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.” -John 8:31-32 (NIV)
In a classic "if-then" statement, Jesus lays out a sequence that only recently became apparent to me. I tend to be a big picture guy. I like to know the plan, to have my GPS locked in and the path forward all mapped out. My version of this statement would be more along the lines of "Hold to my teaching. Then you'll know the truth. Then you'll be well-equipped, free to follow me as disciples." But that's not what Jesus said.
Jesus' version turns the cause and effect in another direction. In Jesus' version, I obey the truth I already know and that is what leads me into more truth, more knowledge of Him, deeper levels of freedom. It becomes a cycle that walks me forward, step by step, probably without my full understanding of what all those steps were leading me to until I look back at it from the other side. Such is faith.
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” -John 14:5-7 (NIV)
Jesus calls us to be disciples, that is, followers. Here's the thing: Discipleship 101 is not a class I can audit. Yes, there's an instructor and a textbook, but I will never absorb all the material unless I do the lab work. In other words, discipleship is a learn-as-I-go project. There are layers and levels of Truth that I will not know until I DO IT. That is what it means to follow. As I thought about this, I was reminded of this 30-second clip from "The Big Bang Theory" where Sheldon believes he has learned to swim without getting wet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnKoQbFXemE
Jesus didn't save me so that I could sit back and get fat, enjoying my salvation while I run out the clock. He saved me so that I could carry the gospel to a new generation of believers, who are, in turn, taught to carry the gospel to another generation, and so on. That's what Jesus did, right? And if I am following Him, well...? And if I do that? "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
This can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be as scary as we sometimes make it. As I am faithful to what is in front of me, He draws me closer and equips me for the next assignment, my next divine appointment. I still love Eugene Peterson's take on this verse from Matthew 11, which captures the idea beautifully:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. -Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)