A famous and often quoted phrase within the Bible goes something like this: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” However, this phrase does not occur isolation or within in a vacuum—there is a context that this statement occurs within. What is the context? Well, let’s begin with looking at the entire verse. John 8:31-32 states, “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.’” Now that we know the whole verse, allow me to summarize the backdrop of this conversation (the context).
Just before instructing His followers that if they continued in His word they would know the truth and it would make them free, Jesus had been in a somewhat tense and confrontational argument with the Pharisees. What was the gist of the argument? Jesus plainly told the Pharisees that He was from God, knew God, and was in a deep relationship with God. But Jesus did not stop with that. Jesus further explained that the Pharisees did not know God (John 8:19) and that they will die in their sins (John 8:21). In short, Jesus told the Pharisees that they were lost liars and that He is the truth. In fact, some time later, Jesus outright identified Himself as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). But in this moment, Jesus merely identifies that the Pharisees are in the dark and believe Satan’s lies (John 8:44).
So, why say all this? Think about it… Jesus went out of His way and allowed Himself to be challenged by a group of religious leaders in order to speak the truth to them. Sure, the words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees were hard for them to hear and they took great offense at Jesus; however, Jesus necessarily offended in order to invite them to come to Him and follow His teaching. Within Jesus’ invitation was the inclusion of a conditional promise: IF YOU CONTINUE IN MY WORD…THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE. Free from what?
The context of this passage shows us what the Pharisees were enslaved to:
If you think about it, we are all born into this same slavery, and many of us continue to be enslaved even after coming to belief in Jesus. We know that Jesus sets us free from an eternity in Hell when we come to faith in Him, but why do we keep falling in the same sins? Why is it so hard to make progress in our lives? Why is maturing in Christ difficult? I think Christianity is difficult for us because we forget the primary teaching of our Lord--WE ARE TO COME AND ABIDE IN HIM. How? We abide in Christ by abiding in His Word.
It is at this exact point where we struggle the most. There is so much going on within our lives that we struggle to find time to ABIDE in His word. Sure, we read His word—even daily—but abiding is far more than simply reading the Bible. Abiding in the Word of God means reading it, thinking about it, responding to it, returning to it, reordering our lives around it, and intently looking how to conform to the Lord’s instruction within each moment. Reading is something we do and, then, cease to do. Abiding implies a continuation.
With this in mind, let’s ask a few questions of ourselves this morning:
I love you and hope you have a wonderful day seeking the Lord! Strive to encourage someone else to enjoy the Lord with you today.
Good morning (or evening)!
I know this is still Monday, but I will be on the road all day tomorrow traveling home from visiting family in New York; so, I hope you enjoy the early version of “The Tuesday Talk”. I hope you have greatly enjoyed your time in the New Testament these last few weeks—I know I have. While reading Mark 11 this morning I came across this verse: “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted to you.” (Mark 11:24). This verse jarred my memory of just how good my God is to me (and all of us). I would like to take a few minutes to give a very brief testimony of how God answers prayer.
Over the last few weeks I have felt conviction that I have not shared the gospel with those who do not know the love and life that Jesus Christ gives us. Mindful of this weakness, I’ve frequently prayed for the Lord to open the doors to gospel-focused conversations. Last week the Lord sent someone to me to share the gospel with, but to be honest… I completely blanked out and did not recognize the opportunity I had in front of me until much later that day. Frustrated by my failure I began asking the Lord for another opportunity to share the gospel. The Lord did not wait long until giving me another chance to share the gospel!
Over the last 72 hours I’ve had the opportunity to share the gospel (in detail) with two individuals. Even better, one was a Muslim! I won’t bog this down with the details, but I was absolutely stoked that the Lord answered my prayers with two awesome encounters. The fact that God answers our prayers still enthralls me. You see, just before I engaged the Muslim individual, I felt a strong urge to share the gospel that came out of nowhere. You see, my family and I were touring Central Park when I was overcome with the urge to share the gospel. The truth is I cannot take credit for any part of this. God ordained the encounter, the urge to share the gospel, and even my prayer to want to share the gospel—all of this was guided by the Lord. THIS ABSOLUTELY AMAZES ME!
When we read verses like Mark 11:24 we tend to focus on and think about situational needs, physical needs, and relational needs—and God does answer these. However, it has been my experience that when I pray for courage and the ability to do the things that God commands me to do, HE ALWAYS ANSWERS THAT PRAYER. And it is this fact that stirs deep contemplation. I wonder what I am not doing because I’ve not asked the Lord for guidance, help, and boldness to complete His will. The believers in the early church prayed for boldness to preach the gospel, and the Bible tells us that God gave them boldness and it stirred them to proclaim Christ with boldness (Acts 4:29-31).
