‘The truth will set you free’ … ‘if you keep obeying’

Another verse we often quote out of context is John 8:32 – “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The hitch is that knowing the truth is contingent on what comes before the “and.”

That would be verse 31: “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings.'”

They will be set free by the truth as they keep obeying his teachings, and so prove they truly are his disciples. In verse 51, Jesus adds, “I assure you, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

Locked in prison, a lifelong criminal knows the truth, but he is not free. The truth is what landed in him in prison. However, let that inmate be transformed by the grace of Jesus and begin walking in obedience to God’s way, and he is free — in spite of the bars that cage him in.

Some people believe in Jesus (that’s who Jesus is addressing in verse 31) but do not keep walking in God’s ways. They are not free, even though they know the truth about Jesus. The full, free, and forever life belongs to those who keep obeying Jesus’ teachings. They are new creatures, truly his disciples, and they will never die!

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‘And they were not afraid to die’

isis-killing-iraq-crisisMy mind focused in prayer this morning on the Christians in Iraq and Syria who have been suffering at the hands of infidels — evil, ruthless men who blaspheme the name of Abraham’s God by brutalitizing innocents. My heart breaks for every woman and girl kidnapped to serve as slaves to these wicked men. My anger burns for men and boys executed simply because their home is Christian. I am devastated for families who have had to abandon all their worldly possessions and flee for their lives to places where they will have no way to provide for themselves. I grieve for Christians who live under this fascist perversion of Islam, afraid to publicly acknowledge their Lord. I am filled with pride for Christians who have refused to deny Jesus and bravely met death with his peace in their hearts.

You can make a difference
Rep. Frank Wolf is speaking up in the halls of power for these powerless one. Encourage him.
Learn more about the persecution of Christians at the ERLC website and Multiply Justice.
Help Baptist Global Response provide survival supplies for refugees driven out by the Middle East crisis.

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Two responses to the truth about who God is

Two responses to the truth about who God is: denial or trust.

Through his creation, God reveals to everyone the truth about who he is. Some broken people would rather stay broken than admit the truth. They suppress the truth about God because they prefer living their way rather than God’s way. He is right to be angry with them.

The other response to the truth about God is to honor him for who he is and live in humility and gratitude before him. Choose God’s way, and you will discover life the way God intended it to be! This good news has the power to rescue you from your brokenness and completely transform you. But the only way to get there is by trusting God enough to choose his way over your own.

Trust God, and you will live! Reject him, and all you will have is brokenness.

Read Romans 1:16-22

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Pure religion in God’s sight is more than orphans and widows

You hear James 1:27 quoted a lot, to the effect that “pure religion in God’s sight means we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles.” I wish we heard the verse quoted more often in its entirety. I suspect that “and refuse to let the world corrupt us” is an equally important word — perhaps more so because it is so often ignored.

If the air around you is toxic, don’t you breathe through a filter? Pop culture is toxic, yet some Christians want to cut out parts of the filter.

James 1:18 says God makes us his own children, his choice possession, by giving us his true word. Verse 22 says that word is a message to both listen to and obey — and if we aren’t obeying, we are only fooling ourselves. Verse 21 urges us to get rid of all the filth and evil in our lives and humble ourselves to the point of accepting God’s true word for what it says.

Listening to the untrue word of our culture stokes the fires of our own evil desires, which ultimately leads to death. (vv.14-15) Pop culture’s toxic fumes cripple our minds and twist our hearts. We no longer think Christianly and we cajole others with the notion that God’s true word doesn’t mean everything it says. We portray God’s true word as weak, when in fact it is strong enough to save our souls.

Pure religion in God’s sight includes refusing to let the world corrupt us.

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The truth about God and his love

This morning, points of praise, encouragement, and exhortation from Psalm 147 (NLT’96):

– Everything begins with, and stands upon, the greatness of God. He alone is truly worthy of our praise.  v.5 – “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!”

– When no one else knows the pain in your heart, when no one else cares enough to help you in your trouble, the Lord will.  v.3 – “He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds.”

– For the wicked, there is no escaping God’s ultimate justice. For those who suffer at the hands of evil men, the Lord gives grace and strength to endure.  v.6 – “The LORD supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.”

– People who live for themselves will never hear him say, “Well done!” Those who live to honor their King bring him great pleasure and have hope that will never fail, because his love never fails.  v.11 – “Rather, the LORD’s delight is in those who honor him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

– When the truth about God and his love fills your heart, the natural response is to (v.7) “Sing out your thanks to the LORD; sing praises to our God, accompanied by harps.” (Other musical instruments are acceptable, if your harp is out for repairs.)

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Broken promises, all-consuming fire, and a key to the treasure

Thoughts for today, based on Isaiah 33:

The entire land is in trouble. A generation that has never felt destruction is destroying everything around it. Their king expects others to respect their promises to him, while he betrays his promises to them.

The ambassadors of God’s people weep in bitter disappointment, because that king has refused their petition for peace. His princes have broken the pact made with God’s people. They have no respect for anyone. The roads to Jerusalem are deserted; no one travels them anymore.

These Assyrians will be destroyed. Their own breath will turn to fire and consume the land. Even in Jerusalem, the sinners will shake with fear, crying, “Who can live here in the presence of this all-consuming fire?”

The ones who can live there will be those “who are honest and fair, who reject making a profit by fraud, who stay far away from bribes, who refuse to listen to those who plot murder, who shut their eyes to all enticement to do wrong.” (v.15)

Wait on the Lord. He is merciful, your strength each day and your salvation in time of trouble. The Lord is very great and, though he lives in heaven, he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness. In the day of judgment, he will be our sure foundation. Our Mighty One will be a wide river of protection no enemy can cross. He will provide a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge.

And the key to this treasure is the fear of the Lord. (NLT’96)

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Why would the Lord withdraw from his people? Injustice!

Do these two verses from Lamentations 3 resonate with you about the church in America and the country as a whole?

You have hidden yourself in a cloud so our prayers cannot reach you. You have discarded us as refuse and garbage among the nations. (Lamentations 3:44-45 NLT’96)

Why would the Lord withdraw from his people and turn his back on a nation? Verses 34-36: Prisoners have been trampled underfoot, people deprived of their God-given rights in defiance of the Most High, and justice perverted.

The good news is that “the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love.” (vv.31-32)

God’s forgiveness, however, is conditioned on human repentance: “Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn again in repentance to the LORD. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled, and you have not forgiven us.'” (vv.40-42)

God withholds himself from his people because they allow injustice to prevail. The entire nation is judged, and everyone suffers. But the Lord’s love is unfailing and he yearns to show compassion. What will have to happen before we are ready to humble ourselves before the Almighty? How long will God’s people close their ears to the cries of the poor and oppressed?

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