Freedom Through Truth
January 20, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Today we read The Gospel Of John, chapter eight, verse thirty-one. Just before it, it is written "When he had said these things, many believed on Jesus," (8:30). It was very happy news. The mission work of Jesus had brought forth fruit; for, it says that many had believed.
2. But, Jesus did not act wild with joy over it. In the place we read today, Jesus was speaking as follows. "If my words remain in you, you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free," (verses 31-32). Please take note that the text deliberately says, "He was speaking to the Jews who had believed on Him." [He was speaking to] the ones who had believed. It is not the people who did not believe.
3. Through certain processes and at [different] times, people come to meet Jesus and come to believe on Him. Upon believing in Jesus, they receive baptism. In church they make confession of their "entering the faith," and as such that's wonderful and it's also important. But, actually, there is something of a higher importance than that. Jesus says, "If you remain in my words." [Jesus] says the important thing is to remain in the words of Jesus, to become a true disciple, and to be made free by means of the truth.
If You Remain In My Words
4. Jesus said, "If my words remain in you, you are truly my disciples." Jesus sought for people who would "remain." He said that is the true disciple. He did not seek for people who were momentarily impressed. He did not seek for a single decision of "believing" either. He demanded that a person "remain."
5. I made mention of it last week too, but this word "to remain" is a key word that appears repeatedly in The Gospel According To John. This is a word that means a continuous connection, a relationship, a fellowshipping. Later on the same word is found in the parable of the grape vine and its branches. The Lord says, "Be connected to me," (15:4). "To be connected" [and] "to remain" -- in the original language -- are the same word. The branch's being connected to the main line trunk is not a temporary activity. There is a relational bond between branch and trunk line. That's the image within the word "to remain." The faith life is continuous. It is neither a momentary excitement nor a craze. It is an unceasing fellowship with Christ, it is a continuous bonding. In the faith "the present" always matters a great deal. It is precisely because there is continuity that one is a disciple.
You Are [My] Disciples Precisely Because You Continue [With Me]
6. Again, Jesus said, if you remain "in my word." It is in "the word." A relationship with Christ is made through the words of Christ. We do not merely believe Christ in a vague way, nor do we believe like we want to, but we remain in the words of Jesus. We remain in fellowship with Christ by [our] listening carefully, by [our] accepting his words into our hearts, by [our] carrying his word in our hearts. Therefore, the church has held high the component of "listening" in its services. As a major component of a believer's daily life, the act of "listening" has been valued greatly. [Our] Bibles have been opened in order for [us] to hear the Word.
Those Who Sin Are Slaves To Sin
7. Also then, the Lord said, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Before we ask anything about "the truth" and "the truth" that will make us free, I wonder if we may need to ask whether we really want to be free in the first place. How about you? Do you really want to be free?
8. Today's sermon title is "Freedom Through Truth." Shoei Church puts the sermon titles outside [for the public]. I wonder how many people are ever drawn in and attracted by these sermon titles. Perhaps many in this nation of Japan today think they are free just as they are. Or perhaps if they are in need of freedom, they think that they must fight for it on their own. Either way though, I'm pretty sure they are not thinking anything like I will have Christ give me freedom.
9. Those Jews who were right there in front of Jesus were the same way. They did not seem to have the sincere desire either, that "I want to be free." What did they say? "We are the descendants of Abraham. We have not been the slaves of anyone to this day. How can you say, 'We will become free.'?" That's what they said.
10. Strictly speaking, the words that the Jews gave after that are not exact. They said, "We are the descendants of Abraham. We have not been the slaves of anyone to this day." But, when you trace back to the beginning, they used to be slaves in Egypt. Furthermore, when you look at the long history of the Jews, they had repeatedly been put under the governments of super power nations. But Jesus is not interested in refuting them by making reference to the historical facts related to such. Jesus spoke as follows. "Truly I say to you. Anyone who sins is a slave to sin," (verse thirty-four). [He] says that what disables a person's freedom does not come from the environment in which one is placed, nor does it come from political oppression, but it comes from a person's own sin. Sin makes a human being into a slave. Sin disables a person's freedom. That's what Jesus says.
