Why We Must Abide in Jesus’ Word (John 8:31-32)
…”If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” —John 8:31-32
John 8:31-32 has such a wise, practical word for us from Jesus. Before we get there, though, we need to ask probably the most pressing question that is raised by these verses: Is Jesus saying in verse 31 that if we abide in his Word, then we will become his disciples? Without thinking too hard, most Christians probably know that he isn’t saying that. However, what about this passage shows us this? By examining the immediate context, it becomes clear that Jesus is saying these things to people “who had believed in him.” Salvation is still by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone; Jesus isn’t telling these people how to be saved through their own actions. He’s telling us how we will know those who have been saved already. The question becomes, then, what does it mean for believers to abide in God’s Word?
The Greek word for “abide” that Jesus uses here literally means to “remain,” “stay,” or “wait.” So, Jesus is telling believers to remain in God’s Word, letting it soak into their minds and shape their lives. But what is there to wait for? The writer of Hebrews talks about waiting, only he calls it “faith.” “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for,” he writes, “the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The apostle Paul also talks about waiting, only he calls it “hope.” Speaking of the hope of our redemption, and ultimate glorification as sons of God, he says, “Hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:23-25).
Because we are finite, there are a great number of things Jesus says that we must take by faith. Since the future contains many unknowns, our faith in what Jesus has promised in the Bible is our conviction of things not seen. And since our culture tells us so many lies about who we are, who we should strive to become, and what we should pursue, our faith in how Jesus addressed those questions for us in the Bible is the substance of our hope. Sometimes, putting our faith in what Jesus said is especially hard, mainly because we can’t see him. That’s why we need to have abiding, hope-filled faith in God’s Word.
When we dwell on our imperfections and shortcomings, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of self-condemnation. In that state of mind, we might even forget that God loves us. And what is more emotionally draining for believers than feeling as though God doesn’t love us, and has cast us away because of our failures? Satan will quickly put us in bondage to those fears. When we dwell on our fear of an unknown future, it’s easy to fall into fear and anxiety, which keeps us from putting our faith in God. And what is more stressful for believers than trying to control circumstances that are beyond us, instead of resting in God’s control? Satan will quickly put us in bondage to our tendency toward that, as well.
Sadly, many of us who have put our faith in Jesus still find ourselves in bondage to the lies of the enemy sometimes, because our minds aren’t being consistently saturated in the truth of God’s Word. We tend toward emotionalism, which is the idea that our feelings define absolute truth. That appeals to us because our emotions are always right in front of us, sometimes blocking our view of Christ. So, instead of trusting Jesus, we put our faith in what is right in front of us. Satan knows this, and tempts us to sin with our emotions. Instead of trusting in what God has said, we start to believe that he doesn’t love us, or that he’s not in control, or a host of other lies about him. When we do that, we put ourselves in bondage to those lies. Jesus doesn’t want that for his disciples.
Scripture tells us the truth about God, and it tells us the truth about ourselves. The good news is that when we saturate our minds in the things God has said, we really can begin to think rightly about him, about ourselves, and about our world.
Jesus wants us to be free of the traps that the devil sets for us every day and the bondage to lies—that is why he tells us to abide in his Word. The devil is relentless, and he won’t stop lying to us. Thankfully, Jesus is stronger and even more relentless than the devil, and he won’t stop telling us the truth.
Are you now abiding in God’s Word? How does your life look different than it did before you trusted Christ and began abiding in God’s Word?
Which of God’s promises are you finding especially hard to trust in right now? Why do you think that is?
Satan can use any one of our emotions, even happiness in our present circumstances, to make us focus on ourselves instead of Christ. Reflect for a moment on which of your emotions lies to you most often about what Jesus has said. How can you fight those lies with God’s truth?