GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE TRUTH WHO SETS US FREE!
TEXT: John 8: 31-36
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
“You will not surely die.” It’s been thousands of years since the devil spoke those words in Eden. But ever since, Lucifer’s language has remained the same: lie, lie, lie, and lie some more. Sometimes he shouts it. Sometimes he whispers. Sometimes his voice is monotone and we don’t suspect anything shady. But still he speaks. “You’re your own boss…you can have it all…you’re worthless…no one loves you…that’s unforgiveable…it’s a different world today so don’t worry about—you fill in the blank.” The devil’s dialect is spoken all around us. That’s why it is so important to listen to the voice of the One who is the Truth. As we walk through Lent we’ll hear His voice. We’ll see Him suffer for us. We’ll watch Him die. And then we’ll behold Him rising again! But we’ll always hear him speak. And again and again He’ll say: “I tell you the truth.” So tonight, listen to Him saying:
I TELL YOU THE TRUTH…ANYONE WHO SINS IS A SLAVE TO SIN
Often we don’t want to hear the truth. We don’t want to hear that we’re getting fat because our jeans are too tight. We don’t want to hear about the bad influence of our new friends. We don’t want to hear how we made a mistake at work, or how we’re rationalizing a ridiculous purchase. Usually for us, the “truth” is how we want it to be rather than how it actually is. That explains why our defenses go up when we hear Jesus say: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Frederick Douglass, the freed slave, who turned abolitionist, once wrote: “I didn’t know I was a slave until I found out I couldn’t do the things I wanted.” So, as a Christian, what do you want to do? We don’t want to sin. But can we not sin? By nature we’re slaves to sin. “O.K. I’m a slave. So now what?” Everyone downplays the seriousness of sin. It’s literally in our DNA. “Who cares? Everyone does it! I still know who Jesus is and what He did for me. So, what’s the big deal?” Do you recognize that voice? Those words come from the father of lies. Rationalizing away inner evil is his most potent weapon against us and against God.
The mere term “slave to sin” is just a label. We can all live with labels. What’s really the problem is how that label defines our status with God. Jesus says: “A slave has no permanent place in the family.” Sounds like the mob, doesn’t it? “You’re not part of the family.” But the point here is this: Jesus is warning that a slave to sin has no room reserved in heaven. That is a big deal! Let’s play a confirmation game. If I ask you tonight, “How many of you are guilty of sin?” literally all your hands would be raised. But if I ask: “How many of you sin so much that you’re guilty of hell?” well, fewer hands would appear. That level of Godly guilt is tough to swallow. And Ash Wednesday is about coming to grips with it. It’s about the truth God uttered to Adam so long ago: “Dust you are to dust you will return.” Slaves.
So, what’s the escape plan? How do we pull a Harry Houdini and escape these chains? Remember the saying: “It’s not so much what you know as who you know?” Well, that applies here. Christ holds our freedom in His hands. As God’s Son, Jesus established eternal residency in heaven. He did it all for us! Yes, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free, indeed!”
How do we get to know this key person? Again, Jesus says: “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.” HIS teachings unlock our shackles. His teachings are not merely a checklist of do’s and don’ts for us to follow so that we could somehow free ourselves. No, Jesus Himself fulfilled that checklist by living in our place, perfectly, for us. Jesus stepped in and took our beating from the whipmaster. He got knocked down and out by the cross but stormed back in the resurrection, thus sealing our eternal emancipation proclamation. This teaching of Jesus, the Gospel, is the truth that sets us free.
And here’s the icing on the cake: not only are we set free from sin by Jesus, we’re also now freed to serve God and one another in love and thankfulness. By nature this is a foreign concept to human beings. Our sinful nature craves sexual immorality, hatred, discord, envy, and the like. But since Jesus has freed us, they need not master us any more. We’re free to carry each other’s burdens in love. We’re free to forgive and forget. Free to live the Truth.
A few decades after Jesus had this talk with some Jews on freedom, the Spirit inspired Paul to write on the same issue to a bunch of Christians like us: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Later on, Paul lists the positives that come out of such freedom: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And then comes the line: “Against such things there is no law.”
The power of sin is the law. But now the Spirit has worked faith into our hearts and taken that power away. Sin is not your master anymore, Christ is! And just as He is free from any taint of sin, so are you! That’s the truth of your faith, which has set you free! Amen