The Secret That Sets Us Free
I invite your attention back into the Gospel of John, the eighth chapter. Jesus has been contending, in our studies through John 8, with the Pharisees challenging Him on His claims of being the Son of God, of being divine Himself. We have seen their objections to Him. We have seen, really I think, His exasperation with them when He is asked again and again, "Now, who are You?" He again and again explains in both picture form and in direct words that He is the Messiah.
We discovered at the very end of our study last week, which was John 8, verse 30 that many there did believe Him. There in the court of the Gentiles as Jesus is teaching on that day as He is confronting these Pharisees that there were those in the crowd who believed Him. Jesus is speaking to them today in a message I call The Secret That Sets Us Free because there is, in the words of Christ, a secret. He tells us that the truth shall set you free. There is a secret in that of what it means to be set free.
I hope that this message today challenges all of us. The Bible tells us we need to examine ourselves to see whether we really be of the faith. The Bible acknowledges there is a superficial faith as well as a genuine faith, and challenges us to examine our own hearts…a job only we can do to see whether or not we have that secret possessed even in our own lives. So I want to invite your attention to John 8, beginning in verse 31, today as Jesus addresses those who had believed in Him.
In John 8:31, He begins by simply saying, "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.'" Many had accepted Jesus' claims. Many acknowledged what He had done would only be done by someone who had come from God, and some even said, "What more could the Messiah do than what He has done?" There were those who believed in Him, but notice that Jesus is not content with just the acknowledgement of who He is. He challenges those who are claiming to believe Him by saying, "What kind of belief is it you have? Is it a superficial, head-knowledge belief? Or is it a genuine heart-felt belief? Is it a saving faith or is it a superficial faith?"
You see there are both. There is a superficial faith. The Bible tells us in James that even the demons believe and tremble. The demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The demons believe that Jesus came and died on the Cross for sins. The demons believe Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies. The demons believe this and yet they're not saved because what they have is a head-knowledge, a superficial faith.
Oh, if you're here today and you have an acknowledgment and a sense to the things of God, if you have a head-knowledge of Christ, if you accept that He came to this earth, that He died on the Cross for sin, that He is the Son of God, you may have a superficial faith. You may think that you believe all you need to believe, but you may, like the demons, simply have a dead faith. James talks about a faith that's not real. It's dead. A dead faith is not an inactive faith. A dead faith is not an un-zealous faith. A dead faith is not a saving faith. A dead faith is a faith you can take all the way to hell…a superficial faith.
There are countless church members…church members who don't understand this truth, who will die lost because of a dead faith. It may be the Lord speaks to you today that the faith you lay claim to is this superficial head-knowledge, but not the heart-changing faith that Christ is looking for when He says to those who believed Him, "If you abide in My words." You see saving faith in Jesus is far more than a shallow profession. It's far more than a shallow profession many have made.
Our church roles and roles of churches are filled with many people who came in with a superficial profession of faith. They came in. They got wet in the baptistery. They are on our church role, but they have a dead faith. It's not a faith that causes them to be committed to Christ no matter what, that causes them to be a part of the Lord's church no matter what. It's not a faith that causes them to stand for Christ, and bow before Christ and be willing to serve Christ no matter what. It is perhaps a superficial faith, one that does well when things are going well, but feels excused when things are going badly. Oh, my friends, of your faith in Christ is not enough to get you to church, I seriously doubt it's enough to get you to heaven.
If your faith in Christ is not strong enough to lead to you be committed to Him, to obey the most obvious of Scriptures, to be committed to serving Him in a local church, to be committed to learning His Word, I doubt it's a faith that will get you to heaven. You may read a different Bible. You may have come up in your own super brain with a different plan of salvation, but let me tell you Paul already tells you there is no other gospel. You may have come up with a gospel that says, "I'm excused from serving God and I'm excused from coming to His church because of my personal likes and dislikes, because of my personal problems and challenges," but I'm afraid the Bible makes to allowances for that.
If your faith is a superficial faith, it will be a shallow faith. It's one where you'll stand up and say, "Oh yes. I believe in Jesus," but your life doesn't show it. It gives no evidence of it. You have a head-faith, but a head-faith alone is a dead faith. It's not a saving faith. True freedom…true freedom comes when we place our faith in Christ in such a way that it leads to a changed mind that leads to a changed heart that leads to a changed life. A saving faith is always a faith that changes your life, that leads to a changed life. I wouldn't give you two cents for your faith in Jesus if it hasn't changed your life. I wouldn't give you a plugged nickel if it has made no impact on you, if it has not altered you.
