When Jesus told them that, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), the Jews objected. “We’ve never been slave to anyone.”
History bears out that the Jews have been enslaved or occupied by seven different countries: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Assyria, Greece, and Rome. And this last one (Rome) showed their current condition. Rome occupied the Holy Land—and the Jews and Jewish leaders interacted with them every single day in every single way. Yet, they did not see their situation.
What a pity to see someone in slave but blind to their own condition. They felt they were actually free in a political sense—and this is a significant picture of being enslaved in a spiritual sense.
Whenever I ask someone, “What do you understand it means to be right with God?” Many answer, “Well, I just need to follow the commandments and do my best.” When I counter with, “Where does Jesus fit into this?” Some may say, “Well, he fills in the gaps.” Or, “He sees how hard I’m trying.”
Did you see the sign on the marquee when you drove in? “Christianity is not about trying your hardest, it’s about trusting the Highest?” If your hope is just trying to do your best—you’re not saved. If your hope is in Jesus just filling in the gaps that you can’t, you’re not saved. Christianity is about denying self, not asking Jesus to fill in the gaps self can’t do. We may be enslaved by cannot free ourselves. We may have sat under preaching after preaching, sermon after sermon. They are blind to their own condition!
Skeptics counter with this: “There’s nothing liberating and freeing about the Bible. So many of the commandments are ‘do nots.’ More and more of what you cannot do. The Bible restricts who you can marry, it feels restrictive to women, it’s been used as leverage to oppress (slavery, etc.), it’s used to tell women what they can and cannot do with their bodies, what you can do, who you can fraternize with, what you should see, what you should say, where you should go, what you should think. I don’t feel free in getting around the Scriptures—I feel restricted and confined.”
First of all, let me just ask this: how does the world look now that the authority of God’s Word is continuing to lessen? Better? Granted, there are those who have used the Bible wrongly and selfishly. But they’ve also used it to build hospitals, education, orphanages, and to help people that God made from the cradle to the grave.
Second of all, do you believe that it’s good for us to be able to do all we want? Not everything that we want is good for us—just ask the drug user or alcoholic. In fact, those very things that we want so desperately may be the very things that enslave us so drastically (and destructively).
Spurgeon told of the time when he came to Christ (and Christ came to him) as a young lad looking for the way to be free from his sin! He went to church after church after church. He finally stumbled into a Primitive Methodist church where a layman was filling in for the pastor who could not make the service due to inclimate weather. Here what happened next in Spurgeon’s own words:
Now it is well that ministers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid, as you would say. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had nothing else to say. The text was “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter.
There was I thought, a gleam of hope for me in the text. He began thus “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ Now that does not take a great deal of effort. It ain’t lifting your feet or your finger, it is just ‘look.’ Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool and yet you can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look; a child can look. But this is what the text says. Then it says ‘Look unto Me.'” “Ay,” said he, in broad Essex, “many of ye are looking to yourselves. No use looking there. You’ll never find comfort in yourselves. Some look to God, the Father. No, look to Him by and by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of you say, ‘I must wait the Spirit a working.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. It runs: ‘Look unto Me.'”
Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hanging on the cross. Look! I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend and sit at the Father’s right hand O! look to Me!” When he had got about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger, He then said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well I did, but I have not been accustomed to having remarks made on my personal appearance from the pulpit before. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued:
“And you will always be miserable in life, and miserable in death if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this moment you will be saved.”
Then he shouted as only a Primitive Methodist can: “Young man, look to Jesus Christ!” I did “look.”
There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun: I could have risen that moment and sung with enthusiasm of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me that before. TRUST CHRIST, AND YOU SHALL BE SAVED.
Dear friends, you may know the truth and the Son who proclaims the truth by looking! Don’t try to understand, then look! Look and believe, that you may understand! The Word does its work! But you also must look out of necessity for your soul! Look unto Christ and Christ alone! Be blind no longer!