There are so many things that shackle us in life. There are the expectations of others. There are our own self-expectations.
Then there are our hurts, our habits and our hang-ups. Perhaps we’ve recently lost a loved one, and we’re deep in grief. Maybe we can’t break an addiction’s grip despite multiple attempts to pull away. We might have a fear that we simply can’t shake. Or perhaps we made a mistake in life that seems to just keep haunting us, like a bad horror movie.
I want to remind you of something Jesus once promised, and assure you that he meant that promise. At the time, Jesus was being challenged by the Pharisees every time he taught.
But not everyone was a skeptic. Some of the Jews believed him. He spoke to these Jewish believers and made an important claim.
If they would “hold to” his teaching, they would be free. What did Jesus mean by “hold to”? And what did he mean by “free”?
If we read other places, or even if you see what Jesus says in John chapter 8 to those who claim to be the children of Abraham, to “hold to” is to believe that what a person is teaching is really the truth. I would define it as trusting Jesus’ teaching to the point of actually resting in it for peace and putting it into practice in our lives.
What Jesus meant by freedom is release from bondage to things we don’t want to be enslaved to:
- Freedom from sins. Our sins no longer cling to us. We are released from them and washed clean… yes, of all of them!
- Freedom from guilt and shame. We are no longer condemned before God. We are no longer self-condemned either (unless we sadly choose to be…). Instead, we can walk with our head held high, because we have been given a verdict of “not guilty” in God’s courtroom. No matter what anyone else thinks about us, we know what God says!
- Freedom from the power of sin. The constant temptation to cave in to sin — to return to sin and do whatever it tells us to — gradually also begins to recede as the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Jesus and his teaching. This will never be perfect as long as we are on this side of heaven, but with God’s help our “new man” can gain territory as life progresses! And that’s an awesome gift!
- Freedom from fear-based emotions such as worry, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, fears of failure or embarrassment, and fears of loss or helplessness or loneliness. The list could go on. It could also include what I like to think of as “compensating” emotions based in pride and selfishness, arrogance and self-empowerment.
- Freedom from the terrors of death in all its forms — spiritual, physical and most of all, eternal. Because of the teaching of Jesus, I can believe in him as my Savior and my Lord, I can pass through physical death like it’s no more than a doorway, and I can enjoy the adventure of heaven for eternity.
Hold to Jesus’ teaching. Because Jesus’ claims that his teaching is the truth. Or maybe I should say it this way: The Truth. Jesus promises you that when you hold on to The Truth, his truth and his teaching, you will be free!
All we need to do, and with God’s help can do, is rest in it every day and put it into practice in our lives.
“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).
Our Bible reading for Friday, May 15, is Judges 20:1 – 21:25, John 8:31-59 and Psalm 61:1-8.
Lord, Jesus, I trust in you and your teaching. Your words and promises are pure gold. Forgive me for the times I have treated them as trash. Cleanse me from my sins of self-trust and self-importance, and help me to simply rest in you and your promises. Send me your Holy Spirit and empower me to put your words into practice in my life so that I may experience all the freedom you promise.
Header image based on "UNSHACKLED" by Steve Snodgrass, CC By 2.0