The Embrace & Truth’s Face

John 8.31 and 32 are for me, some of the most potent, comforting yet
alarming verses in the Gospels. Why?

v 31- To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my
teaching, you are really my disciples.
v. 32- Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is speaking to Jews who have accepted that He is indeed the
promised Messiah.

According to His judgment (and John who is writing this Gospel) they
are true believers.

(caps. are mine for emphasis) IF you hold to My teaching…

A phrase I heard a lot as a young man was “that’s a big ‘if'”,
meaning, “there are several issues involved in this matter… it’s not
as simple as you might think.”

Various English translations render this “If you…

hold to my teaching

remain faithful to my teachings

abide (live, remain, continue) in my word

live by my word

“THEN”

And I suppose I can rightly add “truly at such a point, over the long
haul, as time passes, as you mature by thinking, speaking, behavioral
application of what I (Jesus) have taught and lived as The example for
you… as you do this faithfully you are truly MY disciples”.

Then you are REALLY, TRULY -My- Disciples, or “you are INDEED my
disciples”, or “you shall be” or even “you shall become” or “you shall
prove to be my disciples”.

Disciple in biblical Greek means “a listener, a learner”. That is,
someone who not only hears, studies, pays attention but who actually
walks out, lives out what one has learned.

“My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me” rings in
my ears at this point!

But for me at least, the difficult part of these verses comes as Jesus
tells His disciples “And you shall know the truth and the truth will
set (or “make”) you free”.

It is during, as and after we not only accept what Christ says as true
and worthy of application but begin to apply His Words that freedom
(from the Spirit of Truth Himself) begins to take root, change our
lives, character, direction and ultimately brings freedom to our life
unlike any sort of “freedom” one could ever experience outside of
relationship to Jesus Christ.

Note, I don’t think any human fully understands nor perfectly
interprets the Bible, myself included. I also am certain none of us
LIVE it perfectly… it takes little time to figure that out with an
honest look into one’s own life, the lives of Christians around us and
by a hard study of church history (local and regarding the Church in
the world over the centuries).

We all only understand -in part- as it says in 1 Corinthians chapter
13… and so with flaws and hopefully a core humility we must admit
truth takes many a shape in our own perception of it.

Jesus calls Himself “the TRUTH”, refers to the Holy Spirit as “the
Spirit of truth”, constantly quotes Old Testament scripture as “truth”
and uses the phrase “truly, truly” over and over again in the four
Gospels.

In light of this, we must admit truth is not a myth, nor a lie, nor
irrelevant, nor only what you and/or I “perceive” truth to be. The
question is this: do you or I believe truth is what HE says it is…
and how does Jesus Himself seem to define truth?

Following this, are you or I willing to live accordingly regardless of
the pains involved -in humility, kindness, accepting and sharing the
grace of God (unmerited favor), actually loving God supremely and
others “as yourself” as Jesus commands us?

These, my friends, reveal truth as a gift that brings ultimate freedom
(exactly as Jesus is telling us here) or conversely, causes people to
become bitter, angry, even more self-centered, even driven away from
God and His people due to our own sinful choices. Either the truth
directs us or untruth informs our path.

REAL freedom cannot happen in any one’s life until and unless they are
willing to “love the truth” and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2.10)

The term “saved” might also be translated (from biblical Greek into
English) “delivered”.

I can tell you bluntly that my biggest problem, my greatest enemy and
need for deliverance is from myself!! Over four decades of following
Jesus hasn’t changed that key fact. It is still true. And yet there’s
hope. I’m nowhere near the dirtbag and selfish creep I was in past
years!

We cannot earn salvation, We cannot do enough good works to be
“acceptable” to God. We CAN study the truth, apply His Word to our
daily choices and find freedom. But it would be and is a lie and not a
full disclosure to say that this is not always the easiest road to
take.

Jesus said “Count the cost”, but it’s a rare Christian- be it pastor,
evangelist, Bible teacher or other speaker or writer who accents that
point all that often.

The reality is that we do nobody justice nor does the church’s
credibility leap off the charts (to the good) by hiding the fact Jesus
calls each and all to repent, take up -our- cross daily and actually
-follow- Him.

It’s a part of the truth we shy away from. It’s not easy to tell it
nor to hear it. It’s often harder still to apply such truth.

So I’d say it’s not only the truth that sets free but also the truth
that causes us to have to face our own self-made prison(s).

There is a certain sort of comfort in my personal cell block but Jesus
keeps standing at the door and knocking! Love does that.
Though not each and every moment.

Sometimes in His love He allows us to baste in our own rubbish until
we’re plain tired of the scent. Even -that- is a revelation of His
love and grace. He calls us to truth, not fable, to what HE says, not
what we’d always like to hear or think for ourselves.

I don’t need groupies who tell me what I want to hear either! But oh
how we sometimes choose to hang (yep… hang) with such peeps because
it’s a lot easier than growing up in God’s truth and grace.

In essence, God is god, not you nor I. That’s obvious, no?!! I mean,
really!! The height of arrogance is pretending to be God and running
that joke up against the truth Jesus was, is and reveals Himself as in
His Word, The Bible.

But oh how easy and in a sense, comforting to choose fiction over fact.

How easy to choose porn over the difficult road of celibacy or
climbing the mountain of repentance and hard work for change and
healing so that one -might- become a stable marriage partner.

How easy to talk of loving the poor while avoiding them but for an
occasional offering.

How foolish to avoid those who will encourage spiritual growth for
those who encourage you to waste your life in personal pleasure
schemes with zero responsibility to God and His people much less being
an authentic servant to those in deep need of God and His love.

How simple though unsafe and ridiculous- to manufacture “truth” in our
own image as opposed to all God says about Himself and us.

How easy to act as if life is just role-play until the curtains light
up and we and all the toys and false gods we’ve clung to end up a pile
of ash.

Vanity. Waste. Insanity- and this brought on by our refusal to face the truth.

Truth often comes as the kiss of God. At times it appears an arrow in
the heart. It does not always feel sweet, kind, like an embrace.

But it is indeed an embrace.

At times much like a parent wrapping her/his arms around the
hurt/raging/brat-or-whatever-else child we are, seeking to love and
comfort us when we simply don’t want such comfort. God the Holy Spirit
(Whom Jesus also refers to as The Comforter) has it right when Jesus
is quoted:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those
sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not
willing.” (Matthew 23.37 & Luke 13.34)

In the end, Jesus IS the truth that sets us free. It’s not merely a
matter of perspective or faith. It’s a matter of surrender and the end
of “self IS God”.

This embrace alone brings eternal life. This truth trumps all others.
This relationship is essential… but Jesus Himself told us it would
cost us.

To be sure, it cost Him the most. Love is like that… it spends for
the beloved.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

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