11. What Jesus means by that gradually becomes clear by the fervent words of Jesus that come next. The disguise of human beings when they claim themselves to be free is ripped right off. I didn't read it to you today, but from verse thirty-nine onward the Jews call themselves "the children of Abraham." In addition, they even say about themselves that their father is God. That was the self understanding of the Jews. But, Jesus says, "You are persons who have come from your father the devil, and you want to satisfy the desires of this father of yours. Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and is not on the authority of the truth; because there is no truth in him. When Satan tells lies, he tells [them] from his own nature. You are liars because you are from your father," (verse forty-four). What a harsh word! Jesus calls them "the children of Satan." Therefore, are they not practicing what Satan desires? Thus, Jesus has spoken in that way [about them].
12. The devil is a murderer, says Jesus. Where does the root of the act of murder lie? It lies in "hatred." In saying, "The devil is a murderer" it means, in sum, that the devil is the source of hatred and hostility. As for the act of murder, that which lies inwardly becomes manifested outwardly. It is hatred, that thing that lies inside. We should never pray in our hearts, "I wish that guy was never born." In other words, it is the same thing as saying, "I wish he were dead." That is the act of obliterating a person's existence, and when it is manifested externally, it turns into murder. The terms and requirements are all present, but when it is manifested on the outside it becomes the act of murder. Truly just as Jesus says, the devil is the source of hatred and hostility, and he is a murderer. And furthermore, he says that the devil is a liar. There is no truth in Satan. Satan is the source of every kind of lie, he is the father of liars.
13. The Jews were standing right in front of Jesus and said, "We have only one father. It is God." However, how about the inside of their hearts? [Their hearts] were filled with hostility and hatred. Jesus understood that; [and he saw into them] that no matter how religiously they showed themselves on the outside, no matter how good they were in prettying up the outside, what they had on the inside was chock full of hatred and lies. That's why Jesus says, "Aren't you doing what that murderer, that liar, the devil wants?," and "Aren't you becoming children of the devil by doing [his will]?"
14. I suppose some people might feel some resistance to the word "devil, satan." Or there may even be some who laugh at it as a pre-modern idea. Yet, even if some do take it that way, we cannot deny the truth itself that humankind is certainly swung around by hatred, dragged around by hostility, and tossed around by its own lies. You can hardly laugh at that. I may claim "I am free." I may claim, "I'm free to do whatever I please." I may say, "I'm free unless I'm imposing on somebody else." Though one may make those claims the entire time, yet a person becomes the slave to desire, and soon becomes a slave to hatred, and as a lie gives birth to lies, one becomes a slave to lies.
15. The person who sins is a slave of sin. That is true. [I] would rather be restrained by a human being than to become a slave of sin and become a slave of Satan. That's because even though I might be physically restrained, my heart could [still] be free. But, when one becomes a slave to sin and to Satan, one's heart and day to day life become shackled beyond one's control. It is not an external shackle that cripples our freedom. It is the sin within us, it is the devil which brings sin about.
The Truth Frees You
16. Therefore, we see that Jesus is stating something truly astonishing here. "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." That's what he says. The truth will make you free! "Truth (shinri)" can be translated as "reality, actual truth (shinjitsu)." The truth is the true reality of God which has been revealed in Christ. It is the true and real love of God. The words of Christ and Jesus Christ himself are the very truth of the reality of the God who loves us, forgives us, gives us eternal life, and is willing to save us. Therefore, after Jesus said, "The truth will make you free," he also said, to be specific, that "Therefore, if the son (that is, Christ) sets you free, you will truly be free," (verse thirty-six). Christ sets us free and releases us from sin and Satan.
17. When we make that claim, then others will ask the question, "If you believe in Christ, if you're a Christian, will you no longer sin ever again?" No, Jesus never said such a thing. We mustn't forget that before that Jesus had said, "If you remain in my word." You believed in Christ at a certain time. That was one of [your] major decisions no doubt. But, I repeat, the issue is whether you are here and now remaining in the word of Christ and walking together with Christ. Christ makes [you] free. Through Jesus, through his word, we are touched by God's love and truth, filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with God's life, and we are made free. But, said conversely, when we are taken captive by sin, that's when we are separated from Christ. It is when we are not remaining in the Word. At that time, we have neither life nor power, and we become slaves of sin.
18. Therefore, the issue is not how much time has elapsed since we received baptism, nor is it how fervently we have acted in the past. Let's seek for the freedom that is in Christ. We need a lifestyle of walking with Christ day by day, a daily life in fellowship with Christ. Let's seek for the freedom that is in Christ. "If you remain in my words, you will truly be my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." -- Because the Lord says it will.