“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’” (John 8:31-32, ESV).
Jesus never promised the sort of freedom that modern Americans demand. We demand the right to do whatever we want. We demand the right to have sex without commitment, to place personal convenience over obligation or the needs of others. But, this is not the freedom Jesus offered; in fact, Jesus would have considered it a form of slavery.
Jesus did not promise freedom from political oppression. His original disciples worshiped Him and evangelized within the Roman Empire. Today, millions of Christians serve Him in countries where their faith is illegal.
The freedom Jesus offered was freedom from sin. In John 8:34-36, He said, ““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.”
Unfortunately, many people (even Christians) do not receive this freedom. Jesus was speaking to “Jews who had believed him” (verse 31). They were on the brink of following Him, but they missed out because they could not accept the need for freedom. Their response to Jesus’ offer of freedom was, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33).
Had they read their Bibles? Did they not realize that the “offspring of Abraham” had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years; that they had spent 70 years in exile in Babylon; that periods of slavery and oppression dominated much of their history? Did they not even realize that they were now under the dominion of a foreign empire? It was not unusual for Jews to consider themselves slaves to the Roman Empire.
Jesus’ hearers suffered from the malady of denial. When confronted with the fact that we are in spiritual bondage, we lie to ourselves, God, and other people. “We are not really sinning; we love each other and nobody is getting hurt.” “I can stop doing this any time I want.” “It’s not my fault; my spouse/children/boss/others drive me to drink. They need to change, not me.”
Jesus’ listeners rejected His offer of forgiveness. They assumed it was not for them. They convinced themselves that they had no need to be set free. When pressed on the matter, they decided Jesus had a problem, but they were OK. Unfortunately, many of us repeat that pattern.
To experience true freedom, we need to first admit that we are in bondage. We have to acknowledge that sin has gained control over our lives. Once we admit that we are bound by the chains of sin, we will be ready for release. When confronted by our sins, we do not need to make excuses; we need only make confession and ask Jesus to forgive and cleanse us.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.