About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
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
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.