advance of the LGBTQ is far more important on the social side for the good of society than anything you think about that.” So the collective dominates the individual. Everybody is forced into the collective.
Thirdly, you need a mass psychosis. You need a mass psychosis, something that makes everybody afraid—like a plague, like a pandemic, like masks—that create a greater threat than the giving up of freedom. People rushed into giving up their freedoms when there was a threat that created a mass psychosis. Keep up the deception so they continue to believe the lies, and you escalate control.
Number four: Control information. Control what people hear, what they therefore believe. And the way to control information is the following: Create confusion, send out all kinds of diverse signals so that nothing is really clear. So you’re creating a kind of acceptable irrationality, a kind of madness. Censor what you don’t want; control people by technology and media.
Number five—and this is a dominant feature of both of these novels: hedonism. Turn loose all kinds of immorality everywhere. Create a situation of unhindered sexual lust. Let people be completely lost in pleasure, no boundaries on any kind of sexual behavior. Fill the culture with pornography, because as long as they are unhindered in their sexual lusts, as long as they are lost in hedonistic pleasure, they’re not thinking.
Number six: Feed them mindless, accessible, irrelevant, distracting, nonstop entertainment—so they live in a world of fantasy and emotional stimulation rather than thought. Number seven: Make drugs available to everyone because drugged people, or drunk people, are harmless. And number eight—this is critical: If you want to take over an entire population, isolate them from each other—because when you isolate them from each other, you control the narrative. You take them away from the examples of something different. That is what atheists came up with as the pathway to dystopian totalitarianism, in which people distracted, dumbed-down, drugged, give up their freedoms.
Now what is the biggest threat to this? The biggest threat to this is pretty simple: Some other authority than the government. And by the way, don’t look to politicians to fix this; they’re the problem. They’re the powerful; they’re not going to fix this. One non-politician tried to fix it, but he couldn’t get any help from all the politicians. You can’t turn to them to fix it, they’re the powerful; they’re the elite, power-hungry people who just want more power.
What is the threat to them? Another authority—in fact, another authority that is a greater authority, that is a transcendent authority, that is an eternal authority, and that has revealed Himself clearly on the pages of Holy Scripture. So who is their greatest enemy? God. What is the book that they most fear? The Bible.
I don’t know what freedom in this Western culture in the future looks like. But I see all of this shaping up—and this is from, as I said, back in 1930 to 1940s. But we certainly have managed to check off all the boxes—right?—to create totalitarianism. And here we are, so nobly upset about the freedom that was taken away from slaves in the past, while at the same time—dumbed down, stupidly, mindlessly, lustfully—we give up all our freedoms and become slaves of the state, and the end is exactly the same.
But when we talk about “The truth shall make you free,” psychology fails, psychology fails. You’re just playing mind games with yourself. Philosophy fails, because the truth is not in you. There’s no value in being cynical and believing that truth doesn’t exist because no objective, absolute truth exists. The educational system in the universities fail. Science fails because it gets corrupted. And the government, the government—when the government fails—and the government does fail—then the tale is told, because they’re in charge. So whatever it means, “The truth shall make you free” has nothing to do with any of these things I’ve been talking about, because they’re all corrupted. We’re talking about something different.
So open your Bible to John 8. I don’t know what the future politics will look like. It’s pretty clear that we’re headed toward totalitarianism—we’re headed toward mind control, we’re headed toward censorship, we’re headed toward immorality at a level the likes of which we have never seen, where laws are made to protect the immoral and to punish those who are moral. All of these things are realities. So it’s pretty clear that we’re headed down the path of totalitarianism, which of course has been tried in the past; and it’s always a disaster because totalitarianism always ends the same way: It ends with millions of people being slaughtered, because the people who defy the totalitarian force die. That’s history.
And I understand that now, what we have done here at Grace Church is an act of defiance against the totalitarian efforts of this government overstepping its bounds. We don’t answer to them, we answer to a higher authority. Now I want you to understand this in the context in which our Lord said it, so look at John 8:31.
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’”—there’s that statement. “They answered Him, ‘We’re Abraham’s descendants 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 commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” What a great statement.
“The truth shall make you free.” What truth, and what freedom? That is the question. That is the question. As we think about answering that question, we go back to verse 31 and how it all came up. There were some Jews, verse 30 says, who “came to believe in” Jesus. That’s right, they came to believe in Jesus. Who were they? Well back in verse 22, it says they were Jews; but if you keep going back to verse 13, they were Pharisees. So Jesus is having a conversation with Pharisees, the Jewish leaders. And some of them, in fact many, had come to believe in Him.
That brings into question how legitimate their belief was. We’ve seen that before in the gospel of John. Back in chapter 2, verse 23, “When Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He didn’t need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” And what He knew was that whatever their believing was, it wasn’t sufficient to save them. They believed in His name, seeing the signs; He didn’t commit Himself to them, because that belief was superficial.
We saw this again in chapter 6, verse 60: “Many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’” In verse 61, “Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.’” In other words, “You have a superficial view. What if you saw the full glory?”
Then He says in verse 65, “No one can come to Me unless it’s granted him from the Father.” Verse 66, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. And Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ And Simon Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’” And then Jesus responded by identifying Judas: “‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he was one of the twelve, and was going to betray Him.”
So we see belief that is not saving belief in chapter 2. We see discipleship that is not genuine in chapter 6. So the question comes, then, with regard—verse 30—to those who believed in Him: What was the nature of this believing? What was the nature of it? Was it the real thing, or was it just more of this same fascination with Jesus and with His teaching and with His miracles? Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” This jumps out of this text: alēthōs mathētēs, genuine disciples. “Real, authentic, true disciples are identified because they continue in My word. They continue in My word.”
We remember Matthew 7, where Jesus said, “Many will say unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ And I’ll say to them, ‘Depart from Me; I never knew you, you workers of iniquity.’” Why? “Because you didn’t obey My word.” And He talks about the people who were religious and built a house on the sand.
In John’s first epistle, 1 John 2:19, he answers the question, “What about people who show up within the realm of Christianity, and then they disappear?” And John writes, “They went out from us, because they were not of us; if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out from us, that it might be made manifest they never were of us.”
There is false faith. There is false faith. There is defection. There are people who are like weedy soil, in Matthew 13, where the seed is thrown, and something comes up; but before it can bear any fruit, it withers and dies, choked out by the love of riches, the cares of this world. In fact in Luke 8:13, our Lord says, “They believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.” So there’s a lot of false discipleship.
There was then—and Judas is the prototype. There were, among the other disciples surrounding Jesus, false disciples who left and abandoned Him. The disciples weren’t themselves even sure, when Jesus said somebody had betrayed Him around that table at the upper room. They said, “Is it I? Is it I? Is it I?” They didn’t know who it was; they thought it might as well be them, as Judas. They didn’t even trust their own hearts.
This is not an isolated matter, by the way. In Matthew 13, the Lord gives us the character of the kingdom—and we’re in the kingdom now. And the character of the kingdom is there’ll be wheat and tares—right?—true believers and false believers. Though the seed will be sown, some will fall on hard ground, some will fall on weedy ground, some will fall on good ground. There will be wheat; there will be tares.
And the kingdom—it’ll be like a mustard bush that grows huge. The kingdom will be huge, and it becomes almost like a tree, with all kinds of things in it. The kingdom will be large, and within it there will be the true and the false.
Then Jesus told a story about a dragnet, like throwing your net in the sea and dragging absolutely everything in, and all kinds of things come in the net. And Jesus was saying sort of the visible net of the kingdom is going to catch all kinds of things: good, bad, and indifferent. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say this is a critical issue for us to understand. False faith is a reality. It is a reality, and it’s true among congregations as well as preachers.
So back to the text in verse 31: “The Jews who had believed in Him, the Jews who had believed in Him.” The conversation starts there in verse 31. But go down to verse 44, and notice what He says to them: “You’re of your father the devil.” Wait a minute, they believed in Him! Yes, but they were still in the kingdom of darkness. They were of their father the devil.
It gets worse. Go to the end of the chapter, verse 59: “They picked up stones to throw at Him,” to stone Him to death. These are the Jews who believed in Him, but who were still the children of Satan. And by the time they got to the end of the conversation that day, they wanted to kill Jesus in mob violence.
Starting to believe is easy. You seek some personal enrichment. You seek some power over weakness. You seek some desire of your heart. You seek a better life. You want more from life. You want to escape fear. You want to feel some hope. You want to belong to something. You desire supernatural help. There are many like that; and there are many preachers who preach that as if it were the gospel. But when the world and the flesh and the devil, empowered by sin and deception, pull hard against Christ, the half-believer, loving sin and darkness, weakens and yields to the hard demands of Satan and the flesh and the world, and falls short of true repentance, humble faith and submission; falls back. This shallow, temporary faith is an important reality all through our Lord’s ministry. He is always concerned with this.
Who has true faith? Who has true faith? And again, verse 30, they were believing in Him; but they were still the children of the devil, verse 44, and they tried to kill Him. This beginning belief is very dangerous. The writer of Hebrews says, “If you come to that point and fall away, you may not be able to be renewed again to repentance.” The most dangerous spiritual state is not to have no knowledge of Christ, but it is to have enough knowledge of Christ to be inclined toward Him, but not willing to give Him full commitment, not willing to give Him everything.
In the fourteenth chapter of Luke, verse 25, “Large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me, and doesn’t hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he can’t be My disciple. Whoever doesn’t carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.’” Whoa. Instead of turning and saying to them, “I’m so glad you guys are joining the movement,” He basically stops them dead in their tracks and tells them that “unless you’re willing to abandon every human relationship and every human possession to acknowledge Me as Lord, you cannot be My disciple.” It’s full commitment.
Jesus knew that wasn’t the case in John 2. We all saw that it wasn’t the case with the disciples in John 6. Certainly wasn’t the case with these supposed believing Pharisees and Jewish leaders in John 8. All faith in Jesus—listen—is not saving faith. John 12:42, “Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” Wait a minute. They believed in Him, but they were more concerned about what people thought than what God desired? “They were not confessing Him.” Jesus said, “If you confess Me before men, I’ll confess you before My Father who’s in heaven.” They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
Reaching toward Christ while not letting go of your grip on carnal pleasures, comfortable relationships, self-will, is to fall short of true salvation; and it won’t be long before that will become obvious. It becomes clear in this conversation that these believers were still the slaves of sin. They were still the children of Satan. They were still the haters of the truth; and they were even blasphemers of the true God and murderous toward His Son. So that’s what we’re dealing with. And Jesus says to them, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.”
So let me just give you two points. Point number one: The benchmark of true discipleship: perseverance in truth. The benchmark of true discipleship: perseverance in truth. This is not something that’s isolated to the teaching of Jesus. Listen to the words of James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead.” Faith without works is dead. That’s how the chapter ends.
You could say you believe, but if it doesn’t show up in persevering in the truth, persevering in the truth, “continuing in My word”— In the Great Commission, in Matthew 28, Jesus said, “When you go to make disciples, teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Coming to Christ is not simply establishing that you believe in Him, it is submitting to Him in obedience. It is saying, “Jesus is Lord, and I am His slave.”
This is a major theme for the writers of the New Testament. We don’t have time to go through all of the passages. Matthew records this, Mark records it, Luke records it, John records it—because it was an essential part of the ministry of our Lord Jesus. First John writes a whole epistle on this issue of true salvation as opposed to false salvation.
But let me just kind of sum it up in the writer’s words of the book of Hebrews, because in the book of Hebrews there is a summation statement that I think is important. It’s in Hebrews 12:14; it says, “Pursue peace with all men, and”—listen—“and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” Did you see that? Unless there’s sanctification, and that is a life separated from sin, you’ll never see the Lord.
Next verse, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God.” Don’t come up short because you believed in Christ but you never committed your life to Him. Or James says in James chapter 1, “Don’t be just a hearer, but a”—what?—“a doer of the word, so that you’re not deceived.” Where there’s no perseverance in the truth—that means loving the truth and living the truth—there is no salvation.
So the benchmark of enduring, saving faith is continuing in the Word. It is sanctification; it is the work of the Word to separate the believer from sin. It is a faith that works, and it works to sanctify a true believer. Simply stated, there’s no salvation where there’s no sanctification. Ephesians 2, “For by grace you have been saved”—verse 8—“through faith; not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
Listen to this: God is not only sovereign in your salvation, He’s sovereign in your sanctification. He has not only in eternity past determined to save you, He determined to sanctify you; and the pattern of your sanctification is already determined by God. There’s no such thing as God bringing justification to someone without sanctification. God ordained your salvation, your justification, and He also ordained your sanctification. And He ordained the details of that sanctification; He ordained the works of that sanctification that you walk in.
So the benchmark, then, of true discipleship is how you respond to the truth of the Word of God, right? Do you love the Word? Do you feed on the Word? Do you live out the Word? Is it your most precious possession? Psalm 19, sweeter than honey, more precious than gold.
