Reformation 2018 – “Freedom in Jesus!” John 8:31–36

Reformation 2018 – “Freedom in Jesus!” John 8:31–36

 

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of John, the 8th Chapter:

 

So 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.”  They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

 

So far the reading.

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

 

Do you truly understand what freedom is?  We are guaranteed many freedoms in our nation’s constitution.  We all alike may pursue life, liberty and happiness, those things that please us and are of benefit to our life on earth.  We have the freedom to speak against oppression and stand up for those who may be weak or unable to speak for themselves.  We have the freedom to assemble without being persecuted or arrested.  We have the freedom to cross state lines and travel throughout this grand country.  These are just a few freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of the United States.

 

But are these true freedoms that every man woman and child will enjoy?  No they are not true freedoms.  These things are guaranteed by the hand and will of men.  The practice of men is always fallible.  What may be around for a period of time, will soon be turned again to slavery.  This slavery is not the owning of one person by another, but slavery of all to sin, as Jesus so clearly states.

 

Consider what is happening now in these days. People have become belligerent and confrontational.  When someone perceives their rights are being infringed they immediately take to the streets.  The court of public opinion is prescribing justice rather than the court of Law.  Some politicians are quick to speak opinions of the masses rather than uphold due process of the courts.  Reason is giving way to emotion, enmity and anger.

 

Currently, our nation is in the throws of an election year.  Partisanship is evident everywhere you turn. Division is promoted along with demeaning comments about the character of opponents. Real issues that need to be discussed in a reasonable manner suffer in silence ignored by candidates and constituents alike. Freedom of speech once orderly and respectful, has morphed into a choir of confused and clamoring shouting.

 

We are slaves to our sinful desires.  We do not understand freedom.  We do not understand happiness.  We do not understand liberty.  Such things come only at the expensive of a sacrifice.  We need to reform our thinking. Repent of our sin.  And turn to the one who is the sacrifice for life.

 

While reform may be needed, there needs to be a solid foundation for the reform to become a reality.  There has to be a means of directly addressing what is wrong and a means whereby the wrong will be corrected.  Is that not true?

 

It would seem to be true from these words of Jesus you hear today.  Jesus clearly outlines what he sees as the problem and he presents the only answer to address that problem.  Jesus says you seek freedom, but what freedom are you seeking?  You seek to throw off oppression, but what oppression do you seek to throw off?  You seek to come out from under a yoke of slavery, but what yoke of slavery do you seek to lift from your life?

 

The Jews who believed in Jesus were confronted with a truth they were not ready to acknowledge.  There was a slavery in which they lived which they did not recognize.  They thought in their mind and heart that they were special people, called by God and delivered from Pharaoh’s clutches to live freely in the land of Milk and Honey.

 

Their freedom was curtailed by an oppressive master, the government of the Roman Caesar.  No matter where they went the hand of this harsh task master was evident.  Pilate was Procurator of Judea and his soldiers were everywhere.  Herod, a non-Jew, was Caesar’s puppet king in Judea.  Herod was sly, ambitious and manipulative, and lived in the lap of luxury. John castigated Herod for adultery, and Jesus called Herod a fox.  What have we to say of our elected leaders today?

 

More important though, Jesus points the Jews away from their lack of political and earthly freedom, and shows them there is another freedom that far surpasses politics, power and prosperity.  Without hesitation Jesus points out their slavery to another task master just as harsh, but even more deadly than Caesar, Pilate or Herod.  Jesus says;

 

“The one doing sin a slave to sin is.”  This is the word order from the original language. And it is quite evident from the word order that Jesus emphasizes the reality of life for the Jews.  These are the facts – sinners are slaves to sin.  Chosen people or not, the person who sins is a slave to sin.  You do not have to determine what the meaning of the word “is” is.  God declares and man reveals in his actions that the sinner is in slavery.  Jesus says they are all slaves to sin, because they do sin.

 

Sadly for us, this is true as well.  We can try to justify what we do all the day long, but that does not change the reality of what we do.  Sin actions are sin.  You cannot justify crossing the double yellow line because the car in front of you is going too slow.  You cannot justify civil disobedience and public indecency because the government and Wall Street seem to be in league with each other.  You cannot claim exemption from punishment because you had a difficult childhood or parents who weren’t the best.

 

We like to give excuses for our actions and not confront our sin.  We like to give reasons for not changing our sinful works.  There’s nothing going on at church today.  I’ll stay home.  I get to sleep in once a week, on Sunday.  I’ll stay home.  The people at church are judgmental or hypocritical.  I’ll stay home.  Bible class is for old people.  I’ll go home.  I don’t think I will see anything to shoot, so I’ll take my rifle and go hunting before church.

