“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” ~ John 8:31-32
In this verse, notice that Jesus was addressing a group that “believed on Him”. He was not speaking to atheists, agnostics or to the indifferent. He was speaking to a group that believed that He was The Messiah: the Saviour sent from God. Nevertheless, Jesus made it clear that belief alone does not qualify anyone as a disciple. Only those who “continue in my [Jesus’] word” are His disciples.
To “continue” in Jesus’ word means to apply Scripture to our lives. Some had believed on Him and followed Him: Jesus has made an impact on their lives. But that was not enough, if that “belief” in Jesus was real, rather than ephemeral, it must then have a lasting, sustained effect: It must result in the continual daily application His word to a Believer’s life.
To observe the truth of Jesus’ teaching, just look around. There are many who acknowledge that Jesus is the Saviour, who subscribe to all the basic tenets of the Christian faith. However, it stops there and goes no further; it has little discernible impact on their lives.
If all we have is a belief that doesn’t change us, if we fail to continue in Jesus words, then we have nothing. Belief means nothing unless it leads us to transformation. James put it this way:
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone…
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” ~ James 2:14-20
It wasn’t lucifer’s lack of belief that got him thrown out of heaven, it was his unwillingness to conform to the will of God: he wanted to be “free” to go his own way and do his own thing: he wanted to call the shots: lucifer refused to “continue” in God’s Word!
Believing in Jesus is notthe hard part, that’s not what stops us from truly coming to God. What prevents us from becoming disciples is our unwillingness to apply God’s Word fully and continually to our every aspect of lives. Many of us believe in Jesus, but we want to continue in our own word, we want to do things the way we like it, we want to be “free”, just like lucifer.
However, Jesus turns our notion of freedom upside down. Because, the fruit of continuing in Jesus’ words is freedom. As we conform/submit our lives to the Word of God, we learn the truth.
We learn that happiness does not come by feeding our bodily appetites… and so we no longer have to serve them. We learn that earthly treasure is worthless in the (present and future) Kingdom of God; we learn that God will supply all our needs… so we are free to pursue Spiritual wealth instead: We don’t have to be slaves to the almighty dollar… And so on.
In other words, instead of restricting us, discipleship frees us. The path to the freedom we seek is through Jesus’ words! As we continue in Jesus’ Word we become disciples and as we become disciples we discover freedom through the truth of Jesus’ Word.
Belief is the beginning, freedom is the end and discipleship (continuing in Jesus’ words) is the vehicle that gets us from start to finish.