Posts Tagged "John 8:31-36"


October 28, 2018
By Rev. David French


At this time of year, despite the cobwebs and jack-o’-lanterns that fill our neighborhoods, we as Lutherans of course think about Martin Luther and the Reformation. And while Luther, as a faithful servant of God is rightly celebrated, if all we celebrate is a man, then we’re missing the point. While we recognize Luther as the founder of Lutheranism, it’s the light he and many others by God’s grace brought out of the darkness that we really celebrate.

You see, the Lutheran Reformation is really about freedom. And while at this particular time we may think about things like freedom from the tyranny of the Pope, more to the point, it’s freedom from what the Pope taught and still teaches that we don’t just remember, but by God’s grace, we live in and will continue to live in until the day Christ calls us to our heavenly home.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Now understand, Jesus wasn’t speaking about political or social freedom. But as Paul writes to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” You see, the message of the Scriptures reintroduced by the Reformation is that we have been set free by faith in Christ; free from the guilt of our sin, free from the threat of death, and free from the power of satan. We are free to live in joy and peace in Christ and for others.

But understand, this freedom, like all good things in our lives, is not a result of what we’ve done, it also is a gift of God. In today’s reading, Jesus tells us just how it is that He offers that gift to us. But first, we consider the gift.

Jesus uses a word that’s difficult to translate, as you can see by it being translated differently in just about every translation you look at. Words like hold to, continue in, remain in, or abide in can all be found. In the Greek dictionary we find these options remain: sit down in, and rely on. Basically what it comes down to is … what we have to do to know this freedom in our lives … is believe it. In Christ you have simply been set free.

But know in your head and believe with your heart that it is God alone who works the faith in you which trusts those words, and God creates that faith through His Word alone as we read in Romans, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” You see, God not only creates faith in us through His Word of promise, but He also sustains that faith through that same Word; the Word we share week after week.

To be free from all fear of sin and death, the Word of God must be in us. But for the Word to be in us, we must be in the Word. Whether alone or connected to the waters of our baptism or the bread and wine of His Supper, it is the Word of God alone that creates and sustains the new life we claim and live in Christ.

Remember the words of Isaiah, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Tell me, how do you imagine God’s Word returns to Him? Is it not from the lips of His children, from your lips? And to come from your lips, whether at home or in worship, does it not first come from your heart and mind, where that very Word is indeed accomplishing what God promised?

So, what was the response of those who first heard these words? “We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

How foolish, I mean all they had to do was lift up their eyes and look out over the wall of the temple and they would’ve seen a Roman tower sitting right next to the temple grounds. And on top of that tower would be Roman soldiers staring back at them - keeping an eye on them - a constant reminder that if anything got out of hand, Gentile soldiers would quickly defile the temple and bring a peace that was enforced by the sword.

But the real problem, the reason they wrongly understood Jesus, was because they didn’t see their need to be set free from sin. So they rejected Him and His Word, and by doing so, choose to remain in the worst kind of slavery; that is, the slavery to sin.

Now, before we judge those early believers to0 quickly, at least consider if you or someone you know may also not necessarily see the need for say ... Bible study. Why do you think that is? Perhaps we confuse Bible study and worship. While they can and often do overlap in what they accomplish, they’re not the same. Maybe they think they know all they need to know for salvation, but that’s not the same as all that God wants you to know.

That’s one of satan’s favorite tricks. He wants us to think that we really don’t need to hear everything God says, that we don’t need the full counsel of His word. Not to mention that if or when we think we have no need to study the Word of God we’re actually despising the Word of God. Not intentionally, but still, in reality. As Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin ….” In Romans we read, “... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is, we are all slaves to sin.

What a comfort it is to hear God’s Son saying, “… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The Son of God Himself is the truth who sets us free. He, who is the very Word of God incarnate.

The Scriptures are given to unfold the precious gifts God offers to us in Christ who was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification. The Scriptures are all about Jesus and what the Father offers to all through Him. It is His book, His words. His Spirit inerrantly inspired it from the first word of Genesis to the last amen of Revelation. This book brings into our hearts the truth who is Jesus, whose word of truth creates and sustains our faith.

Remember, when we say the truth that is Jesus, we mean the truth heard from a cross, the Word of forgiveness, and so, freedom. Jesus alone can truthfully speak these words, for He alone carried and paid for the sin of the world. Because of the innocent blood He shed, all sin has been forgiven.

That’s why we have a special Reformation service. Not just to remember something that happened way back in the sixteenth century, but so that we can celebrate the freedom we continue to live in to this very day.

We celebrate because, even though satan constantly works to pull us away from God’s Word, the Holy Spirit constantly works to preserve that Word and will work through it to keep us in the one true Christian faith.

We celebrate so that we might hear the Son say to us again, “Go in peace” for you are free from sin and the power of death to destroy you - free from the condemnation of our sin - free to live as a child of God.

Jesus says to all who believe in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Paul tells us, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” My friends, don’t starve your soul when a banquet has been set for you. Be in the Word of God because it is His word alone that brings to you true freedom and eternal life.

In His name, Amen

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