 

There’s nothing going on at church today?  There is grace going on at church today.  There forgiveness going on at church today.  God is here in church today.  Salvation is proclaimed in church today.  Freedom is given to you in church today.  Love is poured out upon you in church today.  The seed of eternal life is planted and watered in you at church today.  Hypocritical people, your brothers and sisters in Christ are fellowshipping with their Savior in church today.  Those same people are celebrating the body and blood of Jesus once sacrificed for their hypocrisy in church today.

 

In church today, and every day we gather for worship, we hear the call of Jesus to receive freedom from the slavery of our sin.  Jesus desires to set us free from that slavery and to have us remain in His freedom.  Indeed, Jesus did set us free from sin.  Look at what Jesus did for you.  In perfect obedience to His Father, the Eternal Son became flesh.  Named by His father, this Eternal Son brought the power of God to bear on the heavy yoke of sin.

 

I cannot imagine anyone of us who would consider taking upon themselves the task doing battle with anyone let alone facing this sinful world on their own.  Soldiers do not enjoy going into battle.  Prior to the fighting there is fear and anxiety over the outcome of the battle.  Injury and loss of life are certain, but who will it be that is injured or loses their life?  At the least there are fellow soldiers to alleviate the fear and boost the level of confidence.  But to face the world alone ….

 

While we would not remain, Jesus did remain.  He remained in the world for us even though we did not want him here.  Like the Jews who question Jesus we do not take joy in having our sinfulness revealed.  Nor do we naturally want what Jesus offers.  Yet, Jesus remained to reveal the truth of our slavery to sin and the freedom from that slavery to sin offered by our loving God.

 

Jesus’ truth covers any and every excuse we may have to remain in the slavery to sin.  Jesus opens our eyes to see the bondage in which we live and the hands that both remove this bondage and replace it with true freedom.  The weight once lifted from the sin troubled soul disappears and the freedom which replaces it calms the heart and gives a peace unknown before.

 

Dr Luther writes describing this unknown peace given to the penitent Christian:

 

“… learn of Christ and Him crucified.  Learn to sing of him and despairing of yourself, to say:  Thou Lord Jesus art my righteousness; but I am Thy sin.  Thou hast taken upon Thyself what is mine and hast given me what is Thine; Thou hast taken upon Thyself what Thou wast not, and hast given me what I was not.  … Christ dwells in sinners only.  For He came down from heaven, where He dwelt in righteousness, in order to dwell in sinners.  Always think this of His love, and you will see His sweetest consolation.  For if we had to find peace of conscience through our own labors and afflictions, why did He die?  Therefore you will find peace only in Him …” WLS; #3282, p.1031.

 

What was once ours, is now Jesus’.  What was once Jesus’, is now ours by grace through faith.  The one who knew no sin became sin for us so that we may become the righteousness of God.  It is through this righteousness of God that we gain true freedom.  God reforms us to the image of His Son, redirects our hearts and minds to the things that are above, and make us partakers of the heavenly gifts offered here in this temporary earthly home.

 

There is something happening each and every time we gather for worship before this altar and pulpit.  The seed of freedom in Christ is scattered abroad into your heart and mind.  As it touches you in your inmost being, God works it into your life to relieve you of your guilt and worry that is present because of your struggle with sin.  You may not see or feel this work of God taking place, but rest assured it is taking place in your life.  God’s Word and promise encourage us to believe this is so.  As God’s servant Paul reminds us:

 

“We walk by faith and not by sight.”

 

We walk by faith and not by feelings.  We walk by faith and not experiences.  We walk by faith and not by expecting lightning to touch us and prove that God is present.  For God is not found in feelings, experiences, lightning or another visible manifestation of His power.  God hides himself in simple things like water, bread and wine.  He speaks to us through faithful pastors and teachers.  Faithful pastors who administer to those whom he calls the water of transformation, the bread and wine of redemption, and who along with faithful teachers unfold the Holy Word of Life eternal to sin troubled souls.

 

This is what it means to be free in Jesus Christ.  Your eyes are opened to see the wonders of God hidden in humble worldly means.  This does not make them unimportant, rather it makes them of utmost importance.  For God hides such things from the eyes of the proud and reveals them to His children for their salvation.  You are God’s children.  You are heirs with Jesus of eternal life. You are made free with Jesus Christ.  God grant you continue in His freedom.

 

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.