Sunday, March 03, 2024

“Your Father” [Matt's Messages]

“Your Father”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
March 3, 2024 :: John 8:31-59 
Last week, we lit the Christ Candle from Christmas Eve and studied together our Lord’s astonishing claim in chapter 8, verse 12. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12 NIVO).

And we believe that, amen? And so did many of the people who heard Him say it that day (v.30). 

But not all of them. And some of those who believed it at first stopped believing it at last. Because of Who was their true father.

Hold onto Jesus and His truth, and you will be set free.

The goal of this sermon today is freedom, spiritual freedom. You could hear the grand promises that Jesus made about spiritual freedom when Keagan read those first few verses to us. 

“Set indeed.” 

Those are beautiful, powerful words! And John says that they were spoken to some Jews who had “believed” in Jesus, at least provisionally, initially. Jesus gave them this promise. Look at verses 31 and 32.

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Doesn’t that just sound wonderful?! “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

The problem is that many of the Jews who were listening to Him that day did not believe that they needed to be set free. We said last week that this entire chapter, chapter 8, of the Gospel of John is one big fight with the Pharisees. Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World, and they vigorously disputed that claim. They fought against Him. And they go back and forth and back and forth in a verbal battle of words. By the end of the chapter, both Jesus and the Pharisees will have said some  really strong things! Some knock-down-drag-out fighting words to and about each other.
Here, Jesus offers to set them free if they will hold to His teaching. We’ll talk more about what that means in a little bit, but they dispute that they need to be set free in the first place. Because of who their father is. Look at verse 33. “They answered him, ‘We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’”

I’ve entitled this message, “Your Father,” because that’s a phrase that Jesus keeps using in this fight with the Pharisees. There’s this tug of war through the whole rest of the chapter about the true parentage, the true spiritual paternity of these people who are fighting with Jesus. And they, right back at Him, make claims about Jesus’ parentage.

The question keeps coming up, “Who Is Truly Your Father?” Where do you really come from? What is your true DNA?

Well, the Jews were descendants of Abraham, right? They had “Father Abraham’s” DNA. They were Abraham’s “seed,” Abraham’s offspring.

And they were proud of it! In verse 33, they say that because of Abraham, they had never been anyone’s slave. Which they could not have meant politically. Because since Abraham, they had been slaves of Egypt, and the Philistines, and the Assyrians, and the Babylonians [remember Jeremiah!] and the Medes and the Persians, and the Greeks, and now the Romans.

But they thought that because Abraham was their father, they were spiritually free! “We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

We call that being “self-deceived.” We all hate to be told that we are enslaved to something, but Jesus could see it clearly. They were enslaved to sin. V.34

“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (vv.34-36). Now, that’s a wonderful promise. But they weren’t sure that they needed it. 

Jesus says that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” that means that everyone who gets caught up in sin gets entangled in it. And that’s true for everyone, not just Gentiles. It was true for the Jews, too.

Sinning looks like freedom at first, but it actually is slavery. The sins that tempt you and me? They look like freedom at first.

That first grumble.
That first lustful look.
That first small sneaky theft.
That first juicy piece of gossip.
That first little lie.

It all seems like freedom. But it’s never just the first one. “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” And, therefore, we need to be set free.

Here’s the kind of freedom that verse 32 is talking about. It’s not political freedom, as much as that is a good thing when we can enjoy it.

It’s spiritual freedom. 

It’s freedom from sin.
It’s freedom from Satan.
It’s freedom from self.
It’s freedom from shame.

And Jesus offers to give it to us.

Because He is the Son. He’s never been enslaved and so He can give this freedom freely.

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

And that’s the whole point of this message, and the whole point of this book. That’s why Jesus came. He is the Son! He came to save. He came to set the captives free. Amen?

That’s what Jesus was doing on the Cross and what we will be celebrating at His Table today.

But these people did not believe that they needed saving or that Jesus could save them. In fact, they wanted to kill Him, not follow Him!  Look at verse 37.

“I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

There’s our sermon title: “Your father.”

“You say that you come from Abraham, but you don’t act like it. I think you have a different daddy than Father Abraham.”

“Nu uh!” they say. Verse 39. “‘Abraham is our father,’ they answered. ‘If you were Abraham's children,’ said Jesus, ‘then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.’”

I’ve tried to summarize this whole section in three parts, each with its own major application. Each point is what Jesus was saying to these people about their father. Here’s the first one:


Yes, Abraham was their physical father, but was He their spiritual father? Well, how did Abraham act? How did Abraham behave? Anybody remember what we said the major lesson of Abraham’s life was back when studied the book of Genesis in 2003?

Abraham had faith.