A saving faith changes you. You don't act the same way again. You're not with the same temper you had before salvation. You don't treat your marriage the same way you did before salvation. You don't react to your job the same way you did before salvation. You don't talk to your parents the same way you did before salvation. You don't relate as the leader in your home the way you did before salvation. If salvation has not changed your habits, has not changed your temper, has not changed your outlook, has not changed your countenance, has not changed your witness in the world, you have a head-faith. You don't have a saving faith.
I want to tell you a saving faith changes your life. It changes how you act. It changes how you approach things. It changes how you look at the future. It changes how you measure the present. If you go through life the same, you haven't been saved. You haven't received Christ as your Savior. You are depending on the things of the world. You're depending on emotion. You're depending on your peers. You're depending on yourself, but you're not depending on God if you haven't changed your life.
Not only does it take believing in Jesus to know true freedom, but notice it also involves abiding in Jesus' Word. Look in John 8:31 again, "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.'" If you abide in My Word… Jesus here is speaking of a consistency of life. He is not talking about just reading the Bible Sunday morning. He is talking about dwelling in it. To abide in means to remain in, to let it be what courses through the veins of your life.
Jesus used this word later on in John 15:5 in the upper room when He was speaking to His disciples. He says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." Jesus says here that He who remains in Me is going to exhibit the fruit that is always exhibited in the Christian life. He's going to exhibit the outgrowth of the Christian life if he abides in Me. Because if you don't abide in Christ, if you don't remain in His Word, you can do nothing. You begin to see religion as religion. You begin to see church as Sunday. You don't see…because your life hasn't changed…you don't see the transformation because you've not abided in His Word. You've not made it a part of you.
You know it's not enough to start well. You have to finish well. It's not enough just to walk an aisle or just get wet in the baptistery, you have to convert your life, and be transformed by the renewing of your Spirit in order to have that new life in Christ. To put away the old man and put on the new man, as Paul talks about, you have to abide in His Word to do that. To finish well your life should end as a Christian. It should grow in faith. You should be more dedicated this year than you were this time last year. You should be closer to the Lord today. I don't care what happened to you. It doesn't matter who you lost. It doesn't matter if you were laid off. It doesn't matter what people say about you, you should draw closer to Him and you will if you abide in Christ. You'll bear fruit. You'll bear fruit.
There will be an outgrowth of your life if you abide, remain, in Him. Don't just come to Him when you're in trouble. Don't just come to Him when you have time, but you abide in Him. His Word becomes the priority of your life. Are you abiding in Christ? Are you running the race well? It's great to get the pole position. It's great to start off that race there at the very front and all those cars behind you, but if you come along on a 200-lap race and 150 laps in you wreck and your car is totaled and you don't finish the race, they don't give you the prize because you led for 150 laps.
Christ says to live the Christian life is not just getting in the pole position. It's not just how you start; it's not just that emotional feel good you had at revival that so many people are depending their entire journey into heaven on. He says the Christian life is one that is marked by abiding in His Word. There are people today, churches filled with people today, who claim to know Christ, who claim to be a Christian, who vote in business meetings, who claim to have the leadership of the Spirit and don't abide in Christ. They don't know the Lord deeply in their heart. They don't study His Word. They're not able to teach His Word. They don't know more now than they knew 20 to 30 years ago, and they have not abided in Christ.
There is yet another requirement for knowing true freedom, and that's what He states in verse 32, and that is knowing the truth. Verse 32 says, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Now our great need is to recognize our slavery. Our great need for salvation, our great need in this world, our great need in order to cling to abiding in the Word of God, our great need for knowing the truth is to recognize our slavery…recognize our slavery.
Jesus says, "You escape that slavery by knowing the truth." You know Pilate asked Jesus, he would ask Jesus later…he would say, "What is truth?" Many people today ask that question, "What is truth?" The world wants to view truth as a relative term, something that maybe true for you and maybe it's not true for me. There is not absolute truth. My friends, there is an absolute truth if you know Jesus. If you know Christ, you know things that are true no matter what. You know a truth that will set you free.
