So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”John 8:31-33
Knowing the truth does not set you free. Knowing the truth and doing the truth will set you free. This is a critical distinction for those of us who want to be known as disciples of Jesus. To be precise, Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Words matter and in this case the critical verb is “abide.” If you abide in my word. What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ words? To abide somewhere means to live there. We sometimes refer to someone’s home as their abode. That is where they abide. This word is also translated by some as “remain” It carries the same connotation.
For many of us, to abide in Jesus’ words conjures up the idea of reading, studying and meditating in his word. These are without a doubt significant aspects of what it means to abide in Jesus’ words. Personally, I love this process of reading, studying, and meditating in God’s word. Through this discipline, I have gained tremendous insight into who God is and how I relate to him. It is largely here that I learn to hear God’s voice. As I make my home (abode) in God’s word, I get to know him.
Meditation is a hot buzzword in our current culture that is greatly influenced by Eastern mysticism of various sorts. Meditation is a huge part of those religious traditions. However, what they mean by meditation and what Scripture means by meditation are two very different things. I know I am simplifying somewhat, but Eastern meditation’s goal is to empty the mind. It is to center on oneself internally. You find the answers to the universe within yourself.
Biblical meditation is quite the opposite. It is to meditate on specific objective truth in Scripture. It is to find truth and reality outside of oneself in God and God’s word. The mind is quite active in the process of Biblical meditation. I believe one cannot meditate well in the Biblical sense without broad reading of Scripture and without studying Scripture so that I have a reasonably accurate meaning of Scripture before I can effectively meditate and find Holy Spirit inspired application of God’s word. So, I believe this is one aspect of abiding in God’s word.
Meditation in God’s word is not sufficient to meet what I believe Jesus was talking about when he said we are truly his disciples of we abide in his word. While I find it thrilling to experience Holy Spirit inspired insight into God’s word, that is not enough. We must have another goal in mind when we read, study, and meditate in God’s word. Do you specifically ask yourself, “How can I obey what I have discovered in God’s word?” Obedience is the goal. James tells us that to have this wonderful devotional experience with God’s word and yet not do what it tells us to do is to be self-deceived.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.James 1:22-27
Jesus says the truth will set you free, James refers to God’s word as the perfect law of liberty, the same song second verse. They use slightly different language to refer to the same reality. God’s word, when received internally and when acted upon is the means to being set free or walking in the perfect law of liberty. James gives us a few examples of application: bridling your tongue, visiting orphans and widows, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. Note that to not bridle our tongues is to deceive our own hearts, that is we think we have something that we don’t have. We are not truly disciples of Jesus.
We are all a work in progress awaiting the final step of our redemption, our glorification when Jesus comes again and we are resurrected. Meanwhile, we continue in that work of progress. I want to truly be a disciple of Jesus. It costs something to truly be a disciple of Jesus. It means that we have the joy of reading, studying, and meditating on God’s word with the objective of obeying everything Jesus has commanded us to do in the power of the Holy Spirit. I am not talking about religious self-help. I am talking about Spirit-empowered obedience.
If you abide in my word (read it, study it, meditate on it, and do it), you are truly my disciples.
If you love me you will keep my commandments (do them). – Jesus (John 14:15)