Title: Forgiven, Forever, and Free Indeed!
Text: John 8:31-36
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Today we remember and celebrate the Reformation of the Church, by the former Roman Catholic Priest and Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther. We also celebrate the joy found in the freedom of the Gospel message, and continue together with the whole church to proclaim that truth to reach the lost with this same blessed good news!
Jesus tells the believing Jews in our Gospel today who had been following Him that:
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
To be a disciple is to be a follower of Christ. One who is connected to God’s very words and who abides in them [who hears the word with the intention of following] – or is one who accepts and acts in accordance with the word of God.
In our Gospel reading for today Jesus tells the Jews and you and me as well:
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
This freedom and liberty of the gospel is what we celebrate today. It is what Luther searched for and why he became a monk – thinking that being locked inside the walls, devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimages, and frequent confession would keep him away from sin and the power of the devil.
"If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." He described this period of his life as one of deep spiritual despair. "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul."
But later he found peace in the words of Romans 5:1 which reads:
5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you felt closed in by the walls of sin?
Have you or have your loved ones fled the blessings and Peace found only in Christ and his gifts given in word and sacrament?
Are you burdened by the Law and a slave to sin?
33 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’?”
Martin Luther writes:
“Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend--it must transcend all comprehension.”
Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing (where he was going). He trusted himself to (God’s) knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey's end.
Behold, that end is the way of the cross.
You cannot find it yourself, so you must let (God) lead you as though you were a blind man. (So), it is not you, no man, (and) no living creature, but (Christ) Himself, who instructs you by word and Spirit in the way you should go.
Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire--that is the road you must take. To that, (Christ) calls you and in that (says) you must be my disciple.”
― Martin Luther
Saying in essence: Hear me! Listen to me! Abide in me!
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
The truth is we are all bound to sin and its cravings. We desire to do the will of our sinful nature which is in opposition to God’s will and as a result you and I fall short daily. The world says, “Deep down he is really a good person” - when the truth is: deep down we all get worse and worse.
The more you get to the core of who we are in our fallen human condition the more you see the sinfulness of man, corrupted to the core from the beginning by our first parents Adam and Eve.
But Jesus reminds His hearers: To Listen to him!
35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The freedom for the sinner is found only in Jesus. That was the joy that Luther found and what we celebrate in the Reformation. In Christ, true freedom from sin is possible and true liberty for we who are bound with the chains of guilt and despair is broken.
Christ has set free those who could not free themselves by his own binding.
The binding of His flesh to the cross in your place
The shedding of His blood for the forgiveness of your sin
The death worthy of a criminal for you and I who are guilty and the burial in a tomb meant for another …
In Jesus’ case … Joseph of Arimathea, for it was his tomb where Jesus was laid.
But, that tomb and that death WAS meant for you!
Jesus took your place,
He took your cross,
He took your death,
And He took your tomb and He made them what you couldn't …
Life, freedom, liberty, salvation and forgiveness
Salvation is all of God and not of man. That is the message of the Reformation.
Luther restored the gospel truths about Christ and His merits that had been lost, covered by sin in the church and the focus on earthly rulers, once again by shinning the light of the gospel on Christ’s work, for you.
Because Jesus came to live, suffer, die and rise again for you … because of Christ and His merits … because the Son has set you free … you are free indeed!
May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be and abide with you now and forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.