The Truth Will Set You Free
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
(John 8:31-32 NASB)
Modern Culture and the Truth
Tim Keller in his sermon "Absolutism" defines how much of the world looks at absolute truth and freedom. Keller makes the case that the modern mindset is that Christians believe they have absolute truth and what everybody should believe and practice. They believe that Christians try to limit our freedom and end up oppressing people. To be free, according to modern thought, everybody should be able to determine for themselves what is right or wrong. This probably came about from the influence of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, who reasoned somewhat like this. You say we should accept the truth of the Word of God. Why do you want us to this? Is it a power play so that you can control us and take away our freedom? Now, before we totally write off Nietzsche we have to remember that Jesus Himself accused the Pharisees of the same thing. He exposed how they used a set of laws (mostly man-made) to manipulate, control, and take advantage of people. They tried to make people live in a manner that they weren’t able to do themselves. But just because you have groups of religious people who use what we might call tainted truth and apply it in an unrighteous manner, doesn't mean there is not legitimate truth that produces righteous results. The outcome of this mentality is we have two conflicting worldviews. One that says that absolute truth produces a loss of freedom. And another supported by the Bible, which purports that without truth you have no real freedom.
There Are No Absolutes?
The type of thought mentioned above leads to the belief that all truth is individually determined. The statement that "there are no absolutes" is in essence is an absolute statement. Did you hear about the perceptive student in a philosophy class? When the professor opined, "there are no absolutes", said "are you absolutely sure"? A world without unchanging guidelines as to how things work produces chaos. I once heard Ravi Zacharias tell a story that shows the absurdity of a life without absolutes. A person who worked in a factory would walk past a clock shop and stop and adjust his watch every day. One day the clock shop owner asked him why he did this. The man said that he was in charge of blowing the four o’clock whistle at the factory. He was ashamed to admit that his watch did not keep very good time. The shopkeeper replied that he hated to let him know, but his clock in the clock shop did not work very well either. He adjusted his clock every day according to the four o’clock whistle at the factory. Without unchanging standards to guide our lives we are as clueless as the shopkeeper and the factory worker were about the time of the day.
The Word (Truth) Became Flesh
In John 1:14a (NASB) the Bible states, And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. Word in the Greek is logos. It is the written or absolute word. It is the root from which we get our word logic. It was used a lot by the Greek philosophers to discuss the absolute meaning of life. Remember Nietzsche and his crowd said that Christians absolutes were power plays to make people virtual puppets. John blew a hole right in the center of this reasoning when he said, “The Word (or truth) became flesh.” There is an absolute word but it was not given to us in a list of dos and don’ts, rather in a person, Jesus Christ. There are guidelines as to how we are to live but they are presented to us on the basis of relationship and not an impersonal legal contract. If the rules we follow come from a legalistic list of requirements, the freedom we lose to follow them seems to come only from one side, ours, which can appear to be dehumanizing. But if the absolute is a person, who has already proven He is willing to give up his freedom for us by dying on the Cross, we love, follow, and serve Him, not out of fear but love. Not because we have to submit His wishes, but because we want to yield to His reasonable requirements. The freedoms we lose are administered on the basis of a loving relationship where both parties are willing the highest possible good for the other. And though, we don’t always love and live out our commitments to Him perfectly, His perfect love never changes and is unconditional in nature. Who, my friends, could not serve a God like this? As it says in II Corinthians 5:14a (NKJV), “For the love of Christ compels us”, it does not force us. Embracing Christ is the only way to be truly free. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36 NASB).
A song written by John Newton expresses this thought with these lyrics.
Our pleasure and our duty,
Though opposite before,
Since we have seen His beauty
Are joined to part no more.
To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pard’ning voice,
Transforms a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.
Ken Barnes, the author of “The Chicken Farm and Other Sacred Places” YWAM Publishing