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This passage highlights Jesus ministry to the religious leaders who claimed to be children of God but who were in fact enslaved to tradition and legalism. Their main problem was understanding the difference between abiding and doing. Do those of us who claim to love Christ today have a clear understanding of what it means to walk minute by minute in the reality of His love for us and can we see clearly how following a "religion" keeps us from living in the freedom Christ died to offer us?
No Mean Love
The Sovereignty of God in the Sabotage of Judas
When Jesus Took Up the Towel and Loved us to the Uttermost
Israel and You: A Good Example or a Horrible Warning
For This Purpose He Came: Unveiling God's Glory in His Humiliation
John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward
A Perfect Message if you "Wish to see Jesus"
King Jesus: Why the Leaders Missed Him, Why You Must Not
Albert: A Living Picture of Lazarus a Man Once Dead
Lazarus: A Dead Man Who Becomes a Picture of Life
The Pivot Point That Is Personal Belief and The Rightness of Radical Response
What Should and Shouldn't Matter To You
Jesus versus the Ultimate Predator
The Reason for Everything and How We are to Respond to It
The Identity of the Good Shepherd and the Attributes of His Sheep
The Good Shepherd: What He is Doing, Why He is Doing It, and How it's Going to Get Done
A Blind Man You'd Better See Yourself In
Sons, Slaves and Freedom Indeed
Father, thank you for a chance to look at your Word. I thank you for how I am continually blessed to be put in the role I'm in, where I can look at, meditate on, study, reflect on, and communicate about your love letter to the world. We thank you that you didn't just send a bunch of words; you sent the Word, the Word made flesh, who was God and was with God and is God.
I pray that we'd rightly represent Christ, that we'd lift him up, and as people recognize him for who he is, they would experience the freedom Christ came for them to experience. So would you do your good work this morning in a way that would bless us all? In Christ's name, amen.
Open with me to John 8. We're going to cover a lot of ground this morning, I think. We'll see. I might truncate it at some point, but we're going to finish, I hope, the rest of this little exchange that is now captured in what we call John 8. You know John didn't write in chapters. He just wrote, and we broke it up in chapters so we could turn there together. Look at John 8. We're going to pick it up in verse 31 and look at a significant chunk.
Let me tell you again what is going on. In the book of John in general, John tells you, "I could have written a lot of different parts of this story about Jesus. I could have told you a lot of different things, but the things I told you I wrote so that you might know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that by believing him you might have life." That is the whole purpose. "I want you to know that this is God. This is who he is. This is what he's like. This is what he cares about. This is what he has done because he cares about you."
When Jesus was here, there was a group of people who thought they could find life apart from God. They thought they were doing the things God wanted them to do, but Jesus was here to say, "No, we've gotten a little off-kilter here." You might want to think of it this way. When Christ came, there was a group of things you might say he was doing. He came really to convict the faithless and to confront frauds.
What I mean by "convict the faithless…" It doesn't mean they weren't faithfully doing things. It does mean they were not doing faithfully what God wanted them to do. That's a really key distinction, because a lot of people who are faithfully doing things… They're faithfully fulfilling the five pillars of their faith or the eightfold step of their faith, or even within more of the Westernized religious side of faith systems, they are faithfully attending and doing the things they think God wants them to do.
Jesus came to convict them of ultimate faithlessness and to confront fraudulent spirituality. He came to create faith, and he came to encourage or to celebrate or to confirm people who had faith in God's ability to provide for them what they believed God would always provide for them, which is, in grace, a means that God in his perfection could have relationship with us in our imperfection.
There was a group of people who always understood that the righteous live by faith, that they're not made righteous by faithful things. This is a huge distinction. Let me say it again. There was always a group of people who believed the righteous lived by faith, and Jesus was there to confirm their faith and say, "God is going to do what you hoped he would do, which is provide for you a way you can be reconciled to him whom you have left and have moved away from."
But he was there to confront people who thought their faithfulness would make them spiritual. I'll say it to you this way. There really are four kinds of people who are out there. There are those who are believers in the way that Jesus and God call us to be believers, and they know they are believers. They believe in God as he has revealed himself, not as who they've made him out to be.
