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Sunday, October 7, 2018

posted Oct 7, 2018, 10:43 PM by Site Administrator

IF YOU HOLD TO MY TEACHING, YOU ARE REALLY MY DISCIPLES

 

John 8:31,32

 

To the Jews who had believed 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.”

 

       First, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (31). In the previous passage we saw Jesus shouting, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be.” Even though they kept rejecting him, he did not despair because he was confident that through his death on the cross they would come to know that he was the Son of God. At this, many were moved in heart, and put their faith in him. Jesus must have been pleased with these people. But he did not stop there. Instead, he showed them what to do as the people who believed in him. Look at verses 31 and 32. Let’s read these verses together:

 

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

These two verses are some of the most famous words in the Bible. Here Jesus gives everyone who believes in him his beautiful promises to know the truth and enjoy freedom. But at the same time, these words of Jesus show us his burning desire for those who believe in him to be his real disciples. What does it mean to be his real disciples? Of course, it means not fake disciples; of course, it means not those who just go to church once a week; of course, it means not those who just go through the motion. Jesus once said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” (Mat 10:37,38) Then, we can understand what it means to be Jesus’ real disciples – those people whose hearts and lives are completed given to God alone. Jesus wanted to see those who had just believed in him grow as his real disciples. Then, how could they become his real disciples? Should they memorize the Bible, more absolutely than the teachers of the law did? Do they have to pray 3 times a day more absolutely than the Pharisees did? Not that way! Jesus shows us how we can become his real disciples, saying, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” There is only one thing you need to do - hold to Jesus’ teaching, and you will become his real disciples. Holding to his teaching is such a critical matter for all those who believe in him – those who do so become Jesus’ real disciples, while those who do not, become strange, at best, religious, or in many cases, they fall away.

 

In the passage, many people put their faith in Jesus. These believers were different than many other believers we have encountered as we studied John’s gospel so far. There were many people who believed in Jesus, but the author did not forget to point out that they had believed not because of his words, but because of the miraculous signs Jesus had done. Their faith was not genuine; they were not good. But these people in John chapter 8 were different. They believed in Jesus because of his words. Verse 30 states, “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” In such an oppressive environment, while their leaders were looking for Jesus to kill him, it was really not easy to accept Jesus as the Promised Messiah. While their leaders sent the temple guards to arrest Jesus, it was not easy to accept him as the Christ. Despite all these ordeals, they decided to put their faith in him openly. What a precious people they were to Jesus! Jesus must have been really encouraged. Then, it was never Jesus’ desire to see these people eventually all become religious, or just go through the motion, so tasteless like stale Cocacola. It was never Jesus’ desire to see them fall away due to life’s challenges and temptation either. Instead, he wanted to see them grow as great people, great children of God, so mature and beautiful and completely dedicated to God as his disciples. So, he said to them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” In this wicked and adulterous generation, when some people respond to God’s love and turn to Him, how happy Jesus is with them. How precious and how beautiful they are in his eyes! They are the ones who chose God’s love over pleasures of this life, turning away from their sinful life in Jesus. They are the ones who chose to identify themselves with Jesus in this world. Jesus loves them and his heart goes after them. All of you are so precious to Jesus. Then, it is never his intention to see any of you fall away no matter what reason. Instead, he earnestly desires that you all grow in him as beautiful children of God, strong and powerful, giving great influence to the world. So, he gives us this instruction, saying, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” We all must hold onto his teaching.

 

       Then, what does it mean to hold to his teaching? Other Bible versions use various expressions, such as, “If you live by what I say,” “If you abide in my word” “If you obey my teaching” “If you continue in my word” “If you keep on obeying what I have said.” So this word, “hold” comes with two implications, “obey and continue.” It’s different than on and off; hold to his teaching continually, not on and off. Holding to Jesus’ teaching means to live according to Jesus’ words in our life journey continually not only in good times, but also in bad times as well. It is not like you go to church Sunday worship service only when you have no finals or when there is no family gathering, but instead, you identify yourself as believers of Jesus all the time. When we hold onto Jesus’ teaching, sometimes, we go through difficulties and challenges, such as severe persecution from our family members, or painful failures in our school work, or sometimes, financial difficulties. Sometimes, temptation comes. Satan sends his agents – sometimes, an attractive looking person shows interest in you; sometimes, a dream job offer comes to you. But don’t be sold at such an offer; don’t cheapen yourself. Despite all these challenges and difficulties, we keep on living in the way Jesus describes, following him as his good sheep. Then, the people around us recognizes us and say, “You are different.” When they need help, they ask us for advice, because in their eyes, we are real people of God. As we live this way both in good times and in bad times for 10 years or 20 years or 30 years, our inner person is completely shaped up in the way Jesus desires – godly value system, spiritual perspectives, and heavenly hopes. Then, as we open our mouths and speak, what has been built up in us, how we understand and perceive things, what we hope for and pursue, what we really value and desire all come up naturally, because we have become that kind of person. Then, we are children of God, servants of God, not only in titles, but in our real person. Jesus describes such people as “his real disciples.” As I have told you, I can say it again, “Christian life is very real.”

 

Colossians 2:6 and 7 shows us its meaning very clearly. It reads: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Here, the expressions, “continue to live in him”, “rooted and built up in him”, and “strengthened in the faith as you were taught” all have the same meaning with “holding to Jesus' teaching.” It means to lay down an unshakable value system, and to secure the unchangeable way of life based on Jesus’ teaching so that no matter what others say to you, or no matter how the world goes, you keep living in the way Jesus shows. When the strong wind of temptation blows, hold onto his teaching tightly so that you will not be blown away. When big waves crash on your life boat, hold fast to his teaching so that you will not be swept away. Instead, when such challenges come and difficult rise and when temptation come, take down a deeper root in Jesus’ teaching by choosing Jesus over all other things. Then, you become Jesus’ real disciples. When you become Jesus’ real disciples, he will be really happy with you. You will be his treasured possession. This is Jesus’ desire for you.

 

Long time ago, in the beginning, God had a great vision for his last creation, human. He wanted to present Himself through him; so He made him in his image, in his likeness so that, whenever other creatures saw him, they would be reminded of God – God’s holiness and righteousness, God’s love and grace. So, God gave him his mission and his command to live by and fulfill his purpose. But the man failed to be the God-reminder in the world because he did not hold onto God’s command; instead, he became a shameful fugitive. When the man failed, God must have had great pain – his best creature became so miserable. When God brought the Israel people out of Egypt, he had a great vision for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; among all peoples on earth, they would be his treasured possession. So, He gave them his words – his commands and his laws for them to live by and become great. But the Israel people failed. God spoke to the prophet Isaiah about them, saying, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption.” Finally, God destroyed the nation Israel and sent them to exile in Babylon; later, He scattered them over the whole surface of the earth for the past 1900 years. The Israel people failed to live as God’s people, because they did not live according to God’s words. Mankind failed because they gave into their sinful desires instead of living according to God’s words. But God’s purpose for people has not changed at all. Now Jesus found some people who, despite such an oppressive environment, put their faith in him. Now Jesus had a great vision for them to grow as his real disciples, as real children of God, holy and righteous, such great people for God and for the whole world. So, he gave them this instruction, saying, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” Jesus’ vision for us is really great. He wants us to be his real disciples, real children of God, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. So, he gives us this direction to hold onto his teaching. When we hold onto his teaching, we become his real disciples; we become a holy and righteous people, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Hold onto his teaching, and you become Jesus’ real disciples.

