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Are You Sure You're Right?
Confession is the first step to freedom.



JOHN 8:32

When’s the last time someone called you out? 

For me, it was yesterday. My husband, Jason, confronted me with one of my most consistent faults, and I immediately felt the flush of heat and shame creep up my neck and fill my face. It’s one of those long-term sticking points—a rough edge along the faultline of our relationship. And when things shift in our life, it tends to be a place where I get stuck, and the pressure just builds between us. You know how this illustration is gonna go: eventually, things explode. Well that was yesterday. And the explosion was all mine. I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong, that I was the one making things hard, that I was the one getting stuck. Instead, I justified my actions and even accused Jason of being the root problem—surely I wasn’t wrong, he was just too exacting. Yup. That’s how that went. Sheeesh. 

Have you ever been there? 

I wonder if you’ve ever responded in a defensive or even accusatory way when someone called you out. We all tend to do it, maybe some of us more often than others. Even when our closest people lovingly challenge us for our good, we still often behave like cornered badgers. We’d rather scratch out their eyes than let them remove the board from our own. Why IS this? Why do we have such trouble admitting our faults? Some of it must come from our natural insecurities. We’re all too aware of our failings—constantly hiding behind the illusion of perfection we’ve created to protect our real, messy selves. But here’s the painful reality: unless we’re honest and deal with our faults and failures, we’ll never be set free from them. Confession is the first step to freedom.  

And Jesus makes this abundantly clear.  

Our verse is the hinge-point of a long back-and-forth discourse between Jesus and the religious elites of his day. In it he challenges them that they must first acknowledge their sins in order to be set free from them. In the early part of the discussion, he builds a foundation of exactly why he’s the only one who can set them free. He makes some amazing claims, saying things like, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” and “if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:12, 24). These aren’t ordinary human power claims. They are life-giving, sin-forgiving, God-identifying claims. He claims to be both from God and also equal to God. And verse 30 says, “Even as he spoke, many believed in him.” This is great, right? They believe Jesus is who he says he is.         

But are they willing to believe they are who he says they are?  

Right after we learn that many believe in Jesus, we get to our verse. And this is where Jesus starts to reveal their true sinful identity and how they can be saved from their sins. He tells them, “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). This is it! This is how they can experience the life and freedom Jesus is promising them! They simply need to embrace his teaching, believe who he says he is, and be set free from their sins. But instead of rejoicing in this good news, they get hung up on the bad news. You might not even see it in there at first. But they don’t miss what Jesus is saying about them. He’s telling them that they aren’t free. In fact, just a few verses later, he elaborates on this point saying, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” Jesus says this is who you are: slaves to sin. And they don’t like it one bit.  

This is their sticking point. 

So, they do what we humans do so well: they justify themselves. They say, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone” and “The only Father we have is God himself” (John 8:33, 41). Here’s what they mean when they make these claims: “We aren’t slaves to sin! Our status as Abraham’s children makes us free. We’re already God’s children, his chosen people. We are justified before God. Our pedigree makes us righteous.” They’re hiding behind the illusion of perfection they’ve built to hide the truth of their messy, real lives. Sound familiar at all?  

But Jesus won’t let them claim this lie as the means of their salvation. 

He tells them their pedigree won’t save them. Even though you’re Abraham’s descendants, you’re still slaves to sin and “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever” (John 8:35). Jesus goes on to say, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). As God’s own Son, he has the right and ability not just to release them from slavery but to invite them into God’s true family. They may be physical descendants of Abraham, but Jesus says, “that’s not good enough.” In order to be a true child of God, you must be released from your sin and invited into the family by the Son. But they aren’t buying it at all. They continue to dig in and claim they are Abraham and therefore God’s children already. They aren’t slaves to sin at all.  To this Jesus responds that Abraham’s true spiritual children would believe in him. And if they were God’s true children, they’d listen to him. Then he says this, “The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” 

And this is where the explosion breaks out.  

Instead of admitting that Jesus is right, instead of confessing the that they do indeed sin and are in fact slaves to sin, instead of accepting Jesus’s invitation into the family, they explode! They’ve had enough of this “truth” that would supposedly set them free. And they go from mere denial and justification to all out badger attack. They start slinging accusations, calling Jesus a demon-possessed half-breed. What was a polite (albeit intense) interview is threatening to turn into a brawl.  

You can imagine how it goes from here. 

It only escalates. It ends with Jesus making one final, undeniable claim to be God. And at that point, the religious leaders have truly had enough. They pick up stones to kill Jesus. And the text tells us that Jesus slips away. And when I read that part, I am both relieved for Jesus and pained for them. You see, Jesus really does slip away from them. They just don’t get him. They don’t understand the truth, they are living in the lie of their own self-righteousness, a lie that leads to death. Because they cannot, or rather will not, confess their sins, they cannot grasp Jesus. He slips away.  

What about us? 

Sometimes it’s easy to read passages like this and sit in judgment over those spiritually blind, deaf religious teachers who refused to acknowledge their own sin. But then, I’m reminded of yesterday. I’m reminded of how I responded when I was confronted with my own sin. I did just what they did. I denied it and blamed my husband. I am just like them, and I wonder if you aren’t too. That’s really bad news. But here’s the good news: we are always only one step away from freedom. John says elsewhere, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession leads to freedom and forgiveness and cleansing.  

Will you let Jesus slip away?

I know. It’s an aggressive question. But being confronted with our sin also feels really aggressive. It’s the hard thing, the sticking point. But if we can get past it, it’s also the starting point, the place where we can begin afresh, where we can experience freedom and joy and purpose. It’s what Jesus is offering us. If he really is who he says he is, then we must be who he says we are. And while we might start off as slaves, he wants to adopt us as children and love us as his very own. 

Thanks for reading,

Natalie Abbott Bio

Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder

Hi there, I'm Natalie. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!


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