Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sermon -- 1st Sunday of End Times: Reformation (November 3, 2019)

JOHN 8:31-36


In the name + of Jesus.

     When Jesus called the people he was talking to slaves to sin, they were appalled.  Their land may have been occupied by Roman soldiers, but they were not enslaved to them.  So they protested, “We … have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (John 8:33)  Americans are equally appalled to learn that they need Jesus to set them free.  We can pretty much say whatever we want, go wherever we want, and do whatever we want.  We go through our daily routine without being harassed.  There are no check points in our daily commute.  There are no secret police who force us to have our more serious conversations with whispers.
     We also enjoy our freedoms when it comes to the choices we make.  You are not assigned a career or a spouse or a home.  For your vacation, you can choose between the beach, the mountains, or your backyard.  When you leave church, you can go out for brunch, go home, or drive around aimlessly.  We are free to do these things. 
     While we enjoy these freedoms, Satan has sold us some huge lies about what it is to be free.  One lie is that we are free to choose to do the works that please God.  This lie fails to recognize what it means that we are sinners.  Another lie is that real freedom comes from casting off God's word and doing whatever it is you want.  Satan convinces us that God's word is too restrictive, too demanding, and too unreasonable.  To be free, Satan asserts, is to reject God's word and to do whatever makes you happy.  Both are lies, and both lead to hell from which these lies came.
     Jesus addressed the reality of our sinful condition: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)  We are sinners, and we are enslaved to sin.  If you need proof, just assess your own thoughts.  Do you assume that people with strange languages and cultures must be bad news?  Do you view your co-worker as a conspirator?  Do you give time to people who hold different opinions than you, or are they immediately disregarded as idiots?  Are addicts and thieves people to be shunned, or are they objects of mercy?  Are those who sin against you regarded in terms of revenge or forgiveness?  Our thoughts are wicked.  We are all turned in on ourselves, devoted to ourselves, and prioritize ourselves, which is idolatry.  This all arises from wicked hearts which we cannot fix.  We are slaves to sin.  God did not create us to be vindictive or vengeful or violent or vicious.  And yet we are.  We are not what God created us to be.  We are not free. 
     The other lie Satan sells us is that freedom—true freedom—is found when we ditch God's word for our own desires.  Adam and Eve bought that lie back in the Garden of Eden.  Satan convinced them that God's word was not good.  He told them that taking the fruit that God forbids would truly enlighten them and set them free.  But their rebellion brought on them shame and guilt.  They were not free from God; they were petrified of him.  By their sin, they introduced into the world disease, disorder, disaster, and decay.  They bound all mankind to death.  No one is free from that.  Such is the freedom Satan promised.  God did not create us to suffer from disasters, disease, disorder, and death.  And yet, that is the world we are stuck in.  We are bound to it, and we cannot escape it or fix it.  We are not what God created us to be.  We are not free. 
     Even though we are slaves to sin, God has not withheld blessings from us.  We all receive temporal blessings from the Lord so that life has its share of happiness, fascination, and comfort.  We get to enjoy a child's laughter, fall colors, music, and rainbows.  God is still good to his creation, but his creation will come to an end.  All people will come under judgment.  The blessings which all mankind have enjoyed will not endure.  In hell, there are no blessings, no relief, and no end.  Therefore, Jesus' words are ominous: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever...” (John 8:34-35)  He who dies as a slave to sin will be cast out from God's presence and God's blessings forever.
     The devil tells you lies about what it means to be free.  The devil's “freedom” means shame and curse and death and damnation.  This is not what God created you for, but it is what sin delivers.  Therefore, we need to be delivered from our sin if we would be freed from all its consequences.  And you have a deliverer: For us the Valiant One, whom God himself elected.  Ask ye, who is this?  Jesus Christ it is!  Of Sabaoth Lord, that is, he is the Lord God of hosts, and there's no other God.  God the Son has come into his creation to set his beloved people free from sin, death, and the devil.  Jesus frees you to be what God created you to be.
     Jesus assures you: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32,36)  The truth is that Jesus sets you free from your sin by taking your sin from you.  In doing so, Jesus bound himself to your shame and curse and death and damnation.  He accepted all of the devil's accusations for our sin and guilt.  He absorbed the full wrath of God.  He died the cursed death to set you free.  You are free from your sins; they do not condemn you.  You are free from the devil; you know the truth from God's word so that his accusations do not stick and so that his temptations are known as lies.  You are even free from death.  The grave may hold you for a while, but it must give you back.  Jesus has fought the fight and conquered death.  He will raise you up at the resurrection to life everlasting.
     Jesus frees you to be what God created you to be.  At the resurrection, Jesus will give you freedom from every stain and consequence of sin.  There will never again be disorder, dishonor, disease, or disaster.  There will not be viciousness or violence or revenge among God's redeemed.  You will never again have struggles against bad behavior, bad habits, or bad people.  You will be forever free from temptation, frustration, and depression.  You will be in perfect harmony with God and his will, have perfect love for your fellow saints, as they will for you.  You will delight in everything which is good and right and pure.  This is what God created you to be, and Jesus frees you to be what God created you to be.
     While you and I are free from sin, death, and the devil thanks to Jesus, we still have not entered the glorious state of the saints in heaven.  We are saints on earth, for that is what Jesus has decreed us to be.  Jesus has freed us to be what God created us to be by making us a new creation.  Through holy baptism, Jesus has put to death the sin in you.  He has created in you a clean heart so that you recognize that God's will is good and right.  And he has renewed in you a right spirit so that you desire to do the good and right things that God has declared.  This is what God has created you to be—godly people with godly desires who do godly works.  That is what we will be perfectly when we get to our heavenly home.  But we are not there yet.  We are weak and our works are not perfect.  We still struggle with temptation.  We still do sinful things, and we fail to do the good things we know we are supposed to do.  The problem is not that we don't know what is good or even that we don't want to do it.  The problem is that this sinful flesh still clings to us.
     That is why we continue in Jesus' word.  He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ...If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32,36)  We abide in Jesus' words because he continues to comfort us with words of forgiveness.  Before God, you are not known by your sins, but by your redemption.  Our Lord continues to strengthen us in our battle against sin and temptation.  He continues to encourage us to be faithful while the devil and the world urge us to free ourselves from God's word.  And he continues to preserve us in the true faith so that we remain in the house of God forever. 
     Jesus frees you to be what God has created you to be—godly children in God's family.    That is what we are, by faith in Jesus' promises.  That is what we strive for in our lives.  And that is how we will appear and act and live in the glories of heaven when we are finally forever and perfectly free—free from every evil and free to rejoice in all goodness.

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

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