That’s the truth. That’s the truth that sets you free. When you come to the Word of God and you believe the Word of God, you’re set free. The truth, that truth—that truth of the Word of God, including the gospel in all its fullness, that the gospel that relates to justification as well as sanctification as well as glorification—when you embrace that and persevere in those truths and don’t defect from those things, that’s the benchmark of being a true disciple. That’s what brings you freedom.
What do you mean by freedom? What are we talking about, what freedom? Go to verse 32, “You will know the truth”—the truth as revealed in the Word of God; you’re persevering in it, you’re a real disciple—“the truth will make you free.” Free in what sense? Well “they answered Him, ‘We’re Abraham’s descendants and have never been enslaved to anyone.’” That was a ridiculous statement; right then when they said that, they were under Roman rule. And throughout their whole history, they had been ruled by many nations. But they said, “We’ve never been enslaved to anyone.” And Jesus said, “Yeah, you have a slavery.” Verse 34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” “You’re a slave of sin. You’re a slave of sin. That’s your problem.”
What is freedom then? Freedom from the slavery to what? Sin. It’s the truth of the gospel, the truth of the Word of God that sets you free from the slavery to sin.
I don’t know what kind of social freedoms await us. To be honest with you, it’s not really a big issue to me. I see what’s going on, I understand that. And I do understand that the price may be higher than it’s ever been in our society, in our culture, for having another authority than the government; and that’s what always leads to persecution.
I told you a few weeks ago, the government is always the ultimate persecutor because they have the power of life and death. But if that’s what the Lord wants for us, then that’s what He’s going to give us; and we’re going to rejoice in it and count it all joy when we suffer for His name. But the freedom we’re talking about here, and the freedom that we want to proclaim to the world, is not political freedom or social freedom or psychological freedom or philosophical freedom or scientific freedom—it’s spiritual freedom.
Very popular to talk about truth and freedom. And none of it matters if it all has to do with life in this world. You watch people in the search for truth. It’s a noble claim that’s so totally corrupted and compromised, it’s lost all meaning. You can’t be sure you’re even going to get a fair fill-in-the-blank trial because you don’t have a culture of people who care what the truth is.
Reminds me of the defiant fisherman. I love the story: A man picks his way past rubble, scorched earth; the whole city has been bombed out. He finds a huge deserted apartment building that’s standing there, and he enters a door. He climbs the cement stairs high into the building, pokes his way down a dark hall to the end of the hall, turns into a little bathroom. Finds a man sitting on the sink fishing in the tub in a completely bombed out city. This is a solitary fisherman, and there’s no water in the tub. And so the figure in picture says, “You’re not going to catch anything there,” to which the defiant fisherman says, “I know.” And keeps on fishing.
Such is the futility of searching for the truth where you’re never, ever going to find it. The only truth that’s going to liberate your soul, and liberate you freely from sin forever, is the truth of the gospel. The world, 2 Timothy 3:7, is “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” This is humanity’ futile effort; they’re all defiant fishermen there. They’ve got their line in an empty tub. “The truth,” says Ephesians 4:21, “is in Jesus.”
Not only does the Bible say the truth is in Jesus, the Bible says, in John 14:6, Jesus is the truth. John 1:14, He’s “full of grace and truth.” He’s the teacher of truth, John 16. Those who believe in Him and His Word are set free from sin. The truth will make you free.
The cynicism of the world was on the lips of Pilate in John 18. Pilate said to Jesus, “So You’re a king?” “Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate says, ‘What is truth?’” If you’re a cynic about truth, you’re doomed. “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
The only way you’ll ever know the truth that sets you free from sin and death and hell is to know the truth which is in Jesus, which is the Lord Jesus. He is the truth. His Word is the truth. “Sanctify them by Thy truth”—John 17:17—“Thy word is truth.” The truth makes you free from slavery to sin.
The Jews didn’t want to admit that. Verse 33, “We’ve never been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” “We’ve never been a slave to anyone. No, not Egypt, not Babylon, not Medo-Persia, not Syria, not Rome.” They’re speaking foolishness.
But the big issue is their souls are in bondage. And Jesus says it, verse 34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” That would include all of us, right? If everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin, then we’re all slaves of sin. They thought they were free; they weren’t. They weren’t free from sin’s bondage; and therefore, they weren’t free from judgment.
