Jesus looked at these new “believers” and determined to test their belief. They were yet to fully realize their deep, deep need to be born again, much less how that would be accomplished. They were yet to bear with Jesus the cross . . . yet to be on the other side of the cross looking back at the blood shed for their transgression . . . yet to behold the empty tomb declaring their victory over sin and death. At this point they were ready to assent to this man, Jesus, being sent of the Father, that He was the Messiah. But Jesus knew what was ahead.
He knew what was ahead of those would claim to be His disciples. The mirror that would show them the depths of their own depravity. The questions that would arise as they went through the valley of His death and the euphoria that would follow the mountain top of His resurrection. Jesus knew the difficulty awaiting those who would find themselves going against flow as they started to know the joy of fellowship with the saints. He knew the increasing hostility they would face as creatures of light by those in darkness. And so Jesus tests them by setting forth the mark of true disciples.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32 ESV)
Abiding in His word. That’s the test of a true disciple.
Many of them “failed” the test almost immediately as they tried to process the words of Jesus suggesting that they needed to be set free. They objected. People of such privileged heritage–offspring of Abraham–bristled at the thought that they were enslaved to anyone or anything (8:33). (Funny how pride blinds the mind. Look around people, those Romans all around you aren’t exactly your invited guests!)
And so I’m noodling on the test that Jesus put forth marking true disciples. They are those who remain in the truth of His word. Those who continue in what Jesus says. They keep on keepin’ on even when God-breathed revelation is hard to hear . . . hard to apply . . . and hard to submit to. The don’t turn away when the living and active word of God splays their inner most thoughts and motives and reveals junk to be repented of. They don’t tap out when the call to a worthy walk takes them way out of their comfort zone.
True disciples abide in His word. True disciples grow in the grace and knowledge of the Savior. True disciples increasingly apply the gospel to all they do. And in so doing, true disciples know, more and more, freedom from the power of sin. They know increasingly what it is to live in the righteousness that they have been clothed in since they first believed.
By grace they abide in His word. By grace they grow in His word. By grace they walk according to His word. By grace they know the freedom found in His word.
True disciples. Only because of His . . . only for His glory.
p.s. Looking back on some previous thoughts, I was again encouraged by some thoughts I had last year on this day of my reading plan. If you have the time, maybe check out my thoughts on our “Final Approach”