“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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.” 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’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”” (John 8:31-47 ESV)
Flock Mentality or Group Response:
Do you remember when you were in High School? Who am I kidding? Remember? That’s who we still expect to see when we look in the mirror. Right? I’m still that kid, lots of curly blonde hair, Mustang in the driveway, the same girlfriend. Wait, she’s my wife now. Who am I kidding, the blonde curls are gone and what hair I do have is turning white. I’m a little slower getting in and out of the Mustang, and it says 2010 on the title and not 1967. Girlfriend? She’s still as cute as ever, and just as sarcastic. But, you should probably only mention the cuteness and not the sarcasm. Just a friendly warning.
By this point, you’re probably wondering where this is going. Just bear with me a bit more. During those memorable days of High School we all thought we were individuals but did our best to fit in with the crowd. Browse any High School yearbook and see if you don’t notice a pattern in the hair and clothing styles. Individuals? Absolutely! As long as we looked like everyone else, and acted like everyone else. How many times have you asked if you can go do what your friends are doing, and your mother asks, “if they jumped off a bridge, would you?”
This same thing happened (and happens) at church or Falls Creek (church camp). Someone starts to respond during the invitation, they lean over and ask, “will you go with me?” You, and several more, end up going. It’s Friday night in the cabin, things get emotional, are you going home the same person? Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. We join the crowd… everyone is “getting saved.” The emotions overwhelm us, and we join in, tears and all. Somebody cue up Kumbaya…
Same Song, Second Verse:
In this story, we have something similar happen. The crowds have been listening to Jesus teaching. In the last verse of last week’s passage (John 8:30), John tells us that “many believed in Him.” Jesus had told the crowd that unless they believed in him they would die in their sins. There appears to have been a massive response and “many believed.” An emotional response? Maybe. Probably. Because, notice what Jesus does next. He tells them what it REALLY means to believe…
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…”
So, belief is more than just something you know in your head, or say with your mouth. Being a disciple of Jesus is more than wearing a Christian t-shirt, having a cross or Greek word tattooed on your forearm, or attending Youth Group. It is more than walking an aisle, here or at Falls Creek, and filling out a decision card. Attending church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a classic car.
So, let’s see what Jesus says a true disciple is…
He says, “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” First, what does he mean by “my word?” An obvious application is simply the things he says or speaks. His commands. Those things he says we should do, and not do.
“”If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”” (John 14:21 ESV)
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10 ESV)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
Ok, so obviously Jesus expects us to obey his commands. But, what exactly did he command us to do? Well, Matthew 5, 6, and 7 are a good start. Here’s a sample:
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17-20 NLT)
Or, how about these:
- Love one another (John 15:12, 17; 1 John 4:11; 1 Peter 4:8)
- Confess your sins to one another, pray for one another (James 5:16)
- Encourage one another (1 Thess 4:18)
- Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
- Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom 12:10)
- Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another (Eph 4:32)
- Submit to one another (Eph 5:21)
- Serve one another (1 Peter 4:10)
- Comfort one another, Agree with one another (2 Cor 13:11)
- Live in peace with one another, don’t pass judgement on one another (Rom 14:13)
- Welcome one another (Rom 15:7)
- When you eat, wait for one another (1 Cor 11:33)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2)
- Stir up one another to love and good works (Heb 10:24)
So, now we have some idea of the commands Jesus gave to his followers. By the way, this is just a sampling. There are many others, but they can all be summed up in just two: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV)
We have a pretty decent idea of what Jesus’ words teach us about loving God and others, and living that out in some very practical ways. But notice he says, if you ABIDE in my word, you are true disciples. Abide in it. Live in it. Stay in it, day by day… consider these two admonitions:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
And finally, James, Jesus’ brother who became a leader in the early church said this:
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22-25 ESV)
Just for a minute, imagine this scenario: My job requires that I immediately relocate and my family can’t come with me, not yet at least. Where I’m going is remote and I won’t have access to cellular service or Internet. So, I can’t call regularly or communicate via email. Fortunately, postal mail service is available and it takes only two weeks for a letter to be delivered from my location to Tina, and back again. Can you imagine what it would be like as we wrote a letter and waited on a response? I’m accustomed to seeing her daily. We eat lunch and dinner together almost every day. I imagine it would not take long before I was seriously missing my wife, and all of my family. Now, what if one of them was seriously ill or a new baby was on the way? Wow, ratchet up the tension as I wait each day to see if any letters come with news from home.
When I receive a letter, I would read it, maybe write a response and mail it, then read it again, and again. I might smell it to see if I could catch a whiff of her perfume. I can almost bet, I would be able to tell you exactly what each letter said. I’m living in them, day by day…
And, that is precisely what Jesus wants of us, with one slight difference. His words are life. They don’t just promise life, they are life, alive, living, powerful, transforming. Abide in my word, if you are true disciples. Don’t just know about them. KNOW them. Don’t just memorize them, DO THEM!