Abraham listened to God.
Abraham believed God.
Abraham obeyed God.

Hear, believe, obey.

Now, let’s look at the Pharisees.

Are they like Abraham? No, they are not.

You know, we have this saying, “Like Father, like child,” right? Children naturally reproduce their parent’s qualities. But these people weren’t reproducing Abraham’s qualities. “If you were Abraham's children, then you would do the things Abraham did.” 

Abraham heard, believed, obeyed. “You have set out to kill me, ‘a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.’" “I don’t think that Abraham is your true daddy.”

So what should we do in light of this point?

Stay tuned into the truth of Jesus.

Hold onto Jesus and His truth, and you will be set free. Be like Abraham and hear, believe, and obey. And continue to hear, believe, and obey. That’s the point that Jesus was making in our very first verse, verse 31.

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It’s not just if you say you believe up front, but if you “hold” to it. If you stick with it. The word here is “remain” or the old English word is “abide.” To live in it. If you live in Jesus’ teaching, then you really are His disciples. That’s how Abraham lived! He heard, believed, obeyed. He “held” to the truth.

At Stay Sharp this week, the theme was “Always Making Disciples,” and we learned what a disciple is. It’s more than just someone who says that they believe in Jesus. It’s someone who actually believes in Jesus! It’s a follower of Jesus. A learner of Jesus. 

Our teacher, Greg Strand, used the word “apprentice.” That’s someone who conforms themselves to someone else. They tune their attention onto their master and conform their lives to their instruction. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This summer our Challenge Crew is set to travel to Kansas City to grow as disciples there. All of the teaching will be centered on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. 

And as they learn that truth and conform themselves to it, they will be set free. I’m so excited for them!

But these people that Jesus was fighting with were not acting like their physical father, Father Abraham. Jesus says they were acting like they had some other father. 

V.41 again, “You are doing the things your own father does.”

Now, those are fighting words!

If it wasn’t Jesus, I’d say that this is almost like a daytime talk show where you have these people up on stage arguing about paternity tests. Did you ever watch one of those? Don’t. It’s not worth your time. But it’s like people saying, “I think that he’s your child.” Or “she’s not my child.” And they’re arguing on camera about where these kids are coming from.

Jesus is arguing about where these children are coming from, but He’s not in the dark, and He’s not saying it for sick and sordid entertainment. He’s saying it to get the truth out.

But they don’t want to hear the truth. Verse 41.

“‘We are not illegitimate children,’ they protested. ‘The only Father we have is God himself.’”

That’s upping the ante, isn’t it? They’re going above Abraham now. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Ok! Verse 42. “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me.” 

You guys aren’t God’s children! God’s children love God’s Son. Because God sent His Son for them. God’s Children love God’s Son. In fact, that’s how they become God’s children!  

Chapter 1, verse 12 said, “to all who received him [they welcomed Him, they took Him in, they loved Him], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

God’s children love God’s Son, and these folks wanted to kill Him.

God is not their father. Someone else must be. Look at verse 43.

“Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer 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. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (vv.43-45).

Here’s point number two, directed at these people Jesus was fighting with:


Your spiritual father lied and killed. Your spiritual father is the devil! Those are strong words, aren’t they? Jesus knows their true parentage. They are children of the devil even though they are incredibly religious.

Remember that! Jesus is not impressed by religiosity. It’s often just a front for depravity. We don’t just listen to someone’s pious sounding words. We look at their actions. Because behavior betrays identity. How we act shows what we truly believe. And how we act reveals who we truly are and whose we really are. According to Jesus, these folks were the devil’s own children.

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (v.44a).

Notice, “not holding to the truth.” That’s the opposite of “hold to Jesus’ teaching.” They were the opposite of Jesus’ true disciples. In fact, they wanted to kill Jesus. They wanted to carry out the devil’s desire to kill Jesus. 

He’s always been a murderer. From when he tempted Adam and Eve to introduce death to the human race. And when he tempted Cain to murder his brother Abel. From the very beginning, he’s been killing.

And he’s been lying. Jesus says it five different ways! The devil is...“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.”

Tell us what you think, Jesus! 

Does the devil speak the truth? No, he does not. 

So if we believe him, then it’s the opposite of verse 32, right? “Then you will know only lies, and the lies will leave you enslaved.”

Here’s the major application point for this one. It’s obvious but hard to do:

Tune out the devil’s lies.

He is completely untrustworthy. You can’t believe anything he says. He often mixes in enough truth into his propaganda to make it sound plausible, and attractive. But it’s all deception. All smoke and mirrors and bait and switch. Tune out the devil’s lies.

