Here is another word from Jesus that might get the attention of one who feels in bondage. “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” (vs. 31-32)
These words brought a response from the Jewish people of Jesus’ day. What do you mean we will be free? We are free. “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Had they forgotten their nation’s history?
They had been slaves in Egypt. Both the Assyrians and the Babylonians had carried them off into captivity, and even as they spoke the Romans ruled them.
Evidently political captivity did not mean they had lost their freedom. They were children of the covenant. They were God’s chosen ones. They were different from all other people on earth. So they were and so they are even today, according to the New Testament.
The American response, in some ways, is similar to the Jewish response. We are Americans and since the Revolutionary War have been in bondage to no one. When politicians and bureaucrats attack our freedom through regulations and laws, we stand ready to fight.
The medical profession is an excellent example in our day. They resent strongly all the bureaucratic regulations forced upon them by people who know little about what the medical consequences can be. My doctor tells me that once it was a challenge and enjoyable to practice medicine. Today it is not. The politicians have seen to that.
We long to be free. What does Jesus mean when He says he will make us free? He is dealing with a greater captivity than national bondage. He says, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” If I live in spiritual captivity, am I free? Let’s take a look at a few Biblical characters who were helpless in the hours of temptation.
David, King of Israel, had no control over his emotions when he saw Bathsheba and slept with her even though she was Uriah’s wife. Was Zaccheus, the Roman tax collector, free when he stole from the people by assessing them exorbitant taxes even though the government didn’t oppose his dishonesty as long as it received what it wanted? Greed had made him a captive.
Was the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well free when she piously told him that she had no husband? This woman had been married five times and now had a live-in boyfriend. Was she not a slave to her sexual appetite?
Is the addict free? He or she cannot control their appetites whether it be for food, liquor or drugs.
Is the person who is unable to maintain a good marriage free because of his or her self-centeredness? Everything has to be done as he or she wants it to be done.
Is the person free who is so concerned about public opinion that he cannot voice his or her convictions on matters that are important?
Is the person free who is bound to a legalistic code of man-made laws to control his behavior? I refer not to the Law of God but to the list of “shall nots” and “shalls” that some of us lived with believing such obedient behavior would contribute to our salvation. Jesus was pretty tough on the legalistic Pharisees and their man-made regulations. When they condemned Him for healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus asked, “Is it wrong to do a good deed on the Sabbath?”
Martin Luther was a spiritual captive. As a German citizen he was politically free to go about his business. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church of his day, he was bound to the laws of the Church which could be found no where in the Bible.
Was he free as an Augustinian monk seeking to appease an angry god? It is clear that wrong religion has put many people in captivity. Spiritual freedom knows no geographical boundaries. You could be a spiritually free man in Hitler’s Germany and a slave in Clinton’s America.
How then are we set free spiritually? Here is the answer: “If you will abide in my words, you are my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus is not looking for short term followers. Note Jesus’ word, abiding. This means we faithfully read and obey the Bible for it is our authority in matters of faith and life. These quiet moments with God’s Word are our daily visits with God through which He speaks to us. He will not only teach us the truth but will empower us to live according to the truth, which in turn will make us free. In Christ we become new people and a part of that newness is freedom.
Does that word freedom interest you? It matters not what you are in to, Christ can set your spirit free. The answer is clear.