In the late 90’s movie The Truman Show, the protagonist Truman Burbank comes to discover that the life he thought he was living of his own volition was an elaborate lie. In truth, he was the unwitting main character in a kind of “reality” tv docudrama which followed Truman’s life from birth forward. The only reality he truly experienced was the image he saw in the mirror. The movie explores some interesting themes from personal identity to broad social values and constructs. It resonated with a culture that strains itself in both rejecting truth but longing for authentic existence. Truman ultimately learns the truth of his life and finds freedom as he escapes the production set that had represented his life – presumably to become a True-man.
As humans we have an immense capacity to deceive ourselves or be deceived. One key theme throughout our Sunday morning study of Galatians has been freedom. As we have considered before, Western culture tends to define freedom as personal autonomy – control over one’s thoughts, actions, beliefs; in short the “freedom” to make choices according to one’s own conscience. This Sunday we are taking a little break from Galatians as our text will be John 8:31-38, which contains the oft-quoted: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)” In our text we will see Jesus challenge human notions of freedom and exhort his followers toward true discipleship. For example, the crowd following Jesus can’t see their need to become free for: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.” The obvious irony is the incredible level of deception for Israel had frequently been oppressed by other nations such as Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. To be a descendant of Abraham was a source of great pride and confidence regarding their freedom and salvation. Jesus countered their misplaced trust by saying true disciples are those who “abide in my word”. This “abiding”, as we see in many of our English translations, has the sense of continuing. And in this continuing we not only demonstrate our discipleship but we know truth, a truth that sets us truly free.
May I ask you to consider your own discipleship? Where is your abiding? In what are you continuing? Through good and bad, sickness and health, richer or poorer; do you abide (continue in) God’s Word? Or do you revert to the many false sources of “freedom” our culture offers? It is a sobering thought that Jesus suggests there are true and untrue disciples, and that true disciples are marked by continuing to abide in his word, continuing to trust completely in Christ and Christ alone. Thankfully, our abiding is not ever to be accomplished in our own strength. Later in John’s gospel Jesus exhorts his followers to: “Abide in me…As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)” True freedom is only found in Christ, and is only maintained in Christ. As we learned two weeks ago, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
As we gather for Sunday worship, we want you to meet with God and be transformed by the Word. Prepare your heart by reading the passage and listening to the songs for Sunday.