In the Gospel of John 8:31-32 we see Jesus tell those “who had believed in Him” that if they continued in His word then there would be the progression from disciple to knower of truth to freedom. Now, it doesn’t read exactly that way but that is the idea presented. It reads as follows in the NRSV:
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
The first “key” here is believing…but James 2:19 tells us even the devils believe and temple, yet without faith (believing) it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). That is often all that is quoted of Hebrews 11:6…you must have faith to please God. How does that reconcile with the devil believing also; is he pleasing to God? The part that is often left out is that it is impossible to please God without faith AND “whoever would approach Him must believe he exists and that he rewards those who seeks him.” That second part of Hebrews 11:6 is critical, and what is I believe upheld throughout the Bible. We must do much more than simply believe, for even the devils believe. We must work…faith without works is dead…we must spread the good news, we must live out a life that is entirely based on the premise that God is a rewarder to those that “endure to the end”. This word, rewarder, holds a different meaning than we think of today. Today we get a reward for stumbling across something, for turning someone in…a reward is a “get rich quick” idea to us today. The writer of Hebrews paints a very different idea both in word choice, and by that which the word is paired. The reward is paired with the idea of seeking diligently. This implied some effort, some work. It is a word that implies a craving, a demand, an investigation. And for that work, we are remunerated….much different than our modern rewarding…we are payed for work done. Our reward is not based upon faith in the sense of just believing God exists….we must also work towards the end. We must be active in our faith. This doesn’t mean everyone must preach, evangelize from the pulpit, teach Sunday, School, and the like. We all have different callings, but that is another topic. The idea, though, is that we must all be active in seeking out God…continually. This is not a one trip to the altar does it idea of remuneration.
Jesus suggests as much in John 8:31-32. As previously mentioned, there is the progression:
There are several points within this text that jumps off the page, nearly shouting that we have cheapened Christ and cheapened the Gospel message of freedom in our postmodern societal search for truth and instantaneous gratification.
Continue implies that we must tarry…we must abide. This is something that takes time. And it is a walk that is to take place among the sin-sick world in which we live. There will be mountains, valleys, heartache, burden, and strife along with the joy, peace, happiness and hope of Christ in us. The same tension that exists in the “already/not yet” of the coming of the Kingdom of God very much exists internally for believers. We have already received Christ, but we are not yet fully receiving/experiencing Christ. As Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 13:12, we only know in part, but then we will know fully. We must continue, abide, tarry, endure to the end…to “then know fully” the glories of God.
The other portion that jumps out to me is “free”. Again, I think we have lost so much in modern/post-modern society. The idea behind this word is a liberation, the implication being liberation from bondage of/slavery to sin. This is carried further when you understand the implications of the word as an exemption from moral, mortal, and ceremonial liability. Ponder on that…free from all of our past sin…we are morally exempt from everything before the altar. We are mortally exempt…we will find an eternal life in Christ…and we are ceremonially exempt…no more sacrifices of bulls and goats by an imperfect high priest because we have found a more perfect Hight Priest in Christ Jesus.
But…we must re-learn to tarry, to abide…we can no longer continue with our microwave mentality of expecting a fully known, fully prepared Kingdom work for us as we get up from the altar of our salvation. We must, must, MUST work the process. Jonah had a process, David went through a process, Joseph faced a process, Moses endured a process…are we greater than these giants of faith? We also must follow the process.
- We must believe
- We must continue to diligently seek, tarrying and abiding
- We must be disciples…we must learn
- We must come to know, but not the modern “know”, rather we must experience, feel, be part of, Christ. We can’t just know who He is
- We must find the Truth..the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the author and finisher of our faith, the Way, the Truth, and the Life
- And finally, that Truth, that Life, that is Jesus will set us free…we will have liberation, and exemption from moral, mortal, and ceremonial liability.
I will end with this from Psalm 34:8 (NRSV)
O taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in Him.