I had an interesting conversation with somebody this week. We were talking about church, and they said to me, "I love the diversity of churches. I think it's great that everyone can go to a church that works for them." I cautioned them. I said, "You know what? I think I understand what you're saying, but make sure you don't go to a church that defines or creates a god that works for you." Do you see the distinction?
It's wonderful that there are a lot of folks who aren't going to relate to me. There are a lot of folks who aren't going to like the way we sing about and celebrate our God. They're not going to like the manner in which we even attire ourselves when we do it. They're not going to like a lot of what we do. They don't have to like how we do what we do, but they do need to deal with truth.
There are a lot of different forms that get to the functionality of faithfulness, and I think it's great that there are a lot of different forms, but there isn't a lot of different true faithful spirituality. God said there's one. There's only one way to him. There's only one truth. There's only one place you can find life.
So I said, "Make sure that what you mean by finding a church that's great for you, you're not saying you find a church that you're great with the way they've created or defined God that you like, because that's not ultimately going to work out well for you, because there is truth, and you must know it, and you will be accountable to it."
So, there are people who are believers in the way God wants us to be believers, and they know they are. There are those who are not believers and know they're not. That's great. They're like, "I don't buy this necessity and sufficiency and uniqueness of Jesus being the revelation of God, the only means through which men can be reconciled back to him." I love folks who are very clear about that.
Now, there are two more groups of folks, and they get to be a little bit harder. There are those who are believers and think they are not. What do I mean by that? There are some people who just cannot… They've believed in Christ, but they're just unsure. In fact, if you ask them what we would commonly call the two diagnostic questions, and you just say, "Are you at a point in your spiritual life where if you died today you know you'd go to heaven?" they'll try to be humble.
They'll say something like, "Well, I hope so." Then you'll ask them, "If you stood before God and he asked you, 'Why should I let you in?' what would you say?" and they'll say, "Well, I would say, 'Because of what Christ has done on the cross for me and because of my full confidence in his provision for me.'" That's wonderful. Then you ask them, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how sure are you?" they go, "Well, I don't know. I'm a 6 or a 7."
We have to talk to those folks and explain to them this is not a matter of how you feel. It's not a matter of what you think. It's a matter of truth and revelation and your response to it. So, there are some who are believers and think they're not, and they just need to be discipled and equipped. The reason that's so important is because you have to have a full and clear understanding of what Christ has done so you can communicate that to others and not confuse them with why you're really believing in Jesus.
It looks like you're trying to establish your faithfulness, because when you say, "I hope I'm going to heaven," yet you're fully confident that Christ is the only way you can get to heaven, that confuses people. Then there's this fourth crowd. I think these are the ones you're going to run up against in John, chapter 8. It's the one that Jesus is basically confronting in their fraudulent understanding of spirituality. And we have a lot of that today.
Those are people who are not believers who think they are. In fact, they hate Jesus, because Jesus confronts them in their belief. They think what they have believed in is what God wants them to believe in, and in fact, it's not what Christ calls them to; it is dead religion. Now, Christ is not against Judaism. He's not against Islam, per se. He's not against Buddhism. He's not against any system of works. He is for truth, which necessarily makes him against those things.
Jesus would have said what he said here if he was in Mecca, if he was in Rome, if he was in Dallas, if he was in Jerusalem, but because he's engaging with those who were in Jerusalem in that day, which were primarily Jews, it looks like he's really against Judaism. Don't get hung up on that. What he's coming after is this idea of religion defined as you being faithful to a point that you're spiritual.
There's a little rap poem by a young man that has just gone viral. You might have seen it. It basically captures this idea, where it says, "Jesus hates religion, but he loves his church." I want you to watch it with me this morning. Check this out.
What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?
What if I told you voting Republican really wasn't his mission?
What if I told you Republican doesn't automatically mean Christian?
And just because you call some people blind,
Doesn't automatically give you vision.
I mean, if religion is so great,
Why has it started so many wars?
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor?
Tells single moms God doesn't love them if they've ever had a divorce,
But in the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores.
Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice.
Tend to ridicule God's people.
They did it to John the Baptist.
They can't fix their problems,
And so they just mask it,
Not realizing religion is like spraying perfume on a casket.
See, the problem with religion is it never gets to the core.