 

Second, “Then you will know the truth” (32a). Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then, you will know the truth.” Knowing the truth is what naturally follows as Christians struggle to hold to Jesus’ teaching. It means that Christians come to know the truth not because they have struggled hard to know it, but as the result of their struggle to hold onto Jesus’ teaching. Jesus says that if anyone who believes in him holds on to his teaching, that person will come to know the truth. So, what is the truth? Actually, all peoples on earth throughout history tried to grasp the truth. Confucius once shared his desire to know the truth, saying, “If I hear the truth in the morning, it is okay to die in the evening.” But no one told him the truth, so he came up with his best shot, saying that wives must obey husbands, youth must obey seniors, children must obey parents, and subjects must obey rulers – his teaching is called, “Confucism.” Confucius suggested how humans should live in the society. Buddha, a prince of a small kingdom in India wanted to know why people were born, get sick, and die. He tortured himself and meditated on this subject for several decades, and came up with his best shot, saying that life is an endless cycle of reincarnation. In this way, he tried to understand what life is about. Greek philosophers wanted to know the origin of the universe and everything in it. So they argued about it all the way, and drew a conclusion that there must have been something superior, something mysterious that humans cannot grasp, and they agreed to call it, “logos,” and said, “In the beginning was logos.” Scientists struggled hard to figure it out also. But strangely, these so-called brilliant intellectuals came up with a very silly idea, saying that the universe was made by a big explosion called, “Big bang.” Explosions cause chaos, not harmonious cosmos. Still so many people say that we came from amoeba, or monkey is our ancestor.

 

       All these human struggles show what the truth is about. It is about who we are, or what we are. It is about how we must live our lives and what we should do with our lives. It is about the origin of our existence – where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going. The truth is about where we came from, where we are going, who we are, what we must do with our lives and how we must live our lives; the truth is about knowing what the universe is about, and what all the stars in the universe are about, and what the earth is about, and why they exist. We must know the truth; we must have the answers to these fundamental questions. Otherwise, no one can see his or her life as a whole picture. People struggle to eat well without knowing who they are. Students study hard without knowing who they are, and how they should live their lives. Throughout history, mankind tried to know the truth, but no one found it, but only came up with their own ideas only to cause more confusion to human society. Amazingly Jesus now says to his believers, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth.”

 

       Wow! So Jesus’ disciples are the ones who know the truth. Then, what is the truth? The truth is this: that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and because of God, all these things exist. The truth is that we came from God and, because of God we exist. The truth is that we are God’s creation and God sent us into this world. We are God’s children created in His image to be great, holy and righteous like Him, to conquer and take care of the world. As we struggle to hold onto Jesus’ teaching and live according to God’s purpose, our hearts are enlightened to know the truth and now we can tell the world boldly that we came from God and we are going back to God and during our life time here on earth, we enjoy, love, and serve our God in heaven, and after finishing our mission here on earth, we go back to God and enjoy Him forever. All people in the world live for the things of the world such as fame, money, and pleasure – such things are not the truth – they are not worthy of our life. We Christians do not live for such things, but live for God’s glory. When we live our life based on the truth, at that time, we can truly enjoy God’s creation – we can enjoy delicious foods freely such as “Vietnamese noodle” or “Soft Tofu” while struggling hard to fulfill God’s mission. The Christian life is the life of knowing the truth – where we came from, where we are going, who we are, and why we are here.

 

       The word, “know” implies “confidence.” As we hold onto Jesus’ teaching, we no longer live in darkness or confusion; instead, we come to grasp the truth. We Christians are truly blessed to know the truth by simply holding onto Jesus’ teaching. Are you a Christian? Then, you know the truth. If you do not know the truth yet with such confidence, then, it means that you have not been holding onto Jesus’ teaching. Many people say, “I don’t know what God wants me to do.” It sounds like they would live according to God’s plan if they knew God’s will for them. But the reason why they do not know what to do with their lives is not because God has not told them what to do, but because they have not held onto Jesus’ teaching. Simply, they have not lived according to the word of God. They must repent their worldly and self-seeking way of life and turn to God. Do you want to know the truth? Do you want to know who you are, where you came from, where you are going, and what you ought to do with your life? Then, believe in Jesus Christ and hold on to his teaching, then, you will know the truth. The Christian life is not an ordinary life, but the life of knowing the truth that all philosophers in human history have wanted to know so badly. When we know the truth, we can become the light in this dark world guiding so many people out of darkness into the wonderful light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know the truth?

