“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.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” “Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” At this the Jews exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. ” (John 8:31–58, NIV)
Confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart are two different things. This passage in John’s gospel makes this point clear. Jesus proclaims that He is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness. In response, there were Jews who believed that Jesus knew the way and so they confessed with their mouth that what He was saying was true.
The problem is this: the Jews believed what Jesus said was true for someone else, but it didn’t apply to them.
“We believe that Jesus is a light for those who walk in the darkness. But this does not apply to us because we are children of Abraham - Children of the light.”
Jesus turns to them and says, “Your life of obedience will reflect the belief in your heart and true belief will set you free from the bondage of sin in which you now live.”
Now we’re getting too personal! The Jews were willing to believe as long as the condemnation of Jesus applied to someone else. They wanted to follow Jesus but they were not the ones who needed His work of redemption.
Jesus tells them that they are deceived and immediately their “belief” turns to anger. In one moment they were testifying that Jesus is the Light, and in the blink of an eye, their testimony changes.
“Jesus is not the Savior,” they proclaim. “He is a man who is demon possessed and does not speak truth.”
Let me get a little more personal. As much as 80% of Americans claim to follow Jesus as the Light of the world. And yet, the moral and ethical decline of our society is ever increasing. Not unlike the Jews in conversation with Jesus, we too like the idea of the redemptive work of Jesus. But once His condemnation turns on us…we don’t like Him so much. We compensate by reinventing grace and calling it tolerance. Jesus is attractive just so long as I don’t have to change.
As Jesus will repeatedly proclaim, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in my love.”
Our tongue is deceitful but the fruit of our life cannot lie.
As John will later write in his epistle, “If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1Jn 1:6)
The true heart of a believer is one who confesses belief in Jesus because they are overwhelmed by their own depravity and their heart cries out for a Savior. In gratitude for their redemption, they repent of their sin and daily seek to find strength in Jesus and His continuing work of sanctification, knowing that apart from Him, they can do nothing.
Faithfulness flows out of humility…pride comes before the fall.