It's just behavior modification, like a long list of chores.
Like, let's dress up the outside,
Make it look nice and neat.
But it's funny, that's what they used to do to mummies
While the corpse rots underneath.
Now, I ain't judging, I'm just saying,
Quit putting on a fake look,
Because there's a problem if people only know you're a Christian by your Facebook.
I mean, in every other aspect of life, you know that logic's unworthy.
It's like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey.
See, this was me too,
But no one seemed to be on to me.
Acting like a church kid,
While addicted to pornography.
See, on Sunday I'd go to church,
But Saturday gettin' faded;
Acting if I was simply created to just have sex and get wasted.
See, I spent my whole life building this façade of neatness,
But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness,
Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean.
It's not a museum for good people; it's a hospital for the broken,
Which means I don't have to hide my failure,
I don't have to hide my sin,
Because it doesn't depend on me, it depends on him.
See, because when I was God's enemy and certainly not a fan,
He looked down and said, "I want that man!"
Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools.
Don't you see he's so much better than just following some rules?
Now let me clarify.
I love the church, I love the Bible, and, yes, I believe in sin.
But if Jesus came to your church,
Would they actually let him in?
See, remember, he was called a glutton and a drunkard by "religious men."
But the Son of God never supports self-righteousness…not now, not then.
Now back to the point. One thing is vital to mention:
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums.
See, one's the work of God,
But one's a man-made invention.
See, one is the cure, but the other's the infection.
See, because religion says "do,"
Jesus says "done";
Religion says "slave,"
Jesus says "son."
Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free.
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see.
And that's why religion and Jesus are two different clans.
Religion is man searching for God;
Christianity is God searching for man,
Which is why salvation is freely mine,
And forgiveness is my own,
Not based on my merits,
But Jesus' obedience alone,
Because he took the crown of thorns,
And the blood dripped down his face.
He took what we all deserved.
I guess that's why you call it grace.
And while being murdered,
He yelled, "Father, forgive them! They know not what they do!"
Because when he was dangling on that cross,
He was thinking of you.
And he absorbed all your sin,
And he buried it in the tomb,
Which is why I'm kneeling at the cross, saying,
"Come on, there's room."
So, for religion? No, I hate it.
In fact, I literally resent it,
Because when Jesus said, "It is finished,"
I believe he meant it.
[End of video]
The first time I watched that, I kept waiting for something I was going to go, "Doggone!" and I didn't find it. I want to tell you, that is the gospel communicated in a creative way. It gets right to the core of what's going on in John 8. It could have been written right out of John 8. Now look. You look at me, and I don't know what you think you see, but let me tell you who I am. I am a man who in no way could ever please God.
I can do things that God says pleases him, but at the end of the day, there is in me this thing called total depravity. In other words, I am so completely flawed in my sin there is no way that I in myself could ever overcome that in a way that a holy God could ever call me acceptable again. So you're looking at a guy, no matter what you think of me, who is far from perfect, who is in the process of pursuing Jesus and responding to his Word.
I'm seeking to abide in him, believe in him, follow him, obey him, have intimacy with him, have oneness with him, but at times I'm going to back off that, and I'm going to have to confess and repent and return, but my hope and my confidence is completely in Jesus Christ. There is not in me an effort to build a résumé, impress you or impress him. There is in me a desire to respond to the love I have seen in the Jesus who sought me. That's who I am.
I have been saved not according to deeds which I have done in righteousness but according to his mercy by the washing of his regenerating Spirit and his renewing work in me. That's who I am. The thing that would sometimes make us go, "Well, gosh, I couldn't be like him…" If you're a sinner, you're exactly like me. If you get disgusted at the weakness of your flesh though your heart is willing, you're exactly like me.
If you're a person looking for hope in something outside of you, you're exactly like me. Now, if you're looking for a way to keep doing what you want to do and believe God is going to just take care of it, then you're not understanding what I just said. I'm not hiding behind grace to say it doesn't matter what I do. I'm going to show you today it matters abundantly what you do.
Jesus was talking like this, and in the midst of talking like this, as we remember last week in John 8:30… "As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him." You have to be very careful here, because you're going to find out now he starts to talk to these people who were believing. They were kind of caught up in the crowd's response. This is what happens to many of us. We get emotionally involved in a moment.
