Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Freedom

Who's Your Daddy? John 8:31-59, 10 February 2013

Big Idea: We are all slaves to sin and need freedom through Jesus.

Intro

This passage is loaded with background that is essential in order to fully grasp and apply. The Jews were descendants of Abraham, the one with whom God made a covenant. If you’ve been around at all this year we’ve mentioned it every week—Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. The people of Israel had a relationship with God, a relationship that tragically turned into yet another religion filled with rules and regulations, stripped of intimacy, authenticity, and love.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31-32)

Who is Jesus’ audience? Jews who believed Him. What did they believe? Keep in mind that throughout His life, Jesus had followers that deserted Him. Many walked away, His best friends fell asleep when He needed their support, His closest friend denied Him three times, one betrayed Him. Believing in Jesus is just the start.

There is a huge difference between professing faith and saving faith. Anyone can pray a prayer, but that doesn’t mean we are true believers and possess faith. R.C. Sproul says, “We must possess what we profess.” Notice what Jesus says about discipleship: it’s not about knowledge, but obedience. This is huge! Real disciples follow Jesus’ teaching and then they are set
free.

Freedom

We love freedom, don’t we? Our nation was largely founded upon the idea of freedom, though ironically and tragically slavery has been a prominent feature in our history. Many of our founding fathers who valued freedom owned slaves!

We take our freedoms for granted—until they are threatened or removed. There’s a lot of talk these days about the freedom to bear arms and other freedoms that may be in jeopardy, but that pales in comparison to what many face.

Tragically, slavery is alive and well in our nation. Watching the film Lincoln a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but appreciate the incredible courage and dedication of Abraham Lincoln and others who abolished slavery in the USA, but tragically it is very real today.

In fact, there are more slaves today in our world than at any time in human history, between 10 and 30 million people! I urge you to visit
www.EndItMovement.com. Sign the petition. Tell others about it. Most people are shocked to learn that slavery exists...right here in Washtenaw County!

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (8:33)

I’ve heard many say, “I’m a Christian. I went to church as a kid. I was born in the USA. Of course I’m a Christian.” Nobody enters the Kingdom of God because of their ancestors. We must all be born again (John 3:3).

The Jews understood slavery—in their history. Their ancestors were slaves, working in Egypt under Pharaoh until God called Moses to lead them to the Promised Land. Understandably, Jesus’ hearers couldn’t fathom being slaves.

Isn’t it interesting how many people are in bondage but don’t realize it? Millions are enslaved to alcohol, food, or work. Countless lives have been destroyed by debt, fear, or the approval of other people.

Next Jesus acknowledges the obvious—or not so obvious: we are all messed up!

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (8:34-38)

Sin sounds like such an old-fashioned word, doesn’t it? Sin destroys, yet it is an addiction for all of us.

Jesus makes it clear that being a child of Abraham is not the same as being a child of God. Tragically, the Jewish people that were to be a blessing and shine the light to the rest of the world were in the dark.

If the light is dark, we’ve got a problem!

Do you remember that song, “This Little Light of Mine”? What if we don’t shine?

“Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
(8:39-41)

Sonship is not about biology, but obedience. The conversation is getting a little heated now. Perhaps you’ve heard of father Abraham. He was the patriarch, you might say the original Jew. It was understood that tradition and heritage would bring freedom, but Jesus says it is truth that sets us free, but we can’t be freed from something until we are in bondage to something. You can’t set a bird that is in the wild free. It must first be taken captive.

Jesus is telling them that circumcision and diet and family heritage are not what brings freedom and a right relationship with God. True Jewishness is inward.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (8:42-47)

We are naturally born without a desire for God. Our human nature is sinful and wicked, which is why it’s such a miracle when the Holy Spirit brings conviction and repentance. The greatest miracle, in fact, is a transformed man, woman or child that follows Jesus rather than making an idol of themselves and their desires.

Jesus tells some important truths here about satan—he is a liar and the father of lies.

This is not an excerpt from Andrew Carnegie’s book
How To Win Friends and Influence People!

We need to back up for a moment and remember that Jesus is a wanted Man—wanted by His followers, yes, but also His enemies. His ultimate enemy, of course, is...satan.

Ironically, Paul said in his first book to the people of Corinth (11:14) that “satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” Do you remember a moment ago, “this little light of mine”? What if satan’s plan was to have the most pious, respected leaders in the community destroy Jesus? Who would ever suspect such a thing? Murderers committing murder is so passé, but the religious people? Who would ever see that coming?

Spiritual warfare is real. We have a real enemy. He wants to steal, kill and destroy. He not only acts like an angel of light, he is full of lies. He is sneaky. He knows the Scriptures better than anyone in this room (remember the temptation of Jesus?). He is real.

Satan is a murderer and the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus!

