Let Us Abide in Jesus' Word!
O Lord God, You are our Help in ages past and have promised to be our Help in years to come. For this we thank and praise You. Be with us this night as we worship in Your presence. Lead us to sincere repentance for past sins and fill our minds with Your present counsel, so that we might live our lives to Your glory, even as we seek to be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
On the eve of entering the Promised Land, Moses blessed Israel. In that blessing, he reminded the people that there was no God like their God—excellent, eternal, powerful, and gracious! He promised them that God would be with them in the future to help them overcome the challenges that lay ahead. That same God is present tonight and promises to be with us as we enter a New Year.
The writer to the Hebrews offers us encouragement in a number of practical areas of our Christian lives. He also repeats God’s promise to never forsake us, and the obvious conclusion we can draw from that promise—that we need never fear, for what can man possibly do to us when God is our Helper?
Text: John 8:31-32
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."
In Christ Jesus, whose word is truth and whose truth brings freedom, dear fellow redeemed:
Truth and freedom—people all over our world long for truth and yearn for freedom. Yet most people are never certain when or if they have found truth—indeed many have given up trying to discover truth, concluding that all matters are relative, thus confusing truth with opinion. Indeed, many enjoy political freedom, but remain slaves—slaves of Satan who controls them through sinful lusts and spiritual ignorance (cf. John 8:34). Knowing truth and possessing freedom are possible, however, and indeed necessary if we are to experience God’s richest blessings in this life and throughout eternity. God wants us to build our lives upon truth, so that we have a solid foundation. God wants us to experience the freedom that only His truth can bring into our lives.
Consequently, as we look back over the past year of our lives and then ahead to the year to come, LET US ABIDE IN JESUS’ WORD! Then we will know the truth, and that truth will make us free! This evening I would like to share with you three examples of how abiding in Jesus’ word leads both to truth and freedom.
First of all, as we look back over the past year we are bound to remember failures involving personal sins and the people we have thereby hurt. How should we handle such failures—should we try to deny our sins or hide them? Should we ignore those people we have hurt and simply try to avoid them? Jesus in His word speaks specifically to these issues. He reveals divine truth with regard to these matters, which if followed leads to freedom.
Regarding our personal sins—we should never deny them or try to hide them from our God, for that is both impossible and unhealthy. King David tried that, and this is what he experienced: “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4). David’s conscience was plagued by his guilt after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah. His attempts to hide those sins took a spiritual, emotional, and physical toll on him. The apostle John warns us, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The truth of the matter is that God knows and sees all. He sees all of our actions; He hears all of our words; and He can look into our hearts to perceive all of our thoughts (cf. Psalm 33:13-15). Consequently, it is in our very best interests to repent of our sins, to confess those sins, and to rejoice then in the truth that God does indeed forgive our sins. After trying to hide his sin and failing, King David was led to repent of his sins. He informs us, “I acknowledged my sin to You (God), and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD, and You forgave the iniquity of my sins” (1 John 32:5). The apostle John tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The biblical truths about sin and God’s gracious promise of forgiveness lead to freedom from guilt, freedom from the fear of God’s wrath, and freedom to live with the joyous confidence that we are right with God!
Regarding those against whom we have sinned, the word of God tells us, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that you brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). My dear friend, when we sin against each other it often creates uncomfortable situations. However, the solution is not to ignore or avoid those against whom we have sinned. It is important that we, having confessed our sins and being forgiven by God, seek to restore our relationship with each other. Having been freed from the guilt of sin by God, let us be a captive of pride. Let us not be afraid to admit our errors to one another and frankly seek a brother’s forgiveness. We are not perfect people, and therefore should freely admit our mistakes and humble ourselves before an offended brother. God’s truth frees us from pretensions and opens the path to reconciliation and future harmony. What a relief it is to be reconciled to a brother, even as we are reconciled to God!
Secondly, let us consider the successes of this past year. It is a lie to give ourselves credit for our past successes. Does that statement sound shocking? It is certainly proper for us to take satisfaction in jobs well done. We can rejoice in the fact that we have worked hard to use our God-given gifts and opportunities, and that those efforts have been blessed by the Lord. But let us remember this biblical truth that “every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:17-18). The blessings we experience, resulting from what the world would claim are our own efforts or the gifts of others, are in reality blessings from the Lord. God, who brings us forth by the word of truth—that is, He creates faith in our hearts—uses His blessings of our efforts to reveal His grace and glory to others in our world—making us a kind of firstfruits of His grace. The Bible assures us, “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Samuel 2:7-8).
Knowing these truths frees us from self-conceit and arrogance, which can so easily plague our lives. It opens the path to a life of genuine humility, thankfulness, and the rightful praise of God. The Psalmist writes, “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100).
Thirdly, let us consider the issue of our approach to the future. Many in our world believe the future to be dark and mysterious, uncertain and therefore something to greet with attitudes ranging from mild apprehension to outright fear. This need not be the case for of the believing child of God. Our God wants us to approach the future with boldness and confidence, and His truths revealed in Scripture certainly lay the basis for such an approach.
First of all, the Bible assures us that we are never alone. If you study your Bibles, you will find that in virtually every major biblical character’s story, at one time or another, God assures them that He is with them and, therefore, they need not fear. Jesus says the same to us when just before His ascension He promises, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We are never alone. As we walk into our futures, we go hand in hand with our Savior! Secondly, He assures us that we are in His hands, and that no one can snatch us out of His hands (cf. John 10:28). What a comfort that is, especially when confronted by the troubles of this life. There is nothing too great or fearsome that will be able to snatch us away from our Savior. Thirdly, the Bible teaches us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God will either prevent evil, therefore, from entering our lives, or He will cause the evil He permits to enter our lives to work in some way for our good. Fourthly, notice in that last verse from Romans 8 that the Bible speaks of God having a purpose for our lives. The Scriptures teach that God has a purpose for all of our lives and for each day of our lives. He has good works planned and prepared for us to do (cf. Ephesians 2:10). The believer’s life, therefore, as he walks with the Lord will never be out of control. God may at times chasten us as believers (cf. Hebrews 12:6). He may at times test us (cf. Genesis 22), but He will never allow us to be tested beyond what He will enable us to endure (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).
What does this all mean? It means that in view of all of these truths, God frees us from fear and worry concerning the future. Our time and lives are in His hands, and that is exactly where we should want them to be! The apostle Paul urges us not to be filled with worry, but rather “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” He then goes on to assure us that, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). God wants us to walk forward into our futures with confidence, knowing that He is with us and will bless us as we strive earnestly to serve Him with faithfulness!
My dear friends, as we rapidly approach the conclusion of another year and look forward to beginning a New Year, LET US ABIDE IN JESUS’ WORD! We will then know the truth, and that truth will make us free!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting