I grew up loved, but without much discipline. I suffered for that, nearly landing in extremely serious trouble many times before getting saved by our Lord. But the days of discipline were just beginning for me, and today I look back on my walk, and how the Lord has dealt, and continues to deal with both myself and all of His followers, and I am thankful.
Jesus is talking to a group of Jews, who already believed in Him. In our Christian dialogue, that would mean they were saved. He starts off with one huge IF (“if” is conditional, always. The promise of this passage is conditional upon a choice they/we are invited to make, and keep making):
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.
Believing in Jesus, and the magnificent work of forgiveness on the cross, results in salvation. But it is voluntarily coming into the place of discipleship and obedience that will result in a person getting set free. Proof only requires looking around any church, and seeing how many fully saved saints remain bound up. The issue has to do with our will versus His will. After all, our “daily prayer” (actually Jesus said “WHEN you pray” – so maybe more than once a day?!) was modeled by our Lord in this fashion:
FOR US: Matt 6:10
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
HIS OWN EXPRESSION (in the Garden of Gethsemane): Luke 22:42
42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
This is all about lovers of God willingly coming into the place of tying their will to the altar and requesting, receiving, and then choosing to utilize the abundant grace to walk in, God’s will – a course that typically is not our plan at all, but rather is a better and more challenging plan, with a much higher and more eternal purpose. Matt 6:10 has us crying out for the Kingdom (of which we are called to be ambassadors) to come, that being His will. And it also has us inviting His will, period.
And in the Garden, Jesus is so comfortable in His intimacy with His Poppa that He is not ashamed to admit that His own will, at that time, contradicted the will of the Father. He (Jesus) was offering up His own will for the greater will. That is our perfect model.
James, the Lord’s brother (I often wonder how that went, growing up with the one and only perfect sibling), writes and says:
25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
A LAW of LIBERTY sounds like an oxymoron, a silly contradiction – someone has written something that tells you what and what not to do, and you call that LIBERTY? Our arrogant flesh calls that restraint. But James understands that the purposes and the will of God are the very best thing for us. His ways are not our ways (Isa 55:9).
Paul understood that it required a revelation of the knowledge of the will of God in a person’s life for us to walk in a manner fully pleasing to God, reaping the fullness of the benefits of the Kingdom:
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
So where does this brief discussion lead us? Hopefully to the cross, where we obediently and willing, and often cry out “Your will be done in my life, in me, in my relationships, my daily activity, my heart-attitude, what proceeds out of my mouth, what my eyes gaze upon”. His will for us is holiness, and fullness of joy in His presence. I believe that fullness of joy will become more and more precious and more and more noticeable in the lives of the surrendered, victorious saints. And as the world grows darker and man becomes more rebellious against the Lord, it is to be expected that people will become more miserable in the emptiness of sin, at which time a door of hope will be opened for us to speak about what is in us, thriving, as we reap the fruit of obedience and the freedom of discipleship.
1 Pet 3:15-16
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.
And they will be asking.
Bob Dylan once sang: “You have to serve somebody. It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you have to serve somebody”.