Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Freedom is something dear to everyone, especially those who are incarcerated or under some other kind of bondage. What freedom is Jesus talking about here? Is He offering freedom from oppression, jail cells, or some other earthly power? The Jews understood it this way and their response was, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:33, 34). Here Jesus explained exactly what freedom He was talking about. It was not freedom from worldly powers, but freedom from the bondage of sin.
Have you ever been in bondage to a habit or have you known someone who has? I used to be addicted to drugs, so I know the difficulty of breaking free from that. Even if your mind says that you want to be free, the power of a cultivated habit is difficult to break. I know people who have struggled with habits for years. Jesus said this is a bondage we can be delivered from. He told us how we can be free from the bondage of sin, it comes to us through knowing the truth.
“Wait a minute!” someone might say. “How can we know what is truth?” That is an excellent question. Intellectual truth is so elusive. Many people claim to have “the truth” who disagree with others who also claim to have it. Jesus warned, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:11). Many of these false prophets will even do great signs and wonders: “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24).
Jesus also cautioned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:15-23).
Here Jesus identified some characteristics of false prophets: they “work iniquity [sin],” they have “evil fruit.” Another characteristic of a false prophet is that they teach things contrary to the Bible. A false prophet is someone who claims to speak on behalf of God, but is really deceiving people into believing lies. The Bible says, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
What is Truth?
Jesus said that knowing the truth will make us free from sin. Yet, the Bible says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18). It is possible to believe the truth, but still live an unrighteous lifestyle. These people are not free from sin even though they have truth. So what did Jesus mean when He encouraged us to “know the truth”? Is “the truth” more than just intellectual knowledge?
Just four verses after Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” He said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Here we get a different picture of what truth is. In one verse He says knowing the truth will make you free, and in the immediate context He says, “the Son” will make you free. Knowing “the truth” is knowing “the Son.” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Jesus is “the Truth.” He is the one we must know in order to be made free from sin. He is the one who gives us this freedom. This freedom does not come by having an intellectual knowledge about the truth, but by having a close, personal relationship with the One Who is “the Truth.” This relationship will bring freedom in your life.
A Personal Testimony
As I said earlier, I used to be addicted to drugs. I even decided to prove to myself that I could quit, so I planned to be clean for three days just so I could say I can do it. I lasted one day. My will power alone was weak in the face of long cherished habits. Later, when the Lord impressed me with the fact that I was a lost sinner going to hell and that He really loves me, I had an even greater desire to quit. I destroyed all of my drugs and paraphernalia and told my friends I was not going to do drugs anymore, but soon I found myself falling back into drugs and alcohol. I was terribly disappointed in myself. My will power was still not enough to give me freedom.
It was not until two months later that I realized I needed a power outside of myself. I invited Jesus Christ to live in my heart, and I finally had the power to be completely free from drugs. That was twenty-four years ago, and praise the Lord, I have not done drugs since. Knowing Jesus, the Truth, is the only way we can truly be free from sin. I know that without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).
Realizing that you need help is the first step to recovery. One Christian author wrote it this way: “We have heard many people tell how hard they found it to do right; their Christian life was most unsatisfactory to them, being marked only by failure, and they were tempted to give up in discouragement. No wonder they get discouraged; continual failure is enough to discourage anybody. The bravest soldier in the world would become faint-hearted if he had been defeated in every battle. Sometimes these persons will mournfully tell that they have about lost confidence in themselves. Poor souls, if they would only lose confidence in themselves entirely, and would put their whole trust in the one who is mighty to save, they would have a different story to tell. They would then ‘joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Says the apostle, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.’ Phil. 4:4. The man who doesn’t rejoice in God, even though tempted and afflicted, is not fighting the good fight of faith. He is fighting the poor fight of self-confidence and defeat” (Ellet J. Waggoner, The Present Truth, November 5, 1891).
Having a deep, personal relationship with Jesus will change your life, but holding intellectual truth in unrighteousness will never help anyone. This was the problem with the religious leaders of Christ’s day. He said to them, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you” (John 5:39-42).
Those church leaders thought they were okay because they were very educated in intellectual knowledge about God. But God’s love was not a reality in their hearts. They had not come to Jesus to have life and freedom. Jesus Christ is the only Truth that can make you free from the bondage of sin. There is no doctrine in the world that you can apply to your head to get you freedom. Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. No amount of head knowledge is going to get you there! Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
One negative effect of adding head knowledge apart from Christ is it tends to make people think they are better than others. Jesus “…spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
This self-righteous Pharisee thought that he was righteous because of his knowledge and good works. The more of these things he had, the more righteous he thought he was. But Jesus taught that the righteousness of a despised tax collector (publican) who humbly comes to God for salvation far exceeds that of this Pharisee. Your acceptance with God has nothing to do with your head knowledge and works, but rather with your connection with the One who is Life, Jesus Christ. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11, 12). Be careful how you judge others, for it is likely that you are using a faulty scale. This Pharisee was looking on the outward appearance, but God was looking at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Bible says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1_Corinthians 13:1-3).
Here we are given extreme examples of Christian activities. If you saw someone who did all these things he would be regarded by many as one of the most devoted Christians. But all of these things can be done without God’s love in my heart, and in this condition, “I am nothing.” Knowing the truth is not knowing about truth, but knowing—in a close personal way—the One who is Truth, Jesus Christ. This connection will put God’s love in your heart and transform your life into the image of Jesus Christ.
“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5). “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
If you do not know the Truth, I pray that you will humbly invite Jesus Christ to live in your heart. Believe that He comes to live in you because He promised (Revelation 3:20), and you will have freedom that could never come without Him. Live your life knowing this is a reality. “…reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11). I pray “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).