Audio Worship 1/7/2024, "Living God's Word" John 8.28-38

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1620

January 7, 2024

John 8.28-38       Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)


“Living God’s Word”


John 8.28-38, 28So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”



Today and next Sunday I will be preaching on the vision statement of our church, “Living God’s Word to Make Disciples”. This came about from our work with Ken Priddy in seeking ways to revitalize our efforts toward God’s Great Commission for the church to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28.18-20). Members from the session and others on our prayer team studied Scripture, prayed, and sought out something that reflected who we thought we might be as a church and who we could become as a church. Those who study such things about organizations and churches advise that any organization has a vision, a statement that a majority can rally around to help shape a future reflective of God’s call and God’s kingdom. After many suggestions, we essentially whittled a longer statement into this one of “Living God’s Word to Make Disciples” It is basically a two part statement: “Living God’s Word” as the first half and “To Make Disciples” as the second. Today I want to address the first half and hopefully we can all get on board, memorize this simple statement, and seek to live it out as a church and as individuals.


  • Many Believed


I’ve selected the main text for today from John 8. Jesus had been addressing many Jews on various topics and they kept asking questions and making accusations and frankly, not getting what Jesus was about. Except for some! We tend to see the Jews of the New Testament in a stereotypical way lumping them all together as opposed to Jesus at every turn. And it is true that many saw Jesus as a threat or a blasphemer or a nuisance or in some other negative way. But, as John 8 reveals, there were Jews who heard Jesus preach and teach who came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. We see this in verse 30, “As [Jesus] was saying these things, many believed in him.” In this narrative, it is the typical way of learning and knowing something, through the hearing, that these Jews believed. That was, and still is primarily, how Jews come to believe what they believe, or how any of us come to believe what we believe, through hearing what is spoken or what is read. When we hear God’s Word spoken something resonates deep within, sometimes it leads to belief. For those who already believe it leads to affirmation, confidence, deepened faith. Even the most familiar passages speak to the depth of our being. When we hear the words, “For God so loved the world…” we are drawn to the significance of God’s love, to its width, height, depth – for the world, and even as it is so familiar to us, it strengthens our belief. That is the power of God’s Word for life and faith and all things pertaining to salvation and life in abundance.


I realize that my personal love for God’s Word played a fairly large role in shaping our vision statement. But that was not the only factor as we all are aware of the importance at one level or another that the Bible has in our lives. It is central to the life of each believer and central to the preaching and teaching of the church. It is at the core of who we believe, what we believe, and how we believe. It is the revelation from God of who God is and what God has done and what God is planning to do! It is the God-breathed Word, the inspired Word, and we have this Word at our fingertips. Not all peoples throughout the history of the world have had such a blessing. We cannot and should not let that blessing go to waste in any way.


  • Abide in My Word


Back to John 8! What does Jesus say to the Jews who believed in Him? “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” To abide in Jesus’ Word is a sure sign of discipleship. It opens the truth to us and the truth sets us free. Four points to notice here: Abide, Discipleship, Truth, and Freedom. The three following abide are contingent on abiding in the Word. If you abide in my Word...then, true disciple, knowing the truth, set free. If… It is a huge little word.


Abiding is defined as dwelling in, living in, and in this context it means to act in accordance with the Word. The Greek word to abide can also mean to remain or continue. There is a sense of persistence with the Word. Keep after it. Do not let it drift away or worse perhaps, do not think that you have a handle on it all! When our vision statement speaks of “Living God’s Word”, this is what we mean to do, abide in the Word in such a way that it shapes how we live, how we think, how we act, how we pray and worship and love and relate to God and neighbor. We stay the course of truth by remaining vigilant in the Word. Of course that means a sense of obedience to do what the Word says, to obey the commands given. You shall not steal? Simple enough, you shall not steal. Go therefore and make disciples? That involves a variety of possibilities: sharing the gospel, praying, becoming a faithful disciple ourselves, leading others to Christ, answering questions and when we cannot answer questions, exploring them with those who have asked (if they are willing). The more truth we know, that is, the more we abide in the Word, the greater our capacity to obey. Such obedience is not burdensome or taxing, but becomes a joy of faithful love and devotion.


If we be truly a disciple is to persevere to the end. There are many would-be disciples, people who might profess Jesus, but do not remain obedient to the end. They taste for a while, they have an appearance of faith, but they are not truly disciples. A disciple follows Jesus by doing His Word, by learning from Jesus as an apprentice learns from a master craftsman. A disciple is a student and a student that also comes along side other students for support and training and mutual fellowship.


If we abide...we will know the truth. In our world today we know that the truth is something hard to come by in the news or in advertising or unfortunately even in fields once deeply trusted like medicine. We can find truth in one place for certain, God’s Word. That is not to say that we cannot trust anything at all in the world, but we certainly have to be more and more cautious about we are know to be true and what could be false. There is nothing false in God’s Word. It, in fact, reveals a great deal about what is wrong in the world.


If we abide...we will be set free. We are set free from the sin that binds us. Look gain at verses 34-35, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” I read recently that it is not the particular evil acts we commit that make us sinners, it is that we commit such acts because we are sinners. “We do not become sinners by committing specific acts. We commit specific acts of sin because we are sinners.”1 Abiding in Jesus sets us free from the bondage of sin. We do not have to do that which we do not want to do! We are set free to do what Jesus calls us to do in obedience to His Word. We are set free to abide in Him.


  • Living God’s Word


These are some of the reasons we have this first part of the vision statement, “Living God’s Word”. We want to hold before ourselves this vision of abiding or living these Words that are true. But it is not just about Words. John’s gospel is the one that tells us that the Word became flesh...Jesus is the Truth (John 1.14; 14.6). We seek to be a people who live in and out of the Word. Have the Word constantly on our minds, remembered, thought about, studied, read, listened to, our life – holding fast to the Word of Truth. Jesus teaches this again in John 15 where we see that true connection to Jesus is in keeping commandment!


“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.


Living God’s Word is having the Word of God dwell in us in such a way that it transforms everything about us. We have to be immersed in the Word, meditating on it as the Psalmist refers to day and night in Psalm 1.

Living God’s Word is living in obedience so that we become more and more like Jesus. It is the appropriate response to the grace of God that has brought us to salvation and faith.

Living God’s Word binds us in an intimate love relationship with Jesus, 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

Living God’s Word enables us to walk in the path of God, shaping how we live and move and have our being. The Word shapes our life, molds us, transforms our thinking and actions, being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom 12.1-2). Psalm 119, the longest Psalm is dedicated to the Word. Psalm 19 speaks of the Word’s perfection to revive the soul, give wisdom, bring joy, and enlighten the eyes. 2 Timothy 3.16, the Word is for us, to teach, reproof, correct, and train for righteousness. Hebrews 4.12 speaks to the Word as living and active. 1 Peter 1.22-25,

22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

The Word is living and abiding, and the Word of the Lord remains forever. It is the only Word that remains forever. It is the good news from Genesis to Revelation...Truth, Jesus, Word. Living God’s Word will make us disciples whose words and lives will be a testimony to others so that we might have the great opportunity to make disciples. And that will be our topic for our next worship. Amen.