What Jesus is going to do… He wants to clarify belief for you. So he's going to talk to people who go, "I'm good with Jesus." This is what it says in John, chapter 8, verses 31 and following. "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him…" I think you need to put that word believed in quotes, because he's going to explain what it really means to believe in him. He says, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine…"
Disciple, I don't believe, and I don't think the Scriptures teach, is a special and unique class of believers. It's not something you move to…from unbeliever to believer to disciple to disciple-maker. That's not the progression of Scripture. That's what happens in the sense… You could say unbeliever to believer/disciple/disciple-maker as one. What Jesus is going to show you here is if you continue…
The word here for continue is the same word as remain, stay, abide, and you're going to see it a bunch of times in this chapter. If you live in the reality… The word in. What does it mean to be "in my word"? It doesn't mean if you do the Journey. It doesn't mean if you read the Bible every day. Jesus doesn't say, "If you remain in my words," but when he says, "If you're in my word, if you take my revelation of myself…
I am God who is trying to show you who I am so you don't have to create a god you're comfortable with or define God as you want him." God is going to reveal himself to you. "I want to show you who I am. In your darkness, in your deceived state, in your lostness, I will come to you, I will reveal myself, and then you respond to what I've said. You don't like the idea, but you abide, you remain, you stay in."
The word in has the idea of relationship. It can speak to geography, but that's not what's going on here. It has more to do with relationship. Like when I say, "I am in hot water." No one really thinks I'm in hot water. What am I talking about there? I'm talking about not my geography; I'm talking about my relationship with trouble.
If I say to you, "I love you; I'm going to keep you in my heart," it doesn't mean I'm going to have you injected physically into my being. What I'm saying there is there's going to be a relationship with you that's not going to be lost even when there's a separation of geography. Jesus is saying, "If you remain in relationship with my word…" Jesus is very clear that his word is his revelation about himself.
The idea that "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly, and you can't have it apart from me. I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father apart from me. If you live in that reality, you understand your lostness and your brokenness and that you can never become spiritual through faithful deeds but you have to have faith in me and I am that which makes you righteous… If you live in that reality, then you're my disciples. Then you have unity with me. Then you're reconciled to me. Then you are forgiven."
When you believe, when you abide… Let me show you what happens according to the book of John that we've read so far. When you abide, if you believe, you're not going to walk in darkness. I mentioned to you last week there are times that even now, as a disciple of Christ, I leave him, I quench the Spirit, I grieve the Spirit, I go my own way, and I don't walk in the light; I walk in darkness. I don't practice that, but there are still moments when I move there, when I make those decisions. And what does God call me to do? Confess my sins, acknowledge that, thank him for his provision, make amends, repent, and pursue him.
If you believe, if you walk in the light, you're going to have the light of life. You're going to see where life is. You're going to love it. You're going to pursue it. You're going to be a person who is new. You're born again. You are not one who will come into judgment. Why? Because Christ has been judged for you. You passed from death to life, it says in John 5:24. You will know the truth when you are in Jesus. He is the truth. He is the summation of truth. He is not one road to truth; he is truth.
You will be truly free. (I'm going to talk about that this morning.) You're a child of God, no longer a child of wrath. You will not perish. You'll have eternal life, which begins right now. Folks, let me say this. If you walk with Christ this week, in the moment that you do, in the moment you choose to abide and remain in him and lean not on your own understanding, as his disciple, you are walking in the light, experiencing life in that moment, and that is where our spirituality comes from.
We are not people who go, "I love you, God. I'm going to show you how much I love you." We're a people who say, "I love you, God, and I want to abide with you. I'm not going to leave you and go impress you. I'm going to walk with you and follow you. My spirituality will never be in what I do. My spirituality is always in you, and the reason I'm a spiritual, righteous person is because of my relationship with you, not what I do for you."
Folks, this is what we call the gospel, the good news. You don't have to become weary anymore of your imperfection and your inability to do good works, but you walk with Christ, and in walking with Christ, you do good, because Christ is good, as he lives in you, not geographically but in terms of understanding in relationship with him. By faith you've been restored because he has come to you. This is what Jesus is saying.