Notice, too, the politically incorrect teaching of Jesus. He doesn’t say all roads lead to God, but rather that we cannot have the Father and not have the Son, and we cannot have the Son and not the Father because the Father sent the Son. As we will see in a few weeks, Jesus said, “I am
the way, the truth, and the life.”

Do you hear what God says? Do you belong to God?

Jesus claims the devil as their father. They return the favor.

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

“I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (8:48-51)

You have to admit that’s a bold statement, especially on the surface. As usual, Jesus speaks the truth. He is the truth, but He is not always clearly understood.

He’s not so much talking about himself, but the ‘father who sent’ Him.

At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” (8:52-53)

Notice here they claim Abraham as their father, though Jesus is speaking of God the Father.

Who do you think you are?
This is one of the greatest questions in the entire Bible. Repeatedly I have said that the two most important questions in life are who are you and who is Jesus.

Jesus asked His follower, “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:13-15; Mark 8:27-29; Luke 9:18-20)

You can understand the Jews getting riled up about this. Jesus is shattering their paradigm of what it means to be righteous.

Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” (8:54-56)

These are audacious claims, right? He’s saying that Abraham—who was blessed to be a blessing—was looking ahead to Jesus Himself and the life and resurrection that He would offer us. Jesus Himself is embodying what Abraham’s God promised centuries earlier.

It gets better!

“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” (8:57)

Good point, right?

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (8:58)

That may seem like bad grammar, but here’s what Jesus was really saying—I am God. He speaks in the Name of the Father, the secret and holy Name of God, YHWH. He refers to Himself clearly as God. I created everything. John’s first words in this book say...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (1:1-2)

John is reminding us again in chapter 8 that Jesus was in the beginning. Through Him all things were made (1:3).

Needless to say, claiming to be God made the religious leaders go crazy! This was blasphemy, a capital offense—as was breaking the Sabbath earlier.

Jesus was no weak, gentle guy prancing in the woods. He was a radical revolutionary, unafraid of conflict, confronting His enemies, and turning upside down not only tables in the temple (another story) but everything the Jews understood about God Himself and the Way to HIm.

Predictably...

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (8:59)

Our story ends with an angry mob of Jews that believed in Jesus at the beginning of the narrative, but are now ready to kill HIm. Jesus, meanwhile, slips away because it wasn’t yet time for Him to die.

Our Story

Here’s my concern: I have a feeling if we were characters in this story, we’d be the Jews, grabbing stones at this controversial figure who is turning conventional wisdom upside down. He offends them. He literally introduces a completely different worldview to them, one that is not centered around being a privileged descendent, but rather one who radically obeys.

Does this sound familiar? It could be said that I’m a religious person devoted to Sunday worship gatherings, tithing 10% to the local church, driving the speed limit, and a daily Bible reader.

What would Jesus say to me? What we He say to you?

I think He would say, “Do you know me? Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Take care of the stranger, the widow and the orphan. Be a blessing to the nations. Listen to My voice like all good sheep listen to their Shepherd and know his voice. Practice hospitality and eat with those far from Me. Study Me. Share Me. Sound familiar?

I want to go back to where we began.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31-32)

If you obey Jesus—and He said a lot of hard things—You are really His disciple. Then you will know the truth and it will set you free...from the bondage of sin and death.

Author Gary Burge said, “
The deepest paradox of John 8 is that Jesus suffers religious persecution.” He goes on to say, “The paradigm of the passage is then set: Jesus steps into a religiously devout environment and immediately splits his audience. Those who follow him become passionate believers. Those who stand opposed, who defend their traditions with zeal, suddenly become zealous opponents, enemies of God’s work in the world. This passage warns the custodians of tradition that their defense of these spiritual habits and rituals may well be their undoing.” Later he writes, “If Jesus stepped into our century, if he walked into our evangelical churches, if he picked up a religious symbol (as he did at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles) and challenged the symbol’s original meaning, would we cheer or would we fight? Suddenly we might find ourselves defending Christendom instead of the Christian faith. We might explain that the old meaning, the old songs, the old forms had worked just fine for generations. We might challenge this newcomer and demand that he verify that he was indeed a messenger from God. And when he pressed his claims powerfully, suddenly we would be forced either to let go of our former position and become a believer or argue and rebel.”

Disciples of Jesus study Jesus, spend time in the Word, know the truth, and are set free. Tragically, the rest of the world is in slavery to sin, lies, and death that originate with satan.

What about you? Do you know Jesus? I didn’t ask if you were religious. I didn’t ask if you go to church and smile on Sundays. Do you know Jesus? If you do, there is freedom...from sin, death, and despair.

If you don’t know Jesus, I want to introduce you to Him. He’s Your Creator. He loves You so much that He gave His very life to give you life, freedom, purpose, joy, forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation to a God that finds sin completely unacceptable. Period. That’s why Jesus, His death, and resurrection are so important. Without Jesus, we’re hopeless. We’re slaves to sin. But because of Jesus, we can express life, joy, meaning, and freedom from sin...and religion.

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