How Knowing Just Half the Story Can Lead to a Whole Big Mess
“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32 (CSB)
Do you remember your very first job? Your first bona-fide, legit employment gig, complete with a paycheck made out in your name?
In my teens and early 20s, I performed many different tasks to earn some pocket change. I nannied children. Washed dishes. Waited tables. Answered phones. But perhaps my favorite job was when I spent two summers at a nature center teaching classes for 4-year-olds.
I learned how to identify critters in the pond, how to tell a chipmunk from a 13-line ground squirrel, and — of utmost importance — how to spot poison ivy. (Leaves of three? Then, let it be!)
My poison ivy identification skills have come in handy over the years. One time, a friend suspected they had it growing all over their shed. Upon inspection, I discovered they were right. So, her family took care to remove it, wearing long sleeves and gloves for protection.
However, she mentioned a frightening fact to me about their removal process. She said they’d burned all the ivy in a giant bonfire while they stood over it roasting marshmallows!
While my friend knew the danger of touching the ivy itself, it hadn’t occurred to her that burning the plant — emitting smoke that had the plant’s oils mingled in it — would cause a worse reaction than just touching the leaves.
Sure enough, her whole family acquired blistering rashes, especially on their faces, and their eyes became sorely bloodshot and painfully itchy. One son even developed a serious respiratory reaction. All this occurred because she only knew half the truth about poison ivy — touching it is bad. She didn’t know that burning it while standing nearby is even worse.
Just like the Jews in today’s passage, who “had believed” in Jesus, the beginning of our walk with God is only half of the story. We can’t stop there. We must continue to allow God to grow our faith.
John 8:31-32 states, “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” Our faith’s start is crucial, but we need to know and live the rest of the story: We must keep growing in Christ, continually walking in God’s Word in a way that sets us free and keeps sin from poisoning our lives and causing a mighty — even painful — mess.
Continuing in God’s Word by knowing the truth doesn’t mean learning religious concepts in a fuzzy, partial manner. It means experiencing the actual truth of God’s Word in a totally transformational way. In fact, the original Greek word for “know” in this verse doesn’t suggest tucking away ideas in our minds. It constitutes genuine action on our part. It means to “recognize, realize and ascertain” and “to come to properly understand a truth through personal, first-hand experience.”
We do this not just by skimming the Bible, but by intentionally internalizing its truths, applying them to real-life situations and forging our faith solidly as we continually experience Jesus and His saving grace firsthand.
Like the old saying goes, we need to get into God’s Word so His Word can get into us.
Determine today to not only rely on the fact of your salvation experience without forging ahead in your faith. We need the whole truth of the gospel. Jesus saved us (past tense), but he is continually perfecting us, too (present tense) if only we will cooperate.
We can go to the source of truth, rather than just relying on assumptions and stories. And when we really know the truth — in the true biblical sense — we can live out the truth of Scripture in a way that ushers in authentic freedom.
What a glorious thought: We can know the truth. The truth sets us free. How? “If you continue in my word” (John 8:31b).
Keep on continuing.
Father, help me to not just rest on the fact of my salvation, but also to continue in Your Word through the truth-giving life You offer me through Your son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 25:5, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; I wait for you all day long.” (CSB)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Which subjects of Scripture do you feel you might only know partial truths about? Begin to discover more by searching various words and phrases in a concordance, a key word list in the back of your Bible or in an online Bible, to start your deeper study.