Jesus answered, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” John 8:32-33
Dear family of the Father,
It is amazing to me how often our ideas and the ideas of others are so different from the truth we find in God’s Word. Sometimes our ideas put just a little twist on His truth, and sometimes our thoughts and words are in direct contrast to the truth God shares with us. Other times our ideas have no connection with His truth whatsoever. That is why manmade truth that is not in agreement with God’s Word is no truth at all and only leads to greater bondage in sin.
I see it in my life and I watch it in others. Any time we decide to live by our own “truth” in contrast to God’s truth, we are living a lie and are always headed for trouble. As Jesus speaks in the verses above, we learn first that God wants us free from bondage, and second, that He is the only way to find that freedom. Struggling with sin is frustrating and even infuriating.
Today we see clearly how everyone has their “own truth,” and the conflict that results is everywhere. “Follow the science,” we are told, but we struggle to determine whose science we need to follow. Freedom is another idol we pursue, and we are consumed with our independence, seeking a life where no one else can tell us what to do. Freedom to live where we want, to work where we want, and to pursue what we want. Freedom of speech, of assembly, and of religion are all good gifts. But all too often these freedoms is used to serve the self. The nature of sin is to be curved in on the self. My primary interest becomes my freedom, for my benefit. So my freedom as a U.S. citizen easily turns into neglecting my neighbor. My freedom in Christ easily becomes freedom from Christ, His Word, His truth. With all of those freedoms, we end up living out life in our own self-imposed prisons.
What are you enslaved to? To paraphrase the context of John 8, “We are offspring of America and have never been enslaved to anyone,” and as Lutherans we might also say, “We are children of Luther and of the Gospel and have never been enslaved to anyone.” When you hear Jesus speak of being a slave to sin it is easy to reflect on sinful addictions, sexual or chemical. Those certainly enslave people. But there are many more subtle forms of slavery to sin: worry, fear, frustration, anger, and greed, to name a few. Is anyone worried about the government or violence around the world? Have any concerns for the future faith of your children? For the future itself? And so slavery marches on.
Two words are key in the verses above: Word and Truth. I capitalized both because Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the way, Truth, and life. Science can give you knowledge, but only Jesus gives Truth because He is the Truth.
Your right relationship with the Father comes from the Word made flesh, not from your rightness, pureness, or work. He lived for you, died for you, rose for you, raises you from sin, death, and the devil, and from a world of chaos and confusion. You are free in Christ. He reforms you daily in the gift of baptism as you die and rise in Christ. He reforms you in the Truth of the Living Word. He is the Truth that sets you free.
The lies of Satan, like his forked tongue, are two-pronged. You must work hard to appease God’s wrath OR you don’t have to work at all. God’s Truth speaks clearly that you are not saved by work, yet you are saved to do good work, which God prepared in advance, that you should walk in them. In Christ, God is pleased with you. In Christ, God is pleased to work through you. In Christ, who is the Truth, you know the Truth, and the Truth has, does, and will set you free.
The heart of our faith is not a ritual or a structure, but a person. The truth of who He is grows us into who we were created to be: the body of Christ, alive in this world, serving Him by serving others.
Created in Christ for community,
Pastor Richard Snow, President, Nebraska District LCMS