In verse 32 he says, "…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Wow! Watch this. I want to read down and then come back and unpack this for you. They answered, "Wait. We're Abraham's descendants. We've never been enslaved to anybody. What do you mean, we will be made free if we remain in you? We've never been enslaved to anybody. How is that you say we'll become free?"
This is amazing, because if I'm around them, I'm going to go, "You've never been a slave? Does Egypt ring a bell? How about Assyria, Babylon, Macedonia, Greece, Persia, Rome currently? You've never been a vassal state? You've never been a slave? It has never been a part of your heritage?" This is one of the reasons I want to tell you, when you understand the life God offers you in Christ… What we have to do is go back, and in the midst of our brokenness…
Often, when we realize there's life available to us, no matter how broken we are… I tell people when they're really suffering from choices we make on our own when we're not in relationship with God, when we're doing what seems right to us and it ends up, as the Scripture says, in death… "There's a way that seems right to man, but in the end it's the way of death."
I say, "Don't waste the pain. Write it down. Go into great detail. Get your iPhone out. Put it on video and hit 'record.' Talk to yourself with tears and your mascara running, your heart broken. This weight loss program you're on because of the sickness of your soul, and you can't eat… Look at yourself and say, 'This is what you get when you go your way. I have been a slave to my appetites.'"
Some of you right now go, "I like my slavery. I have a pleasurable addiction, and it seems to be working out for me." But that's not true freedom, being a slave to something even that you like today. I love the rush of adrenaline. I've loved jumping out of a plane. I love freefalling, but if I don't do that the way I need to do that, then I'm not going to long like my pleasure. I've said this before. There are definitely people who have jumped off very tall buildings, and they mock us who go, "No, I'm going to walk down the steps. I'm not just going to jump off the roof."
On the ninetieth floor, the eightieth floor, the seventieth floor, the sixtieth floor, they go, "This is a rush! This is awesome!" but sooner or later, the reality of their free choice is going to catch up with them. They are not really, in fact, free. Somebody has very wisely said true freedom is having the desire, the ability, the opportunity to choose that which will be life-giving to you a thousand years from now, that which if you continually do will always bring you joy.
That's true freedom: the desire, the ability, the opportunity to choose that which you will always enjoy, not just for a moment. Jesus says, "You can get that with me." This is what he says. "Hey, guys, you have been slaves. You are a slave right now to your traditions and to your ways, and there's a reason you're not free as a people." He goes on.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." You're in bondage to its ways and its wages. You can't not sin when you are apart from Christ, and you're going to certainly suffer from the wages of sin, which is death. He goes on to say, "The slave does not remain in the house forever…" That word remain is the same word up there in verse 31, the word continue. It's the word abide.
A slave hangs around the master, if you will, but he doesn't stay in the house. Eventually, he leaves and goes back to his own place. It's the son who stays there. "The fact that you don't stay with me shows me that you're not really in relationship with me," Jesus says. "You like me for a moment, but you leave me and go your own way. You stay over there. You might come and serve me with words. You might come and serve me with tithes. You might come and serve me with certain activities, but really, where you live, where your heart is, it's over here."
Jesus says, "That's not the way a son is. A son lives with the father." This is the little analogy he gives right there. "The slave does not remain. The slave does not continue. The slave does not abide in the house forever, but the son does, and this is how you can know." In effect, he's saying, "This is a test for you to know what kind of belief you have. Believers do X. If you don't do X, you're not a believer."
What is the X? The X is if you continue in his word, if you continue in relationship, that life can only be found in Christ. If you say life can only be found in Christ and you're not continually pursuing Christ, if you're not continually reconciling with Christ, if you're not continually reminding yourself that you need him and that you shouldn't lean on your own understanding and asking others to help you, "Am I being consistent with Jesus?" then he goes, "Then you're probably not a believer," and he wants you to be a believer.
He goes on to say, "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." There it is. I love this statement: "It is crazy for a believer to envy so-called freedom of those who pitch themselves out of skyscraper windows of sin and exalt for a season in the exhilaration of freefall greed, freefall drugs, freefall fame, freefall sex, freefall power, freefall luxury, but they're oblivious of Jesus."
