June 11, 2010 David Balzer

John 8:12-47: Telling it like it is

Steve Symes (show picture) is a real estate agent who sells country acreages in County Clare in Ireland. And rather than describing his properties like MOST estate agents do, he goes for what you might call “the BRUTALLY HONEST approach”. He’s not into those well-worn phrases – “a renovator’s delight”, or “suitable for first-home buyer” or “rustic, close to nature”. No, Steve Symes has a more DIRECT APPROACH. (powerpoint slides)

  1. 1. Small roofless, stonebuilt cottage is as basic as can be.
  2. 2. Derelict stonebuilt cottage with stonebuilt outbuilding
  3. 3. What was once a house-shaped pile of stones, now a wall or two with the rest missing (show pictures)

Some people get a bit UPSET by that sort of honesty. Like the OWNERS. And OTHER REAL ESTATE AGENTS.

But I reckon if I’d driven miles up a muddy track expecting to find a “renovator’s DELIGHT”, only to find something like THAT, I’d be MORE upset with DISHONESTY. If you’ve never EXPERIENCED something, what you really appreciate is someone who HAS/ telling it like it is. Because then you know what TO EXPECT. And listening to him, sheds light on the situation.

And apparently lots of people AGREE. And this guy’s business is going GREAT GUNS. Selling properties OTHER agents haven’t been able to move FOR YEARS.

Describing things THE WAY THEY ARE. And it’s the same sort of thing Jesus is doing. Here in Jn Ch 8. Telling it like it is. To people who’ve never EXPERIENCED what HE has. And some people are APPRECIATING it. And OTHERS are just getting hot under the collar.

Look at how Jesus describes himself. Right at the beginning. V12. “I am the light of the world.” I’m the one who tells it like it is. Who sheds light into darkness. And gives you the good gear on the way things really are.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever experienced total blackness. Complete, absolute darkness. So black you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. It’s very unsettling. Not only can’t you see where you’re going, you lose all sense of direction, even which way is up. Some people are so disorientated, they get dizzy, lose their balance, and fall over.

Brant Webb and Tod Russell were trapped underground at Beaconsfield for six days in total blackness.

That might seem like a long time. But many people have lived their WHOLE LIFE in darkness. The darkness of living without Jesus. The darkness of life without purpose or a direction or a future. Life that pursues satisfaction and meaning and significance in all the wrong places. Stumbling around, and falling over.

It might be the darkness of pursuing God through MAN-MADE RELIGIONS. The darkness of Islam that thinks God will be impressed if you blow yourself up and kill a whole bunch of non-believers. The darkness of Hinduism where every aspect of life is governed by thousands of gods who mustn’t be angered. Who have to be pleased with countless rituals and offerings and good deeds.

The darkness of living for something that’s meaningless and temporary. Living for the perfect LOOKS. Whether it’s dieting, or lifting weights or plastic surgery or makeup and fashion. Living for the perfect PARTNER – doing everything to catch that hot guy or . Or living for the perfect GOOD TIME – doing a “Corey” always on the hunt for the best party, or most booze, or craziest friends.

Or it’s the darkness of living for the perfect CAREER. Or the perfect WEDDING. Or the perfect FAMILY. Or the perfect financially secure FUTURE. Or the perfect RETIREMENT. Or finally, the perfect painless and peaceful , and the perfect FUNERAL.

It’s living in DARKNESS to chase those sorts of things your whole life. Because even if you CATCH them, you find out they’re NOT perfect. They’re not what you THOUGHT they’d be. And they’re not what life’s about ANYWAY. It’s like trying to push down parachutes.

And that’s the message Jesus comes to give. With the sort of BRUTAL HONESTY that people will either APPRECIATE AND RESPECT. Or that TURNS THEM OFF COMPLETELY. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

It’s A BIG CLAIM. Because being THE LIGHT was something GOD claimed for himself. In PSALM 27 v1, David says, “The LORD is my LIGHT and my SALVATION – whom shall I fear?”

And Jesus is claiming to be the light of the world. The light of God himself. Light that SAVES.

Because the light of Jesus doesn’t just TEACH MORALS. It’s not about ENLIGHTENMENT and knowledge. It’s not about a wimpy Jesus is a white nightie who LOVES everybody. The light of Jesus is about a hard-nosed, courageous, dangerous RESCUE. Jesus’ words drag people away from destruction.

Like a searchlight on a rescue chopper that shine onto the steep cliff that the car wreck is perched on. Or the lighthouse shining light all around the ly rocks below.

