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The Truth Will Set You Free

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

 

Gospel of John: Life in Jesus’ Name
John 8 – The Truth Will Set You Free

Do you know what is engraved in the stone on the east side of original portion of the Parks Library on the ISU campus? It says (using modern English), “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”
Who said that? Jesus, in John 8:32. So Jesus’ words are on the top of one of the more popular buildings on campus.
Since Jesus said this, we ought to know what he meant by it. What is this “truth” that will set us free? And free from what?
And then, being the curious fellow like I am, I would like to ask the designers of the building what they intended to mean by that.

Were Jesus’ intention and the builder’s intention the same?

We are in a sermon series reading through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, penned by his disciple, John. We pressed pause on this series 4 weeks ago to dive into two other topics. Today we’re pressing “Resume.”

Our passage today is John 8, where Jesus said those words engraved on the Parks Library.
In this book of John, as much as any other NT book, we see the controversy surrounding Jesus. His claims are astonishing. His insights into souls is remarkable. His call to discipleship is stark.
A few people followed him and loved him. Many absolutely despised him, and some even wanted to kill him.

Jesus Christ is the Matchless One. There has never been anyone like him.

This morning, I assume there is a wide range of spiritual interest and faith in Jesus Christ.
Some of us sitting here this morning might be seeking, but we’re not yet sure who Jesus is.
Or maybe we’re even a skeptic, like one friend of mine recently admitted to me. He’s skeptical the Bible is even true.

Others of us here this morning have a deep conviction who Jesus is, and we believe the words written in the Gospel of John. And we believe that by faith in Jesus, we have been given eternal life and will dwell with God in glory forever and ever.

Whether you are a seeker, a skeptic, or a believer, this Gospel has something for us. If I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that, I would be wasting my time and yours. I believe GOD has something for us here this morning. And I’ve been praying for us all week.

John 8
We’ll read John 8 today.
Let’s actually look at John 7:53 thru 8:11. If your Bible is like mine, those 12 verses are in brackets. My Bible has a footnote explaining why they are in brackets.

The short answer is that virtually all Bible scholars believe that these 12 verses were NOT written by the Apostle John in the first century. In other words, they were not part of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration through John to write this Gospel of Jesus Christ. So that means I, along with most other Christian leaders, do not believe that these 12 verses are inspired by God for the church to hold to and learn from over the past 20 centuries.

The reason scholars don’t believe that John penned this is because for many centuries— perhaps about 10 centuries— the ancient manuscripts of the New Testament did NOT contain those 12 verses. They first appeared roughly 9-10 centuries after John wrote this Gospel. So someone at some time added this story in.

To add a little confusion, many if not most scholars also believe that the story may actually be true. It may have been part of ancient oral traditions that had been passed down from generation to generation until someone added it in.

So a big question for this morning is this: What do we do with these 12 verses? Here’s my take:
1. Since it is not part of John’s Holy Spirit inspired text, I do not place much weight on the passage. And I will likely never preach from this text. And I won’t this morning.
2. The story is interesting and apparently it actually did happen, but we should not put the weight on it that we would place on other passages that were clearly penned by John or others as the inspired Word of God.

So with all that explanation, we’re going to begin in vs. 12. And we will find that the chapter is largely about the Jews arguing with Jesus. They will find themselves fighting against God.

John 8:12–59 (ESV)
Vs. 12
LIGHT OF THE WORLD
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is saying that in this world and in our hearts, there is a spiritual darkness. We cannot escape it. But Jesus declares, “I am the light of the world. Where there is darkness, I bring light. Where there is blindness, I give sight.”

Let’s review the names and titles given to Jesus, either by himself or by others. Here’s a partial list.
1. Word of God
2. Son of God
3. Lamb of God
4. Living water
5. Bread of life
6. Light of the world
(He is assigned more names later, like the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And the Vine.)
As we study those names and what is intended by them, we are confronted with a Jesus who is more than we first realized. He is even more than we might want to admit.