It's crazy that we would take where real life is for a moment of adrenaline, because that adrenaline and that pleasure in a moment is going to not lead to real life, and that's not real freedom. If you do things that are pleasurable, but it ends to your death, then you're a slave still to sin's way and wage. This is why Psalm 37 has always been one of my favorite psalms.
I always am walking in the skyscraper of truth which God revealed, and I look at people flying by me and go, "Man, that looks so fun." If I live according to how I feel and according to the moment and according to my limited understanding, I'm going to be jumping off things that in the end will lead to death. And they are convincing.
Some of them jumped off really tall buildings, and it doesn't look like they're going to splat, but Jesus says, "Trust me. There is a wage to sin. It leads to death." I've jumped off some buildings myself, and I have experienced that death. In his kindness, he has restored me and given me another chance to know him, and he says, "Go back and remember that, Todd. You've had some moments of exhilaration. You've made yourself a slave to pleasures. How did that work out for you?"
This, by the way, is why the Scripture says, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil." He says, "Beware of that." Because they don't splat quickly, we think they're not going to. There is no question that we are free to choose, but we are not free to choose the results of our choosing. It's coming. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked…"
Psalm 37 is a psalm that has long ministered to me. It says, "Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers." Why would it tell me that? Because I am often envious of wrongdoers. He says, "For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord ; and He will give you the desires of your heart."
That doesn't mean I'm going to get whatever I want. It means I'm going to get what I really want, which is not fleeting pleasures that are a vapor, but true life. That's freedom indeed. Are you with me? One of the things that drives me crazy is that we have to act like sin doesn't look exhilarating and fun. How crazy is that, to walk around with people who don't think temptation is tempting? That drives me nuts in the church, when I'm around people who go, "I'm not seriously tempted." I go, "You're not? Are you alive? Let me take your pulse. What's wrong with you?"
I am seriously tempted all the time to be selfish and angry and prideful and arrogant and lustful, continually, and the only thing that saves me is Jesus and knowing that he is good, that he has revealed truth to me, that he made himself known. He intervened in my darkness, and he gave me light, and he has let me experience the wages of some of my sin in a very temporal way, to say, "That's not going to work out for you. Don't go there." I need to be around people that I can say, "Doesn't that look tempting? Doesn't it look like it would be fun to jump?"
If they go, "Todd, that offends me as a spiritual person. I have a hard time seeing you now as a pastor and a spiritual leader in my life, because I'm not attracted to beautiful women, greed, money, power, things of the sort. I'm going to appreciate you not bringing that into our community." Are you kidding me? I'm running from that. So is Jesus. He is running to you in your lostness. He understands temptation. He has been tempted in every way you have been, but because he knows the fullness and goodness of God, he did it without sin.
Now watch this. Let's take huge chunks now as we go forward. He says, "I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you." In other words, "The reason I know, even though you're a physical descendant of Abraham, you're not a true descendant of Abraham is because if you really loved God like Abraham did, you would love me because I am God, and you wouldn't want to kill me."
This is what religious people always do. They hate the message and they kill the messenger. It's coming more and more. As our world moves toward ecumenicalism, as they've moved toward this world peace and visualizing inner enlightenment or this external conformity to religion that we think will make us holy, we go, "No, no, no. There is no internal enlightenment; there is a light that has come into the world. No, there is no putting on spirituality; there is a spirituality that comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ."
The world is going to hate that message, and it's going to hate you. Brace yourself. You have to decide if it's true. Jesus thought it was, and Jesus got killed when he was 33. Peter, one of his disciples, who hung around with him, said:
"…Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth** ; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…"
See if you can find where Peter got that idea. This is exactly what Jesus says. "We'll let the Father sort this out, because physical death will come, and we'll see where it goes. I know you guys are saying you're experiencing life right now in your religion, in your pleasurable addiction that makes you feel good about yourself and others stand in awe of you, but I don't think that pleasure is going to last for long, and frankly, I don't think you're really that happy now, but I'm not going to argue with what you say is your emotion; I'm going to argue with what I know is your reality." That's Jesus.