 

       Third, “The truth will set you free” (32b). Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Enjoying freedom is the last product of our Christian life. Here, let’s think about freedom more carefully. What is freedom? People think that freedom is the right for them to do whatever they want. But that’s not freedom. Rather, it is the exact expression of rebellion that invites policemen and that leads them to Los Angeles County jail. In Genesis chapter 4, we see Cain killing his beloved brother Abel. It seemed that he was free because he did whatever he wanted. But actually he was not free; instead he was only feeding his jealousy even by destroying his beloved brother. He was a loyal slave to his jealousy. Let’s say, a married woman enjoys numerous affairs with other men besides her husband. It seems that she is enjoying her freedom, but actually, she is only feeding her sinful desires even at the cost of her family and her purity. She is not free, but precisely speaking, she is out of control and a loyal slave to her sin. Again, what is freedom? After creating the world, God commanded the first man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.” God gave him freedom to choose whatever food he wanted. For cows, God chose grass to be their food; for lions later, God gave them meat. God programed them to go in that way. So, cows always eat grass, while lions always eat meat. But for the man, God did not choose any food, but instead, he gave him freedom to choose whatever he wanted. This freedom of choice was God’s special gift for humans. With this freedom, the man could do whatever he wanted – he could choose to eat cherries in the morning, and big black plums in the evening, and after eating that way for two days, he could change the menu however he desired. With this freedom, he could enjoy God’s blessing to his heart’s content. But  having this freedom did not mean that he could do whatever he wanted, because there was something harmful for him, if he ate it. That’s what God warned him about. So, with this freedom, on his own, the man must choose to do what was good and avoid what was bad. As long as he did it, he would enjoy his life and his freedom, and everything would be wonderful as God had originally designed.  

 

       In other words, enjoying freedom means to be able to choose what is really good and beneficial over what is bad and harmful; enjoying freedom means to have the ability, strength or power not to sin, but to obey God’s command. Jesus says in verse 34 that whoever sins is a slave to sin. When people sin, they live as slaves to sin, doing what they do not want to do, and not being able to do what they want to do – they do not have freedom. As much as you have the ability to not sin, but obey God’s command, that’s the degree of freedom you have. The degree of one’s ability to obey God, is the degree of freedom that he or she enjoys. When sisters enjoy freedom, they can keep their purity. When young students enjoy freedom from their sins, they are beautiful and become the hope of the society, not a source of trouble. When a husband and a wife enjoy freedom, they can keep their marriage relationship intact and secure. When parents enjoy freedom from sin, their family is kept sound. Actually, this freedom is what all people really desire. Jesus says that if we hold to his teaching, we will enjoy freedom, being able to do what is really good and wonderful, choosing to obey and love God in all circumstances. Then, we will be able to put all the sins and the desires of the flesh under our complete control.  There was a medical student; his desire was to be successful and comfort his widowed mother. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, he renounced his career as a medical doctor and decided to give his life to God’s purpose as a shepherd for college students. Despite such difficulties in his heart, he was able to obey God’s will. He was a free man to obey God and love God. Our father Abraham enjoyed this freedom. When God commanded him to offer his one and only son Isaac as a burnt offering, his heart must have sunk. However, despite all reasonable and unreasonable excuses he could make, he chose to obey God and offered his one and only son as a burnt offering. He was free to obey God. What is the Christian life? It is the life of enjoying freedom in Christ Jesus. All people are slaves to sin and they only obey the commands of their sinful nature. Neither do they want to obey God, nor can they do so. Yet, we, Christians, know the truth and enjoy freedom, choosing to obey God over the fleshly things of this world. This is Jesus’ promise for those who hold onto his teaching.   

 

Let’s read verses 31 and 32 one more time:

 

To the Jews who had believed 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.”

 

       Jesus invites us to be his real disciples. Jesus invites us to know the truth. Jesus invites us to enjoy freedom. All these blessings are fulfilled in us only when we hold onto Jesus’ teaching.

        

One Word: Jesus Says, “If You Hold To My Teaching, You Are Really My Disciples”

 

 

 

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