We Are Jesus' Disciples when We Abide in His Word!
Lord God, our dearest heavenly Father, Your Word is true and everlasting. It reveals Your plan for our eternal salvation and provides guidance for our temporal lives. Fill us with a zeal to learn Your truths and a desire to abide in them. When Satan, the world, or our sinful flesh tempts us to forsake Your Word, give us the strength and wisdom to reject such evil and to follow only what is good. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
When Jesus "the Holy One of Israel" came, He opened the eyes of the blind and caused the deaf to hear through His proclamation of divine grace. When Jesus comes again, He will bring joy to all believers but will judge Satan "the terrible one" and all his unbelieving followers. May we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior!
Our Lord Jesus calls us into His kingdom work. To some, such as to Paul in our text or to the pastor and teachers in our church and school, He extends specific calls to specific areas. Whether you have received Jesus’ general call to be a light and salt in this world or a specific call, the Lord remains the One who blesses our efforts by opening hearts to hear and to believe His Word!
Text: John 8:31-36
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free?’” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
In Christ Jesus, our blessed Savior whose disciples we claim to be, dear fellow redeemed:
This past Friday morning I enjoyed a lively and rather lengthy Bible study with a couple. Before we began the husband mentioned watching a television show not long ago, in which a Harvard professor was very critical of religion in general, but of the Bible in particular. He blamed religion and the Bible for much of the violence and racial unrest, which has occurred and which is still occurring in our world today. Such claims are not uncommon, but they are unfair. Why should the Bible be blamed when people misinterpret, misapply, and then fail to follow its teachings? Oh yes, there is no denying that many terrible things have been done in the name of Christ. Jesus says, however, in His “Sermon on the Mount,” “Not everyone who say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Who, then, is rightfully a disciple of Jesus Christ? Jesus leaves no doubt about that in our text, for we learn that WE ARE JESUS’ DISCIPLES WHEN WE ABIDE IN HIS WORD! Jesus also leaves no doubt in our text regarding the blessings of being His disciples—He promises that we will know the truth, and He assures us that we will enjoy freedom!
Let us then rely upon Jesus’ promise—we will know the truth! If we were to ask that Harvard professor mentioned earlier about the possibility of establishing absolute truth and whether he believed the Bible to reveal such truth, I would imagine that he would respond with the same skepticism revealed by Pontius Pilate two thousand years ago. When Jesus testified before Pilate and said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” Pilate responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38) You see, people today, do not believe there is such a thing as absolute truth. They prefer to believe that everything is relativistic—that truth changes with the situation. While there may be many reasons for this, one of the biggest is that people do not want to be held accountable before God for keeping His laws, which are a part of His biblically revealed absolute truth. People are much more comfortable making up their own rules as they go, so that they can justify their own actions and remove any feelings of unwanted guilt. The denial of absolute truth, however, does not eliminate its existence!
My dear friends, the fact that there is a God—and that fact is established by the mere presence of this universe and is acknowledged by our individual consciences—means there is such a thing as absolute truth. God is the source of such truth, whether it be the laws of nature, which govern our physical existence, or the remnants of our natural knowledge of God’s law, which govern our moral conduct, or the revelation of God’s sweet gospel, which assures us of God’s love and forgiveness. God, as our omnipotent Creator, could reveal that absolute truth, if He so chose. This He has chosen to do in His sacred Scriptures, the Bible. The apostle Paul states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus said, “Sanctify them by You truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Consequently, when Jesus assures us in our text, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth,” we can rely upon His promise to reveal that absolute truth to us as we come to know and grow under the Spirit’s guidance in our knowledge of that word!
Our new teacher, Mr. Sydow, together with his colleagues, will regularly direct their students to the word of our Savior God as it applies in their respective classes. Students of chemistry will be able to examine the intricacies of God’s universe, and those studying physics will decipher problems and set up a variety of experimentation based upon the physical laws of the nature God created. Students will learn their mathematics equations and develop their abilities in a dozen other disciplines, so that they will be able to function well within our society, thereby serving both their God and their fellowmen. In addition, God’s absolute truths are revealed in the form of His laws and precepts, which form the basis for any instruction in morality and godly living. However, the greatest of all absolute truths is the gospel of our salvation. Absolute moral truth includes the revelation by we by nature are lost and condemned creatures—lost in our sin and condemned by a righteous and just God. But the Scriptures reveal the truth that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God as a just God could not dismiss out sins, but as our loving, heavenly Father sent His beloved Son to bear our sins on the cross—to suffer in our places, so that we by grace alone might be forgiven and received back into the family of God. This truth above all is the glory of Christian education and the privilege of our teachers, new and old, to share with their students. Let us rely, therefore, upon Jesus’ promise—we will know the truth!
