Reformation Day – October 25 & 26, 2014
How important is the truth? In our court system, all the witnesses are required to swear that they will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” This is important – just ask someone like Tammy Marquardt who was falsely accused of murdering her 2-year-old son. After spending 14 years in prison, it was finally proven that the pathologist had not told the truth; her son died from an epileptic seizure. Now she works hard trying to find her other two sons who were put up for adoption while she was imprisoned.
Living “outside” the truth can be very “enslaving.” Jesus says: “I tell you the truth. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36) Therefore: 9 times in Luke; 13 times in Mark; 27 times in Matthew; 30 times in John – (almost 80 times in the Gospels!) Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” We most certainly should KNOW the truth! But with all the “mixed messages” from commercials, newspapers, magazines, billboards, especially on our computers; with numerous politicians running for office; different interest groups; and even the hundreds of Christian groups, as well as the non-Christian cults and sects – NO WONDER THAT MOST OF THE WORLD TODAY STILL ASKS THE QUESTION (along with Pontius Pilate) – “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
God clearly warns us / commands us / in His Word: “Stop conforming to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s Will is – (know the truth!) His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:3)
We read in the Gospel reading: “To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31b-32) (modern paraphrase) “To the American Christians Jesus says: ‘If you don’t stop at Confirmation, but continue throughout your entire lifetime to read, learn and live according to My Word; you remain My disciples. Then you will know the truth (yes, fellow Americans, there IS absolute truth – it centers and circles around Me, The Way, The Truth and The Life), and this truth that I reveal to you through My Word will set you free.’”
The American Christians answered Jesus, ‘We are Americans – of the land of the free and the home of the brave – even the African Americans who were enslaved in our early history have been freed for decades – and WE have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’
How “free” are we today? Schools are having “safety drills” – not for tornado or fire, but for bomb threats and students or others with guns. (The recent shooting in the High School in Washington state!) Our tax money and many resources are being spent / lives are continuing to be in jeopardy in the many areas throughout the world where wars continue. Extreme radicals shoot and kill Canadians – we are certainly NOT “free!”
A number of years ago, Peter Marshal, the U.S. appointed Chaplain, said, “The choice before us is plain: Christ or chaos; conviction or compromise; discipline or disintegration.” Former president Ronald Reagan said, “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience… without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure… If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
There is a great difference between “freedom” and “license to do whatever I please.” For example:
- How much “freedom” would there be driving through Wichita with no traffic signs, no traffic lights, no speed limits, no traffic officers?
- How much “freedom” would there be in a math class with no right or wrong answers; or a spelling class that allows the students to spell “creatively?”
- How much “freedom” would there be in a society with no “limits” but the “strongest” rule over the “weakest ones?”
True freedom must always be lived within limits! God’s Word tells us in Galatians 5: “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.” In 1 Peter 2:16, we read: “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”
We are living in a world of “relativism” where many deny that there is a set standard of TRUTH, of right and wrong. The world in which we live has been tricked into believing the falsehood: “Truth is relative,” it always depends on the person and the situation. Many have gone along with the lie that “what is true for you might not be true for me.” In our lifetime we have seen a MARKED EFFORT to totally disregard God’s 10 Commandments and His Word.
Martin Luther grew up “tricked” into the “slavery” that comes with not knowing the TRUTH. He grew up AFRAID of God, thinking that he had to do something to please God by his own actions. The Church of Luther’s day had certainly strayed far away from the Truth, with many man-made rules and practices based on laws with little or no teaching of the glorious Gospel! They HAD God’s Word, but they certainly weren’t “holding to it.”
As Martin Luther was preparing lectures to teach the book of Romans, it was through the study of God’s Word, that the TRUTH of God’s Word, really SET him FREE! He studied the words from Romans 1: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17) And as we read in today’s Epistle: “No one will be declared righteous in (God’s) sight by observing the Law; rather through the Law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from Law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24) Oh, how “freeing” this truth from God’s Word was for Martin Luther!
But there are so many churches and viewpoints today! How can a person KNOW the truth? I have read that bankers are taught how to spot a counterfeit bill, not by studying the counterfeits, but by spending a majority of time “living with the real money” – handling, seeing, feeling it. Then if a counterfeit comes along, it is discovered for what it is – counterfeit! In much the same way, Jesus would have us “living in His Word;” spending so much time with the truth of His Word, making it such a part of our lives, that error is easily recognized because it does not fit with the known truth of God’s Word. Jesus says: “hold to My teaching / continue in My Word … then you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” – free FROM sin because of Jesus’ death and resurrection / free TO serve – FREELY teaching and living according to the TRUTH of God’s Word.