♬ Just a closer walk with thee,
grant it Jesus is my plea . . . . ♬
In our passage for today, Jesus tells us, I have answered your plea! Jesus is speaking to people who believed in him. “If you truly want to be my disciples, continue in my word.” Let’s look at some of his words more carefully.
“Continue,” Jesus said. It means to abide, stick with, remain in, learn it, work with it in your life. Obey it as your authority. Trust that it really is God’s wisdom from above.
“If you continue in MY word . . .” Jesus is talking about his message, the message of who he was. It is about a God who loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. It is Jesus saying my Word means all of Scripture.
“Truly my disciples.” If you continue in the Word, you will be a real disciple of Jesus Christ. You will know the Word. You will believe it, study it, trust it, give it authority, take it seriously, and operate your life by it.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” This is a promise. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. As we live with him in his Word, he teaches us what we need to know for our lives. His Word reveals the heart of God and teaches me that God created me, I am precious and important in his sight, and I need him for my life.
God’s Word shows me that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I need God. Like a helpless sheep who is lost, I need the care of a Shepherd. God has provided the solution for my lostness. He has given us his Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and who takes away my sin. As I continue in his Word, he helps me see that I need him to take over my life and direct me. He alone knows what brings satisfaction, what brings abundance, and what brings the good life God intended for me. He really does know what makes life add up to something!
As Jesus takes me through the truth in his Word, he challenges my natural way of thinking. This is God’s way. Do it God’s way. This is what makes life add up. He challenges my core values and my instincts as a human being, and he puts me on the path of righteousness. Then he continually teaches me how faithful and present he is as he keeps his promises to us.
“The truth will make you free.” Free from what? Jesus said we would be free from the power of sin. Each of us has sin in our lives. Sin is not just the things we do; it is the very core of our being. It is an addictive power that holds its way over us. Jesus said that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. We all have self-destructive behaviors and attitudes that mess up our relationship with God and with people around us.
But Jesus sets us free with a Word of forgiveness as he points us to the cross and reminds us that he has paid the penalty of our sin. He changes us on the inside and frees us from the destructive hold sin has on our lives as we live as new creations in him.
Jesus also sets us free from the consequences of sin. Scripture tells us that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ Ð the truth Ð has given himself for us. God raised him from the dead on the third day, and all who trust in him will have eternal life. This means, then, that I am free from a sense of fear and hopelessness as I look toward the future knowing I am not alone. Nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ my Lord, not even death. “His eye is on the sparrow,” as the song says, “and I know he watches me.”
This is quite an offer that Jesus gives to us this day, isn’t it? He is telling us, if you want a closer walk with him, devote yourself to his Word. Continue in it, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
As we look at these words of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder what you would consider to be the most important word or words in this passage? Is it “continue”? It is important that we continue to abide with the Word.
Are the most important words in this passage, “My word”? Of course, those words are important as well. What about “truth”? Truth is important. “Free”? We love to hear the word, freedom. It means new possibilities.
All these are important words, but the most important in this passage for you and for me is the word, “if.” “IF you continue in my word,” Jesus said. This is a conditional promise. “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” It is inviting us to take a step and to involve ourselves as people of the Word.
There is a wonderful story about a man named G. K. Chesterton. He was a joy-filled Christian from the first half of the twentieth century. Someone once asked him, “If you were marooned on a desert island and could have only one book with you, what would you choose?” Given his reputation as one of the most creative Christian writers of his time, one would naturally expect his response would be the Bible. But it wasn’t. Chesterton instead chose “Thomas’ Guide to Practical Ship Building.”
That makes sense, of course, for when we are trapped on an island, we want a book that will help get us home! We don’t want to be entertained or informed. No, we want a book that will show us how to be saved from our situation.
The truth is that all are trapped in patterns of thought and behavior that lead to death called sin. Chesterton himself once said that the doctrine of the fall into sin is the one Christian belief that is empirically verifiable and validated by thirty-five hundred years of human history. We are trapped on an island Ð an “I” land Ð where we know neither ourselves nor God and are looking for a message that help is on the way.
The followers of Jesus Christ have historically sought to be people who were devoted to continuing in the Word. Let us be the people of one book Ð the Word of God.
How do we do that? Well, first of all, make a commitment to open that Word daily. Read it and have a devotional time with Jesus. As you open that bible, ask him, “Lord, what do you want to teach me today?” Maybe read just a paragraph or two and then ask some questions of the text. What is he saying? What does this have to do with God? What does this have to do with me? What is he telling me I could be doing with my life? What is he promising? And then walk with that verse throughout the day.
Get into a good Bible study book and perhaps a class. One of my favorite classes in understanding the Bible was “The Divine Drama,” written by Harry Wendt. Last year my congregation studied a narrative of the entire Bible called “The Story.” This thirty-one-week experience literally brought people back to life again in their love of God’s Word. If you want to become more knowledgeable about the Bible, I recommend it to you.
Take Jesus at his word. Forgive those who have hurt you. Live by his commands. Believe him when he says, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Decide to live your life in accordance with what his Word is telling you instead of what the world is telling you. Discover for yourself the truth found in the wisdom of Jesus.
Never neglect to participate in worship. If you are going to be devoted to the Word, you need to come to worship and hear that Word. Continue to tune into us here at Christian Crusaders. Participate in worship where you can hear the Word of God as it reminds us again and again of our forgiveness and the grace of God in his love for us.
Finally, find a friend or two with whom you can study. There is great value in a small group gathered around the Word of God as they deal with questions about that Word, challenge each other, and share how Jesus Christ has made a difference in their lives. It can be such a blessing. I have seen lives change in such an experience.
It really comes down to that word, “if.” “If you continue in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” This is quite an offer for the disciple of Jesus Christ, for as we continue in God’s Word, we begin to realize that “Just a closer walk with thee, grant it Jesus is my plea,” is a possibility.
Jesus has indeed granted our plea; He has given us his Word. Draw close to him and be a person of the Word.