My first visit to Austin was in the summer of 1995. Christy and I were leading a pack of youth on an evangelistic outreach. One of our stops was the University of Texas. It didn’t take long to notice the inscription high atop the administration building. Engraved in large print were the familiar words, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
HAVE YOU FOUND FREEDOM?
I wondered how familiar others were with this saying, and more importantly, who said it and its meaning. As students passed by, I mustered the courage to quiz many of them. I must have asked a couple dozen, including a few professors. Not a single person had the answer. Within a few short moments I had shed light on an unknown foundational truth. If freedom truly hinged upon it, then balls and chains were all I saw.
One problem that may have caused confusion is, the quote was taken out of context. It was only half a truth and not the whole truth. Because of this, the full meaning couldn’t be rightly discerned. For the benefit of our discussion here is the entire quotation:
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31b-32)
These are the words of Jesus, who also claimed to be The Truth. (See John 14:6) By no means was He suggesting that book knowledge is the key to freedom. Nor was He implying that truth is found in a university – if you can’t afford it, you’re out of luck. Nor was Jesus insisting that all truths are liberating. Consider the information age we live in. People today have never been in more bondage. They are glued to the Internet, struggling with fears and addictions of every sort. This only proves that there are truths we are better off not knowing.
By saying what He said, Jesus identified Himself as the truth. Now, simply acknowledging this won’t liberate anyone. (Ask any demon.) Freedom comes from knowing Him. Notice that Jesus began His statement with a big if – “If you abide in My word…” Knowing His word is a good start, but that’s not what frees us. We’re only free ‘if’ or ‘so long as’ we abide in it.
Think of boarding an airplane. Immediately before take-off, the emergency procedures are announced. There is talk of seatbelts, oxygen masks and floatation cushions. Now, you may be able to pass a written test on what was learned, but this information won’t serve much benefit if it’s only occupying space between the ears. One must be devoted to these truths, should the need ever arise.
The scribes, priests and Pharisees of New Testament times were loaded with truth. Yet they were in complete bondage to the law, not to mention slaves to their own sin. This is because they rejected “The Truth”. For this reason Jesus told the uppity religious leaders that hookers and crooks were entering the Kingdom of God before them. (See Matthew 12:31) Upon receiving “The Truth” the most scandalous sinners found true freedom while Bible thumpers were left in the dust.
Freedom is found in Jesus alone. If you abide in Him, if you abide in His word, only then will you know the truth. And only then will you be truly free. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
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Calvary Chapel of Austin Church
1601 Pecan St., Pflugerville, TX 78660