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How will the truth set us free?
- Jacob Ninan
Many people quote Jn.8:32 to say that it is by knowing the truth that we would be set free from sin and bondage. But it should be clear that just knowing is not enough, because after knowing it we would still have the option to ignore what we know or to disobey it. Adam and Eve did just that, and so may we. Knowing the truth gives us the opportunity to follow it and become free as a result! The previous verse makes it very clear that it is those who continue to follow His teaching who will know the truth and get free (v.31).
Knowing has to be followed by doing what we know. Jesus said that those who heard His words and did according to them were the wise ones (Mt.7:24). He pointed out in the same passage how those who merely heard His words (and came to know the truth) but did not do them were foolish people whose houses collapsed (v.26). In addition, for these people who had come to know the truth and yet did not obey, the judgment would be more severe (Lk.12:47).
We can make a similar mistake if we think that all we need in order to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus is to 'behold' His glory (2Co.3:18). We may imagine that as we discover more and more of the glorious truths concerning Christ in His word, or, as some others would put it, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and reveals the glory of Jesus to us, that is all we need to become transformed into His image. But these truths may fill our minds, but if we don't walk according to them they will only remain as knowledge in our heads and not produce any transformation. It is our 'following' Jesus that will cause the transformation.
Jesus said that if we wanted to follow Him, we would have to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him (Lk.9:23). First we need to know His truths so that we can follow them. But in order to follow Him we will have to deny our own will and die to ourselves! Just knowing the truths or seeing His glory will not be sufficient!
In every part of our Christian life there is a mysterious (mysterious because we cannot understand things fully) combination of the divine and the human. Even when God's offer of salvation is entirely due to His grace and not due to any merit on our part, we can receive it only through our faith in Him. We cannot do God's part, but neither can things work without our part. Without taking this aspect of God's dealings with us into consideration, that the divine and human elements have to work in proper unison, if we take different verses by themselves and try to interpret them as being entirely dependent either on God or on us we could go wrong.
We need to develop the habit of not only checking every teaching or experience that we face with the word of God, but also comparing different portions of God's word with the rest of His word. God's truths have been revealed in the Bible in a distributed manner, and we can avoid a lot of mistakes if we look for truths from the Bible as a whole.