So if somebody wants to tell me they're really happy living a sexually freefall lifestyle, a drug-induced lifestyle, a fame-induced lifestyle, a greed-induced lifestyle, I'm not going to try to convince them that they're really not happy and when they lie alone in bed at night, they stare at the ceiling and wonder how they can get out of it. I'm going to say, "I don't know. I'm guessing that deep in your heart you know there has to be something more, but I'm going to tell you this. Even if you like it, you're not going to like it for long; therefore, you're not really free."
Might you say, "Well, I'll be free, because when my life is over I'll just be dead and go to sleep forever." No, you're not free to choose whether or not you're dead forever. God says you will not be dead forever. There will be a resurrection of the righteous and a resurrection of the wicked, and you're going to be in one of those two. That's just truth. Jesus is saying, "The reason I know you're not really of me…"
It's just like Cain. Cain and Abel were called to bring a sacrifice to God. God had already made it clear that a sacrifice of blood is what was acceptable. Cain said, "I'm a farmer. I'm not a shepherd like Abel." So Abel brought from the flock a sacrifice for God. Cain brought his own work. He didn't want to humble himself to go over there to Abel and say, "Abel, here are some crops. Give me one of your sheep. Let's go and honor God. There has to be a blood sacrifice, because death separates us from God, and it's a picture of something else being substituted for us until a day when there's a perfect Lamb that comes."
Cain didn't like that Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God, so what did he do? He killed the messenger. That's exactly what Jesus says right here. "You want to kill me, just like Cain wanted to kill Abel." In verse 38 he says, "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father." There's a very clear delineation. There are sons of truth and sons of the liar.
"They answered and said to Him, 'Abraham is our father.'" Jesus says, "No, he is not." "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham." What were the deeds of Abraham? Well, let's find them. If you want to know where Paul gets his ideas, wonder no more. Watch this. Romans 4:1-3:
"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'"
"If you all were individuals who had faith in God's provision for you, I'd be here to confirm your faith, because here's God's provision for you. I would tell you the Lamb has come, just like John did, and here is the evidence that I am the Lamb. You would celebrate that the Messiah was here, but you don't think you're a slave to anything, especially sin, and you're deceived." Do you see the genius of what's going on here?
By the way, this is also Paul. In Romans 9:6-8, he says, "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel…" This is where Paul gets his ideas: right here from John 8. "…nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'through Isaac your descendants will be named.' That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants."
What Paul is writing is "Just because you're a physical descendant of Abraham, that doesn't mean you are following in Abraham's way." Jesus goes on to say, " [You're not Abraham's children, because you don't do the deeds of Abraham, which is to believe in God.] But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father." Religion is the deeds of the Devil.
"They said to Him, 'We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.'" Watch what they're going to do. They don't know how to compete with Jesus, so they're going to start to attack his person. "Hey, we're not the bastard here. Word is out about what happened with your mom and your dad. You're the one who's born of fornication, not us." "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.'"
Folks, when you are out there engaging like this and people attack you, you just have to say, "Listen. If I'm not of God, then don't listen to me, but if I'm of God, you're going to have to deal not with me but with the truth I represent. You can revile me; I'm not going to revile in return. You can punish me, but I'm not going to utter threats. I'm going to keep entrusting myself to the one who judges rightly." They say, "We're going to burn you at the stake. We're going to cut off your head. We're going to imprison you." You'd better be sure right then that you're banking on truth.
"If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but [God] sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word." Why can't they hear his word? Because their gospel is veiled. This is what 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving…"
If you're here this morning and you can't hear what I'm saying as I talk about the gospel, that you can't establish your own spirituality through your own faithfulness, and that offends you, I just have to keep saying it and keep praying for you until you can understand that. Verse 44:
"You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me."
Just keep speaking the truth. Remember what it said? Last week, we talked about the fact that as he spoke these things… Keep speaking the truth. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. "This is who he is. This is what he has done." Folks, if you have come to understand this is who he is and this is what he has done, that he has left heaven to come, then you ought to run with him.
He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all, will he not also freely, with him, give us everything pertaining to life and godliness? So why leave him? Remain in him. Abide in his word. "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God." John, chapter 10: "The sheep follow him because they know his voice. You don't know what I'm saying because you're not my sheep."
"The Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan [an unholy, unspiritual person] and have a demon?' Jesus answered, 'I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.'" That's talking about the Father, and he's going to be judged between us.
