In John 8:31-32 we read, “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The truth shall make you free! I’ve read those verses many times and yet not fully grasped the meaning of what Jesus was trying to say. I know in a general sense that truth does change the way we see and process life. But I guess I never quite thought of truth as delivering us from prison.
Recently I’ve been reading about some of the unsung heroes of the faith from the Middle Ages. People like Francis and Claire of Assisi, John Wycliffe, Girolamo Savonarola, names you may not know, unless you are a student of Church history. These people lived in the latter part of what is referred to as the Dark Ages, literally a dark time in Western history, when the light in the Church was all but extinguished. As I read about those who lived during that time, the idea of truth setting us free took on new meaning.
There was not a lot of revelation in those days. The Bible was in Latin, which most people did not know, and it was also locked away within the walls of the Church. Only the priests were allowed access to the Bible, and they would tell the people what they wanted them to know. What made it worse was that the church was corrupt, purposefully keeping people in bondage by depriving them of the Word of God. However, along came some heroes of the faith who refused to be left in darkness…
In addition to those mentioned above, was a Frenchman named Peter Waldo who amassed wealth through oppressing the poor – until a close friend suddenly died. It was then that he began a frantic quest to discover the truth about God and His Word. The Church provided no answers, and the Bible was locked away in a language he did not understand. So, Waldo hired a couple of priests to translate portions of the New Testament from Latin into French, so he and others could discover what it really had to say.
After reading and rereading the Bible, truth began to take hold of Peter Waldo’s soul. Once he and others discovered the truth in Scripture, they would share by simply reciting the words that Jesus spoke. As they did, they themselves became more and more convicted by the Holy Spirit! It was only then that they discovered what Jesus meant when He said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free!”
In their journey of discovery, they started out hearing, then reading and memorizing Scripture, until God’s Word became truth in their soul. This is more than just reading the Bible. They poured over the Scriptures, daily, until the Word became living and powerful, like a two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the spirit and soul. (Hebrews 4:12) As they continued to study and memorize Scripture, a deep conviction came upon them – and they were born again. As they sought the Lord in His Word, the Holy Spirit brought conviction upon their souls, and they were changed from the inside out. No one prayed with them to be saved or told them they were; their souls were set free!
In reading about the lives of these individuals, I saw the power of Scripture in the salvation of the soul. Those people didn’t just hear a thirty-minute message and decide to be saved. They continued in the Word, until it grabbed hold of their heart. Then and only then, did they become true followers of Jesus Christ. As they studied, memorized, and prayed over the Word, the Bible jumped off the pages and burned within. God was writing His Word on their heart (Hebrews 8:8-12), which is the very essence of the New Covenant. They couldn’t escape the convicting power of the Word of God, as it burned inside and set them free. And by the way, many of these “Heroes of the Faith,” died for the deep conviction of their faith.
As I read about these saints of old, I can’t help but feel that our generation has missed the transforming power of the Word of God. We have settled for the breadcrumbs under the table, while God has prepared a banquet for each of us! Somehow, this verse, Amos 8:11 comes to mind… “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” I believe we are living in that day, once again.
It’s not that we don’t have the Bible readily available; it is more available today than at any time in all of history. Today’s famine of the Word is self-inflicted. We are spiritually malnourished simply because we choose not to partake of it by reading it, studying it, and meditating upon it. Famine produces death – not a quick one, but a gradual wasting away – until all life is drained from the body. This seems to be the sad condition of many today.
A verse that has always challenged me is Matthew 4:4. Jesus, responding to a temptation from the devil, said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4b) We were not created to live by bread alone! Oh, bread might keep us alive physically, but God created us to be, firstly and foremost, a spiritual people, who walk and live in His Spirit. Jesus understood the fact that God’s Word is the very source of our spiritual life. Without it, even a person who is born again, will become weak and die.
Is it possible that we are living in a time when people are starving themselves to death – and don’t even know it? At times, I want to challenge those who profess Christ, by telling them that they aren’t saved – just to get their attention. In our day, we have done many a great disservice, when we preach the gospel, elicit a response, pray a prayer, and tell them they are saved. Maybe they are – and maybe they aren’t – but it seems that the moment a person hears that they are saved, they stop pursuing God. After all, that’s all there is to it, right? Now, they are saved; the preacher told them so – and once saved, always saved, right? So, they can check the box; they have their ticket to heaven.
Telling someone they are saved can be like throwing cold water on a fire, or at least dousing smoldering embers. When this happens, there is no longer the hunger or desire that caused them to seek God in the first place. Sadly, many are deceived into believing they are on the road to heaven, even if they continue to live like hell. God’s Word, however, tells us to continually seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as our first priority – not stop, once we feel we have found it. (Matthew 6:33) Telling people they are saved may be one of the greatest errors of the modern-day Church.
I never want to make the “narrow gate” narrower, nor would I ever want to accuse or rob blessings from anyone. However, I do believe the American Church has made the narrow gate extremely wide. Jesus said the gate (or way) that leads to life is difficult – and FEW find it. (Matthew 7:14) Yet today, we boast of hundreds, thousands, even millions saved in a single outreach or crusade! If that’s true, if millions are really born again, would it not change that city and impact the entire nation? How could it not!
When a person is truly born again, they will change. Think about it. When we are saved, the creator of the universe comes to live inside our heart. For the first time in our life, we not only know God is real, but He is living and moving in our life. When we belong to God, the Holy Spirit begins to remodel our life from the inside out. The things we once loved suddenly become appalling. Why? Because the Holy God is at work in us to both will and do what pleases Him. (Phil. 2:13)
Scripture tells us that one day, we will each stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account of how we have lived on the earth. (2 Corinthians 5:10) Judgment is not just about the words we profess; it’s about the life we live. I’m afraid there may be a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth on that Day, as many realize they were duped into living on the “broad road” that leads to death and destruction, instead of the narrow path that leads to life everlasting. (Matthew 7:13) Please don’t be deceived into following the masses.
Let’s learn a lesson from those who paid the ultimate price in following Jesus Christ. They read, studied, memorized, and consumed the Word of God – until they were transformed from glory to glory. They not only lived the Bible, but they were examples of those who truly found the narrow path to life. Let me leave you with a word from Jesus pertaining the end of the age. “Take heed that no one deceived you.” (Matthew 24:4b)