I. So you are in Jesus
II. So…you remain in Jesus
John 8:31-36 31 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.” 33 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?” 34 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.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who has set us free, dear Christian friends,
Some people get set free only to get captured all over again. For example, some forms of dodgeball are played with the rules that if you are hit with a ball or someone catches the ball you throw, you have to sit in “jail” until released. When a teammate catches the other team’s ball, he may choose to have the opponent sit out or set a teammate free. Unfortunately, what so often happens is that teammate gets hit immediately and goes right back to dodgeball jail again…no longer free!
British soldier Horace Greasley escaped from the Nazi camp where he was held during World War II by removing the wooden bars from his cell window and crawling under the fence surrounding the camp. He was free! But he kept returning to camp and captivity…200 times! Knowing he could escape and get what he wanted any time, he was content to give up his complete freedom.
If you have ever been set free from a dangerous, difficult, maybe even deadly situation, would you ever want to go back? On this Welcome Home/Reformation Sunday, we focus on being FREE! I. So you are in Jesus II. So…you remain in Jesus.
On this Reformation Sunday, I might be considered something other than a Lutheran preacher if I do not mention Martin Luther. He was a man who knew very well what it meant to be imprisoned and to be set free, not his body from a jail cell, but his soul from the despair of hell. All the years of his upbringing in a strict Roman Catholic home, he was taught that God was only a stern judge who punished those who disobeyed. Luther was taught at home and at church that he could and should try to set himself free by accomplishing a certain amount of good deeds in order to receive God’s favor. A night of sleeping on a cement floor, a time of beating himself with a whip, a period of going without a staple of life may have given Luther the idea he was pleasing God and a feeling of freedom for a short while, but then his next sin imprisoned him once again. It was a vicious, depressing cycle that led Luther to despair.
It was only when the Holy Spirit brought the Word to Luther that then he knew the truth and the truth set him free— the truth that Luther could not save himself, the truth that only Jesus can atone for sin, the truth that freedom is free, but came at a price, the price of Jesus’ holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Once Luther was free, he did not want to go back to the captivity of his work-righteousness and worked hard to hold on to and hold out the truth so others could be set free as well.
Now look at the situation presented in these words before us. Jesus is talking to the Jews who had believed him. As believers in Jesus as Savior from their sins, they no longer depended on the teaching of work-righteousness which they had learned from little on in their Jewish homes and synagogues. They were free— free from unbelief and its punishment of eternal death in hell!
But how quickly that changed! Those same Jews who had believed in him turned their backs on Jesus. Later in this conversation and this chapter, Jesus told them, “you are ready to kill me because you have no room for my word…if God were your Father you would love me…you belong to your father the devil” (Jn 8:37, 42, 44).
Why did they go back to their captivity under the devil? Pride! After Jesus tells them how they became free and how to remain 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?”
They referred to their status as Jews, as Abraham’s children and thought that was enough to set them free from their sins. That is like one of us saying “My mom and dad grew up in this church and therefore I am going to heaven when I die!”
Who is capable of setting us free from our sins? Our parents? Hardly! For Scripture says, “no man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him” (Ps 49:7,8). Are we set free by our own good works? Never! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23).
Only Jesus can set us free and he has! In Jesus, you are free— free to say no to the devil when he comes tempting you, free from the curse your sin calls down upon you, free from the condemnation of hell and its eternity of ultimate pain.
What an awesome Savior we have! Jesus gave up his freedom to set us free! Free to do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted in heaven, Jesus confined himself to a human body, dedicated himself to keeping every one of his heavenly Father’s laws perfectly, and committed himself to dishonor, disregard and disrespect even from his own people! Then he relinquished all freedom by dying a horrible death on a cross and being abandoned by his heavenly Father! What love he has shown us! What sacrifice he has made for us!
Do not turn your back on him! Do not let pride in your heritage or in yourself put you back under slavery to the devil! Do not give up your freedom by putting yourself back into the captivity of work-righteousness!
Again, if I don’t have a quote from Luther on Reformation Sunday, my Lutheran preacher license might be taken away from me, so listen to these words from his sermon on this text: “The Jews would have welcomed the gospel if it had meant freedom from the cross, a free and comfortable life at home, exemption from taxes and subservience to no one…If Christ had given everyone a sack filled with coins, plus a castle or a city— who would have deserted him then?...But he declares: ‘people will be your enemies and hate you for my sake. Because of me the world will revile, defame and kill you, and begrudge you even a morsel of bread or a moment of life.’…Then flesh and blood reply: ‘Let the devil be a Christian in my stead…There is too much of a stench here for me’” (Luther’s Works, American Edition, Volume 23, p. 399).
Today’s service theme is “Welcome Home: Where you are free to be yourself”. Does that mean everyone of your opinions will be accepted and put into action here? Doubtful! Does that mean you will be allowed to come in here and campaign for some false doctrine or immoral way of living? Of course not!
It means here you are free to be a Christian, a child of God who wants to bring your sins before his throne of mercy and praise him for the forgiveness and salvation that are yours; a member of God’s family who wants to treat other members of the family with love and encouragement. It means here you are free to remember and rejoice in your baptism which set you free by bringing you faith in Jesus. It means here you are free to listen to the Word, the truth, which assures you of your freedom from sin, death and the devil won for you by Jesus. It means here you are free to receive the Lord’s Supper to strengthen and sustain your faith and to supply you with forgiveness.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Free! So you are in Jesus! So…you remain in Jesus!