Reformation Sunday – 2019 LSB #’s 435, 663, 658
Text – John 8:31-32
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, & you will know the truth, & the truth will set you free.”
DOES THE TRUTH REALLY MATTER?
While looking for a definition of truth to begin the sermon, this caught my eye instead. Hell is seeing the truth just a little too late. That’s a definition of Hell, but let’s think about it. Discovering the truth just a little too late that would be Hell, wouldn’t it? To know the truth, but after the deadline. Knowing you came close, but didn’t quite make the cut.
In that situation the truth would really matter, even though it’s too late to do anything with it. There are examples from our daily lives where it’s obvious that the truth matters. With illness – it matters that the doctor knows the truth, if he’s going to cut you open. With bank accounts – it matters if you know the truth about your balance, or the check might bounce.
Yet, in today’s society, there are many areas in which people no longer believe that the truth matters. They no longer believe there even is such a thing as absolute truth. At best, they’ll concede that you may have your own truth, but they have a right to a different truth that is just as valid. A different truth that is just as true.
You might recognize that as nothing more than a silly word game, but many today firmly believe that truth is whatever they decide it to be. Our politically correct society has become afraid of truth out of fear of offending the “in” crowd. As a result, in many circles, absolute truth has been done away with as too rigid, too legalistic, too narrow minded, too offensive.
Looking back at the Garden of Eden, we see the devil playing that game already from the beginning. In the 3rd chapter of Genesis the serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” The very 1st words of Satan, recorded in Scripture, were playing a game with the truth. Eve chose to accept this “different” truth, & it cost her her life. Just a few verses after today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus refers to the devil like this:
“He was a murderer from the beginning, & does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar & the father of lies.” (John 8:44b-c ESV) Jesus did not mince words by saying the devil is a purveyor of merely a different truth. There’s only one truth, & Jesus states that He is it.
Jesus is the Way, & the Truth & the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. Any other message heard from the church is a lie, & the work of the devil. How often do you critically evaluate what you hear from your church, your synod, your pastor? How often do you test, against Scripture, what is being taught to determine if it’s the truth?
Do you trust me that much? Or is it simply that you don’t really care what I preach? Are you saying that the truth doesn’t really matter? It’s common today, to hear that we all believe in the same god, we just approach him in different ways. But the words I quoted above speak against that sort of reasoning.
No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. He is the Way, the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life. Have you been deceived by the thought, “Did God really say?” 502 years ago, Martin Luther took exception to what the church was teaching & practicing.
He studied Scripture & found that many “alternate” truths had crept into the church in the 1500 years since Christ. He made a list of 95 points & posted them for debate. He wanted to discuss what was being taught, in order to bring the church back to teaching the absolute truth, the truth that is Jesus Christ.
However, St. Peter’s Basilica was being completed in Rome, & the church needed a boat load of money to finish it. Also, one of the recent Bishops had illegally bought his position. He needed to pay off the loan he took from the bank. As those two forces coincided, a deal was made, & the special sale of indulgences, that Luther was to protest, were the result. Apparently, Luther had no idea how much money he was up against.
He refused to back down, & the people in “charge” couldn’t stand by & allow this infidel of a monk to destroy their carefully made plans. Thus, the Reformation was born. Its effects have resounded throughout the world to this day. All this, because Luther tested the Scriptures against what was being taught.
For stubborn Martin, the truth mattered, & he was willing to die for it. The Lord used him to restore the pure & true Gospel to the church. God used him to reveal many of the errors that had taken root in the church, because the truth was not politically correct already in Luther’s day. As an example of false teaching in our day, I quote a Lutheran pastor:
“Our view of God for a lot of people today is one of Newtonian physics, regulated, ordered, knowable. But the new world of quantum physics (with its uncertainty) gives people a chance to re-image God.” What he’s saying is this – what we know of God is no longer certain, & therefore is open to our imagination. We can now remake god in whatever image suits us.
He’s saying that the “old” idea, of a God who is ordered & knowable, is out of touch, behind the times. But if God is not able to be known, how can we trust Him? In fact, if God is open to being re-imagined, then god is nothing more than a concept of the human mind.
And that is exactly what many so-called “theologians” are teaching today. Your god can be whatever you want it to be. Isn’t there a commandment that speaks directly against such human “imagination” of God? But then, to people like that pastor, the commandments are only one view of the truth out of many.
The problem is if everyone gets to decide their own truth – what is real & what is not?
Or is reality only in a person’s mind? If God is not able to be known, how can we be sure that one even exists? If we open the door to the belief in an uncertain god, then we might as well have no god at all. I don’t want the kind of god that depends upon my imagination.
What good does it do to believe in something that I create? If I’m the creator, than I’m greater than my god, & quite frankly, I’ll just save myself. But I’ve tried that, & failed. If God is capable of saving us, then He must be greater than we are. And if He is greater than we, then He must reveal Himself to us.
The Reformation was about rediscovering that revelation, & making it available to the people. The bureaucracy of the church had hidden that revelation, & made the true God an unknowable one. The priestly class had obscured God with man-made laws & traditions.
The Reformation restored to the people God’s gifts of the Holy Scriptures, of salvation by grace, of preaching, hymns, the freedom of the individual conscience, & the universal priesthood of all believers. These had been present in Christianity from the very beginning, but got buried under the dust of centuries of man-made alternate truths.
When the truth was set free, people immediately recognized it, for in it they once again clearly heard their Master’s voice. They were aware of the slavery to which the church had confined them, so they recognized the truth & the freedom that it brought. To those thousands of people across Europe, the truth mattered, & it alone set them free.
In today’s Gospel lesson, the Jews weren’t even aware that they were slaves. Shortly after these verses Jesus goes so far as to say they are children of the Devil. That’s who they were slaves to. Are you aware of your own slavery to sin & to the devil? Have you noticed you can’t seem to break free no matter how hard you try? Sin is always dogging you at the heels.
Or, have you been imagining your own god? Have you altered the truth to fit your
circumstances & your weaknesses? Maybe you’ve decided that your weaknesses aren’t really sin after all! Maybe you’ve re-imagined your god in order to lower His standards to your abilities. Have you decided in favor of an “I’m okay you’re okay” religion? Are you ignoring the very truth that has been revealed to set you free? PAUSE
The OT reading told us that God has revealed Himself, & His law, to each of us: “I will put my law in their minds & write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33b ESV)
You have no legitimate excuse for re-imaging God. His image has already been written on your heart, & what it tells you is that without Him you are an absolute failure. You’re on the fast track to hell where you will finally see the truth – only too late. That’s the main purpose of the Law, to prove that you are spiritually dead, & to show you your need for a Savior.
What the Reformation did so well was reveal to us once again the Gospel. It’s the good news that in spite our sin, in spite of our helplessness & stench before God, He loves you enough to send His own Son to die in your place. It is finished.
That’s all the truth there needs to be. We can’t earn or buy our way into heaven, & God does not expect us to. He knows full well what lost & condemned creatures we are.
Because of that knowledge God has made a new covenant where the Truth is revealed upon the cross, & by the empty tomb. Yahweh has set you free by His Son, & knowing that Son, He who is the Truth, that will set you free. Because of Jesus Christ our heavenly Father forgives our wickedness, & remembers our sins no more.
There’s no need for an “alternate” truth. There’s no need to fear the truth. We don’t have to hide our sins from God. Our Lord has already hidden them in Himself, in His suffering, & in His death. We don’t have to re-imagine a more lenient, or less offensive god. Our Savior has given us His righteousness apart from anything we do. That is truth, & unlike Pontius Pilate, Martin Luther taught that we can know the truth, & the truth will set us free. Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, has set you free because He created you in love. Believe this, & you shall be saved. Amen.
Watch! Let not the wicked world with its lies defeat you lest with bold deceptions hurled it betray & cheat you. Watch & see lest there be faithless friends to charm you, who but seek to harm you. But while watching, also pray to the Lord unceasing. God protects you day by day, strength & faith increasing, so that still mind & will shall unite to serve Him & forever love Him. Amen. LSB 663:3, 5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet