31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples. 32 You will also know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 “We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered, “and we have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be set free’?”

34 Jesus answered, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Everyone who keeps committing sin is a slave to sin. 35 But a slave does not remain in the family forever. A son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

John 8:31-36

This past October 31st was observed by people in a variety of ways.  Lorin Hungsberg celebrated his birthday on 10/31.   Others got out their Catechism and read the short history of the Reformation.  Some of you probably enjoyed handing out candy (even though it was so cold – it’s amazing how candy can be such a forceful motivator!) to kids dressed in costumes.  Usually the parents are standing on the sidewalk as the kids come up to ring the doorbell and yell, “Trick or Treat!” No doubt the parents had instructed their children to remain with them and not run off.  At first, the kids would probably like to stay close.  You know, it’s dark with crowds of people in costumes, eerie decorations—it’s a good idea to stay close to mom and dad.  But, after a few houses of receiving treats the kids get excited and want to run for the next hand full of delight.   Soon, they might even lose sight of their parents and wish they had stayed close by.

Yes, October 31st is a loved event by people for many reasons.  We are celebrating Reformation this day as a Lutheran Church.  The Reformation takes us back to a time when the church had strayed from God’s Word, much like children running off to get treats from people.  But, God used a man named Martin Luther to boldly take a stand against the church of his time in order to reform their frightening errors and restore the church to the truth of God’s Word. So, to be clear, we are not celebrating Martin Luther.  Reformation day is the day we praise and thank God for guiding us to the truth of his Word.   He used a man like Martin Luther to point people back God’s Word and learn that we are saved by grace, through faith, as we remain in his holy Word.  Therefore, remain in God’s Word.

Remain in God’s Word To Know the Truth  

John’s gospel is taking place in the middle of stand offs between Jesus and his enemies in Jerusalem.  Jesus declared himself to be the promised Messiah in chapter 7 and sets the stage for those who hated him: 43 So the people were divided because of him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him” (John 7:43-44).   The questions that would face the crowds, and us are these:  Who is Jesus? and What does it mean to follow him?   Jesus’ answers this question to some Jews who once believed in him, but now had turned into his enemies. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples.”  That is super clear.  To remain with Jesus means to remain in his Word.  And at first this sounds quite simple in our ears.  But, then come the challenges to Jesus’ proposal.   You see, you can’t be a bandwagon Christian and jump on board when you like what you hear, and jump off when you don’t like it or it becomes inconvenient for you.  Let’s try it.  1) God’s Word says “I am the Lord, and there is no other. Except for me, there is no god” (Is 45:5).  This Word makes it easy to jump on the wagon.  But, then a friend says, “You narrow minded Christians say there is no other way to get to heaven except through Jesus Christ.”  Will you stay on the wagon or jump off with your answer?   2) The Bible says, “Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor males who have sex with males, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor the verbally abusive, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10).  But, your friend says, “It’s okay to have sex with anyone besides your spouse, or it’s okay to drink too much, or it’s okay to be gay.  And if you go against them then you are accused of being filled with hatred.” Will you stay on the wagon of God’s Word to love these people by showing them what is right and wrong according to God’s Word, or will you jump off and follow the world’s way.  3) The world says the truth of God’s Word is now the lie, and the lie of the world is now the truth.  Will you stay on the Christian Band Wagon?  Jesus said, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples. 32 You will also know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  A follower of Christ remains in God’s Word through thick and thin and stands firmly on God’s Word.   It’s like Washington National fans who have stuck with their team and finally won the World Series.  There were plenty of years when they were tempted to jump off the wagon, but stayed on because they were true fans!

But, that’s just a baseball game.  Do you really understand how important it is to remain in God’s Word?   God’s Word is the truth.  God’s Word is based on facts.  God’s Word records the prophesies of the Messiah and their fulfillment by Jesus Christ as facts.   To be sure, human teachers can meddle with God’s Word and obscure the truth as they did in Jesus’ day.  Some took the prophecies of God’s kingdom to mean a kingdom on earth.  They taught that a person was right with God by what they did.   Some believed as recorded in John 8 33 “We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered, “and we have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be set free’?”  They believed because of who they were, physical descendants of Abraham, that they had a fast track to heaven.   They had God’s Word but they couldn’t be farther away from the truth because they didn’t remain in the truth of God’s Word.

