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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Read John

DAY 11 // Freedom Through Christ

Willow Creek Community Church

 

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, 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.”

~ JOHN 8:34-36

 

LISTEN


COMMENTARY

In John 8:31, Jesus begins to teach people at the Festival of Tabernacles who had recently come to “believe.” Jesus says to them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus promises these believers that they can experience freedom if they continue to cling to His Word, to the truth. To most, freedom might sound like a good thing. Unfortunately, this offends these new believers. In John 8:33, they respond, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” They protest that they have never been slaves, which is odd. Perhaps the most well-known story in their nation’s history was of the time God rescued them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 1-15). Even during Jesus’ day, they were under Roman control. Of course they had been slaves! What they probably meant was that they had never been captive to anyone in a spiritual sense. They thought that they were spiritually free because they were children of Abraham.

Ironically, this is exactly the idea that Jesus wanted to confront. They needed spiritual freedom. He goes on to say in John 8:34, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” This is what the people found so offensive. They did not want to accept the fact that they needed liberation from sin. They thought they were in right standing with God because they were children of Abraham, because of their heritage.

We’re not so different in our own culture today. Many of us are either totally unaware or unwilling to accept that we may be spiritual captives. We think we are free because of our own family backgrounds, religious traditions, or good works. We feel free. Jesus’ point is that sin is like a slave driver and all humanity is held in bondage.

The good news is that we can experience freedom from that bondage, from shame, from bitterness, and from pride. What Jesus asks is that we cling to the “word” and know “the truth,” both of which are perfectly embodied by Jesus (John 1:1, 1:14; 14:6). Those who are faithful to Jesus are welcomed as sons and daughters into eternal, spiritual freedom.


SCRIPTURE

JOHN 8:21–59

DISPUTE OVER WHO JESUS IS

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”

23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father

has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.

DISPUTE OVER WHOSE CHILDREN JESUS’ OPPONENTS ARE

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

33 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?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, every- one who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. 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. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

JESUS’ CLAIMS ABOUT HIMSELF

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

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dis- honor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 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 obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.


REFLECTION

1. The religious leaders’ actions and attitudes clearly identified them as being followers of the devil (John 8:43-45). They may not have been conscious of this, but their hatred, lies, and murderous intentions indicated how much the devil had control over them. The devil is still at work today and wants nothing more than for each of us to miss an opportunity to share Christ’s love. The devil prevents us from witnessing to others by planting seeds of frustration, anger, bitterness, and deceit in our hearts. Can you identify how the devil might be trying to take control over you and limit your influence for Christ?

2. In John 8:46-47, Jesus intentionally challenged His listeners to test Him. He welcomed those who wanted to question His claims and character as long as they were willing to follow through on what they discovered. But, the people either never accepted His challenge to test Him, or they weren’t willing to believe what they discovered. If you are ever in the place of doubting the identity of Christ, how can you test Him? What is required of you if you do?