Summary: We can only enjoy freedom when we experience God’s Word.
I read about a church that just installed its pastor. After preaching his first sermon, the deacons and the entire congregation excitedly told him how much the message blessed them. The next Sunday, he preached again. Though they still like the message, they felt they were not as blessed as the first message. On the third Sunday, they noticed something. They just realized that the pastor have been preaching the same message to them on all those Sundays. Can you imagine that? They were so dense that they only realized that on the third Sunday! So, they confronted the pastor. “How come you delivered the same message over and over again?” The pastor answered, “I will preach that message again and again until I see you obeying it.” Think for a moment. If you were in that church and I was the pastor, would you immediately notice that I was preaching the same message? If I were that pastor, would I see the need to repeat the message? Would I see you obeying the Word of God?
The question is how do we show that we value His Word? Let us read John 8:31-32. “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.’” Here we see that we can only ENJOY freedom when we EXPERIENCE God’s Word.
Allow me to give you the setting for the passage. Verse 20 tells us that “He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put.” That was actually the Treasury, which was also called the Women’s Court. To give us a vivid, historical setting, allow me to show you a scale model of the temple at that time. Retired farmer Alec Garrard of Norfolk, England has spent 30 years building this massive scale model of the Temple, measuring 20 feet by 12 feet. He is now 78 years old. He made everything by hand and he even sculpted the 4,000 tiny, half-inch human figures in this scale model. “Historical experts believe the model is the best representation in the world of what the Jewish temple actually looked like…” Visitors would have to use binoculars to enjoy every detail of this elaborate scale model.
[Show various pictures of the scale model] This is where the Treasury was located. During that time, it was the Feast of Tabernacles. So, there was a huge crowd in the temple. As a highlight of the Feast, the priests would light these gigantic lamps in the courtyard. They would use wicks made from the old, worn-out garments of the priests. With the lights from those giant lamps, people would gather there to praise and dance to the Lord. It was a reminder of God leading Israel through the wilderness in a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. It was so fitting that at that Feast our Lord Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The God Who led the nation in the wilderness in their past was at that time with the Jews!
Verse 30-31 gives us the immediate context. “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’” Note the words “many put their faith in Him” and “the Jews who had believed him”. Now there are some debates if they were really believers or they just said they believed and Jesus wanted to double-check their statement or confirm if they really believed in Him. But I think Jesus was talking to believers here. Our time does not permit that we go through the technical details though I would love to do that. Maybe we can do that some other time. Just talk to me if you want to discuss it with me.
Let us now look at the details of our text. “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.’” Circle the word “hold.” Some of us obey just enough of God’s Word in order to get by. We just want to give the impression that we are good Christians but we don’t want to be labeled as fanatics or too committed. But that is not what Jesus had in mind when He said “hold to my teaching”. In the Greek, “to hold” means “to abide, to remain, to continue, to hold fast, to keep, to endure, to stick to, or to live.” So, to hold to the Lord’s teaching is to continue obeying Him. Jesus wants us to obey His Word in the context of an ongoing, intimate relationship. We don’t obey just to get by. We obey because it is our very life. In fact, the Greek word He used can also be translated as “home” or “dwelling.” So, is the Word at home in our lives? Sadly, we see people who claim to be believers but who are not committed to follow the Word, who don’t give everything they’ve got in obeying the Lord. How do we become committed? Obeying God’s Word REQUIRES our entire being. We will talk about the last two points next time I will preach here in our church.