Sermon Text: John 8:31-38
October 26, 2014 AD
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. John’s gospel account the 8th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
With the swing of the hammer and the pounding of a nail, “out of love for the truth and with the object of eliciting it,” Martin Luther made an assertion – 95 assertions to be exact, better known as the 95 theses. And so the reformation of the Christian church began with a statement, a stand, an assertion of the truth based upon God’s Word that God’s Word would have pre-eminence in doctrine and life, in church and state, in public, in the home, and in the heart. Like His Lord, Luther made an assertion.
That is exactly what Jesus does in our text this morning. He makes an assertion, a statement, a stand. He draws a line in the sand and causes all who hear to determine which side of the line they’ll be on. What is that assertion? Where is the line drawn. “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples.” Jesus hammers down what it means to be His disciple. He makes and assertion. “If you abide in My Word, you are truly my disciples.” Being a disciple of Jesus means abiding in His Word. Abiding in His Word means knowing the truth and the truth will set you free. As with every assertion there are results and there are consequences. Abiding in Jesus’ Word results in knowing the truth and therefore being set free. Consequently, if you do not abide in Jesus’ Word, you will not know the truth and you will remain bound.
Tolerating, Equating, Dominating, Desparing
Ours is not a society comfortable with assertions, especially these sort of assertions. Assertions make us uncomfortable because assertions attempt to call a thing what it is, to state the matter plainly, to see the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. We don’t talk that way anymore and we certainly don’t live that way anymore. Ours is a society burdened with tolerance. As Rev. Fulton Sheen once said, “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. IT IS NOT! It is suffering from TOLERANCE, tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and Chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the BROADMINDED.” Yes, beloved, ours is a society burdened with tolerance. Tolerance abhors assertions. Thus what is tolerated soon seeks equality. And what is considered equal not long after begins to dominate. Such domination leads to confusion. Knowledge of what is good and what is beautiful and fine and lovely and righteous and noble becomes a casualty of culture wars. Lost in the confusion we no longer have the veracity to call a thing what it is. Not only are we pressured to say gay marriage is right, but many are persecuted for saying Biblical marriage is good. We can no longer call a thing what it is. Having departed from the Word of Christ we do not know the truth and our ignorance has left us bound to the perversions of our hearts. We listen to our hearts. We follow our hearts. We indulge our hearts. All the while ignoring the Word of God which says: “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
The Offense of God’s Word
But we, we are God’s children. We have the bible. We have the liturgy. We have baptism and absolution and the holy supper. And not only that but we have them rightly. We’re Lutheran! That’s what we say to ourselves. Like the Jews who believed in Jesus when He asserted the dominion of His Word, we respond with our own version of “But we are Abraham’s children. We’ve never been slaves to anyone.” Even we Lutherans take offense at Jesus’ assertions because Jesus’ assertions call a thing what it is. Jesus’ assertions leave no room for our works. Like the Jews we take offense at Christ’ Words – not because His Words reveal our sin – though that is often a shocker for us good Lutherans – but because Jesus Words reveal that we cannot do anything about our sin. We are slaves who cannot overcome our own personal pharaoh’s.
The Cosmic Assertion of Christ Crucified
Slaves need to be set free. Such freedom doesn’t come without a cost. But who will pay the cost? Jesus asserts: “If you abide in my Word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth liberates! Therefore truth will pay the cost, suffer the debt, offer the sacrifice. Truth will set you free not by your blood, the will of the flesh, nor the will of men. Truth requires Words. God, who desires all men, women, and children to be set free, to be saved and come to the knowledge of salvation, sends His Word. This word is not a whirling wind from the top of Mount Sinai. This Word is not a quaking, shaking, trembling earth beneath the feet of humanity. This Word is a gentle Word, a true Word, a Word become flesh for you. The Word of God, the Word that saves, the Word sent by the Father is the Word born of Mary, the Word cradled in the manger, the Word in the Water of the Jordan, the Word with Satan and his legions under His feet in the wilderness. The Word may be gentle but the Word is powerful. The Word, this Word, Jesus the Word become flesh is God’s cosmic changing Word for you. Jesus is the still small voice come to break Pharaoh’s neck and save yours. Jesus is God’s Word to the World that there is such a thing as right and wrong, good and evil, order and chaos, truth and error, beauty and ugliness.
There, beloved! Look there! Look upon the cross of Christ! There is the most beautiful picture of love you’ll ever behold! There all that is good, right and salutary is poured out for you. There evil is undone. Virtue is exalted. Truth is proclaimed. There with hammer and nail God makes His cosmic changing assertion of love for you and your children and for all who afar off. He stakes it in the ground! He covers it with Holy Blood and He directs all hearts to the voice of the one who cries “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This Word, from this Man, on this Tree, is for you today, tomorrow and forever more. This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
Disciples Abide in Jesus’ Word
It is this Word of Jesus in which you are to abide to truly be His disciple, to know the truth and to be set free. Through this Word Jesus forgives sins, your sins, the sins of your children, the sins of all who call on the Name of the Lord. Through this Word, the savior washes you clean in your baptism. He comforts you with absolution. He feeds the hungry with good things and He gives the thirsty to drink. Through these the Lord strengthens His disciples for service in the kingdom. Receiving these by faith Jesus’ disciples indulge themselves with His grace. Our own personal Pharaoh’s are drowned under the blood tinged waters of our baptism. We are liberated by one greater than our forefather Moses. Jesus, the eternal Joshua, leads us to the promised land. He leads with His Word. And through His Word he enables us to conquer our enemies: sin, death, devil, and hell. Through His Word He gives us to endure. Through His Word He teaches us the way of holiness. Through His Word we learn to walk on the path of righteousness. Through His Word He conforms us to Himself, crucifying us to the world and the world to us.
“It is not sufficient,” beloved, “to begin to believe but it is necessary to continue and persevere in adherence to the Word.” (Luther) It’s not good enough to say, “we are Abraham’s children” or “we are Lutheran”. Christ, this day, asserts the dominion of His Word. His Word is to have pre-eminence. “A person who abandons God’s Word sinks into a bottomless pit in days of temptation, poverty and other tribulations, such a person is driven to despair.”(Luther) Therefore do not retreat from the Word. Hold fast! Stand steady! Do not flee from your post when the enemy advances, when tolerance seeks domination, when persecution arises. Cling to the truth of God’s Word and the Truth will set you free.
Love, Humility, Servanthood – Peace
Set free from sin, disciples of Jesus are not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewal of their minds. Where the world would impose tolerance, you who follow Jesus are given to love. Where the world would assert equality, you are given to humility. And where the World seeks domination. Christ sends you out like lambs amongst the wolves to be servants. How different Christians are to be from the World. Renewed in the Word we who believe are sent out to love with humility and to serve our neighbor. In so doing we enact the Word of Christ for those lost in the darkness. Knowing the truth we know what is good, and right and salutary and beautiful and righteous and noble. We see it in the Cross of our God and we hear it in His House. His Word echoes in our hearts and through our lives showing those around us the goodness of God and truth of His salvation.
Conclusion – This is most Certainly True
Beloved in the Lord, every reformation of the Church begins with repentance. Luther’s first assertion that fateful day was: “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said “Repent”, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Repentance is a return to the Word of Jesus. Today, Jesus asserts His Word for our heart and for our lives. Repent and return. “If you abide in my Word you are truly my disciples. You will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.” As with every assertion there are consequences. As with every line drawn in the sand there are sides. Therefore, “Choose you this day whom you will serve . . . As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!