11 November 2012
Point of Emphasis: Living in and out of God's Word
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32
We are at the end of our series on Scripture and our Life Group's time in 40 Days in the Word. This lesson's purpose is not only to culminate all of what we have studied, but also to bring application to the study of the nature of Scripture. As you lead your class through this text and this lesson please keep this in mind. We want to be a people and a church who lifts high the Bible for we believe that only by following it, as God's Word to us, are we able to live obediently in the world.
It is living in this world that is truly the heart of this passage. As an introduction, discuss with your class the way in which they live. What are the elements of their lives? What are their characteristics and idiosyncrasies? This can range from the type of home or car they have to the type of food that they eat to the entertainment they consume. All of these things shape us into who we are and a recognition of them is helpful, though sobering at times, for us to move forward.
Make the relation to the way in which we live in and out the Bible in our lives. Is it a daily consideration? Weekly? Monthly? The answer to that questions strikes at the heart of what it means to abide in the word of God.
Disciples Abide in the Word
This passage of Scripture is perhaps on the top of many lists of important Scriptures to memorize, especially, "you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." However, before we look at what it particularly means we need to see the context of this verse. In the Gospel of John this discourse is found within the seven "I Am" statements. These are affirmations by Christ on who he is. For our purposes this means that our text is found in the midst of important discussions on the relationship one has to Christ. Central to that relationship, as we have seen, is the relationship one has with Scripture.
This short verse from Christ is written to those who are believers and who want to be disciples. Though there is a great evangelistic or apologetic point to be made out of this text, in that Christ through Scripture makes man free, we must see that Christ is not addressing unbelievers or seekers. He is addressing those who believe in him. That is how verse 31 begins, "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him." These are words all of us who are Christians, and have been born again, need to listen to. We are the audience Christ is speaking to and we must listen up.
If we are to listen up, to heed Christ's words, it might be asked "to what end?" Why should I listen now. (Of course we should ALWAYS listen, but in our flesh we often marginalize truth). The reason is given to us by Christ: "you are truly my disciples." The purpose of listening to and obeying Christ and his word is to be true disciples. You may need to take a moment and define for your class what a disciple is. A disciples is a person who follows after their leader. Notice it is not one who agrees with the leader, but goes with their leader. Disciples of Christ do not just cognitively (in their mind) know Christ, but they know him by actively following him, serving him, being obedient to his will in their lives.
The way in which, then, one can be a disciple is quite simple: abide. This is not a word in our normal vocabulary, but it is one that we should pay close attention to. It is similar to the word "abode," a dwelling place. It concerns that in which we live. We do not just abide in houses, but also in thoughts and ideas. As Christians who are following after Christ we must become people who abide in his word. This means a few things: 1. That we know it. 2. That we believe it. 3. That we live it. Without the last point we are not abiding. Jesus also speaks of this idea in John 15:5-8.
5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will
ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Also we find the idea of abiding elsewhere:
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36
"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him." John 6:56
"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." John 12:46
The idea of abiding is one that is in direct relation to Jesus Christ. Just as we are saved and are united with Christ through faith, so too should we continue to live in Christ. The way in which we are to do this is by abiding in his word, in Scripture. In short, this verse means that true disciples know the Bible so well that they live it out in their lives. Let me clarify, this does not mean that one has to have great knowledge, degrees, libraries, or accolades. Jesus did not call the intelligentsia but fisherman and workers. Disciples are those who know the Bible and live the Bible, plain and simple.
Discuss with your class how they are or are not abiding in the Bible. What are some ways that they can abide more?
Abiding in the Word Reveals Truth
The second thing we come across in this text is what this abiding does for us: reveals truth. Humans have ever been on the quest to know more, to find more truth. One can look to the tower of Babel (Gen 11), Solomon's desire for wisdom (1 Kings 3), and even the purpose for the first sin (Gen 2) to illustrate mankind's desire for wisdom. The problem is that we often want to believe a lie instead of truth. For instance, In 1 Samuel 8 the nation of Israel thought they needed a King and in doing so were actually rejecting God. In 1 Kings 12 Rehoboam refused to listen to wisdom and divided the kingdom. These are examples of man seeking truth in his own eyes. The strivings for man's truth over God's truth is starkly seen in 2 Kings 22 when the Law is found again and the people realize their folly.
We are a people who are afforded something greater than those of the Old Testament. We have the complete Word of God in the Bible and we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us that helps us understand it. Though we still have the desire for knowledge, and must battle our flesh, what we have are the instructions for finding true knowledge. If we abide in Christ's word we will find truth. This is such a simple statement, but we know that it is not readily lived out in our own lives, let alone the world in which we live.
Simply put, what we must do is seek the truth found solely in Christ and then do it. We do this with the recognition that when we come to the Bible, as the word of God, we come to truth. There are passages that we try to divert from time to time (e.g. Gluttony), but the truth of Scripture is something we cannot refute. The easier thing to do is submit to Scripture and accept the truth it presents.
Discuss with your class truths of Scripture they have not wanted to believe. Ask what reasons arose that made them trust Scripture.
Abiding in the Word Provides Freedom
Finally, in this short passage we also see that true disciples who abide in Scripture and are granted truth will be provided freedom. This point should not be taken too lightly. As citizens of the US we often take for granted freedom, mainly because we have not been in real bondage, at least politically speaking. We are a blessed country and enjoy freedom, but perhaps do not respect it like we should.
This is also evident in our spiritual lives. What Christ has done is provided freedom from the greatest bondage the world has ever seen: sin. Yet, many Christians do not understand the freedom that they have in Christ. Perhaps this is because they have been saved for a long time and have little knowledge of the bondage of sin. Perhaps this is because many are still infants in Christ, and though unshackled, still dwell in the prison. Perhaps it is because fellow Christians do not look any different from the surrounding enslaved world. Whatever the reason is for the ignorance of freedom, we must make pains to understand the pain in which that freedom was bought. The saying is still true in the spiritual world: Freedom is not free.
In the context of this verse the freedom being spoken of us found only for those who abide in the Word of God. It is for those who are obediently living out the will of God in their lives revealed through Scripture. Specifically speaking, this means that by living in and out of the word one can be freed from depression, alcoholism, addictions to pornography, drugs, and tobacco. Abiding in the word provides freedom from gossip, backbiting, jealousy, and anger. Living out Christ's demands for our lives allows us to not worry about what tomorrow hold, but sets us to trust in the one who holds tomorrow.
Discuss with your class ways in which they are in bondage or have been in bondage and how Scripture can free them.
Encourage your class to live in the Bible by daily reading and prayer.