Dear friends, WE ARE JESUS’ DISCIPLES WHEN WE ABIDE IN HIS WORD! Being assured that we will know the truth, let us also rejoice in Jesus’ privilege—we will enjoy freedom! Jesus says in our text, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The people to whom Jesus was speaking, who are described as “those Jews who believed Him,” objected to the implication of Jesus’ words. They answered Him and asked, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Can you not imagine the average American responding in the same way and with almost the same question, "Jesus, we are Americans—citizens of a free country, who have never been in bondage to any other land. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?" In fact, there are many who would claim that to be a Christian means to live in bondage. After all, if you are a Christian you cannot do all those fun things out there in the world, and that is especially so if you are a member of a strict, confessionally Lutheran church. But what such people fail to realize is that there is no freedom apart from that which the truth of God’s word provides. That is right—there is no freedom apart from that which the truth of God’s word provides! Listen to Jesus’ answer to those who questioned Him: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!” If you do not have faith in Jesus Christ and come to understand the truths of His word, then you are automatically still under the bondage of sin and a slave of Satan! Now Satan can give you the illusion of freedom, but all who buy into the illusion will experience without fail and without exception the consequences of spiritual bondage—everlasting judgment in hell.
Listen carefully to Jesus who says, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed!” What are the freedoms we enjoy as God’s children? First of all, we enjoy the freedom of a clean conscience before God—a conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ as we honestly confess our sins before Him. The Psalmist writes, “I will confess my transgression to the LORD. And You forgave the iniquity of my sins” (Psalm 32:5b). Secondly, we enjoy the freedom from the fear that our sins have somehow permanently separated us from the love of God. The Psalmist says, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:7,12). Thirdly, we enjoy the freedom of knowing with certainty that we are God’s children and heirs of everlasting life. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved!” (Mark 16:16a) Fourthly, we enjoy the freedom of being confident of knowing the truth in the midst of an age filled with error. The apostle Paul tells us to study the word of God so that we are no longer “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men” (Ephesians 4:14). The apostle John tells us to “test the spirits” by comparing their teachings to those of the Bible (1 John 4:1). In an age when so many people suggest the Bible is simply a matter of personal interpretation, we can say with the apostles and prophets of old, "Thus says the Lord!" Fifthly, as we apply properly Scripture’s warning against false prophets, we enjoy freedom from their control. One of the marks of a false prophet is that they will attempt to exert control over you spiritually apart from the word of God. They attempt to replace Christ with themselves. This is true whether you are talking about a priest using the myth of purgatory to secure moneys for masses from grieving family members, or some of the more modern sects, which attempt to control completely the minds of their followers. When we abide in Jesus’ word, we can bid such individuals, "Be gone!" Sixthly, we enjoy freedom from worry, when we take our God at His word, seek His kingdom first in our lives, and entrust our tomorrows to His benevolent care (cf. Matthew 6:33-34). Seventhly, we enjoy a freedom to serve others, knowing that even should others take advantage of us, our God is watching over us and will reward our service offered in love. Jesus assures us, “Whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciples, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). Eighthly, we enjoy the freedom to make decisions in our lives based upon the absolute certainty of our status as God’s children and in obedience to His call for us to love. How many people do you know, who are captives to their own emotions—responding to others not with the love and compassion they themselves have experienced at the hands of their Savior, but erupting in anger and with bitterness.
My dear friends, as you have listened to this list and it could be extended much longer, perhaps you are saying to yourselves, "I am not experiencing all those freedoms, but I would surely like to." Do not lose heart. Remember that while Jesus said on the cross regarding our salvation, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), our lives of sanctification are works in progress. The apostle Paul admitted, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold on that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 3:12-14) We all with Paul must confess our many shortcoming, but it is then that we must turn to Jesus Christ. Let us confess our sins and weaknesses, but then rejoice in the fact that He has forgiven us our sins and that His strength is available to be ours in the midst of weakness.
This, then, is the underlying message that Mr. Sydow and our other teachers are privileged to bring to our children at Immanuel School. This is the underlying message of our entire ministry here at Immanuel—a message of hope, and of joy, and of freedom based upon the everlasting truths revealed in God’s word. WE ARE JESUS’ DISCIPLES WHEN WE ABIDE IN HIS WORD! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting