John 8:31-36 - Peace Lutheran in Boulder, CO

Text: John 8:31-36 (End Times 1, Series C, October 30, 2016)
Theme: Love your Liberty!
Virtue (basic truth): Those set free by the Truth cherish and endure in that Son-won freedom.
Malady (our problem): Sinners re-fetter ourselves to un-saving things.
Telic Note (goal): By means of this sermon, the Spirit directs hearts to the freedom we have in
Christ, causes hearts to rejoice in that Truth, & leads us to endure in his Word.
Propositional Statement (aim): We understand freedom best by its contrast: slavery. On that
negative side we understand how wretched and miserable slavery is; by contrast, then, we
truly understand the blessing of freedom. By grace, the Son has set us free; today we
examine our slavery situation and learn to love our liberty.
Specific Law in Text: “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34)
Specific Gospel in Text: “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” (John 8:36).
Doctrinal Thought: Christ alone has freed us from sin, death, Satan, & spiritual slavery!
Sanctification Thought: “Lord Jesus, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life; by your heart
of grace, you have set me free from the curse of sin, despair of self, and hold of death.
Dear Friend, thank you! Today and always, refresh my heart with the joy of the freedom
you have secured for me and relentlessly assure me of it. By your Spirit, strengthen me to
live in my Son-won freedom in glad service to you. In your name I pray. Amen!”
John 8:31-36
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my
disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone.
How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no
permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will
be free indeed.
John wrote so “you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that by believing
you may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:31). In that Name, in Christ alone, grace, mercy, peace,
true life, and lasting liberty are yours full and free. Amen!
Promise to keep politics out of this, but this poll-promoter hit my eyes twice this past week once via Wednesday’s mail, once via the wait-line at Moe’s Bagels. For the most part, it’s
exactly what you’d expect from this culture in a near-November 2016 – no surprises there. But
the proposed amendment that struck me was this “Amendment T: No Slavery, No Exceptions.
What it does in 15 words: removes a provision allowing slavery as a form of punishment from
the Colorado State Constitution” So vote yes because, “The Colorado Constitution still allows
slavery as a way of punishing someone convicted of a crime. That’s certainly not a Coloradan
value, and we don’t think slavery should be allowed anywhere for any reason, ever.”
I’m not educated enough on the Colorado State Constitution to know anything on that topic
beyond what this blue, accordion-style flyer informs me; but, in the land of the free and the home
of the brave, in a land where we love our liberty and flaunt our freedom, of course we’ll see
slavery as a negative thing and, absolutely, its abolition in any format seems like a noble task.
Politically, that’s as far as I’ll go; it’s never my agenda to mix politics and religion – this pulpit is
not the place for that. So let’s put this into a proper context. The concept of slavery, more so as
the antonym of freedom, is the heart of the Lutheran Reformation. Spiritual slavery is very much
the issue whenever the Gospel is absent; we want to understand that. When the cross is clouded
Jesus’ tomb becomes comfortless and consciences are constrained by the shackles of sin, self,
and self-righteousness. And that’s a problem. So, yes, we respect Martin Luther; we don’t bow
to him as Lord or worship him as Savior. And, yes, the Lord used that Latin-wise lawyer turned
misfit monk to exhale the breath of the Gospel and to remind us – 5 centuries later! – of the
freedom we have because of Jesus and in Jesus . . . and that’s what we want to see today, too. So
Reformation Sunday and here’s our sermon goal: love our liberty as we ponder and rejoice in our
Son-won freedom and learn to employ that liberty in a life that clings to the heritage of his Word.
To guide us in that we’ll lean in to Jesus’ own words from John 8. As he speaks to a confused
crowd, let’s make sure we grasp the truth of what the Savior says. Since we read the lesson
once, I’ll invite you to just glance at John 8:31-32 for 13 seconds; then, if someone would
graciously and concisely summarize that for us, that’d be great. 13 seconds. Go. (“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” [John 8:31, 32]).
Anyone care to summarize? Sure; Jesus likely speaks to a crowd we’d call “superficial
followers” or “facial followers” – individuals intrigued by what Jesus had to say but more
convinced by the teachings of their culture. Jesus stresses the freedom found in him alone with
the emphatic encouragement to continue in his Word. Make sure you see that: Jesus isn’t telling
how to become his disciples; he’s telling us what his disciples do; they hold to the written Word
which always points to the Living Word; they cherish the fact that the Word of Truth always
points to the One who is the Truth – so don’t dare cloud that, change that, twist that, dismiss that.
Should be simple. Should be obvious. But in Jesus’ day, that truth got challenged and votes
were cast to kill him; immediately after this they picked up stones. And in Luther’s day, that
truth got clouded and votes were cast to keep it that way. And in our day . . . well, let’s just
realize things aren’t much different. Jesus words are still super-intriguing, even to a host of
Americans, but the concepts of differing opinions hold equal weight. Beware of that.
Back to our lesson. Jews of Jesus’ day have a boldly resentful answer. Remember? “We are
Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be
set free” (John 8:33). They were Abraham’s-seed and never-slaves; and they thought Jesus
should distinguish. Ironically, they forgot that they were subject to the rule of the Romans and,
before that, the politics of the Persians, and, before that, the burden of the Babylonians, and,
before that, the scourge of the Syrians, and, before that, the ill-willed ethos of the Egyptians.
But we’re not here to talk politics; and Jesus wasn’t either. Jewish slavery wasn’t physical
suppression or political oppression. “Though they have not been slaves in a religious sense to
another man, they were in fact slaves to themselves, slaves to their own false opinions in regard
to being Abraham’s seed and in regard to the law” (Wenzel, 422). So captivated by who they
were and their church tradition, they totally missed the truth that they were shackled to sin and
fettered to the false notion of salvation via the Law – good works. They flaunted false freedom.
That’s a sad illusion. And it’s a sad reality when people live under a false freedom – when, from
chains, they boast of a liberty that’s no real liberty. Though slaves they thought themselves free;
though bound, they assumed they held certain rights. Happened in Jesus day with an emphasis
on Abraham’s line. Happened in Luther’s day with an emphasis on good works.
Happens in our hearts, too; and we won’t pretend it doesn’t. But we’re Lutherans! Yeah . . . but
even here there are sinners still shackled and enslaved to their own self-righteousness. And even
here there are folks fettered to the non-saving blessing of church traditions. And even here
there’s a crowd chained to the will of sin and enslaved to the sinful self. And if any of those
describe any of us, we, too, live under a false freedom. And our heart’s despair is rightly so.
Lord of Love could have let us be fooled about our freedom. But he doesn’t. In love, the Savior
speaks up: “Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave
has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you
free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).
“Only a son is free, and there is only one person who is by nature a Son, free, and who has the
capacity to free those enslaved by sin” (Wenzel, 381). If that Son sets you free, if he breaks the
fetters of sin, unlatches the hold of death, unshackles from the pull of self, you are truly free.
Dear friends, Jesus has! That message was chained in Luther’s day; it’s not in ours! Look at the
cross and hear the echo of the tomb. From the despair of sin and the hold of Satan and the
slavery of self, our Jesus, the Son, the Truth, has set you fully free.
We’re offended at slavery because, by nature, we’re under it. Let’s rejoice in our Son-won
freedom proclaimed to us by the breath of God. You are free from sin’s consequences – sin is
paid and guilt is gone. Love your liberty! You are free from sin – it no longer dominates or has
pull in your life. Love your liberty! You are free from yourself – salvation isn’t on your
shoulders. Love your liberty! You are free from death –face it here; it doesn’t win! Love your
liberty! You are free from God’s wrath – the Truth, who doesn’t lie, says so! Love your liberty!
Friends, in Jesus, you are free to love your liberty!
That’s the unchained and unbound truth of the Gospel; and it’s still deeply practical for our daily
lives. So what’s that look like; what’s it mean to love your liberty in 2016? Free to do what you
want? No – then you’re still a slave to self. Free to do what you ought? Nope – then you’re still
a slave to the law and self-righteousness. Free to serve the Savior in glad thanks for all he’s done
and won? Yes! Free to glorify and praise the One who’s liberated you? Yes! Free to follow
him with a whole heart? Yes! Free to live as his disciples who hold to his truth, cling to his
Word, and endure in his Word? Yes! Friends, Sola Scriptura to Sola Gratia right to Sola Fide!
Reformation Celebration, so I should tie all this together. Luther’s original last-name wasn’t
Luther; it was “Luder” with a “d” not a “th.” Shift is subtle and unimpressive until we
understand that “Luther” sounds like “eleutheros” – Greek word for “freedom.” Luder changed
to Luther to reflect the fact that, by God’s free grace – by the Gospel, he had been set free.
Remind me, what type of church is this? Lutheran! It’s nothing more than a gathering of those
who have been set free and who hold to the Word of truth. So yes, have a potluck, sing hymns,
follow a time-honored path of worship – or not! That is not what defines Lutherans! Freedom
does. Liberty does. Remember why you’re here; because you have been set free. Lutherans . . .
you’re free! Free to cherish the joy of God’s grace alone. Free to feed the gift of God’s faith
alone. Free to endure in, hold, and remain in God’s Word alone. Free to Love your liberty!