Jesus is the light who tells it STRAIGHT because the DANGER is great. And in these verses he makes FOUR STATEMENTS about people. And each one involves a choice to make. On the ONE HAND, you can appreciate the warning, LISTEN, believe and BE SAVED. Or you can ignore him, contentedly sit in darkness. And NOT be saved.

1. Walking in darkness, or light

We’ve already seen the FIRST choice. There in v12. It’s the choice of walking in darkness, or walking in light. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

A few chapters earlier, we get Jesus’ idea about what darkness means. Back in Ch 3 he’s talking to Nicodemus. And he says this in v19.

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil s the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

It’s fairly obvious, isn’t it? Darkness is about EVIL. And people who do the wrong thing prefer DARKNESS so their deeds aren’t exposed.

A department store is full of respectable people going about their shopping. But if there’s A BLACKOUT. And people have the chance to BE HIDDEN, then all sorts of mischief happens. And when the lights come on, the evidence of people’s EVIL is OBVIOUS. TV’s have mysteriously walked out of the store. Old shoes left behind, new shoes missing. Handbags are missing, cash registers open.

But Jesus promises that following him will mean that you walk in the light. Because there’s no fear of your deeds being exposed. Because your sin’s been dealt with. There’s no guilt or shame or secrets. Which is much better than skulking around in the shadows, hiding.

That’s Jesus’ FIRST statement. First CHOICE. Walk in DARKNESS. Or walk in LIGHT.

  1. Headed for or life (21-30)

After a bit of disagreement with the Pharisees, Jesus comes up with choice number TWO. Even more blunt than the first. The choice of or life. Look down to v21.

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will DIE IN YOUR SIN. Where I go, you cannot come.”

And again in v24. Just to put it more clearly.

24 I told you that you would die in your sins; IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THAT I AM [THE ONE I CLAIM TO BE], YOU WILL INDEED DIE IN YOUR SINS.”

Jesus is the light who’s come to release people. It’s a rescue that’s a matter of life and .

There’s the old joke about the man sitting on the roof of his house as the floodwaters rise. He’s praying that God will rescue him. Some neighbours offer to help. “No thanks, I’m waiting for God to rescue me”. But the water continues to rise. A boat, then finally a helicopter, arrive, trying to convince him to be rescued. But each time he replies, “No thanks, I’m waiting for God to rescue me”.

Finally, he’s swept away and drowns. He gets to heaven, and he says to God. What happened? Why didn’t you rescue me? And God replies, “What do you call the neighbours, a boat, and a helicopter?”

And Jesus is God’s rescue mission, sent so people don’t DIE in their sins. To deal with their sins, so that PHYSICAL is only the beginning of NEW life which is ETERNAL, and is what we were MADE FOR.

I’ve been with a number of people in hospital as they prepare to died. And it’s a very strong impulse for them to GET THEIR AFFAIRS in ORDER. To mend the fences. To make apologies. To restore relationships.

They don’t want to DIE with those things messed up.

And Jesus is offering the chance to do that with the relationship that matters more than ANY OTHER. The chance not to die IN our sin. With sin not sorted out.

Because sin is what separates us from GOD. At its root sin is ignoring and rebelling against his right to rule. And unless it’s DEALT WITH, we go to eternity as his enemies. Which is the original FATE WORSE THAN .

But look at the option Jesus offers. V24. But flip it around. “If you believe that I am the one I claim to be you WON’T die in your sins”.

In other words, recognising that Jesus is the one from God. The one who dies to take the punishment our sin deserves. And who defeats for those who follow him. Recognising THOSE things, and throwing yourself into his care is how he RESCUES us.

That’s his SECOND statement. The THIRD puts it slightly differently. Focussing more on THE PRESENT.

  1. Living in Slavery or freedom (31-36)

It’s the choice of living in SLAVERY. Or living in FREEDOM. Look at v31.

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.”

In the movie “The Matrix” Neo, played by Keanu Reeves wants to find out the TRUTH. What’s beyond the world he experiences? What is the MATRIX? He meets Morpheus, who offers him THE TRUTH. (show DVD excerpt)

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into , born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes…. Remember, all I’m offering is THE TRUTH – nothing more!”

And it’s the same with Jesus. He’s offering the TRUTH to people who are TRAPPED. Truth that will set them free.

The people listening to Jesus are like the people in the world of the Matrix. Walking around, ignorant of any greater reality than what they experience with their senses. But it’s SLAVERY. And they don’t like being told their slaves. V33. We’ve never been ANYONE’s slaves. What do WE need setting free from?

Which isn’t much different from plenty of people around us today. They think they’re FREE. Free to LIVE how they like. Free to DRINK whatever they want. SLEEP WITH whoever they want. TREAT people however they want. Make their OWN plans. Build their OWN empires. Be masters of their OWN destiny. “Free to do what they want. Any old time”.

But Jesus says that’s not freedom at all. Look at v34. “I tell you the truth, everyone who SINS is a SLAVE to SIN.”

People THINK they’re free to choose. Like a train that thinks it’s FREE once it leaves the rails. But that’s not freedom – that’s a train wreck! Free-will isn’t FREEDOM. It’s SLAVERY. Because our human WILL is sinful. It’s SIN that’s got us trapped.

q       Ask a compulsive gambler whether he’s free to gamble or not. In ONE sense he is. But he’s not ABLE to choose. Greed has got him trapped.

q       Ask the moralist trying to impress God with perfect behaviour whether he’s free to earn his salvation. In ONE sense he is, but he can never actually DO it. He’s not CAPABLE of perfection. He’s trapped in a spiral of good intentions, failure and guilt.

q       Ask the compulsive liar, or the addict, or the shopaholic with credit cards at maximum. Are they FREE to stop their compulsion? In ONE sense they are. But in ANOTHER, they’re NOT. Their freedom to SIN is what’s got them trapped.

But Jesus is offering a chance to break the cycle. Look at v35.

35 Now a slave has NO PERMANENT PLACE IN THE FAMILY, but a son belongs to it forever.

Yes, you MAY be a slave to sin. But a SLAVE isn’t PERMANENTLY connected. That’s SONS. Once a son, always a son. But a slave can always be FREED. A slave can be BOUGHT BACK. Which is just what Jesus is offering. V36.

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Tim Wilson is a chaplain at Parklea prison. And he read me a letter from a prisoner he’s got to know. This guy’s become a Christian. And he’s discovered exactly what Jesus is talking about here. Before he was in prison, he used to think he was free – running around committing all sorts of crime. But now he knows he was actually a slave.

It took arrest and jail. And then hearing about Jesus. For him to realise that TRUE freedom was about being released from the burden of sin and the junk that goes with it. Of guilt and shame and broken relationships.

And even though he’s behind bars, he knows he’s more free now than he’s been his whole life!

Is that the sort of freedom YOU know?

  1. Following the devil or God (

Well, the Jews aren’t too impressed with Jesus saying they’re slaves who need freeing. And so they huff and puff about being Abraham’s children.

But Jesus has even TOUGHER TALK in store. Statement number 4.

He says they’re not ABRAHAM’S kids, because they don’t do what HE did. They don’t TRUST God. And they’re not God’s children. (v42) because if they WERE, they’d recognise Jesus, who’s COME from God. Instead, he says, v44.

44 You belong to your father, THE DEVIL, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a er from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

There’s only TWO CHOICES in who your FATHER is. Whose example you COPY. Whose family resemblance you BEAR. God’s or Satan’s. There’s no in-between.

Which means that your moral, kind, generous grandma or uncle or school teacher, or neighbour or workmate. If they’re not recognising WHO Jesus IS, then they’re bearing the resemblance of their father the DEVIL.

Which is TOUGH TALK. It’s telling it like it is. And if it was JUST ME – I’d want to APOLOGISE for it. But it’s Jesus saying it. So you’ll have to take it WITH HIM. It’s all the more reason for us to be TELLING these people about Jesus. (Ask them to guest service on March 16).

But let me finish with a final question. HOW WELL DO YOU BEAR THE FAMILY RESEMBLANCE. If God is your father, and you’ve been set free by Jesus. Then, do you REFLECT the light of the world? How well do THESE words describe YOU? truthfulness, honesty, bravery, clarity, compassion, holiness, goodness.

And as a church? Are we a place which is like a lighthouse shining out into a dark and stormy sea? Are people seeing a clear, pure, brilliant beacon that points the way to safety?

Listen to how the Apostle Paul described what that sort of church would look like when he wrote to the Philippians. Phil 2:14.

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you SHINE LIKE STARS IN THE UNIVERSE 16 as you hold out the word of life

Jesus is the light of the world who rescues people from darkness. Bear the family resemblance, and make his light known.

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