In the second installment, I testified how God’s Word — His Truth — set me on the road to freedom, not just freedom from alcohol, but also freedom to become the man God wants me to be.
Presumably the story could have ended there. After all, I had hit rock bottom, knew despair and loneliness, hated the person I really was, and all of this ended by the intervention of my Lord Jesus. Not only did He intervene but He showed me truth in His word, and that truth set me free.
End of story. Let the violins swell up to a crescendo while you see me disappearing into a beautiful landscape of life wonderful.
No. The story begins there. That landscape is beautiful at times, but a lot of the times it is a rocky difficult terrain and it has almost sucked me dry while I navigate through it. These have been some good 12 sober years, but at the same time, they have sometimes been downright awful. Why? I did not always continue in His word. Often I would ignore His word and would go my own way, and when I did boy was it terrible. I also think that I was not discerning enough to see that in some of that rocky terrain maybe God was trying to teach me something. If so, then I flunked the class. So, these 12 years have been “up and down.”
Look at these versions of John 8:31,32:
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who claimed to believe in Him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.” (The Message)
So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, if you abide in My word [hold fast to My Teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples. And you shall know the Truth and the Truth will set you free. (The Amplified Bible).
Jesus said to them, â€˜You are truly my disciples if you live as I tell you to and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (The Living Bible)
What is happening here? First, as many of you know, the gospel of John is different from the other three in that it emphasizes more of what Jesus says as compared to what Jesus does. In Chapter Eight all we know is that He is at the Temple talking with those have followed along with Him. These public discourses dominate John’s gospel up through chapter 12. From then on, His statements are to a smaller audience, mainly the Twelve and other followers.
So, the words in John 8:31,32 were for public consumption at a place revered by the Jews: the Temple. Jesus, being a good Jew, worshiped there. He also taught there. Apparently He was confronted with opposition to His teaching. But, when He spoke the words you see in John 8:28,29 many apparently came to believe in Him.
So, what does He do? He speaks directly to those people who came to believe in Him:“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Isn’t that impressive? Those who came to believe in Him got His attention and He spoke to them. I still think that is true today. In my early days as a Christian, He was there with me, teaching me through His Word, and through the lives of other Christians. This immediate attention often will separate the wheat from the chaff. In John 8:31 He lays out for them what the character of a true disciple of His ought to be: to continue in His word.
Unfortunately, not all of those who “came to believe in Him” actually did so. Perhaps some of them had an emotional reaction that did not last. You can see that in their reactions and statements from verse 33 on. The exchange of words between these people and Jesus get pretty confrontational. Chapter Eight ends with the people trying to stone Him! But, He hides and eventually gets away and out of the Temple.
What does it mean to continue in His word? Here are some possible meanings from Webster: “to maintain without interruption a condition, course or action.” To continue is to endure, stay, keep up, prolong, last, abide, and persist. One word that works is: abide. I like the way Matthew Henry put it:
“It is to dwell in Christ’s word, as a man does at home, which is his center, and rest, and refuge.”
I like that. As I write this, I am safe inside my home while an ice storm is raging outside. I hear the clicking of the sleet against the screens of my windows. Yet here I am in my home, my center, my refuge, safe, warm, and secure. That is what it is like to abide in His word.
Next time I want to take one more look at John 8:31.
My name is Michael the Penguin, and I am a Christian in recovery.