The truth doesn’t set you free. I wish it did. All we would need to do would be to broadcast it, or simply go door-to-door telling people the truth, then everyone would be free. More fully, the verse says, “then you will KNOW the truth, and the truth will set you free”. It’s not the truth that sets you free, it’s the truth that you KNOW.
But even that isn’t the full picture. “To the Jews who had believed in 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’” (v31-32). The freedom that Jesus brings cannot be separated from being in a relationship with Him (“believed”), and nor can it be separated from obedience (“hold to my teaching”). Faith is required; following Him is also essential.
Obedience sounds like duty, but is actually joy. We don’t like the idea of anyone telling us what to do. We’ve been brought up to believe that freedom means doing whatever we want, but countless people have found that, in fact, that just ends in bondage and misery. Obedience brings revelation and freedom.
Obedience sounds like sacrifice, but is actually blessing. God loves us as we are. We don’t need to get cleaned up to come to Him. But He doesn’t want to leave as we are – repentance and transformation are essential parts of the Gospel. He asks us to obey because He knows a better way for us to live. He is a good Father. His commandments are never arbitrary or negative.
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). Obedience leads us into greater intimacy with Him.
What should we do when we hear the Gospel? Repent and believe (Mark 1:15). What shows that we are Jesus’ disciples? Pruning and fruitfulness (John 15:2). What is the heart of discipleship? Obedience and intimacy.
This plan is based on my book, “Growing in Circles”, so-titled because we tend to grow in the Christian life not by discovering new truths – we grow by grasping truths more deeply; truths perhaps we’ve heard many times before. If you’re stuck or frustrated in your relationship with God, go back and reflect on these six themes and ask yourself which you need to grasp more deeply.