Knowing the Truth – What is Freedom?

John 8:28-36
28 So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own. But just as the Father taught Me, I say these things.
29 The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.”
30 As He was saying these things, many believed in Him.
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples.
32 You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 “We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered Him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’? “
34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever.
36 Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”

I meet many spiritual seekers in my travels.  Some of whom are looking for the truth.  What does “the truth” mean in the context of this scripture (John 8:32)?  I would venture a guess that even more of us are looking for freedom.  How do we define freedom in the context of this scripture (John 8:36)?

I believe the context for all of chapter eight in the book of John is about a personal revelation of God as a loving Father.  A friend of mine recently shared that the goal of the gospel is not just to bring people to personal relationship with Jesus, but for them to understand who they are as sons and daughters of God as their Father.

Romans 8:15 (HCSB)
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father! “.

The word translated ‘Abba’ from the Greek text is ‘Av’ in Hebrew for Father.

Jesus always spoke to God as His Father (with one notable exception).  What was scandalous in the text was the idea that Jesus could have a personal relationship with God as Father.  For this, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.  I shared a message a year ago entitled “Jesus came to show us the Father.”

In order to understand the truth Jesus is talking about, we need to look at how He defines freedom.  In our American culture, and in our churches, we get the idea that freedom means that I can do whatever I want.  We celebrate freedom on July 4th, as well as say and do all kinds of things in the name of “freedom”, but I don’t believe any of that has anything to do with how Jesus defined freedom.

I believe the freedom Jesus makes reference to is knowing God as a loving Father, sets you free to do what is pleasing to Him (John 8:28-29).  A son or daughter will remain in His house which means we abide or remain in His love and His word.  Knowing how we are loved (the Son is lifted up), sets us free to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Revelation of that love that gave Himself up for our sakes humbles us.  In that place of humility and understanding, we will have a desire to submit to the good and pleasing will of the Father.

Part of what is being revealed in the verses below is whether we have the heart of an orphan (a slave), or a free heart (a son).

John 8:34-35 (HCSB)
34 Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
35 A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever.”

Yeshua tells us that everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  What does that mean?  Does that mean we can reach a place of sinlessness?  Hardly.  What the scripture seems to suggest in context is that we are not really free when we choose sin (something other than the will of the Father).  We have not received the revelation that life is really found in the love of the Father and that there is greater joy to be experienced abiding with Him than doing our own thing.  The two trees in the garden of Eden represent choices of leadership.  Only one of those choices leads to life.

I have written in previous blogs that light is a metaphor for truth.  Darkness is a metaphor for deception or ignorance (lack of light).

1 John 1:5-9 articulates this metaphor.

5 Now this is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.
6 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If” we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light.  What does that mean?  I believe Jesus walked in perfect understanding of who he was as a son.  Truth is shaped in the form of a cross.  It requires humility and submission to the will of the Father.  It acknowledges our need for us to take up our cross daily and die to the desires of our own flesh.

Nobody wants to be around someone who thinks they are perfect.  It is our human need for a Savior that helps us to relate to each other (compassion).  We have fellowship when we can be transparent with one another, be transparent with ourselves, and be transparent with God.  Walking in the light means I don’t need to hide or be ashamed, and I have confidence that my Heavenly Father loves me, is for me, and is not ashamed to call me His son.

Confession keeps us honest and keeps us in relationship.  Darkness hides and conceals things because of fear, deception, or shame.  When I commit some kind of sin that affects my wife, it is generally better that I let her know rather than trying to hide it or cover it up.

Proverbs 28:13 (HCSB)
The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.

The point is not for us to become sin or confession focused.  The point is for us to have honest, transparent relationships and to have our focus on the Father and the Son.

Tying this all together, I started with the question, “what is freedom?”  Freedom is knowing the love of the Father for you, personally.  Out of relationship, freedom looks like knowing the good and perfect will of the Father and out of love, being able to love others as you love yourself.  Freedom looks like walking in transparency in all your relationships.  Not being perfect, but honest.  Walking in freedom will look like life in the spirit and will reveal the goodness of God.  Freedom will bear good fruit and bring honor to God the Father and Jesus the Son.  Being truly free means I am able to choose the Father’s will over my own.  That is the “real” definition of freedom.

