Let us pray: Dear Savior, amid a world filled with lies and half-truth, how freeing it is to come to church! Here You speak honestly and openly to us about evil, sin, the angst of life and also about salvation, forgiveness, and the heavenly honors that await. Today, keep us on the right pathway to Your truth which sets us free. Amen
GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, GOD’S TRUTH IN HUMAN FLESH
TEXT: John 8: 31-32: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
You’re browsing Barnes and Nobles and suddenly your eye hits upon a book entitled: “The Art of Prevarication.” You must admit, it’s a better title than: “The Art of Lying.” So, do you pick it up and peruse it? Do you buy it? Where do you think “The Art of Prevarication” would sell out?—Washington, D.C? New York? Hollywood?
Lying is almost as old as humankind. Prevarication began in Eden when both Adam and Eve shaved the truth and tried to elude God’s probing questions. For us, it’s often hard to tell when a person is lying. Some people cover it up really well. I’ve read that the Secret Service teaches classes to its agents on studying people’s micro-expressions in order to discern whether what they are saying is the truth or a lie. Lie detectors were invented to assist in this effort. But some people can beat lie detectors. Some people have really good “poker faces.” I’ll bet that if someone were to research prevarication and classify all its ins and outs, it might well be a best seller.
And that brings us to this uplifting little text stashed in John 8. Freedom from lies, knowing the truth, and living its liberating results can only be found in God and His Word of truth. So, let’s examine today:
THE ART OF UNPREVARICATION
Let’s begin with an obvious example. Are we really being told the whole truth about the Ebola epidemic? No. The powers that be are prevaricating. Yet, the truth always has a way of leaking out, doesn’t it? For example, mucus can transmit Ebola. So, how far does a sneeze travel? MIT researchers have models which suggest that the virus will spread across the globe and around America unless drastic steps are taken. I read an article on Friday morning how 2 high-up Homeland Security people and one CDC person report quietly that Islamic terrorists are “chattering” about weaponizing Ebola. Infecting suicide carriers to travel to America and Europe and spread the disease. Is the mass media reporting this? No. They are prevaricating to prevent chaos. In short, we get lied to all the time from a variety of sources.
We also lie to ourselves, especially when it comes to God stuff. In fact, we have a built-in penchant for lying.—It’s called original sin. The people Jesus is addressing in our lesson thought they were immune from God’s anger over sin and would automatically be saved by Him simply because they were Jews. They could trace their ancestry to Abraham and that blood tie was their automatic lifeline. Or course, Abraham was saved because of God’s grace. He was saved because of God’s promise to him of a Savior, which by God’s grace, Abraham believed. As Paul makes very clear: “Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Jesus picks up on that thought of an active, living faith when He states in our lesson: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. And then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The word “hold” means to endure, remain, stay, and live in. It’s ongoing action on our part. In other words, we may have it once, but we need to take active care not to lose it.
The word for “teaching” means the totality of God’s truths. Jesus taught the 10 commandments. He taught right and wrong. He taught that prevarication, such as was used against Christ by those false witnesses before Pilate, such lying was a sin. A sin that warrants God’s eternal anger. Let’s key in our lying. The 8th commandment covers it—You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Our court oaths pick up on this when in the witness stand you’re obligated to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” In other words, half-truths, shaving the truth, putting your own “spin” on things to make you look better, all that is forbidden. God’s disciples, Christ’s followers are expected to be open, honest, loving, and kind in their communication with others. Or, as Paul says in Ephesians 4: “Speak the truth in love.” Remember: you cannot “con” God…..
Our text is a conditional sentence. “If you hold to my teaching” is a condition for what follows: “you are really my disciples.” Who among us has perfectly kept that condition? Who among us has always at every time fulfilled that condition? You got it in one. None of us. But that’s where Christ comes in. He did always speak the truth in love. He did always teach and practice the entire counsel of God. And when we turn to Him in repentance and humble faith, His rightness with God is bestowed upon us. Yes, in Christ the condition is kept!
Now comes the 2nd half of the equation Jesus lays out, the formula for unprevarication. “And then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” My mother had a pet phrase passed down from her father: “The truth will always win out.” Hiding the truth for people’s own good is not something God ever does. The Bible is full of tough stuff: judgment, destruction, the dirtiness of sin. Read the Old Testament and it’s really quite shocking. God never sugarcoats human evil. But neither does He downplay or obscure freedom from human evil. From the opening chapters of Genesis we’re told everything God made was: “very good.” After Adam and Eve fell into the clutches of evil, God promised, almost immediately a Savior from such sin. That promise was repeated up and until Christ came to fulfill it. Yes, the Gospel, the truth that God’s Son died for all our sins, forgives us completely through His blood sacrifice, rose from our very graves, and now continues to give us the heavenly truth of God’s grace via Word and Sacrament; that is the ultimate truth that uplifts our hearts and souls, centers our lives, and sets us free! It alone liberates from evil, fear, guilt, shame, and living a lie. Yes, the truth of Jesus Christ can and will and does set us free!
The Art of Unprevarication is ultimately faith in Jesus Christ. It is the forgiveness seen today when Joseph’s brothers accurately relayed their father’s message to Joseph and didn’t prevaricate and were welcomed by him. It is seen in our Gospel lesson where Christ tells Peter not to keep a record of how often he’s forgiven another but to keep on doing it “70 x’s 7″ or without end. Sometimes the unvarnished truth hurts. But, ultimately it sets us on a pathway to freedom. The Gospel of Christ, that He came into this world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief one” proves it. Amen