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.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
We talked earlier this week about karma -- the belief that we get what we deserve, and that we need to balance the bad stuff that we do, with good stuff in our lives.
And we noted that all that stuff in the tray on the "bad" side can really cripple us. The Bible tells us that sin can dominate our lives, and drag us down and destroy us:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)Romans 6:17 puts it: “…you used to be slaves to sin…”
Ahh, notice that it says "used to be" . . . something has changed, right? What is it?
Jesus said “… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 That is a promise from Christ, and it's our heritage as children of God. It's real, and we can put our faith in it.
In spite of that promise, though, many Christians still struggle with guilt and shame. They have believed and repented; they've confessed Jesus as their Lord; many have been baptized into Christ -- but something they have done keeps tripping them up. It's something that they think God might not forgive them for. Or they're struggling with a sin that keeps coming back and Satan uses it to trouble them. They might worry that they've gone over the edge; they've gone too far away from God, and they'll never make it back into God's grace.
Many Christians are nagged by doubt: how could God ever forgive me? I've messed up so badly. How could He forget what I've done?
They've overlooked or forgotten one important point: God will forgive us our sins -- not because we deserve it, or have done enough good to outweigh the bad in the "bad stuff" tray, but for one reason: He loves us!
If Satan troubles us, and we need proof, we need only turn to Romans 8:32:
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”God proved His love for us long ago . . . He gave us His son to die for our sins, even when we were His enemies -- while we were still sinners. We didn't deserve that! He loves us so much that He was willing to forgive us for all of our sins in the past. And He is willing to continue to forgive us because of that same love!
Did I hear someone say, "I bet there's a catch." Uh huh, there is, and I'm going to show it to you. Let's look back at verses 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.’”Did you see it? If you hold to my teaching . . . the Greek word here is also used to mean "remaining," "abiding," "tarrying," . . . in today's vernacular, "hanging around."
OK, how do we "abide" or "hang around" the teachings of Jesus? It's actually very simple: reading our Bible, spending time in prayer with the Lord, examining our lives in the light of a Sunday School lesson or a sermon.
Many Christians struggle with the decision to become a believer, because they are worried about going back to sinning and therefore, failing God. All new Christians (in fact, all Christians, whether newbies or grizzled veterans) encounter that difficulty.
Remember when you learned to ride your bike? You fell down a lot, didn't you? Mom or Dad was there to help you get up, brush off the dirt, and get you seated again. If you ride a bike today, do you think you will fall? As much as you did before? Probably not.
That's the way it is in our Christian lives . . . when we first come to Christ, we still struggle with sin, and fall down a lot. And He brushes us off and sends us on our way again. And the more time we spend practicing (being with Jesus, reading our Bible, praying) the less often we fall down.
Yes, we will still fall down, there's no avoiding the fact that we're human!
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8In other words: if we as Christians say we never fall down – we’re not kidding anybody… least of all God.
Tomorrow we'll talk about what to do when that happens!