How do you know which ones are which? Well, that’s why we have this book. We’re supposed to compare and contrast everything we see and hear and are offered against what Jesus has taught us. And then we hold fast to Jesus’ teaching and we jettison anything that doesn’t accord with it.

And he taught us some about how to navigate between them, steering towards God’s truth in light of God’s Word.

I remember a few years ago, I was driving down the road, and I turned on my radio, and it was stuck between like two different radio stations. And one of them was a Christian station with a song about Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life, and the other was a song from another station about how meaningless life is.

And I just left it right there on a the dial for a little bit and thought about the contrast.

That’s a picture of life for us right now, isn’t it? I’m not talking about radio station you listen to. I’m talking about what Father you listen to.  Because the Father of Jesus is telling you the truth (and Jesus is that truth), and the Father of Lies is doing what he always does. Which one are you tuning in?

Last month about this time I drove out to visit Isaac, and I used my GPS on my phone and I have a little thing that I plug in and can play my podcasts and GPS over the radio. But when I got into Indianapolis, the radio stations there started to bleed in, and drown out the GPS directions to get to Isaac’s house. 

“If you hold to my teaching, you are my really my disciples.” Stay tuned into the truth of Jesus and tune out the devil’s lies. And you will show who is truly your father. Verse 46.

“Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.’”

“You aren’t tuning in because you don’t want to tune in. You aren’t tuning in because you are not God’s children.”

Jesus was sinless. Jesus was guiltless. He did not deserve to die. They only reason why they wanted Him to die was because they were children of The Killer. And they have their fingers in their ears. That’s why they come back more name calling. Instead of repenting, they double-down. Verse 48.

“The Jews answered him, ‘Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?’ ‘I am not possessed by a demon,’ said Jesus, ‘but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death’” (vv.48-51). What a wonderful promise! 

Now, of course, He doesn’t mean physical death. He means spiritual death. He means John 3:16, “will not perish but have eternal life.” He means John 5:24, “crossed over from death to life.” He means John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” He means John 8:12, “Will have the light of life.”

All you have to do is believe and keep believing.

Keep His word in your heart. “Hold to His teaching.” “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free” from spiritual death!

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus’ word? If you have not yet, I invite you to do so now.

“I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

Of course, the Pharisees misunderstand that, like they have been misunderstanding everything in this war of words. V.52

“At this the Jews exclaimed, ‘Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?’” (vv.52-53). 

They assume that Jesus would agree that He is not greater than Abraham who died. But the truth is that He is greater than Father Abraham. V.54

“Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’” (vv.54-56).

Point number three and last. What Jesus was saying to these people:


Jesus claims that His Father (God the Father) is glorifying Jesus. That’s a huge claim! But it’s true. And if He said anything else, He’d be lying like the Pharisees (or like the devil). But Jesus also says that their father, Father Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. He says that Abraham saw it and was glad. What does that mean? 

Remember God gave Father Abraham some great big promises: Offspring, Land, and Blessing? Lots of blessing. Blessing the whole wide world!

And Father Abraham looked down the road toward the fulfillment of all of those promises, and he rejoiced in faith that those promises were all going to come true.

And we know how those promises are all going to come true–in Jesus! 

And that would be big enough, right? Father Abraham looked ahead to see the fulfillment of these promise and we know that that fulfillment is named “Jesus.”

But the Pharisees scoff and Jesus goes even bigger. Verse 57.

“‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ the Jews said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’”

Whoa. What just happened? Jesus cranked the dial past 11 million. He uses that those words we’ve already seen a bunch of times “ego eimi” (I am) with something after it like I am the bread of life or I am the light of the world. Or what could be taken to mean, “I am he.” or “I am the one I claimed to be.”

And here He unmistakably just takes it by itself to decribe Himself.

“I am.”

“Before Abraham was born, I am!”

That sounds weird to us, but it sound blasphemous to them. This is the first thing they did not misunderstand in this war of words. Look what they did in verse 59. “At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”

It still was not yet His time, His hour. But they understood what Jesus was saying. He was using the words from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

“I am that I am.”

Jesus was claiming to be pre-existent. “Before Abraham was.” And Jesus was claiming to be self-existent. “I am.” Jesus was claiming to be God.


Worship Jesus as the I Am.

They tried to kill Him; we should bow before Him. Jesus is God! He is pre-existent. He is self-existent.

He is was. He is is. He is will be. 

He is worthy of all of our worship for all eternity.

He is God the Son, and He sets His people free.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36
18. "I Am the Bread of Life" - John 6:35-71
Vision Meeting Bonus: "As I Have Loved You" - John 13:34-35
19. "At the Feast" - John 7:1-52
20. "I Am the Light of the World" - John 8:12-30