Too often we focus on our failures, faults, and weaknesses. I wonder what would happen if we stopped looking at ourselves and started looking to God? No matter how long I walk with the Lord I keep learning the same basic truths over and over again. When we seek God, God grants us the ability to follow Him. When we fail to seek the Lord, we will fail in our attempt to live as Christians.
Bearing this in mind, allow me to ask a simple question:
ARE YOU ASKING THE LORD FOR THE ABILITY TO SERVE HIM?
I know, this is a basic question, but we tend to do the basics poorly. Great feats are accomplished through great fundamentals. The fundamental truth of this life is that we were created to be indwelt by God for God’s glory, the good of others, and our joy. Are you being led by the Lord? When we submit to our God by seeking His power, presence, and guidance in our lives for His glory, it is almost a guarantee that YOU WILL GLORIFY HIM. Even more, there is great joy in knowing you are submitting to the will of God.
As you go to bed tonight (or start to move this morning), take a few minutes and ask the Lord to direct your steps today for His glory. Ask God to open doors for you to share the gospel, encourage someone, intercede for someone, or give a testimony. You will be amazed at what happens.
While reading Matthew this morning, I pondered what it means to “practice your righteousness in front of others” (Matt. 6:1).
Does this mean we should not do good things for God’s glory publicly? Does it mean we should serve the Lord in secret, or only within the confines of the church body? As we ponder this verse within the scope of Scripture, we arrive at a much better understanding of Jesus’ teaching.
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus COMMANDS us to go into all the world and make disciples. Therefore, this requires public proclamation and godly living from us that is clearly visible. Peter tells us to be ready to give a defense for the hope we have in Jesus when questioned (1st Peter 3:15). Additionally, Jesus COMMANDS us to let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father (Matt. 5:16).
So, what are we supposed to do? Are we to do good works so others can see them, or are we supposed to do good works privately?
I think the answer is found in your motivation for your actions. Jesus warns against doing “righteous things” for the praise/attention of others. On the other hand, Jesus commands us to do good things publicly to the extent that God is glorified because of our actions. The difference between the two is not so much visible as it is internal. In short, we must ask, “WHY AM I DOING THIS?”. Allow me to expound upon this.
There is a long-standing tradition within the American church that those who donate a large sum to the church have buildings, pews, rooms, and other things named in their honor. The fact that someone has something named after THEM because they gave to the church is one example of a person receiving the honor and not God—this is why Jesus said to give in a manner that our left hand is unaware of what our right hand is doing (Matt. 6:3). There is also a tendency for some to pray ONLY when in public and not privately. Jesus warns against this in Matt. 6:5-6. If the only time we talk to God is when we are in the middle of a crowd something is very wrong within us. In short, Jesus is warning against HYPOCRISY, not holiness and righteous deeds.
The problem that Jesus worked to correct was that the religious leaders of His day were pretending to be holy in front of others while rejecting holiness in private. According to Jesus, our public lives should flow from our private time with the Lord. This makes sense if you think about it. As Christians, our job is to worship God and help others worship God with us. Hence, if you and I do not personally/privately worship God, then we are completely unable to help others worship the Lord. This is why Jesus rebukes the religious leaders of His day—they were completely inept at their jobs because they had personally rejected fellowship with the Lord. Sure, they were good at doing all sorts of “religious stuff”, but they were awful at worshipping and fellowshipping with God. And Jesus despised this!
Let’s make this personal. That is, let’s take a minute for introspection and see if there is any wickedness in me similar to the wickedness Jesus identified in the Pharisees:
Do I spend time fellowshipping with my Lord? How?
That’s it. Only one question. But it’s a big question. If we neglect fellowship with our Lord, then we are “playing church” but not living as the church. Remember… God made us His temple and indwells with His Spirit so we could worship and fellowship with Him (2nd Corinthians 3:16). Our primary struggle in this life is not doing more good things or not doing bad things, our primary struggle is submitting ourselves to God through fellowship with and worship of God.
Bearing this in mind, let me encourage you to engage your God. He came from heaven to earth and died on the cross so we could have access into presence. Seek to know Him TODAY. Allow tomorrow to worry about itself, but do not let today pass without engaging our Great God!