102906 Reformation Day 2
Text: John 8:31–36
" 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." (John 8:31-36, ESV)
Jesus was saying to those who had believed in him something that those folks needed to know but apparently unaware. Let me get really crass here for a moment to explain. You men among us today might be able to relate to this. Has there ever been a time when you were told by some kind soul, “Hey, your pants are unzipped!” If you have ever been told that, you know how embarrassing it is and you know what I am talking about when I say these people Jesus was speaking to were unaware. Had they known, they would have been very embarrassed I’m sure because they would have realized how very obvious their sin was to God and the man standing before them.
We are like that, too. I mean our sinfulness is openly exposed to God and sometimes to other people while we haven’t a clue how out-of-sync we are with reality. So, think about this. How many of you know how out-of-sync you are with God? … and how could you know unless you were well aware of how God sees behind the façade of our righteous appearance that we try to display for others to see? Jesus is revealing their reality and ours in these words. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …
It is difficult for us when our open fly is exposed. My first instinct is to try to hide the truth while I get zipped up. But how can anyone hide their reality from God? Worse yet, how can we get our lives straight with God so as to be freed from our embarrassing condition? The answer, of course, is the very word Jesus speaks: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
My dear fellow redeemed, this is why I keep appealing to you to read the bible and to be active participants in our bible studies. I’m not appealing for a simple regimen of reading. I am appealing for an attitude of abiding. Abiding means studying the Word of God and allowing it to have its proper effect in my life.
Scripture works like this: When it exposes my sin, it is the Savior Jesus revealing the truth God knows about me. And that is precisely what is happening in this text. Those who had believed in Jesus were still not abiding in His Word. Instead, being scholars of the scriptures, they were only reading it so as to justify themselves. That points quite matter-of-factly to their unbelief and inability to hear accurately God’s Word, that is, the Words of Jesus. If they had heard it, they would have accepted Jesus’ words as the reality they expose. Sadly, they did not, and later on in verse 47 Jesus quite accurately states their reality: “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” What a terrible judgment to hear this pronouncement of reality. Even so, it is this reality—if accepted—that works to set people free from their enslavement to sin.
Yes, it might be very embarrassing for me to hear these words and apply them to myself—but only for a moment. If I take it to heart like the Psalmist did I will also be able to confess as he confessed: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” The reality is that in this flesh we cannot extricate ourselves from our own sinful impulses as guided by our human nature. But, it is the WORD of Jesus that can and does remove sin from us. The Psalmist also prays: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:10-12, ESV) And He prays this way not only because He has heard and accepted the reality exposed by the Word of God, but he has also come to know the God who is able and willing to set men free from their sin through His Word of Truth. That word is well worth hanging on to—it is so freeing.
It is real earthy to say it this way, but just imagine being fully covered by a garment that did not allow the open fly to be exposed. Better yet, imagine having a garment that worked to zip up your life so as to allow you to be with others without shame or embarrassment. Wouldn’t that be great! Well, that is what happens when one abides in the word of Jesus. Abiding in that word has the effect of removing the stain of sin from our reality. Abiding in Jesus’ words has the effect of placing us right in the midst of God’s reality. In that reality we are found to be without any spot or blemish or any other embarrassing thing to be exposed. The reason why is because it has already been fully exposed and dealt with in Jesus Christ.
You see, He goes to the cross fully exposed for all to see. He suffers the shame and embarrassment of our guilt. He willingly gives up His divine rights to give us the right to be called God’s beloved people. And after dealing with our sin once for all, for all, Jesus is raised to life to give us the assurance of life in Him. What a great reality this is—all thanks be to God who keeps us safe in it through His Word!
This is the reality that the word of Jesus was bringing to those Jews who had believed in him but could not hear him—otherwise they would love Him.
This is the reality that the words of Jesus brought to the devout Pharisee, Saul, who became Paul the devoted apostle of God—bearing God’s Word to the gentiles.
This is the reality that the words of Jesus brought to a 16th century German Monk, Martin Luther, who became a reformer of the church to restore this wonderful reality to the hearts and minds of simple people like you and me.
This is the reality that the words of Jesus bring to us here this very morning.
This is the reality of sins forgiven for Christ’s own sake.
This is the reality of Baptism whereby we are clothed in Christ.
This is the reality of being freed from our enslavement to sin.
This is the reality of being able to live for Christ without shame or guilt. No longer exposed for embarrassment we now expose the reality of Christ in our own life—God be praised for the work He has begun in us through His abiding Word. Amen!