There is something uniquely powerful about the name of Jesus Christ, including the names and titles given in this Gospel.
As a brand new believer in Jesus when I was a 19-year old sophomore at Iowa State, for several months into my new faith, I had trouble actually saying the name, “Jesus Christ.” For years, I had said his name so easily and carelessly when I would curse. But now he was my Savior. His name provoked a worship and an awe—and it humbled me—that I found his name uncomfortable—even intimidating—to say.

But I love these names given to Christ in this Gospel.
In 2009 and 2010, I was going through some challenging times. Some dark times in my soul. I was feeling like a failure as a man of God, as a father, and as a pastor. I was growing more and more discouraged. But I did a study of many of the names and titles given to Jesus that profoundly shaped me and restored my soul. If the Holy Spirit had not driven these lessons into my heart, I would have completely faltered in my faith.

Here is how I would briefly state some of the lessons I learned.
• When my sin is weighing me down, I remember the Lamb of God takes away my sin.
• When my soul is starving, the Bread of Life is my sustenance.
• When my heart is parched and dry and dying, the Living Water quenches the deepest soul thirst, even unto eternal life.
• When I feel like I’m walking in darkness, the Light of the World illumines my way.
• When I simply feel dead and lifeless, I remember that the Resurrection and the Life makes me alive forever.

I summarize it like this: When I looked at myself, all I could see was hurt and brokenness and sin. So as I began to look to Jesus, I realize he not only HAD the answer, he WAS and IS the answer. The person of Jesus IS the answer to my sin, brokenness, thirst, and darkness. Those months seeking out Christ in this Gospel were life-changing for me and continue to shape me even today. I’ve never forgotten those lessons.

APPLICATION: Study the names of Jesus.
If you want to build an unshakeable foundation for your faith, study the names of Jesus given in this gospel.
And ask the Lord to strengthen your understanding and your faith that Jesus and Jesus alone can meet the deepest and even darkest needs of your soul.

Vs. 13-18
WITNESS
13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.
16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.
17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.
18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

The Pharisees essentially call Jesus a Liar. They say he is simply making all this up. There is no verification to what he is saying except his own words. But Jesus resists their argument. He knows he is from heaven and will return there. He knows the Father testifies about him.

Vs. 19-24
ABOVE AND BELOW
19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”
22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”
23 He said to them, “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, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus is extraordinarily blunt. He warns them, “If you don’t believe that God the Father sent me to earth for you, you will die in your sins.” In other words, he is saying, “Believe in me or you will perish in hell.” Talk about blunt. The people are already so hardened that this makes them more combative. Their hard hearts became harder.

Vs. 25-27
IGNORANCE
25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.
26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.”
27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

They simply are ignorant and clueless.
LISTEN TO THIS: An important part of understanding who God is and what he says is the condition of our hearts. This is both a Promise and a Warning to us. If we are humble and receptive, he will open our eyes more and more to truth. If we are proud and stubborn, he will close our eyes more and more to the truth.
In general throughout this Gospel, God’s chosen people of Israel were stubborn and defiant, as was the case for centuries. That’s a significant part of the OT.

Vs. 28-30
BELIEVE
28 So Jesus said to them, “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 authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

This is the first and only indication in this chapter of someone who actually believes Jesus.

Vs. 31-32
FREEDOM
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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.”

Jesus has some words for those who had believed him. Whether he pulled them aside or spoke to them as part of the larger, antagonistic crowd, we’re not told.

Then in vs. 31, he addressed an extremely important topic: What does a true disciple of Jesus look like? A “disciple” means simply “a follower.” A learner. And it’s more than simply learning from some random author or a teacher. It involves a way of life. Following in someone’s footsteps.

And as you read all four gospels, you will find a collection of descriptions of a true follower of Jesus. A “disciple.” Here he says, “If you abide in my word, you are a true disciple.” What does this mean? If you dwell on the words of Jesus…. if you cling to them…. if you hold on to them and don’t let them go… then you are a true follower of Jesus.

This means we must take ALL of Jesus’ words. We don’t pick and choose between the easy ones and the hard ones. This is what happened back in Chapter 6. Jesus spoke some hard teachings about the resurrection and Jesus as the Bread of Life.
And at the end of the chapter, it says,
John 6:60 ESV “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”… After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
These so-called disciples didn’t ABIDE in Jesus’ words.

Then in vs. 32, we’re taken back to the carving on the Parks Library. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What is the truth Jesus is speaking of? Looking at the context including vs. 31, Jesus is speaking of “his word.” What he is saying about himself, about God the Father, about heaven, sin, faith, repentance, and more.

Jesus’ TRUTH is a saving truth. A life-giving truth. Heavenly truth.

When I look at the Parks Library, Jesus’ words are on top. But at the bottom are the names of a variety of well-known scientists and literary greats. Faraday. Shakespeare. Emerson. Newton. Darwin.
Was the “TRUTH” the builders of the Library meant was the “truth” of human knowledge found in science, math, and literature??
If so, that is not at all what Jesus meant. Jesus is speaking of the truth of God’s revelation: who God is, who the Son of God is, what God’s plan for man is, what man’s problem is in his relationship with God and with sin. A heavenly, saving truth that sets us free from sin and the judgment that follows.

If you abide in Jesus’ words and thus are a true disciple, you will have good understanding of truth. The truth of God.
You will know reality. You will understand life as it really is. Nothing false or fake or deceitful.

We hear on Social Media and general media #FakeNews. We wonder, “How do I even know what is true anymore? Whom can I believe?”
Jesus is declaring, “Believe me. I am true. And I speak what is true.” And when you know the truth—really know it and believe it— that truth will set you free.

So from what do we need to be set free?
Let’s continue reading to answer that question.

Vs. 33-35
SLAVERY
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’?”

They don’t understand what Jesus is talking about. And instead of having humble hearts, they are defensive and argumentative. And they are blind to reality. They have in fact, as a nation, been enslaved to others nations many, many times over the past 14 centuries since Moses. And they are currently under the rule of the Roman Empire. And when we read the OT, we find that Israel’s frequent slavery to other nations is due to one problem: SIN.

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

As terrible as human slavery or governmental slavery can be, there is something even worse.
It’s a slavery to sin.
Jesus is not saying that every individual act of sin represents slavery (though there is a sense in which that, too, is true). He is saying that everyone who practices….an ongoing continuation of sin…is a slave to that sin.
Those who sin are slaves to their sin whether they realize it or not. This means that they cannot break away from their sin.

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

Vs. 36-38
FREEDOM
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.”

Verse 36 is such a beautiful word. It’s one of the more beautiful, succinct summaries of the message of the NT. If Jesus the Son sets you free from your sin, you will be truly, eternally free.

APPLICATION
Here’s an application: If you want to memorize a verse from this Chapter to meditate on, try vs. 36.
Make this truth your life’s passion, and let it fuel your worship and your singing.
Remember and never forget what is the ultimate slavery of our lives.
Remember and never forget who is the only one who can set us free from our bondage to the power and the penalty of sin.

Vs. 39-41
ABRAHAM
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,
40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”

They are physical descendants of Abraham. But they are not spiritual descendants. They don’t have Abraham’s humble, childlike faith in God and his promises. They are stubborn and rebellious, the opposite of Abraham.
Then Jesus says something that is going to make them really mad in a moment: “You are doing the works your father did.”
Who is their true spiritual father?

Let’s read more.

Vs. 42-43
HEAR
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.

Verse 43 has a similar thought to back in Chapter 7.
We will never understand the will of God if our hearts are unwilling to hear Jesus’ words. And “hear” means more than simply the transmission of sounds waves into our ears. Usually the word “hear” in the Bible means to receive it willingly and to believe it. Like a father who says to his 8-year old, “Did you hear me?” He really wants to know if he is going to believe and obey.

