“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Have you ever heard someone quote this verse? It is often taken away from what Jesus was saying. People imagine that exposure to more facts or more knowledge will lead to an accumulation of more truth. That is not at all what Jesus was saying. Yet this idea persists that knowledge leads to freedom. Some people think they will be more free simply by gaining more experiences or learning new factoids.
If this were true then wikipedia ought to be held up as the greatest force for the liberation of humanity. If this were true then the whole of the Western world, with its instantaneous access to vast stores of knowledge through Google, Bing and Apple, should be totally free by now.
Sadly, it is not true.
Just before this (and the ellipse really could have tipped you off…) Jesus said something more. He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This changes things dramatically!
For the grammar nerds among us, the word “and” is a conjunction that joins clauses. Here, that means the abiding in the word of Christ, being a disciple of Christ and knowing the truth are connected. They are not separated somehow. From this we understand truth to be something we gain through our relationship with Christ and not through the accumulation of facts, ideas or experiences.
To be more clear, we understand the truth when we begin to see the world through our relationship with Christ. This relationship informs us of the sin of the world, the love of God and the path to redemption. A failure to perceive any of these three aspects of the word of Christ will lead to a distortion of the truth.
The culture that proclaims the “innate goodness of mankind” has abandoned one of the key doctrines of Christianity. If people are good then what need is there for Christ to die in our place? If people are good then what need is there for God to judge anyone?
The people who blame God for the evil in the world have missed the second key perspective of Christ’s word. The birth, sinless life, atoning death, bodily resurrection, heavenly ascension, present session and future return of Christ are all evidences of God’s love. The choices of people add to the misery of humanity. God is not to blame. God loves everyone and desires everyone to come to repentance.
The movement to save humanity through humanity is doomed to fail. The path to redemption does not go through self-will. Instead, redemption comes through repentance, adoption and glorification. We repent of our self-will and trust Jesus to save us. Through our faith we are adopted as children of God by His grace. Having continued as God’s children we will be glorified when we meet Jesus bodily at our deaths or His return. This is the greatest redemption. The rebels destined for eternal punishment can be transformed into disciples destined for eternal fellowship and glory with God.
The truth that sets us free is not a new idea. It is not a fantastic, fresh concept. It is not a recent political movement.
The truth that sets us free is Jesus.