This was the case in Luther’s day.  Some in the church were teaching that you had to live right before you face the terrible Judge, or you could buy your way out of purgatory and into heaven by purchasing these things called indulgences.  Here’s a quote from history.org  “John Tetzel was given the task of raising money for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. He was exceptionally good at it. He’s famous for this claim: As soon as the gold in the casket rings; the rescued soul to heaven springs.”  This was just one of the many points Luther wanted to debate when he posted the 95 thesis on the church door.  Being right with God was not about the right prayers, the right ceremonies, or the right music, but about remaining in the truth of God’s Word.

Truth is found in Scriptures alone discovered once again by Martin Luther.  Here is that truth:  God gave his commands NOT to save you, but to show you how much you need a Savior.  Therefore, a person cannot keep the commands to try and get right with God.  Here’s the truth: 20 For this reason, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by works of the law, for through the law we become aware of sin” (Rom 3:20).  The truth is that God’s law shows our sins.  The truth is that God’s law shows us how imperfect and unworthy we are.  That’s a tough truth to swallow.   But, God’s Word teaches more truth:  21 But now, completely apart from the law, a righteousness from God has been made known. The Law and the Prophets testify to it. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all and over all who believe” (Rom 3:21-22).  The power to get right with God is not in you.   The holiness we need is a gracious gift from God, worked through Jesus Christ, and becomes your very own through faith.  This is the truth upon which Martin Luther took his stand in 1517.  Dear Friends, remain in the truth of God’s Word, for God’s Word

God’s Word Sets You Free

You kinda have to chuckle when you read the deflective response of the people to Jesus’ statement about being free. 32 You will also know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 “We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered, “and we have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be set free’?”  Weren’t they slaves in Egypt?  Weren’t they slaves in Babylon?   Weren’t the 10 tribes carried off into Assyria never to return?   But, we get it.  They were trying to play the privilege card.   It was true that the Jews were God’s chosen people of the OT, used by God to work out his plan of salvation.  They were blessed to have the prophets (God’s Word).  But, they were missing the point.  Jesus stays on track!   Jesus wasn’t talking about physical slavery, but about being slaves to the curse of sin and the curse of worshiping their own flavor of religion and worshiping their own man-made false gods.  The enemies of Jesus refused to admit and see their biggest problem—sin!  34 Jesus answered, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Everyone who keeps committing sin is a slave to sin.”

Like the Jews we also like to think that God’s truth does not apply to us.  Too many times we are tempted to think we are not enslaved by sin.  We tend to think that we are free, too!   “I’m free to say what I want!”  “I’m free to treat people the way I want!”  “I’m free to use my possessions the way I want!”  “I’m free to believe what I want to believe from God’s Word, and set aside what cramps my style!”  The devil loves to use this trick on us.   He wants you to believe that you are free to do whatever you want, when in reality Christ has set you free to do whatever he wants!

That’s what Jesus did for you.  Jesus, as true man, worshiped his Father in heaven perfectly.  Jesus, as our Substitute, was never sexually immoral, never stole, never was greedy, got drunk, was verbally abusive or swindled anyone!   Then Jesus took his perfect life to the cross as payment for all your sins.  This was the great message of the Reformation!  Jesus did it for you.  Jesus forgave all your sins—past, present and future.  Jesus gave his perfect life on the cross as the payment the Father demanded for your life of sin.  Jesus did it all.  Dear friends!  Remain in the truth of God’s Word and you are free!

Therein lies the battle cry of the Reformation.  It was accomplished by Jesus for us by the grace of God.  But, as long as we are alive, the battle continues against the evil forces of the world that want to rob God’s truth from you. 34 Jesus answered, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Everyone who keeps committing sin is a slave to sin. 35 But a slave does not remain in the family forever. A son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.”  You see, being set free does not mean you keep going back to the sins you’ve committed.  When the woman caught in sin was brought before Jesus, he told her to go in peace for she was forgiven, and also told her to stop sinning.   Likewise, you are also free from the curse of sin, the power of the devil, the fear of death, and the punishment of hell through faith in Jesus Christ.   Repent.  Stop Sinning.  Be a faithful follower of Jesus.  Remain in the truth of God’s Word for you are set free to serve and love God who has loved you so much first.

Remember what today is.  Reformation Day.  Just like those kids who lost sight of their parents and didn’t remain with their parents on Halloween night, they found themselves scared and lost.  But, they were brought back under the watchful eyes of their parents who never lost sight of them.  They enjoyed the rest of the evening going from door to door receiving a bag full of candy.  Likewise, while churches, the world, and even your family may lose sight of the truth of God’s Word, God has never taken his eyes off of you for Jesus’ sake.  Therefore, Remain in the truth of God’s Word that sets you free!   Amen!!