Here is a life principle: Trials tell you who you are.
How many of us have thought we were strong, smart, and self-sufficient, until the trial came. Likewise, how many continue to believe they are calm, cool, and collected, until the trial.
Trials in life can have names like Alice or Anthony, COVID or cancer, divorce or depression. But whatever the trial is, it is the God-given means by which he reveals who we are.
Such trial are all the more more pronounced, if they take off their metaphorical garb and put on the legal robes of a judge. Maybe you have seen some of the fall out since Roe was overturned by the Dobbs decision.
Resident Biden announced by Twitter that abortion needs to be ratified as law. Senator Elizabeth Warren said that we need to crack down on anti-abortion pregnancy centers. And as I was typing this very sentence, an email came in with an update on David Dalaiden and his 9 felony counts that exposed Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of babies.
Here’s the point: Currently and in the near future, more Christians will face real and legal trials. Just ask Barronelle Stutzman Stutzman and Jack Phillips, two faithful disciples of Christ, whose public faith required legal defense. So too with the Dobbs decision their will come Christians whose faith leads them to various trials and law courts.
So I say again, trials tell you who you are. And lest we think that Christians should avoid courts at all cost, we should get used to the fact, that faithfulness in twenty-first century America will include legal battles. And these battles—for those on the witness stand and those praying and watching and waiting—will reveal the character of all parties in involved.
The Legal Battle of John 8
In John 8 this is exactly what we have. As my previous blogpost showed, there are two pairs of legal disputes in John 8:12–59. In verses 12–30, the first trial followed two statements from Jesus. First, Jesus announced the coming of the light in verse 12, and then he announced the light’s departure in verse 21. In both instances, Jesus’s statements were questioned, forcing him to bear witness about himself.
Then again in verses 31–59, Jesus and the Jewish leaders debated their association with Abraham. Like lawyers today might debate who are the real heirs of Constitution, Jesus and the Jerusalem legal class debated who are the true seed of Abraham.
In the first half of the second trial (vv. 31–47), Jesus makes a distinction between those who are true sons of Abraham, as seen by their enduring faith, and those who are not true sons of Abraham, as seen by their hard heartedness.
In verse 37, Jesus concedes that this legal opponents have Abraham’s DNA, but he then shocks them by claiming the devil as their true father. Famously, he says in v. 44: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
He makes this claim, not because the devil is their physical father, but because the Pharisees actions are filled with his lies and violence.
Well, you can only imagine how well this went! It would be like comparing Kamala Harris to Jezebel, or Planned Parenthood to the Nazi’s. Both comparisons would be despised by Democratic elites, and rejected as unloving by Christians enslaved to nuance, but neither comparison would be wrong.
How the Light Exposes the Dark
Those who walk in the dark, while pretending to be purveyors of light, don’t like to be told that their deeds are evil. But this too is a test that reveals character.
When Jesus was tested, he didn’t nuance his answers to fit the shadows of his culture. He wasn’t trying to win converts, by making friends and influencing influencers. Jesus shines his light on the shadows and makes it plain who is a snake and who is a sheep. And now, in John 8:48–59, the children of the devil are going to accuse Jesus of having a demon.
Such are the ways of the world. When God’s light shines on their darkness, the darkness reaches into its grab bag of lies and pulls out whatever stratagem works best. Sometimes this is a six-inch, half-truth sandwich; sometimes it’s a footlong lie with all the fixings.
As followers of Christ, we must learn how to spot both. We must not only reject the practice of lying, but we must also refuse to believe lies. And that begins by recognizing, who the Father of lies is and what he sounds like.
To that end, we come to John 8:48–59, where the sons of the devil ask Jesus three questions. Much like Satan himself, who questions the identity of Jesus in the wilderness, these sons of darkness question Jesus loyalty to God, his personal identity, and his testimony concerning Abraham.
In short, in John’s Gospel these grand inquisitors play the role of the adversary. And in so doin, they prove their character and force Jesus to reveal his. At the same time, for those who have ears to hear, we find in these inspired words a test for our character too. How we respond to Jesus and his truth reveal who we are. And this is especially true in times of trial.
So again, as Truth Incarnate is put on trial by the deceived and deceiving leaders of Israel, Jesus identity as the God the Son is made visible. And for those with eyes to see, we are given a glimpse of his glory as the trial of Jesus tells us who he is and who we are as we respond positively or negatively to Jesus.
This is how the light of the world exposes the darkness and delivers his people from the grip of the world, the flesh, and the devil. To see more of this light, you can listen to sermon here.
May the Lord shine his light on us. And by his grace, may we flee the darkness and seek refuge in his life-giving, sin-cleansing light.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds