Saturday, October 29, 2011


John 8:31-38 – And you shall be free

Reformation Day. What does this conjure up for you in your mind? What are we celebrating today as we sing “A mighty Fortress”, and hang red paraments on our altar and pulpit? Do you think of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church? Or do you think of the four “alones” of the Lutheran Church: “Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone”?

There is certainly a right and a wrong way of celebrating Reformation day. If, on this day, we celebrate the way in which the Spirit has led his Church into all truth over the last 2000 years; if, on this day, we give thanks for the constant guidance of God’s word in the scriptures; or if, on this day, we rejoice in the good news of the Gospel of free forgiveness in Christ, then, I think, we are celebrating Reformation Day appropriately.

But on the other hand, if we celebrate this day as a triumph of Protestantism over the Catholic Church, if we celebrate this day as if the Word of God began with Martin Luther on October 31st 1517, when he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church, or if we celebrate this day in a way that suggests that Lutherans alone of all Christians teach and believe that we are justified by faith whereas other Christians, think they are justified by their good deeds, then, I think, we are celebrating Reformation Day in a way that is thoroughly inappropriate.

If we are truly a “Reformation” church, then we need to come to terms with what “Reformation” means. For a start, “reformation” does not mean “innovation”--it does not mean “change for the sake of change”. The Lutheran reformers did not go to all the trouble they did 500 years ago, because they felt the Church of their day was “old-fashioned” and needed to “catch up” with the rest of the world. They did not want to “form” a new church, but to “re-form” the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of which they were a part.

“Reform” means returning to the original form--not making a new form. It meant removing abuses. But even at the time of Martin Luther, there were reformers who wanted to throw the baby out with the bath water. That was not the way of the Lutheran reformers.

The Lutheran reformation was a “conservative” Reformation. The aim of the Lutheran reformation was to remove the rubbish but to keep all that was good, and pure, and beautiful. The Lutheran Reformation was concerned with God’s Word and with faithfulness to the Truth. It was not concerned with “updating” the Church. An issue we must face is the absurdity of a church that is continually embracing change for the sake of change. Change is so prevalent in our world today that we sometimes lose sight of that which does not change. Jesus Christ He is “the same, yesterday, today and forever”--why then, is there the cry for the church to always be changing?[1]

Introduction: Truth for man is so elusive that many, like Pilate, wonder what truth is. There is widespread skepticism. What is proclaimed as truth today is not what it was yesterday. Who knows what it will be tomorrow?

In addition, there are various kinds of truth: scientific, political, and spiritual. In this passage, Jesus is dealing with spiritual truth concerning God and life.

1. What truth is — “If you continue in my word” (v. 31). Truth is the word of Christ; He is the truth. Though it has only two letters, it is a big word. Jesus says we will know the truth and be free “if” we continue in His word. It is possible to lose the word of Jesus through negligence or unconcern. We can fall from the truth and lose our religious freedom if we ever sever ourselves from the Word.

2. What truth does — “The truth will make you free” (v. 32). When Pilate asked Jesus what truth was, he gave no answer. In this passage Jesus defines the truth. It is in His word, for He spoke God’s Word. As long as we hold to the word of Jesus, we will be His disciples and will know the truth. It is not a truth of science, politics, or economics. It is religious truth personified and spoken by Christ. It is the truth of God and life.

The truth of Christ frees. It does not mean necessarily liberation or political independence. These may follow. It is freedom in and of religion. Truth frees us from false religious beliefs, superstitions, and practices. Christ’s truth frees us from the Law. Christ frees us from the bondage of sin by His death on the cross. Out of His spiritual freedom come other freedoms. If we are free before and in God, we will not be content until we are free among men.

Conclusion: To be Lutheran is to be both "Humble" and "Lazy".
Lutherans are humble. Not just in a kind, social sense - but in a spiritual sense. God's Law says, "Hey, you, you stink on ice!" A Lutheran makes no declaration against this, a Lutheran doesn't point to so called works . . . a Lutheran simply agrees, "Yeah, I stink. Big time." Lutherans are lazy. When asked what he is going to do to get himself to heaven, a Lutheran says, "Um . . . nothing. It's what Christ does for me and gives to me. It's about what He does." No thoughts on all the burdensome spiritual chores I must do - not even thoughts on how well I must decide on Christ - just Jesus does what needs to be done and the Holy Spirit brings this to me by Word and Baptism and Supper - just as He does for everyone else.

So what do you say, O Lutheran? Have you been humble lately - freely recognizing your own vile stench? Have you been lazy lately - letting Christ be the one who cleans up your messes after you? Or have you been becoming increasingly busy deciding on all the things you must do for Jesus to make yourself worthy of Him? Or have you become fearful determined to clean up for yourself lest Jesus yell at you?

It's not "about" you - o Christian - you are not the hero of the story. It's about Christ. Now, thankfully, it is "for" you - what He does is all for you. Be humble - see your need. Be lazy - and let Christ do the work. Rejoice and be glad in this - and you will be a Lutheran. As regards my salvation - I am to be perfectly lazy.

With regards to my neighbor - I am to be busy and serving at all times. Simple as that. But my works are always a response to what God has done for me, never a cause to make God act. Justification by faith leads to an obligation - to serve others - out of obedient discipleship to Jesus Christ. [2]

Note: For more reading consider these two sources:

No comments: