31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 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’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” – John 8:31-38 (ESV)
As Americans, we cherish the notion of freedom. It is an ideal we hold near and dear. While we do not have the framework of reality on this subject that our forefathers held nearly 240 years ago, we recognize – on some level – that we have a lot more freedom than many in this world. In fact, despite our love of freedom, we take our liberties for granted an awful lot.
When Jesus talks of freedom, He is not speaking in political or social terms. Were this the case, Paul and Silas would never have been imprisoned. Nor would John and Peter. Rather, Jesus takes a different point-of-view than the average person (and, after all, why should we expect anything else? He is God Incarnate! His worldview is not ours, although ours should be His). Jesus is looking at the eternal, where sin imprisons us not only on this earth (sometimes in the form of some habitual back-riding monkey; sometimes in the ruins of destroyed lives and families; sometimes literally imprisoned), but condemns us to the most horrible of consequences: eternal separation from God – or, if you will, hell.
Freedom in Christ is a gift of God’s grace, a forgiveness of our sins, an empowering to do His work, and an ability to follow Jesus and love one another. I find it quite comical that the Pharisees’ retort to Jesus is, “We’re Abraham’s seed! We’ve never been enslaved!” (v.33). Either these learned men aren’t as educated as we think, having forgotten all the OT teaches about the division of Judah and subjugation by the Babylonians. Or they are more dishonest / delusional / bind to reality than we realize. (Personally, I lean more toward the blinded option.) Notice the subtle yet telling wording of verse 38: Jesus listens to and follows His Father (with a capital “F”). The Jewish leaders do likewise with their father (small “F”). It is a condemnation that Jesus made all the more plain a few verses later:
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” – John 8:42-47 (ESV) (italicized emphasis mine).
Evidently, absolute truth does exist. What’s right for you is what’s right for me, and that’s what God says is right. It’s not legalism. It’s love. Once we realize – at least as much as our limited cognitive abilities can realize – that Jesus set us free for all eternity to be who God created us to be, to live without fear of falling or failure or fatigue of this life, we can begin to grasp the depth of what Paul meant when he wrote:
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:1-8 (ESV)
If you are “in Christ,” following Him, letting the LORD be the guide of your life, then live in that freedom. Let no man ensnare you with legalism. If someone judges you unjustly, remember that accusation and conviction are two very, very, entirely different things. If Jesus does not condemn you, who is any man to judge? Follow Jesus as revealed in God’s Word. Seek His truth and guidance in all things. Be prayerfully ready, in season and out, to hear what God has to say.
Cast your cares aside! In Jesus Christ, YOU ARE FREE!