12th Sunday after Trinity August 18, 2002
30, 375, 306, 45
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus, by whom we become heirs of the household of God:
Have you ever purchased something that had great promise, but was really worth nothing? Perhaps a toy you saved up and sent away for, but its arrival left you sorely disappointed? The world is full of con artists who will take your money and give you nothing in return, whether it be a bill of sale for the Brooklyn Bridge or a get-rich-quick scheme that devours your retirement savings.
Whenever we are cheated and victimized, it leaves us feeling empty and angry and ashamed. We vow never to let our guard down in the future. But the strange thing is, people are often easily “taken in” when it comes to spiritual confidence. They will too easily sacrifice what is true and reliable for the false and fleeting.
When Jesus addressed the people in our text, He was teaching in the Temple. His adversaries were challenging Him, trying to make Him out to be an impostor. What happened was that whenever they tried to humiliate or challenge Jesus, it gave Jesus an occasion to speak some of those marvelous, comforting truths that Christians value to this day.
So, here, we have a marvelous, memorable phrase from Jesus: “The Truth shall make you free!” It came in the midst of debate, but it wasn’t spoken to the enemies as much as it was to the new believers—people who were just beginning to take Jesus at His word and see Him for who He was. Jesus now wanted them to know what it was He could do for them, because the more they understood who He was and what He was to do, the less likely they were to be misled and robbed by spiritual impostors—robbed of their new-found liberty, robbed of salvation. Today, we pray for the Spirit to awaken true freedom in our hearts by teaching us what happens When the Son makes you free. I. You are truly free from the bondage of sin II. When the Son…You have a true place in the family of God
First of all, to understand spiritual liberty, we must see that when the Son makes you free you are truly free from the bondage of sin.
Freedom begins with conversion—the work of the Holy Spirit changing the sinner’s heart, turning the soul from one that is bound to sin to one that follows the Lord. Jesus explained the radical nature of conversion when He told Nicodemus “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Conversion is radical; it is life-changing; but it must begin with “godly sorrow” over sin (cf: 2 Corinthians 7:10). The problem is, many do not realize the iron-grip of sin. Jesus told the Jews that “Whoever sins is a slave of sin.” One cannot sin a little bit and walk away unaffected by it (just as Adam and Eve discovered). Sin corrupts the heart. Once the heart has turned away from God, or a if person is born in that condition, the heart and its owner cannot turn themselves back again.
Our hearts and souls, when turned away from God, undergo the most miserable futility. Our sinful lives have no good end, no worthwhile outcome. Paul wrote to the Romans about slavery to sin: “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:20-21). What fruit, what benefit can we expect from our lives when we follow the promptings of our heart in greed, selfishness, lovelessness, carousing, or immorality? A moment’s thought tells us exactly what to expect. And Paul answers his own question a verse or so later: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
One of the ways that sin holds us in bondage is that it corrupts our thinking. Under sin, one cannot remain independent in his thinking. Rather, our every thought is bent toward sin and rebellion against God. This is true even if what we do or think is seemingly good and noble before others.
As an example, Jesus’ opponents were bent on murdering Jesus. They wanted Him out of the way and were willing to accomplish this in any way they could. Yet, He was the Son of the Living God—the very God they claimed to worship. There was no reason for mistaking His identity. Jesus never claimed to be anything but the One sent by God. His deeds provided plenty of evidence to that effect (which Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, readily acknowledged). Still, because they did not believe in Jesus and did not want to believe in Him, because they were jealous of the attention Jesus was getting and what it might do to people’s view of them, they couldn’t help themselves—they had to murder Jesus.
All of this, even though they were genuine descendants of Abraham. They were heirs of God’s great dealings. God had sent the prophets to their ancestors. He had led the people out of bondage under Moses. He had given them His covenants and established their laws; but His Son, they rejected.
