This past Sunday was our last sermon in a 4-sermon series by Chris Nye. It was another great sermon. Again, nothing new that I didn’t know, but he said it in a different way that I thought was worth sharing. I want to be clear that the ideas in this post aren’t original with me; they are all lifted from Chris’ sermon, though not necessarily in his exact words. But it’s basically the Gospel and I know Chris wouldn’t mind me sharing. In fact, I told him after our church service that he had inspired another blog post, and he thought that was great. He also posted his own great blog post when he was preparing for this sermon that is a great discussion of this topic.
The Gospel lesson for Sunday was from John chapter 8.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
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?”
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 8:31-36.
First, I want to point out an interesting thing about this passage that I never focused on before. Jesus is telling all of this to “the Jews who had believed in him.” These weren’t unbelievers whom He was trying to tell the truth about who He was. This suggests that the “truth” that will set us free is not simply knowing and believing who Jesus is. That knowledge and belief will save us — scripture is pretty clear on that point (but that is a whole other blog post).
So what “truth” is Jesus talking about in this passage? How many times have we heard this: “The truth will set you free”? We all want to be free, so it’s important to understand what Jesus is talking about in this passage. How, exactly, can we find this truth so that we can be set free? Generally when we think of being free we imagine having no restraints. We think we are free if we can do anything we want.
But Jesus claims that this isn’t true freedom. A lack of restrictions doesn’t really make us free. Consider your diet and exercise habits. You could eat whatever you want and only exercise if you feel like it. But if you want to be healthy and feel good, you must restrict your diet to healthy foods and you must put restrictions on your activity levels. You can’t be a couch potato eating cookies, cake, and potato chips, and expect to feel good. When we live the kind of lifestyle that some people think of as free — the partying life, the high life, the gluttonous life — we become slaves to our selfish desires and do not experience true freedom. Chris summed it up like this: “The truth about the restrictions we were made to thrive in will set us free.”
If you read any of my other posts about Chris’ sermon series, you will know that it was a series on finding Jesus in the Psalms. So where does the Psalm come in? The Psalm reading for the day was Psalm 37:1-7. But Chris focused on verse 4: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” For many people, this verse means that if you delight in God, He will give you whatever it is you want. But that’s not what it means at all. That would simply be to experience that no-restriction type of freedom some have been deceived to believe is what they want.
What Psalm 37:4 means is that if we delight in God, He will give our hearts new desires; and these desires will be for what is good for us and what will set us free from being a slave to our own selfish nature desires. He will put in our hearts a knowledge of and desire for liberating restrictions on our lives that will make us spiritually, as well as physically, healthy. We will experience a freedom no other person or government can take away. Because when “the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”