Are We Keeping Jesus’ Word?

Last week I was reading through John 8:31-59 and the word ‘word’ jumped out at me. It’s repeated 7 times in the passage. Jesus is speaking to some Jews who believe in Him and He starts off by telling them in verse 13 (ESV),

“If you abide in my word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

My immediate question to myself was, “What is His word and how do I know if I’m abiding in it?”. My prayer: “Lord, I desperately want to be Your disciple. I want to know Your truth. How do I abide in Your word, Lord?” I continued reading hoping to find the answer. The Jews begin to contend that they are free because they are the offspring of Abraham. In verse 37 He replies,

“I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

They are still not getting it so they continue with the same argument about Abraham being their father. So Jesus elaborates (verses 39b-41),

“If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”

The Jews really get on the defensive now, digging in their heels and going further to affirm that they are children of God. Jesus goes deeper (verses 42b-47),

“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

If we are to believe what Jesus says here, these Jews, who believed in Jesus, have somehow found themselves in the position of being sons of the devil. So in our present-day context, is it possible to belong to a church and believe in God but to be serving the devil and not God? Yes. Jesus also says that these men, who have been reading the Torah since their youth cannot hear the words of God. So is it possible to read the Bible and not hear the word? Also yes.

As I read this passage, I felt God speaking to me – I heard His word. I had become complacent. I had become satisfied with merely doing church. I had become satisfied with just reading the bible. I was in a rut; a stagnant pond with no fresh water coming in. How did I lose my hunger? When did the fire become an ember? And how do I get back to that place of hunger; that place where there is this uncertainty of what happens next; that place where God is so in control that every outcome is not predictable?

There is something about living in the place of ‘hearing and obeying’. It is uncomfortable but it is full of life! There is something about living daily from what God would speak. The place of ‘my food is to do His will’. It’s a place beyond being moral, or biblical, or doctrinally accurate. Those are often intellectual assessments to comfort our flesh that we are doing His will or to be accepted by our denominational tribe. I’m talking about something much more relational, real, and wild – being led by the Spirit. When we are led by the Spirit we are always a bit unpredictable (John 3:8).

“The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”

Walking by the Spirit looks like the disciples walking with Jesus. When Jesus was getting ready to leave them He did not say that He would send an Advocate, He said He would send another Advocate. In other words, One who would walk with them as He had (John 14:16).

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. “

David Yonghi Cho was a South Korean minister who led the largest church in history of 700,000 members. In one of his famous sermons on prayer, he talked about living in this relational place of hearing and obeying. He recalled different times when God told him to go to places or step out and do things in faith and others who tried to emulate him and failed. He explained why he succeeded and others failed by contrasting the logos and the rhema. He explains that everything in the bible is potentially ours but it’s not actually ours until you get a rhema word from God. Peter, for example, had to wait on Jesus to instruct him to walk on water before stepping out of the boat. You don’t move until God speaks.

Toward the end of Jesus’ interaction with the believing Jews in John 8, He says, “if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” and again, “‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death”. Are we Jesus’ disciples or just church-going believers? Are we keeping His word? Am I keeping His word? Am I daily listening for His direction and being quick to obey what He is saying? I find myself lacking. I find my ears dull and my feet slow. Eternal life is found in keeping the words that He speaks to us. His word is personal and specific to each one of us. What He asks of me, may not be what He asks of you.

Holy Spirit, give us keen ears to hear Your voice. Give us tender hearts that are sensitive to Your stirrings. Give us swift feet that run to do Your will.

Copyright 2024, Matik Nicholls. All rights reserved.

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