John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

If _____, Then _____

People love to quote John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Never mind the fact that few people can tell you who said it or where it can be found. They especially don't know the context in which it was spoken. They just know it’s in the Bible somewhere, and it makes them sound smart or godly or whatever, so they love to quote it. But do you notice the first word? "Then" -- as in “Then you will know the truth.”

Kind of begs the question: “When?” -- as in "When will I know the truth?"

See, this popular verse is the back end of what is called an "if/then statement" (anyone remember those from Geometry class?). If a particular condition is met, then the corresponding conclusion will follow. If a, then b. Also: If not a, then not b.

The first part -- the "if" part -- is pretty important, but it's the part no one seems to remember.

For the answer to that question, we have to go to the verse before where Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31).

We usually want to make “hold to my teaching” equate with obedience, but that’s not really what it means. The New King James version probably has it best: “If you abide in My word”.

When Jesus came to earth he did more than live a sinless life, heal people and die for the sins of the world. He taught us how to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. He showed us what the Father was really like, and he did so in very surprising ways. He touched lepers. He hung out with hookers. He violated traditions. He welcomed sinners and cursed religious types. He was constantly shocking people and claiming that his shocking behavior was a more accurate reflection of God’s character than any of the religious rituals ever were.

When Jesus revealed truth like that, people were taken aback. Like walking out of a dark room into the screamingly bright sunlight, it made people wince and want to draw back. Truth is like that. It hurts your eyes if you’re not used to it.

But the promise of God is this: If we’ll refuse to withdraw, if we’ll remain in the light of his truth, our eyes will gradually open to see colors we had never known before.

Then (and only then) you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.