So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Like millions of Americans this week, my mind is on the Fourth of July holiday and what it represents: our freedom as a nation. This freedom is a precious thing, bought with the sweat, toil, and blood of countless Americans who initially fought to obtain it, as well as those who have fought to secure it in the centuries since that fateful day in 1776.
But even as I prize my freedom as an American, I am moved to consider a greater freedom, namely, my freedom in Christ. “If you abide in my word,” our Lord declares, “you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
This statement was shocking to Jesus’ audience. These proud men thought they already had all the freedom they needed by virtue of being “offspring of Abraham” (8:33). Jesus proceeds to point them beyond any national, social, or religious freedom they might enjoy to the freedom that comes through His person and work: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin . . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (8:34,36). Contrary to what Jesus’ listeners thought, they were in bondage to sin and subject to its tyranny.
Even as Christians we can fall prey to the temptation to trust in other things for our freedom from the tyranny of sin: status, money, good works, associations, etc. But the true disciple finds freedom in Christ and Christ alone.
What am I trusting in today?
The Fourth of July is a wonderful time to consider our freedom—as Americans and as Christians. Our national freedom is precious, but our freedom in Christ is of infinite worth.
The great hymn writer Charles Wesley was undoubtedly moved by his freedom in Christ when in 1738 he penned this stanza:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
The saving truth that Jesus speaks of in John 8:32 brings ultimate freedom—freedom from sin and death and the devil; freedom from a life of futility and an eternity of wrath. It is the freedom to love God and neighbor.
Is there any greater “declaration of independence”?