Jesus : 31 If you hear My voice and abide in My word, you are truly My disciples; 32 you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free.
Jewish Believers: 33 We are Abraham’s children, and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say to us, “You will be set free”?
Jesus: 34 I tell you the truth: everyone who commits sin surrenders his freedom to sin. He is a slave to sin’s power…. if the Son comes to make you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8, excerpted, from The Voice)
Let’s talk today about three ways in which the truth brings freedom.
FROM SPIRITUAL SLAVERY TO SIN
I am not going to spend a lot of time on this because I think I’ve covered this several times recently. The bottom line: Without Jesus, we were spiritually dead, chained into our sinful habits and compulsions. The death and resurrection of Jesus brought us to life and broke the chains. We call this salvation. In the process we call sanctification God is in some sense constantly at work in us, breaking the chains we keep dragging back on ourselves.
Let’s try an analogy.
We were all enslaved on a spiritual plantation, chained by our lust, pride, greed, envy, self-loathing, etc. Jesus shows up and says, “Would you like to be free?” And we all say, “Absolutely!” So Jesus knocks the chains away and says, “You’re free. Go! Live!”
But we say, “I kind of like this chain here. That lust one actually felt good sometimes.” So we clink it back on. The slave master didn’t do it. We were “drawn away by my own lusts” (James 1:14) But even then, it’s not like Jesus throws up his hands and says, “Well, your on your own.” He waits, and when we say, “I was wrong. I don’t want this one,” he gladly breaks it for us.
So we leave that place of death and pain, but as we are walking down the road we see lots of other places where we could now live. We remember that the reason we ended up there was because we didn’t know how to tell the good places from the bad. But Jesus gave us a guidebook that reveals the truth about the all the options in front of us. We can see now which places will draw us into death and chains, and which places will draw us into life and liberty.
Jesus is the Truth; He cannot help but tell the truth. His word gives the Truth. Freedom from the chains and eternal penalty of sin is the primary meaning we see in this passage about how He sets us free. However, I believe there are other ways in which we can clearly see how truth brings freedom.
God’s design is for our good. God demands that we be people of truth because He loves us, and He knows what is good for us. So with the foundation in place of Jesus as the Truth and His Truth setting us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2) let’s talk about some practical implications of being people of truth.
1. WE ARE FREED FROM THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF LIES
First thing to note: Lying makes God mad really mad.
• Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
• Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord…
• Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
I can think of at least three very practical reasons that God hates this kind of sin: it hurts us; it ruins relationship/community; it harms God’s reputation.
It Hurts Us
I believe there is a basic human tendency to think others view the world like we do. We project ourselves into them. If we are liars, I suspect we assume others are liars as well. And what happens if we assume that?
• We live in fear of being caught, so we build walls. If no one can get in, no one can see what we are hiding.
• We never trust others, because they are like us, right?
• We are forced to build a web of lies (“Oh, what a web we weave…”)
• We don’t believe promises, compliments, and assurances. Why would we? There’s a good chance none of it is true.
This is not freedom. That is a life of bondage. It’s not just that the truth of God’s Word that sets us free from bondage to sin. It’s the belief that there is truth and that it’s important, and that the commitment to honoring it all the time matters. And the more we honor the very concept of truth, the more we don’t have to hide and cover up. The more we begin to assume the best of others. Our default cynicism turns into default trust. We can accept promises and compliments. We begin to hunger for truth.
It Ruins Relationships/Community
Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? He lied so often that Eventually no one believed him. There are other stories that get a lot more uncomfortable:
• The spouse who says “Everything’s fine!” when it’s not.
• The child who says, “Yes, mom,” but doesn’t do it.
• The person who breaks promise after promise.
• The friend who tells you that you are doing great; meanwhile, you are ruining your life.
• The one who makes up false excuses about why they didn’t do something with you – and you find out.
I believe God intends us to live in relational community. There is no way we can do this in deeply meaningful ways if we are not people of truth. This is the kind of scenario that breeds suspicion, distrust, anger and resentment.