Look at verse 39 for a moment: They kept saying to Him, “Abraham is our father.” What are you talking about? “Abraham is our father.” “Well,” He said to them, “If Abraham is your father, then do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God.” This is the folly of human blindness. It’s only the truth that can set them free; and the One who is the truth and speaks the truth is the one they want to kill.
“You’re just doing the deeds of your father,” verse 41. And down in verse 44, “You’re of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, doesn’t stand in the truth because there’s no truth in him.” The devil is a liar, and the whole world lies in the lap of the devil. And that’s another thing in the picture that Huxley and Orwell portray, and that is: Don’t tell people the truth.
Verse 45, if you’re a child of the devil, you’re used to lies; and when somebody speaks the truth, you don’t believe it, you don’t believe it. Verse 47, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you’re not of God.” So verse 34, our Lord says, “Your problem is you’re slaves of sin.” So is everyone who commits sin. That slavery will take you to hell.
Then in verse 35, a death blow to their Abrahamic security: “The slave doesn’t remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever.” If you’re a slave, you’re not going to be around for the inheritance. Only a son remains forever; and that’s particularly true in God’s kingdom. “You’re always a slave. You will die a slave in bondage, and judgment will follow. You’re slaves to sin, you’re not sons. You have no permanent place in the family, you have no future, you are not an heir, you will be left out of the inheritance.” But verse 36, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Now do you understand that?
“Indeed,” ontōs really free, certainly free, truly free. Total freedom from sin. Total freedom therefore from deception, from oppression, depression, punishment, penalty, even the presence of sin, forever free from all sin, to the degree that the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s that great truth that caused Charles Wesley to write, “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?”—that great hymn which is a celebration of being delivered from bondage to sin.
So who is a true disciple? Who is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ? The one who perseveres in the truth, endures through blessing and suffering, the one who is faithful and obedient—that soul is a son and not a slave. He has been set free from sin’s bondage, to the freedom for which Christ has made us free.
Again, I liked things in this country the way they used to be. I don’t know what the Lord has for us in the future, but I do know this: It’s been an incredible adventure already, hasn’t it? I don’t know that in the years of the time we’ve been together at Grace Church, we’ve ever had a more wonderful time than the past eighteen months—the hardest of times and the best of times. And that’s often the way it is. That’s why James said, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
But the message for you today is, Are you the real thing? Are you a true disciple? Are you an alēthōs mathētēs, a real disciple? And that benchmark for real discipleship is that you continue in the Word. I know that’s why you’re here, because that’s what we do: We help you to continue in the Word. And if you continue in the Word, then you are enjoying the freedom of one who is fully forgiven, and you no longer are a slave of sin. Paul says in Romans 6 you are a slave of righteousness. What a glorious thought. And you are a slave of Christ, who is your Lord and Master.
Whatever the world brings, let it happen. God has a plan. It’s not getting better; we know it’s getting worse. Naturally we are at a point where we would expect things to get worse; that’s the schedule the Lord has laid out in Scripture. That means we’re getting closer to the end and the return of Christ, when instantaneously everything will be judged. We will be in the presence of the Lord. And after some judgment on this earth, we’ll come back, and He’ll set up His glorious kingdom. We win; I read the end. You know you’re a part of that. I’d better pray, or I’ll keep going. Let’s pray.
We’re so grateful, Lord, for the Word. So grateful for its truth, so grateful that it is living truth; it’s not just something we read, it’s not just ideas, it’s power. The Word is alive and powerful. It transforms; it is the transforming Word. It is the Word that gives life. You are the life-giver, the Creator, and You create with Your Word. We are begotten again into new life as sons by the Word of truth. The Word and the Spirit power us out of darkness into light, out of death into life.
May each of us examine our hearts to make sure that our faith is the real thing. And its benchmark is our love for the truth, and our desire and longing to obey it and to live it and proclaim it. That’s the benchmark of one who has been set free from sin and become a son of righteousness and a slave of virtue and holiness.
Lord, work the work of salvation in the hearts of those who have not yet come all the way to Christ. There are some who, like those Jews, believed but didn’t believe savingly; they didn’t let go of the world, they held on. Lord, take the sinner’s grip off anything and everything—relationships, possessions, desires, ambitions—and may they fall, full strength into the arms of Christ, confessing Him as Lord, and be delivered from sin to the freedom with which Christ has set us free. We pray in His name and for His glory. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.