In my next blog, I plan on dispelling some bad theology with regard to how we think…

Pure grace and truly free

I’ve been greatly impacted by a book I’ve been reading called “Destined to Reign” by Joseph Prince, which expounds upon the message of grace, pointing out places where we’ve missed the message of grace and instead have made it about our own efforts. One of the applications of the book is not mixing law and grace together, illustrated by Paul’s writings in the book of Galatians and of Jesus in His parable of the wineskins.

Joseph shares a particularly profound insight regarding the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:3-5). In this holy place was the ark of the covenant, where the manna, stone tablets, and Aaron’s rod were placed inside the box, representing the rebellion and failures of man (rejecting God’s provision, law, and leadership respectively). Above all of this is the mercy seat where the presence and glory of God rests. The sins have been covered and atoned for. The glory of God is to be found in focusing on what Christ has done (above), not focusing on man’s efforts, performance, or failures (below).

I’m beginning to see that all of scripture needs to be interpreted through the lens of grace. For example, how do we interpret these words?

Matthew 16:24
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Of course the Greek word for life is “psyche”, which is the life of the soul. The context of the text makes it clear that it’s about having God’s agenda instead of mans’. Without the lens of grace, we make it about man’s efforts and performance to live a selfless life. In charismatic circles, we make it somehow about “being on fire for God”. These words of Jesus were spoken directly to Peter. Was Peter able to deny himself out of his own effort? More importantly, can you save yourself? Peter thought he could. I think I thought I could, too. However, what if the application of these words takes on a larger swath?

What if taking up our cross is not about a religious discipline, but rather a recognition that we need a saviour? What if denying ourselves is about coming to the end of ourselves and recognizing it’s not about our efforts, our righteousness, or our performance? Isn’t that what being childlike is all about (being dependent)? What if the words that Jesus spoke were about a need to die (a cross) to self effort, and discover the grace of God, representing the unmerited, unearned favor and kindness of God?

We can only be saved (sozo – healed, saved, made whole, cleansed) by Grace in a place of believing. I’m beginning to realize how outrageous the gospel of grace actually is. It is not merely “mediocre” news. As the book of Isaiah asks, “who has believed our report?”

I’ve been struck by this message that Isaiah originally shared (Isaiah 6), and is explained by Jesus in Matthew 13:15, and John 12:37-40. Jesus explains that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him (John 12:41).
The text from Isaiah 6 reads as follows:

“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.”

To paraphrase, I want to emphasize “Understand with their hearts, turn towards my grace and be healed.”

I believe that Isaiah recognized his own condition in the presence of the King (Isaiah 6:5). He turned towards grace (represented by the seraphim, an ambassador of grace). Grace forgave his sins, took away his uncleanness, and his iniquity. It was all unearned and unmerited, and initiated by an understanding of his own inability to save himself in the presence of grace (Isaiah 6:5-7). Remember that Jesus tells us that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory!

The context of the passage in John 12 is about those who rejected the message of grace (a light into the world). The context of the passage in Matthew 13 is about Jesus speaking in parables and that the message of the kingdom is about having a heart that can receive the unearned, unmerited message of grace.

Going back to the cross, the cross represented the death of the old covenant of law (referred to as the ministry of condemnation by Paul). Only those who understood their own inability were ready to receive the free gift of grace where they would find life. The cross represented a transition from an old covenant of law into a new covenant of grace.

Roman 8:2
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

I believe the application to take up our cross is to die to our ability to perform to the laws of man including those we place on ourselves. There is no life to be found when we focus on ourselves or our performance. Freedom is found in focusing on Christ and the fullness of what He has purchased for us with his blood, his body, and his life. I believe a resurrected life looks like something. I believe it looks like being fully alive, and completely free. I believe it looks like the kingdom of heaven, walking in joy, peace, and His righteousness given to us. Can you imagine what the world would look like, with lots of people this free? This outrageous message can only be found in a place without mixture. Believing the message of pure grace.

My challenge to you today is to let the Holy Spirit help you to interpret scripture through the lens of grace, and to point you to what it means to be truly free.