Reformation Day 2022
October 30, 2022
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
“You wouldn’t recognize the truth if it was staring you in the face.” We’ve all heard that expression and it’s one, that I often think about on Good Friday. Just before Jesus was crucified, he stood on trial before the Roman governor. “What is truth” Pilate asks. Jesus could have yelled out “You’re looking at Him” but it would have made no difference. The truth had to die, and die He did. But not even a cross nor a closed tomb can silence the truth. For what the world intended for evil, God intended for good.
Christianity holds an unpopular ideology in today’s day and age. We believe, teach, and confess that there is a truth, that the truth can be known, and that the truth holds significance not just in this life, but throughout eternity. This truth is revealed, it is made known, by the Word of God – sola Scriptura. As Christians, we need to speak forthrightly of the nature of the truth that reached its fullness and culmination in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one holy Christian and apostolic faith is not speculation; it is the truest of truth. This truth is not some kind of objective knowledge floating around out there that we have to find a way to grab a hold of before it floats away. The truth is the Word of God, written, spoken, sung, incarnate, for sinners!
We shouldn’t be surprised when the world outside the Church challenging this point. In fact, we ought to expect this as sinful nature mankind can do nothing but reject the truth. And moving forward in a Christless society, you need to be ok with the realization that you will looked down upon, you will be rejected, you will be criticized, you will be called unprofessional and inappropriate and slanderous for holding to the truth of Christ.
But it is even more troublesome when within the Church, the truth of God’s Word and the truth of the Christian faith is often treated merely as theory and speculation and personal interpretation. It is a sad fact today that many within the Church and those who call themselves Christians treat Scripture more like mythology than facts, and more like human opinions than the Word of the Lord. It is a sad reality that many treat Jesus more like a morality lesson where one gets to pick and choose what they feel matches to their own views rather than the objective reality communicated by the Creator, and more like a suggestion than the way things really are.
Gathered by our Lord today, heirs of the Reformation, are faced with much the same question as Luther more than 500 years ago as the Reformation began. Will we mirror back the lies the world loves to tell and hear, we will accept and promote denial of biological reality of gender, the heretical view of evolution, the slavery to the emotional passions of the sinful flesh, or will we mirror back the truth of Christ according to His Word?
There’s an old saying, “You may hurt me with truth but do not comfort me with lies.” The truth is not always comforting. It goes against the grain of the deceptions we pile upon ourselves in order to deaden the pain of sin. The words are not easy but they do describe how God deals with us. He refuses to tell us lies and He will not tolerate us to live with our own lies -- without challenge at least. The lies of our self-sufficiency, of our independence, of our inherent goodness, of our freedom, of our right to happiness, and of the naturalness of death have become the comforting lies we find hard to give up.
In comparison with the truth of our weakness, our need, our sinfulness, our bondage to sin and its death, our contentment constantly tried by sorrow and struggle, and death as our enemy, the lies are surely easier to swallow. Yet before we can find true and genuine comfort for our souls, we must meet the truth and face up to its hurt, disappointment, and pain. The truth is this: all who sin are slaves to sin. And all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
This is a hard truth that we do not like to hear. When we hear the stinging truth of God’s Law many times our reaction is the same as the Pharisees in our Gospel reading, “Nuh uh. I’m not that bad, not that enslaved, not that sinful.” And we all make our excuses. It’s the same reaction that goes all the back to Adam and Eve when caught in their sin, passing the buck on down the line. But God in His mercy refuses to let these lies stand unchallenged. The truth destroys the fragile house of lies we build and lays bare our sinful nature.
But the truth does not stop there. No, the One who is the way, the truth, and the life frees by taking you to cross and to the grave. He frees you from slavery of lies, of deceptions, or false comforts and from the inevitable effects of that slavery – death. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” As the baptismal liturgy says: you are a slave to sin, death, and the devil until Christ sets you free. Christ sets you free by the power of His sacrificial death, applied to you by water and the word, and by His body and His blood. He has put Himself in your place on the cross, to die for your sin, and to pay the debt of sin that you could not and would not pay.
But this freedom won for you is yours only so long as you stand in the truth of Christ by faith. And by faith means that you are freed to actually believe Jesus and His Word no matter the ridicule the world piles on you because of it, no matter how the unbeliever and unbelieving world tries to shame and guilt you for being intolerant, unloving, mean, backward, offensive, out of touch. This is what the legendary statement often attributed to Luther meant, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” As redeemed, blood bought sinners, we stand upon the truth, the rock of Christ, the cornerstone of our faith. We are free only as long as we abide in the Word in the Christ, for it our freedom comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. A person is not free by the gospel to say they believe in Jesus but reject the truth that Jesus says in His word.
We are not given this precious freedom to simply to indulge ourselves or squander it on selfish living but to live in service to Christ, as a servant of the Gospel. This freedom brings a life of daily repentance, seeking the grace of the Holy Spirit to live holy, upright, and godly lives; justified by faith in Christ apart from works of the Law, freed from the curse of the Law in order to do the will our Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, you have been freed from the curse of the Law by Christ, do not fall back into denial and slavery to sin. Abide in Christ, abide in the truth. The church exists solely by the grace of God. And solely by the grace of God will it continue as the Word of truth breathes life into poor, miserable sinners. The eternal Gospel truth does not change, nor waver, is not hidden. It is revealed in the only begotten Son of God, delivered to His people through the Word and Sacrament. So come, blessed of the Lord, come to receive the truth of the body and blood of Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins, the truth that sets free. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.