It Harms God’s Reputation
When we read in the Bible about being ambassadors, the image is that of being the face of Jesus. If you saw the Lord of the Rings: “I am the Mouth of Sauron” was like saying, if you listen to me, you listen to Sauron. And however you treat me is how you treat Sauron. In The 300, Xerxes sends an ambassador to the Greeks, and this ambassador expects to be treated as if he were Xerxes. When Leonidas killed him, he sent a clear message: he was ready to kill the King. The ambassador, the representative, helps you know what the King is like.
We are ambassadors. Like it or not, we help others know what the King is like: How we speak, act and think sends a message about the King we serve. In other words, when people see me, they see what they assume to be a representation of Jesus. And among many other things, Jesus is Truth. This is why lying is such a big deal.
• The Christian who says, “I love God!” and hates his brother or sister (1 John 4:20).
• The person who says “God’s return date is September 23” but it’s not.
• The Christian who sits on a Family Values board and gets caught using Ashley Madison to try to line up an affair
Your reputation will take a hit, yes. But because you are an ambassador of Christ, so will He, as will His Word and His Church. No wonder lying makes God angry.
Now, considering this short list, does it sound like lying or truth leads to real freedom?
Option 1: Lie and implode as you hide, harden your heart, and grow increasingly suspicious and cynical of others. Lie, and lose your reputation. Lie, and tarnish the name of God.
Option 2: Tell the truth, build your reputation, position yourself to be able to enter into relational community in a healthy and honest way, and maintain your integrity as an ambassador of Jesus and thus honor His reputation. So you are healthier, your friendships are stronger, and God is glorified in the testimony of your life.
God is for you. His was – His truth – is designed to bring you life. Every time we obey Him, it is for our good and His glory.
2. FREED FOR THE GOSPEL AND THE KINGDOM
I can’t tell people what Jesus has done for me and to me if I am not committed to truth. Do you want to hear a cleaned up version of my testimony? It will bore you death. A guy who looks spiritually good on the outside gets forgiven for some incredibly minor sin that almost doesn’t count as a sin, it’s more like a faux pas, and now my life is sunshine, Reece’s Pieces and Ohio State wins every day!
That’s not just boring, it’s a lie. To quote an old hymn, “I was in sin’s prison, o so dark and cold.”
• Anger that boiled over onto my friends and my wife.
• Lust that kept me in the chains of pornography for 10 years.
• Identity based far more on what others thought of me than what Jesus does.
God has been faithful in my life, and as He has been freeing me from these things – I’ll be a work in progress until I die – his power and glory keeps becoming clearer to me. And if I want to tell other about what Jesus can do for them, I have to tell them what He has done for me.
We have to let truth tell the glorious story of God’s saving grace.
You know why I can speak so honestly about my marriage up here? Because Sheila and I have nothing to hide. She’s not going home thinking, “Where did that come from?” We both knew about it already. We both know that God has worked miracles in our relationship, putting together broken pieces that we couldn’t. What else can we do but talk about it? Why would I hide the beauty of what Jesus has done in two very broken people?
This week our small group has an assignment: Let your spouse ask you about your idols. As in, they get to identify what they see as an idol in your life – and ask you why. You don’t get to choose a petty one and gloss it over. It’s ‘throw yourself under the bus’ time!
But why wouldn’t we?
What’s to be gained by avoiding and hiding? How do I benefit by saying ‘it’s all good’ when it’ not? How will I grow if Sheila can’t say to me, “I think this is an idol in your life”?
God knows I don’t want to have that conversation, because I know what I would say if I was her, and I don’t want to face it. But that confrontation will force me to the truth of God’s word. And that’s the truth that will set me free.
Now imagine a church community where everyone practices this.
• If you see honesty, maybe you can be free to be honest too.
• If you see people reveal their worst and still be loved, maybe you can bare your soul too.
But this relational freedom can’t happen without first experiencing the spiritual freedom Jesus brings. When Jesus forgives us, He frees us from guilt and shame. He frees us from needing to look good. I’ve always liked the trajectory of Paul’s confession of just how bad of a person he was. He starts with “I am the least of the Apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) and ends with, “I am the worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Paul grew increasingly honest about the depth of his sin while becoming increasingly free to talk about it. I suspect that freedom is part of being one whom the Son has set free. You know Jesus did his work; now you have nothing to hide. You can live in the light.
And that is freedom.