I'm afraid many of us, especially as Americans, we're like the response of these Jews in verse 33. Jesus made that statement. They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?" That's an interesting statement, isn't it? Here is a group of people who have been constituted together as a nation in the Promised Land for 1,000 years now, 500 of which they've been under the dominion of somebody else. Right now, they're under the thumb of the Roman government, and they're saying, "We've not been in bondage."
You know that's kind of like us. We Americans, I think, we feel like those Jews of Jesus' day. Oh, we live in a free country. We boast in our own self-reliance. I don't know what you're speaking of slavery. I've never been enslaved to anyone. That's what we would say just like these Jews had said, and yet even in America many of us are enslaved…alcohol, drugs, lust, greed, anger, all of these things enslave. All of these things keep us in bondage. They're all your captors if you allow that to happen.
True freedom is a spiritual freedom, not a government freedom, not even a military freedom, but a spiritual freedom that sets us free. It's something the government cannot give. It's something that money cannot buy. True freedom comes only from God alone through faith alone in His Son Jesus Christ. That's where true freedom comes from.
Whether you live in America or whether you live under the oppression of a Roman Caesar, you can have true freedom in Jesus Christ. Notice Jesus in John 8:34, Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever." You see these Jews were falsely saying that we've never been enslaved and Jesus says, "Oh, you are enslaved. Because you're enslaved to sin, whoever commits sin is in bondage to sin." Just try it, okay. You know it already to be true. You get involved in sin and you become shackled by that. You become shackled to that sin. It's not something you can turn on and off easily. Is it? No, sin enslaves us. We begin to lie. We begin to walk differently. We begin to talk differently. We begin to do things differently because we become servants of sin.
We are enslaved to it, but when we know Jesus as Savior, we're set free from it. That's the truth that sets us free. That leads us to the great secret. The secret that sets us free is this…the great secret of the Christian faith is not that it makes a man free to sin. You see some of us, we begin to think, Once saved, always saved. No matter what I do I'm going to be saved. So it really doesn't matter if I do this or that because Jesus died for my sins. I'm afraid that some people have taken the doctrine of security of the believer and they've made it into a license to sin. They've turned it into a freedom to come to church when they want to come to church, to act right when they want to act right, but it really doesn't matter how they act. My friends, the great secret of the Christian faith is not that it makes a man free to sin, but that it makes a man free not to sin. That's the secret.
Only a believer is free not to sin. Do you understand that? Every person in this world is in a position where they are in bondage to sin. We're not free to just step out of it. We'll go from one sin to the next sin, from one attitude to the next attitude, from one vice to the next vice, from one temptation to fall to the next temptation because you're in bondage to sin. You might have a good day. You might even have a good month, but you're going to have a miserable life because you're in bondage to the sin that's around you.
You can explain it away. You can blame it on other people, but you're in bondage, enslaved to sin. You can't divorce and get rid of it. You can't quit and get rid of it. The sinfulness stays with you. It goes with you because you're in bondage to it. When you know Christ as Savior and only when you receive Christ as Savior, not a head-knowledge, but a life-transforming heart knowledge, not an occasional twice-a-year church attendee, but an abiding in Jesus' Word kind of believer, then you realize that you're free not to sin. You don't have to follow after the world. You don't have to submit to the temptations that come your way. You can stand apart from what the world throws at you because you're free not to sin.
Not freedom to do as one pleases, no. But freedom to do as our Lord pleases. You don't have that if you're not a believer. You see you're not free to do as the Lord pleases. If you find that you just have trouble living that Christian life, if you find that…Man, I'd love to, but I just can't do it. It's because you're enslaved to sin. When you are set free, you're free to do as the Lord would have you to do. To do what is right. To do what God would expect. When a person experiences true freedom, he becomes not the slave of his own body anymore, but he becomes a slave to Christ. He becomes not a slave to his own lust, but a slave to the will of God for him.
Jesus modeled that. He said, "I speak nothing of my own, but only what the Father has commanded Me to speak. I do nothing of My own, but only what the Father has sent me to do." He is showing us the freedom to not sin and the model for us to follow. What do we have to do to be able to live like that? Well that's verse 36, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." If Jesus sets you free, then you have that true, real freedom.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription