The greatest barrier to real freedom is that most don’t think it is needed. In John 8 the non-believing Jews respond to Jesus with what many think as they come to Christ. Three phrases in their statement in John 8:33 reveal great barriers to the experience of true freedom.
“We are descendants of Abraham” – The Jews who spoke to Jesus claimed a heritage that did not require outside intervention. They saw themselves through the lens of their ancestors, not just their parents, but they traced their heritage back to Abraham! For these Jews, this heritage was their identity and there was neither way nor reason to deny it. Proud of their ancestry, they were unwilling to accept the freedom offered by Jesus.
Sometimes you can be so caught up in your family identity, who your parents are and how important they are or how important that makes you, that you deny the opportunity to follow Jesus wherever He leads. More than one person has wrecked their own spiritual opportunities because they were intent on protecting their family name or station in life. More than one church has been wrecked by a family or individual who is trying to hold on to an inherited position in the church and community. I am not saying that you should disavow your family, but certainly you should not choose anything over the clear call of Christ. Several times Jesus challenged his followers to do that very thing (Matthew 4:21-22; 8:21-22; 19:28-29; Mark 1:19-20; 10:28-30; Luke 9:59-60; 14:26). Jesus’ promise of freedom is powerful because he opens the door for you to break free from the hold of generations.
“We have never been enslaved to anyone.” – The Jews make a claim that on its face is preposterous. The most important festival of the Jewish calendar is Passover, a celebration of God’s deliverance of the nation from Egyptian slavery. The northern kingdom of Israel disappeared during Assyrian slavery. The southern kingdom was taken into slavery for 70 years by the Babylonians. As they spoke the nation of Israel was under the thumb of the Romans, subject to their laws and the whims of their governors.
There is a deceitfulness of denial that leaves you with a false view of your own circumstance. Most teenagers claim a deep need to not be stereotyped, to be treated as individuals, yet they dress like their peers, talk like them and think like them. They may reject their parents, but they will conform to a group in school and defying that group is deemed social suicide. Adults bend under the same pressures adapting to a work culture or a social setting to “fit in.” This is one reason that advertising works so well. There is a deep hunger to be an individual, but to not stand out too much. The worst kind of bondage is when a prisoner thinks himself to be free, yet he is a slave.
“How can you say ‘You will become free’?” – The Jews utter the frustration so many voice: “I can’t change.” The sense of helplessness you feel, trapped in your life with no way out. Often I’ve heard people say things like this: “This is just how I am.” “I can’t help it.” “I don’t know why I do it.” “I’ve always been like this.” The trap of believing that your past must be your future keeps many from walking through the process of being set free, even though they may have made a decision to follow Christ.
One of the great tragedies of this generation is that so many have fallen for the lie that a genetic predisposition means there are no options in life. That is to say, too many think because “you are born this way” you must live “this way.” It’s easy to understand why you might believe that a lifestyle, life choices and values, that have been ingrained for so many years could never be abandoned or transformed. This is part of what makes the claim of Jesus so amazing. How could He promise freedom from something so deeply ingrained in your identity?