"Truly, truly, I say to you…" Here it is again. "…if anyone keeps My word he will never see death." There it is. "He who abides in my word, he who stays in what I'm saying…" "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. […] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me…does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."
"Truly, truly, I say to you, you like me because of the things I do for you. That's not true belief." He's warning them against that. "You're here because I gave you a bunch of bread. You want more bread and miracles. No. Here is the miracle: that I came to satisfy, ultimately, the need of your soul, which is to be brought back into relationship with God. You're never going to find true life; you're going to thirst for life until you come and drink of me." Do you see the consistency of the message?
"The Jews said to Him, 'Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, "If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death."'" They thought he was speaking just of physical death, just like they thought he was speaking just of physical bread. "'Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?' Jesus answered, 'If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me…'"
If all this is is my speculation, then it doesn't matter. There's only one opinion that matters in God, and you have to determine if I'm from God. If you believe Muhammad is from God, you're going to go a certain route. If you believe the rabbis are from God, you're going to go a certain route. If you believe Jesus is from God, you're going to go another route. If you believe the Dalai Lama is from God, you're going to go another route.
I would just beg you to look at the end of their life. What grave is empty? This is why Easter is the pinnacle of our faith. If Christ is not raised from the dead, then he was just as caught in the wages of sin as we are, and everything he says is nonsense, and we above all men are to be pitied, and we above all men are fools, but if the tomb is empty, run with him. They go on to say:
"'Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?' Jesus answered, 'If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, "He is our God"; and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word [his standard, his truth, not what's popular] .
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.' So the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, [Yahweh] I am.' Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple."
It wasn't his time. We keep seeing that. He said, "I'm going to tell you, the reason I knew Abraham is because I've always been around. I'm the God of Abraham." That is crazy talk again. This is not a good man. Let me say that again. Jesus is not a good man, he isn't a good prophet, he's not a good teacher if he's not God. If he is not who he said he was, then you cannot conscript him into your system of great spiritual leaders. He is a demon from hell, just like they said; he is a lunatic, he is a liar, and you don't want anything to do with him, but if he is right, run to him.
Our hope is in the fact that Christ has risen from the dead, and if he has not risen, then we're fools, but if he has risen, then we can live with him now by faith. He's not an idea; he's a person who's alive, and we can have relationship with him. We want to remain with him. If you're here this morning and you have never come to relationship with this Jesus who loves you in all your imperfection and brokenness, just like me… No matter what you look like or what I look like, we need him. He loves you. Will you come?
Father, I thank you for this great word. I thank you for John and what we're learning here and the life we find in the consistency of your message, the grace and the hope that comes through knowledge of who Jesus is. We thank you that you didn't just send us a prophet or a teacher, but you sent yourself, that we might be reconciled to you. So, Father, my prayer is that no one caught in sin would remain, but inside our life of inward shame we'd fix our eyes upon the cross and run to him who showed great love.
We thank you that Christ has risen from the grave and that he shows us the way of life. He has paid the wages of sin. We can know you and know him and live with joy. Would you draw those to you who are your sheep? Would you help us who know you to live in such a way that they would want to know our Shepherd? May we live humbly in a way that glorifies our King, amen.
That is the message from the grave of dead religion, of external conformity to things that we think will make us righteous. Jesus hates that idea, and he came to confront it and convict the faithless, and he came to confront the frauds, the people who externally look righteous, but inside their hearts are dead. Acknowledge your need for him. Abide in him. Continue in his word, and believe of who he is. Lean not on your own understanding. Walk in humility. Be connected to his people, his Spirit, his word, and his words. Walk with him.
If you're here this morning and you want freedom, come. He loves prostitutes. He loves adulterers. He hates adultery. He hates prostitution. He loves greedy men, materialists, but he hates materialism and greed. If on the adrenaline rush of fame and fortune you're having a ball, I'm going to tell you, the pleasure of your slavery will not be pleasurable long, and we want to call you to where there is real life.
There is life now indeed. There is reconciliation to God. He has risen from the grave. Will you come? And if you know that life, will you go? We have made room for your friends to come and hear of this Jesus who is life to them. Jesus loves them, and he expects you to go seek the lost sheep of Israel. Will you find them? Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.