I have a friend who has a saying, “When all else fails, try telling the truth. It is freeing.”
Jesus said it this way: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Let’s take a look at these words.
What great counsel this is for the person who says, “If I only knew what was right. It would make life so much easier.” The Word of God clears much of our confusion about what is right and wrong. The Ten Commandments shed a lot of light on this subject, which is of tremendous help in making ethical decisions. Here are a few examples:
“Thou shall have no other gods before me.” Here we are told that God should be first in our life.
“Thou shall not take the name of the Lord, thy God in vain.” God gives us direction in what kind of language to use.
“Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” This commandment gives a partial answer to the question, Tomorrow is Sunday; What shall we do?
“Honor your father and your mother.” Here we receive guidance concerning our need for authority from the cradle to the grave.
We could continue with the other six commandments, but this is enough to show us God’s laws are very specific. We do not need to live in ignorance. It might be that we do not like these commandments, but we cannot in all honesty say we are confused about what is right and wrong. The person who has been taught from childhood what God’s Word says about the holiness of marriage might divorce several times in his or her lifetime, but they cannot wonder what is the right thing to do. They already know. They might be in denial, but they know.
A friend who was raised in the church and then left Christ was later converted. In later years he told me he knew all the time his behavior was wrong. Some of his friends who practiced the same lifestyle didn’t have a clue that what they were doing was wrong; society pretty much accepted their behavior. But coming from a home where God’s Word was read, my friend knew the truth; He just didn’t like to hear it. He felt it was binding him to a narrow type of behavior. After God changed his life, he was amazed to see how sin enslaves a person. Repeat the sin over and over, and it becomes a way of life.
I listened to a man, who holds a very important job, speak to our study group. He made some important points in his message, and we were all appreciative of what the speaker was sharing with us. After he had completed his address, he offered to answer our questions. Now he was not bound to a script, and we learned he was quite profane. There he was, well educated with a nice appearance, but bound to profanity. Leaving the building that evening, another person in the group said, “Isn’t it too bad such an intelligent person cannot use better language?”
The same is true with selfishness. This sin can enslave a person to live in a small world where all that is important is what benefits me and mine. Live that way for a lifetime and you will have lived a very empty life.
Sin enslaves us; but the truth sets us free. (John 8:31, 32, 36) That’s the point Jesus shares with us in this Word. “If you abide in my Word, you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
What is that truth? It is the Gospel. What is the Gospel? Jesus Christ, through His suffering, death, and resurrection, paid the price for our sins. If we will confess our sins and place our faith in Him, we are completely forgiven and restored into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for now and all eternity.
Think of our sins. How could we ever be forgiven? It would be impossible. But Jesus took all of these sins on Himself and paid the price through the shedding of his blood. Now we are free. This means we are free not to return to our old ways, but to live for Him.
I have used two illustrations in this sermon. One is a man who could not address his audience without using profanity. The other is a man who lived away from God for many years. These two people can not only be forgiven, but they can be changed and made into new people in Jesus Christ. This is also the freedom Christ wants to give to you and me, for how badly we need His grace!
Today is Reformation Sunday. We think of the blessings God has given to us through Martin Luther and the other reformers. Luther was an enslaved monk trying to atone for his sins in order to appease an angry God. Now matter how hard he tried, there was no peace until God spoke to Luther through these words: “For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ÔThe righteous will live by faith.'” Meeting this God of love and mercy in Jesus Christ, Luther was set free.
There are many mysteries in life we cannot understand. However, God has clearly revealed to us in His Word the truth about our salvation. It is so simple. I am a sinner. Christ Jesus has died for me. If I will receive Him as my Savior and Lord, he will forgive me and I will be his. I will experience this freedom. Humans can teach us this Gospel, but only through experiencing this truth can we know what freedom really is.
My friend is right. When all else fails, why not try a little truth. It will set you free. Why not tell it as it is? Why not admit you’ve been wrong, and you’ve been excusing yourself when there was no excuse. Then bring the sins you’ve been defending to the foot of the cross and know what it is to have them removed. Then you will be free.