TO BE FREE (JOHN 8:31-47)
On the Easter weekend of 2013 I joined a fellowship group to visit prisoners and was given a timely lesson and insight on the lack or worse, the absence, of freedom. It took an hour just to get into the facilities because of security. We were screened and most of our things were surrendered to the front office except for props for a skit. The things we had to leave behind in a locker include bags, phones, keys, wallets and even tissues longer than those in mini packets. The two groups of women prisoners who attended – the early group with 15 and the latter group with19 - had to line up and wait for guards to call them to attend the hour and a half long meeting. An employee was in the room to ensure safety. Praise God, half of them accepted Christ.
Later I found out from the internet that the prisoners can be divided into local prisoners, mainland Chinese and foreign prisoners. Many of them are sex workers, drug addicts and the mentally disturbed. The two problems in these institutions is overcrowding in the jail and isolation from the outside. Convicted prisoners in most facilities are permitted two to four thirty-minute visits per month with up to three people at a time. Worse, prisoners do not have regular access to telephones, TV, and internet.
In John chapter 8 Jesus has a message for the Jews who claimed they were proud descendants of Abraham and were never ever (emphatic in Greek) enslaved (v 33). They were offended by Jesus’ offer of freedom but missed the point. He was not talking about physical and external enslavement, but spiritual and internal.
What truly enslaves people? Why can’t they free themselves? How can Jesus free us?
Dare to Live as a Disciple
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What is a disciple? Do you know the word “believer” and “follower” is not used in the KJV Bible and the word “Christian” is only used three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16)? However, 261 times it talks about disciples. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 ends with Jesus’ imperative to make disciples of all nations. What is a disciple? A disciple is foremost a student, a learner, a pupil, an apprentice, a follower, an adherent, none of which refers to a master, teacher, or expert yet. Every disciple is a believer, but not every believer is a disciple. A disciple accepts not only the Jesus’ leadership but His lordship, not only His assistance but His authority, not only the right but the rule of Jesus in his or her life.
A disciple is a follower of Christ, and not a fan or friend of His. It is to learn from Him, to look to Him, and to live for Him. The path of a disciple is not exempted from suffering, shame and sorrow. This is the first of three times Jesus used the phrase “my disciples” (John 8:31), the other distinctive marks of being “my disciple” include to love one another (John 13:35) and to bear much fruit (John 15:8).
Once upon a time there lived an elderly millionaire who had four nephews. Desiring to make one of these his heir, he tested their cleverness.
He gave to each a $100.00 bill, with the request that they hide the bills for a year in the city of New York.
Any of them who should succeed in finding the hidden bill at the end of the year should share in the inheritance. The year being over, the four nephews brought their reports.
The first, deeply chagrined, told how he had put his bill in the strongest and surest safe deposit vault, but, alas, clever thieves had broken in and stolen it.
The second had put his in charge of a tried and true friend. But the friend has proved untrustworthy and had spent the money. The third had hidden his bill in a crevice in the floor of his room, but a mouse had nibbled it to bits to build her nest.
The fourth nephew calmly produced his $100.00 bill, as crisp and as fresh as when it had been given him. “And where did you hide it?” asked his uncle. “Too easy! I stuck it in a hotel Bible.”
The best evidence of a disciple is not church attendance, a beautiful cross or a baptism certificate, but keeping God’s word.
While disciple is a noun, the verb in verse 31 is to “hold to,” translated in KJV mostly as abide 61 times. Others include remain 16 times, dwell 15 times, continue 11 times. The words remain, continue and abide are identical, interchangeable and indistinguishable in KJV.