31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:31-38)
Truly a disciple of Jesus
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (John 8:31)
Here, Jesus make a distinction between false disciples and a true disciples. He makes this contrast by using this phrase: ‘If you abide in my word‘. Here are some synonyms of the word abide: comply with, obey, observe, follow, keep to, hold to, conform to, adhere to, stick to, stand by, act in accordance with, uphold, heed, accept, go along with, acknowledge, respect, defer to accept or act in accordance with.
This message, therefore, is an invitation by Jesus to become his true disciples. What does it look like to be a true disciple of Jesus? What does he mean when he says, “abide in my word?” I think this idea of being a disciple is summed up best in Matthew 4:19 when Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Being a true disciple begins with a head level commitment to follow Jesus. He simply says, “Follow me”. He’s actually inviting us to acknowledge his word and to accept it as truth; to believe enough to follow him and investigate him more. This isn’t a plea to conform to a religious system or to join a certain church, it’s a call to follow Jesus and trust his word. This means we accept Jesus for who he says he is and develop a trust in him and not in someone or something else. It’s a beckoning to question the object of our faith. Is it in myself? Is it in someone else? Is my faith riding in the current of my parents? Is my faith resting in a religious system?
By asking these questions, we can discover whether our faith is linked directly into Jesus or if our link is dependent on something or someone else. We know we are following Jesus when our faith is hooked directly into him and not in some link in a chain. So, Jesus says, “Follow me”. If the chain breaks, are you still linked into Jesus and following him?
Changed by Jesus
Being a true disciple of Jesus is also characterized by a heart-level transformation by Jesus. When our faith is resting in Jesus alone, his spirit begins to change the way we think and act. He changes our hearts. That’s why he said, “Follow me and I will make you…” This is his work in us as explained in Ezekiel 36:26. We are incapable of changing our hearts of stone into a hearts of flesh, but Jesus does this work within us as we allow him access. As we abide in his word, he changes our hearts. He gives us a new focus, a new mind, new ambitions.
Committed to the mission of Jesus
Becoming true disciples of Jesus also calls for a lifestyle change – a dedication to the mission of Jesus. As Jesus called his disciples to follow him, he also said that he would make them fishers of men. That’s the mission of Jesus, to make disciples who make disciples of Jesus.
After the resurrection, when Jesus commissioned his disciples, he told them that he had all authority over everything. Then he told them, based on this authority, to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do the same (Matt 28.19-20). Making disciples is the mission of Jesus.
As true disciples of Jesus, we are called to make a lifestyle shift and accept his mission as our mission. This means that, as our faith is anchored in Jesus, we connect with people relationally and help them hook their faith into Jesus. It means we walk life with people and allow Jesus to use us to demonstrate the power of the gospel in everyday life.
This is what it looks like to abide in his word. You are following Jesus by accepting his word as truth and anchoring your faith in him. You are being changed by Jesus; allowing his Spirit to transform your heart and mind, your thoughts and your actions. And as your grow in his word, you accept the mission of a disciple-maker.
Know Jesus and experience freedom
Here in John 8:31, Jesus is talking to people that had believed in him. He explained to them that if they abide in his word they will know truth and experience freedom by it.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31a-32)
This brings up a couple of questions. First, what are we freed from? Second, what are we freed to do? This was precisely the response of these people had.
Death or freedom
We need to look at this in the larger context which is found in John 8:24 – “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” Jesus is presenting door one: If you don’t trust in him alone as your savior and God you will die in your sin; which is eternal death. Door number two is freedom; freedom from the consequence of sin and freedom from the control of sin.
No door number three
Jesus only presents two options, but the people try to create door number three. They begin bearing their testimony. They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33)
They are attempting to justify themselves. We do the same thing. We try to ignore the real problem, which is sin, and find ways to justify ourselves. I was born a free American. I was born in a Christian Family. I’ve been a member of the church since 1978. I have a testimony of the church. I’m a pretty good person. There are countless things we use to justify ourselves, but they won’t work. It’s either eternal life or eternal death. Become a true disciple of Jesus by authentic faith in him or try to justify yourself by any other terms and die in your sins.
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:34-38)
Everyone that practices sin is a slave to sin, but if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed! Romans 6:23 reminds us that the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. As a slave of sin, the payment is eternal death, but God grants us eternal life through faith in Jesus.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. When your faith rests entirely in him as Savior and Lord he frees you from the consequence of sin by giving you eternal life. He frees you from the control of sin by giving you his Spirit. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
No regrets forever
I want to point out that when Jesus is talking about being a true disciple he’s not talking about two different levels of Christians. A true disciple is the same as a true Christian. You’re either a true Christian or not; a true disciple or not. Only a true Christian, which is a true disciple, can know and experience the true freedom Jesus is talking about.
We live our lives to acquire freedom. We want the freedom to pursue our dreams. We want the freedom to be happy. What does it mean to be free indeed, or to be fully free? John Piper puts it this way: “You are fully free when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will leave you no regrets forever.” A lot of people live what they think is a no-regrets lifestyle, but will there be no regrets for all eternity? Only a true disciple of Jesus can experience a life that will leave you with no regrets forever.
In closing, let’s look at the words of the apostle Paul, a true disciple of Jesus who left it all on the field. He exited this world to enter eternity with no regrets.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (Philippians 3:7-9)