About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Every so often I hear a preacher screaming at the top of his voice in the hope of whipping his audience into some kind of Christianized frenzy.  One pastor in our town would leave the pulpit and platform, prostrate himself onto the floor, and cry out to God as if in pain and agony saying, "They're not responding to me Lord!"   


Another pastor would scold those in the congregation for not being as boisterous on Sunday morning as he thought they'd be at a Saturday night hockey game.  I'd often tell this pastor that I've never been boisterous at a hockey game.  That just isn't me; not at a hockey game nor in a gathering of the saints.    


I've heard John 8:31 and 32 quoted in defense of the above persuasive practices of generating passion.  "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free' (John 8:31 - 32 NIV)."  Are preachers of passion correct in using this passage to encourage us to clap our hands, jump for joy, and shout with all the gusto we can muster? 


This is where one's personality often influences his interpretation of the Bible.  If you're an overly excitable type of person, which I'm not, you'll see excitement in portions of the Bible that just isn't there.  John 8:31 and 32 is one such example.  By the way, preachers of passion aren't the only ones who misuse this passage.  Others use it to promote various forms of freedom. 


The context of Jesus' words tells us exactly how we should understand the state of freedom Jesus spoke about.  Verse 34 says; "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin."  Jesus was talking about being free from the slavery of sin by being sons of God (verse 35) and by embracing His teaching (verse 31).  The freedom Jesus spoke about has absolutely nothing to do with screaming, jumping, laughing, or dancing.  It has everything to do with being free from the enslavement of sin.  Of course, in today's vernacular, the topic of sin isn't a sexy thing to talk about in much of western style Christianity.    


The Apostle Paul echoed Jesus' words in Romans 6:17 and 18.  "Though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."  I understand that those of us who reside in the western world may struggle with the word "slave" in this passage, but Paul's point is simple.  Real Christians no longer serve sin.  We serve Jesus.  That doesn't mean we don't sin.  It means sin does not rule us.  Sin is not our master.  Jesus once said; "You cannot serve two masters" (Matthew 6:24).  In relation to the topic at hand, we cannot serve sin and righteousness at the same time.  To put it another way, we cannot serve self and Jesus at the same time.  


A true disciple of Jesus, although still plagued with his humanity, will be free from being a slave to sin.  He is thus free to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That's the meaning to freedom as seen in John 8:31 and 32.  So, if you're an excitable type of person; go ahead, clap, dance, and jump for joy.  Just know that you cannot base the legitimacy of your actions on John 8:31 and 32.  I wouldn't be overly concerned about those of us who don't join with you in your expression of praise in a gathering of the saints.  I'd be more concerned with being free to serve Jesus because you're free from being a slave to sin.


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