October 28, 2012: The Truth Shall Set You Free

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that when we tell the truth our conscience is clear and many problems in life are averted. Likewise, if we live the truth our lives will be blest. Today remind us how important it is to hold to the truth in all we say and do. For when it comes to how we stand before You, the truth shall set us free. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM JESUS CHRIST, THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE!

TEXT: John 8: 31-32: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’”

Dearly Beloved Christians Born of the Reformation:

My sainted mother had a saying which she repeated when confronted by liars. It was: “The truth will always win out.” O that political leaders would take that phrase to heart! It would save everyone the boredom and frustration of endless political advertising!

Today we live in the information age. We’re bombarded by all sorts of information about the state of the economy, world events, the celebration of moral degradation, and supposed claims of product superiority from cars to washing machines to name a few. But, how much of such “truth” is fact and how much is spin or fiction? Ah, that’s where the problem of what is truth and what isn’t literally spins out of control. As Christians, there is only one source of supreme truth in life. It isn’t some university think-tank, it isn’t a particular politician, and it isn’t a poll-driven majority opinion. No, for us truth is synonymous with God’s Word, with the Bible. It tells us how to live a blessed life and die a blessed death. It tells us as much about God as we need to know. It tells us right from wrong. The Bible doesn’t fudge the truth. It doesn’t spin it to placate the masses. No, it’s pretty black and white. “The soul that sins, it shall die.” That’s black and white. Likewise, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” is pretty black and white, too.

I know, I know, black and white is out of favor today. Instead, it’s been replaced by the 1 million shades of relativistic gray. That is, if it’s true for you and feels right, than you should accept those feelings as the truth. That modern view has spawned the abortion-rights culture, fuels the gay lobby, rendered almost all moral codes of conduct seemingly obsolete, and has often been used effectively by criminals in court cases. America is dysfunctional because America doesn’t know what the truth really is.

And so we have come to church today on Reformation Sunday longing for and looking for the truth. We’re sick of the hype, the lies, the whiney excuses that people use to shirk responsibility in life. We’re looking for clean, pure, unadulterated truth. Well, you’ve come to the right place because:

THE TRUTH SHALL SET YOU FREE!

I

Dr. Martin Luther was a seeker of truth. He struggled with the “big questions” of life that so few find time for today. Questions like: “Why did God give me life? How can I know with certainty what God’s will really is? How do I stand before God? How am I saved and what awaits me beyond this life?” Like most today, early in his life Luther was told to look inside of himself for those answers. “Trust your feelings. Trust your noble intentions. Work at living an outwardly moral life and hold that up to God for vindication.” It was the old rendition of: “Human works buy God off and save human beings.”

However, the more Luther engaged in that lifestyle as a monk, the more he was troubled in his conscience. “Have I done enough? Have I been holy enough? Does God operate under the same set of pay-off principles that we humans use in life? That is, “you do this for me and I’ll do this for you?” Then, when reading one of the few Bibles that existed at the time, Luther, a doctor of theology, stumbled upon that passage from Romans which states: “the just shall live by faith.” He studied more. He read the Bible more. He compared every single passage which talked about faith to each other. He researched exactly what that word: justify, or justification, meant throughout the Bible. And it all opened his eyes. The Spirit opened his eyes through the power of God’s Word. And Dr. Luther realized that the ultimate truth in life is that God saves sinners freely through faith in Jesus Christ. That Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to die to pay for all human evil and to wipe the slate against us clean. Moreover, God gave us salvation, oneness with Him, a clear heart and a new upbeat outlook on life—God gave us those blessings from Christ as a gift through faith. This was the ultimate truth that set Luther’s heart free. This is what gave him joy, confidence, power, and strength. This is what ennobled humans to stand before God Almighty cleansed and blest. And this knowledge enabled Luther to stand, unflinchingly, before the political and religious leaders of his day and resist their attempts to enslave his soul with more worldly spin.

II

In our lesson Christ addresses Jews who believed in Him but, like Luther before the Reformation, who were unsure of their standing before God. Listen to Jesus’ words: “If you hold to my teachings (all of them), you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Christ’s teachings are outlined throughout the Bible. They range from the doctrine or teaching that God created the world, to humans lost the image of God via jealousy and arrogance, to God promised eternal help for the helpless by means of His Son, Jesus, to the waters of baptism wash us clean and implant faith into our hearts, to Christ strengthens us with His resurrected body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, to the Spirit comes through God’s Word and uplifts and blesses our lives, to heaven is not something you must work hard to achieve, but instead is God’s gift to you in and through Jesus Christ. All of these truths set Luther free inside where it counted the most. They freed up his soul, his mind, his spirit. They gave him courage to speak out and stand up for the truth against the spin-control experts of his day. And the result of all this truth was a transformation of the known world.

My friends, all this is our Lutheran legacy. All this has now come down to you and me. Unlike the vast majority of America, or the world, we know the truth! Since the time of the ancient Greeks who looked for the truth by sending out a man in the dark armed with a lantern forever searching for it, to the cynical Pontius Pilate who scoffed: “What is truth?” to the modern academic who loftily claims: “Truth is relative, it is constantly changing depending on people, circumstances, and perceptions”—amidst all that cluelessness—we have the truth! It is that Jesus Christ came to save sinners just like you and me. It is that God’s Son died for our sins on the cross. It is that faith alone in Jesus saves us. It is that God’s undeserved love for us is the greatest power in the universe. Yes, it is that by trusting in Jesus my soul will be at rest here and heaven truly will be my ultimate home.

My mother always said: “The truth will always win out.” Today, once more, it has! And since it’s God’s truth, it will set you free! Amen