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Reformation (observed)

John 8:31-36

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Oct 29, 2017 

People commonly commandeer these words of Jesus, "The truth will set you free."  I say commandeer because they put their own spin on the words that Christ did not intend. 

Sometimes, they use the words, "The truth will set you free," to say that if you admit that you committed some misdeed, then you will feel a whole lot better.  A person bottling up their secret guilt and shame will experience a release when they get it off their chest.  But that is not what Christ meant by the words, "The truth will set you free," since there is not the tiniest indication in the Gospel text that He was speaking about confession of guilt at all.

Sometimes, people use the words, "The truth will set you free," to say that if you discover some important truth, then you will be set free from your ignorance.  If vital information is hidden from you, but then you uncover that information, you are suddenly able to understand and deal with the true facts of your life.  Without knowledge, you stumble in the dark.  With the revelation of things that directly affect you, you can act with certainty.  But this also is not what Christ is talking about, since there is nothing in the context of His speech that says that He was counseling people to investigate the circumstances of their lives.

There is a reason why people say things like this.  We naturally want to see freedom in terms of what we do or say or think.  We want freedom to be attainable by us.

But humanity has a kind of slavery from which we could never escape.  We are slaves to sin.  This is twice as bad because we do not feel likes slaves.  We even think that the ability to sin is a kind of freedom.  After all, if you are not free to sin then you are not free, right?  Except that in reality, it does not work that way.  Sin is never an exercise of freedom.  It is always an exercise of slavery.  As Christ said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."  Humans naturally feel like sin is freedom because our senses and reason are twisted in our sinful minds.

The truth is, we are slaves to sin because we sin.  Since this is true, as a consequence, we are doomed to death.  Christ says, "The slave does not remain in the house forever."  He is talking in terms of households and the way human society works.  But He is really talking about the household of God.  If you are a slave to sin, you do not remain in God's family forever.  You will be severed from it, because those who inherit are not slaves, but sons and daughters.  As slaves to sin, we deserve to be cast out of God's house, away from all life and blessing forever.

But this is not the whole truth.  There is a greater truth.  Christ did not say, "If you realize the truth that you are sinners, you will be free."  Simply knowing that you are a sinner does not release you any more than finding out that you have a disease makes you cured.  On the other hand, if you deny or reject the knowledge of sin and death, then how could you be saved from them?  Why would you trust in a savior when you do not think that you need saving?  In the same way, a person who ignores the fact that they have a deadly illness cannot be cured, since they will refuse treatment and medicine.

So the truth that we are sinners is a necessary truth, yet in itself does not set us free.

Where is the truth that sets us free?  Christ tells us that if we abide in His Word, we are truly His disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free.  Here He does not quite say that the Word is the truth, although other Scriptures say so.  We know that the Word is the truth because God cannot lie.  The Word is not only the truth because it does not lie, but also because it tells us the truth that we need to hear.

That truth is Christ.  He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."  All truth resides in Him.  Whatever is true is from Him, and there is nothing false found in Him.  As the eternal God in human flesh, Christ created all that is good and true. 

He is not only the truth because He cannot lie.  He is the truth because He delivers to us what we need.  He is the only One who could solve our slave masters, called sin and death.  He met the cold, hard facts of sin and death upon Calvary.  On the Cross, He did not deny that our sins exist.  He did not pretend that death was not real and horrible.  Instead, He met those slave masters and paid the price to buy us back from slavery.  The price He offered was irresistible.  He gave His innocent life, the life of the only-begotten Son from eternity.  Every drop of holy Blood that He shed was so precious that worlds of sinners could be bought with them.  Sin and death had to give us over to Him.

As Christ said it, "The truth will set you free," and then added, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."  Therefore, He is the truth that sets us free.  He is the truth in human flesh who suffered and died.  He is the truth who rose again to show that we are now sons of God who will remain in the house of God forever.  Eternal life is ours, because the slave master called death no longer owns us.  Sin cannot claim us, because the perfect Blood of God was shed to redeem us from all sins.

These facts will not be satisfying to us unless we have faith.  As I said earlier, we sinners naturally want set ourselves free by our own actions or thoughts.  Our old Adam wants to be free because we earned it.  But that is not a true path to freedom.  Only Christ is the Truth that sets us free.

So faith in Christ is required.  We must trust that He is the Son who sets us free.  If we reject the payment He made to free us, then we are still slaves of sin.  If we think that we can escape sin or conquer sin or pay for our own freedom, then we will remain slaves forever.  We might even delude ourselves into thinking that we are free, when we are more enslaved than ever before.  In the same way, the Jews deluded themselves into thinking that they had always been free, when their history was filled with slavery and captivity and subjugation.  The sinful flesh tries to pull the wool over our eyes, to deceive us into thinking that we have made ourselves free men without Christ.  But that would be a lie.

Only Christ truly sets us free; not good works, not penances nor indulgences, not decisions nor sinners' prayers, not self-enlightenment nor forsaking all desires, nor anything else in all creation can set us free.  Only Christ who is the truth can do that.

The Lord keep us in this Truth forever.  Amen.

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