People who assume that they are ‘right with God’ because they belong to a certain church, because their parents took them to church years ago, because they were confirmed at age 14, because they live among Christians and conduct decent lives, such people are no more Christian than is a fence post. They have been deceived and robbed. They live under the cruel bondage of sin.
But if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed. It is Jesus, the Son of God, who died to atone for our sins. It is Jesus who has reconciled us to God through His perfect life and sacrificial death. It is Jesus who frees us from the power of sin by forgiving us before the throne of God, pardoning us fully of all guilt. It is Jesus who brings into our hearts the truth about God who is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
When the Son makes you free, you are truly free from the bondage of sin. You are free of God’s condemnation for He sees only Christ’s righteousness in you. You are free from guilt for you have been justified, absolved of all sin and unrighteousness before God. You are free from shame for all your wrong-doing and impurity has been drowned in the sea of Christ’s blood.
“When the Son makes you free.” This is the key. John’s Gospel account seeks to drive home a few important points. One of these, constantly repeated throughout the book, is the fact that Jesus is God’s true, eternal Son. Or as the Nicene Creed puts it “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten, not made.” Only the eternal Son of God could fully atone for all our sins.
There is another blessing from Jesus’ Sonship to remember: When the Son makes you free you have a true place in the family of God.
Here is another aspect of Jesus’ advice to those who had just come to faith in Him. He was distinguishing them from the Jews who did not believe in Him. Those who believed, He was saying, were the true Israelites, the true people of God.
To make this point, Jesus was still using the picture of slavery: “A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” He pointed out that a slave has no legal right to the live in his master’s house. A slave is treated like merchandise—an article to be bought and sold. When we were bought and sold in sin, ruled and tyrannized by the Devil, we had no place in God’s house. We had no access to the throne of the Almighty, no home except the devil’s own domain.
A son has a rightful place in his father’s house. He enjoys the benefits of living there and doesn’t have to fear being sent away or sold on a whim. A son, eventually, looks to take over what was once his father’s. A son knows his status and doesn’t have to prop up his self-esteem with hollow claims of righteousness and power.
When the son of the household, acting in the father’s authority, frees a slave, that slave is no longer bound. He is free to move on and lead his own life. No one else has the right to bind the freed man.
By the Son of God’s own suffering and death, we have been justified—freed from the bondage of sin. He has freed us so that we, too, can be rightful children of God. John says of Jesus “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). We may be former slaves, but now we have a place in God’s family.
When the Son makes you free, you have the freedom to be children of God. We have the freedom to know and rejoice in our heritage. Jesus told those who believed on Him that “If you abide in My Word, you are my disciples indeed.” That word of God tells a story—beginning with creation, and ending in eternity—that proclaims His great love and marvelous salvation. This Word of Christ is for us and about us. It tells us from where we have come and where we are going. His word is the title and guarantee that our hope is firm and true and more certain than anything in this world.
When the Son makes you free you have your fruit to holiness. Paul, when he spoke to the Romans about spiritual slavery, also spoke about a ‘slavery’ to righteousness: “…but now, having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). For the person who turns from sin and trusts Jesus, life’s responsibilities and occupations take on a new meaning. Life’s trials and challenges become opportunities to glorify God.
When the Son make you free, you have access to the gracious love of God. We can bring our many prayers, petitions, and appeals before the throne of the Almighty and be confident that He will hear all that is asked in Jesus’ name as if a father were listening to the stumbling requests of his three-year-old. God hears the prayers of His children.
When the Son makes you free, you have a place in God’s house forever. Jesus steered His new believers to His word because in time Jesus would be visibly absent, having finished His work and ascending into heaven. But the Word of Christ, recorded for us in the Scripture, will remain. The Word of Christ will remain even after heaven and earth pass away. It is that Word of Christ, working faith, love, and obedience in our hearts, that will preserve us and sustain us until we enter the glory of our eternal home—our Father’s house. There, we, His children, will dwell forever. It is the Son who makes you free. Don’t let anyone steal that away from you. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.