This morning, if you consider yourself a skeptic or a seeker toward Jesus, but not yet a believer, this is the fundamental point you have to wrestle with in your heart: “Are you willing to hear Jesus’ words? Or are his words unbearable to you?”
If the latter, you will NOT understand Jesus’ words here in this Gospel.

Vs. 44-47
DEVIL
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 does not stand in 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.”

Rather than being descendants of the great man of faith, Abraham, these stubborn rebellious people are descendants of Satan himself. Satan—the devil—is a liar, and the father of lies.
Some of you are fluent in English. Others are fluent in Chinese or Korean or an African dialect. The devil is fluent in his primary language: LYING.
Alarmingly, Jesus just told his fellow Jews that they are so deceived that the devil himself is their father.

If I were one of Jesus’ young disciples, I would be alarmed at what Jesus just said. He spoke “fighting words.” Words that would make these Jews angry. For Jesus just called them “children of the devil”!!

Vs. 48-56
GLORY
48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.
50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.
51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’
53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”

They should honor and glory in God the Father and his Son, Jesus. Instead, they glory in themselves and in effect, they glory in the devil. Jesus, on the other hand, glories in his heavenly Father. Read vs. 54.

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”

In vs. 56, it’s difficult to know precisely what Jesus is saying about what Abraham saw. Perhaps a vague vision of a coming day when God would bring his promised blessing to people all over the world.
But there is no question that Jesus identifies the ultimate fulfillment of all Abraham’s hopes and joys with his own person and work. This is astonishing.

Vs. 57-59
I AM
57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus says an extraordinarily profound statement.
“Before Abraham was, I am.”
It’s an odd expression, but it’s powerful and has rich implications. To say “I am” is to say an expression of Deity.
And Jesus speaks of his pre-existence. He existed before Abraham, who lived 2000 years before this day.

And if we have any questions what Jesus meant, the Jews did not. They picked up stones to throw at him and kill him.
This is not a new claim. John 5:18 from last month has a similar thought: The Jews believed he was speaking blasphemy, so they wanted to kill him.

Jesus’ words here in vs. 57 and throughout this chapter continue to astonish us. He is so blunt and so bold. His claims are so radical that he is either INSANE or he is Deity come down from heaven, sent by the Father to bring LIGHT to a dark world and to set FREE those who are enslaved to sin and under the WRATH of God.

Conclusion

Let me wrap up this morning with a couple of words to us all.

If you are a Seeker or a Skeptic, you are confronted with this uncomfortable but potentially true news.
Jesus will not allow us to cling to some middle ground.
If we are still seeking for the answers to life, are we truly willing to discover who Jesus is?
We may have genuine intellectual questions about Jesus and the Bible. And I and many others in this room have honest questions, too, and would be glad to discuss those with you.

But we all must realize that ultimately we have to wrestle with what is inside our hearts. Go on a heart journey to examine your willingness to receive Jesus for who he says he is.

If you are a believer in Jesus, and like in vs. 31 you “abide in Jesus’ words and are a true disciple…
…then be very, very glad this week.
You ought to marvel and worship and tremble and sing.

Jesus stands before you as…
The LAMB of God who has taken away your sin.
The LIVING WATER who quenches your thirsty soul and brings you into eternity.
The BREAD of LIFE who alone satisfies this deep spiritual hunger in your starving soul.
The LIGHT of the WORLD who brings you out of eternal darkness into his Kingdom of Light.
The TRUTH from heaven to set us free from the Power and Penalty of sin.

Marvel and worship and sing. You will be in God’s glorious light forever and ever and ever and ever.

And as you face many trials this week— some of them quite weighty—remember your hope. Remember what is coming. And rejoice— sing, worship, give thanks—for that.

There is no better hope in your life.