Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Truth Shall Make You Free

"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). 

The starting point of human freedom is to confess that we are in bondage and cannot deliver ourselves.  We do not come to church because we ‘have it all together.’  We come to church because things have ‘fallen apart’ and we are incapable of repairing all that which is fallen and not quite right.  We are a community that laments.  Laments our bondage, and laments our brokenness.  A community that laments wars, and rumors of wars.

We are a community threatened by falsehoods and half truths.  We are a people surrounded by false religions, man-made philosophies, and false messiahs, all delivering their own version of good news - their own gospel. 

In Exodus we read that “The children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Ex. 2:23-24).

We also sigh and groan in our captivity.   

The bondage of moral relativism says, “Well, truth is subjective! What may be your truth is not my truth…Jesus may work for you but crystals and Buddhist meditation works for me!”       

Therefore truth, for the modern age, is not an objective reality, but rather formed by a single person’s personal taste and desires.  The modern age, opens up the possibility and facilitates the ultimate quest to form our own personal religion, to support our lifestyle, and perceived wants and desires.   

The bondage of the sexual revolution says, “If it feels good, do it.  I need to do what makes me happy.”  We live in a time when marriages are dissolved simply because one party “is no longer happy…and does not feel fulfilled.”  After all, it is “my life” and “my body.”  I can do whatever I like.  These are the lies that threaten to consume us all. 

The greatest truth claim is that we are all autonomous.  That is that we are “a law unto ourselves…a truth unto ourselves.”  That we can determine our own rules, our own truth, and our own religion.  These truths are lies and are destructive of faith. 

But what is truth?  Is it an idea?  A feeling or state of mind?  Is truth a philosophy?  Is the truth a set of teachings?  Is truth mere knowledge?  Is it only that which can be proved scientifically verified, through a careful empirical process? Are there many truths…which are all equally true?

Jesus, speaking to His followers says, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus is talking about himself.  He is the truth - the truth and Word of God made flesh.  Truth is not an abstract principle.  Nor is it an idea or philosophy.  Truth is this and this only:

The fullness of God became man and was born to the Virgin Mary.  God invaded our world to speak mercy and to deliver us from our bondage.  This Jesus, the alpha and omega, the beginning and end, speaks our bodies into existence.  Who preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.  There is no higher expression of truth that this: “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” 

Jesus is the truth, and therefore, the truth is a person – a man.  The only truth that truly matters.  For he holds the heavens and the earth together by His very breath.  He is the architect and artist of creation.  All truth consists in and of him.  He is the sum and substance of truth. 

To deny the truth of Jesus is to deny ourselves and to deny the existence of the whole created world.  And we can only understand the modern world when we are sanctified in His truth, enlightened with his gifts, and called by the power of the Gospel. 

He is the truth that breaks free from the tomb and destroys all the power of the great, ancient liar, the old deceiver, and the father of lies.   This truth sets us free.  Frees us from the old lies.  Frees us from willful disobedience.  Frees us from all the deceptions, lies, and promiscuity of the modern age.

Though there may be bondage to sin, God has broken in with his truth and ravaged the powers of sin, death, and the devil.  Though they may afflict us and give us the voice and sigh of lament, they have lost their power.     

He frees us by the power of forgiveness and new life to live in holy obedience.  To live and walk in His truth.  The truth that sets us free is Jesus on the altar.  Jesus in the font.  And Jesus in the pulpit.  We hear the truth in our ears and chew on it with our teeth.  We taste truth in the sweetness of the wine and drink a promise that fulfills itself today.  You are free.

This is the promise that is more real and true than anything else.  It is the truth that dries every tear and heals every broken heart.  To have truth is to hear Jesus and to receive His gifts.  This is it.  This is the foolishness of the Gospel and confuses the world.  It is the truth of Christ and the church throughout all ages.  It is the truth of the Lutheran reformation.  And it is the truth that is confessed as Saint Paul’s in Melrose Park.  We celebrate it today, in the years to come, and will do the same gathered around Christ’s table in heaven.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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