Out with the New. In with the Old
October 31, 2021 anno Domini
Happy 504th Reformation Day! 504. That’s old, but it’s also good, not because old is good in and of itself, but because Luther’s chief desire was to return the church to the good, old, pure, and righteous Word of God.
You could define sin as despising the old and desiring the new. We are unhappy with what God has given us and so we seek something new. Marriage becomes old so seek something new and have an affair. Worship is boring so you make it entertaining. God’s Word is tough, so you tenderize it by cutting out all the hard words. Christ doesn’t pay big dividends, so you worship your work or your pleasures instead of the Lord.
Are you tempted to erase God’s word when it points out your sin? Or ignore it when He drops his hammer on your plans? Have you trusted God’s Word to do its work, or do you grow impatient with the old and try something new? Along with every preacher I’m constantly tempted to lighten God’s Word, explain away the truth, disregard the hard words and make them easy. It’s not hard. The Bible was back then. This is the This is now. That was Paul’s opinion. I went to seminary I can explain that passage away.
This is why celebrating the 504th Reformation is essential. Dr. Luther’s work and courage serve as an example to us of how we as individuals and also the church need constantly to undergo reformation. And reformation is not doing something new but returning to the old.
Consider Jesus’ conversation with the Jews in today’s Gospel. (Read vs. 31-32). Let’s take a look at those three prominent words in the text – abide, truth, and free.
If you ABIDE in my Word. Jesus explains what abide means later in the text when he says (vs. 35). A slave does not remain in the house. He is in and out, because isn’t his home. The slave is never going to lay on the couch, leave his clothes lying all over the place. He isn’t going to interrupt His master to ask a question or expect the mistress of the house to hear him out. A son, on the other hand is so comfortable he’ll stretch out on the couch, leave his stuff all over the place, use whatever he wants without asking. Why? Because it’s his father’s house. He lives there. He’s comfortable there. What belongs to his father belongs to him.
If you ABIDE in my word you are truly my disciples. Are you at home in God’s Word? Are you so comfortable with God’s Word that you can use it whenever you want, lay your life on it, never fear your Father seeing your mess? Do you know it well enough so that you can see evil and say “no” to sin because you know sin when you see it? How well do you know God’s Word? Could you name the first five books of the Old Testament? The four Gospels? Do you think the Old Testament is Law and the New Testament is Gospel? Or do you know Christ is in the Old Testament as well as He is in the new? If you do not abide in the Word commit yourself to coming to Bible Study and to a Bible reading plan – there’s one printed every month in the newsletter. If you’re not abiding in the word, then likely you’re more comfortable with the world than with God.
You will know the truth. There is no truth in the world today. The truth is whatever makes you happy, whatever pleases you, whatever you say. You can be male and say you are female. The truth is masks will protect you and the truth is, “No, they won’t.” The vaccine is safe, but a lot of nurses refuse to get it. Donald Trump made America great and ruined it. Joe Biden got more votes than any president ever and the election was rigged. There is no truth in the world.
The only truth is what God says, and only what God says. God says everyone lies, including you. You know it’s true. God says all have sinned and fall short of His glory. Read the commandments and you’ll see how far you’ve fallen short. God says that when he’s fishing for men He only keeps the righteous. You don’t fit the slot limit so you’re not a keeper. You don’t want to hear that, but it’s true.
How do you know what God says is true? One word – Jesus and one fact from his life. He rose from the dead. Jesus said that He would be delivered over to sinful men, be crucified, and die. That wasn’t a hard prediction to make. Anyone considered a rebel in the Roman empire could expect that, but Jesus said, “After three days I will rise again.” And He rose. It’s one thing to say it. It’s quite another to do it, and He did. This isn’t some myth or ghost or hallucination. Mary Magdalene hugged Jesus. The disciples broke bread with Him. Thomas poked Him. Five hundred people saw Him at one time. The history of the event declares fact, fact, fact, no matter how much people try to erase it.
By that fact, God declares you justified. This is the truth by which you live now and for eternity. By the death of His Son God has taken away your sins. When you believe that fact God declares you righteous, good, perfect, not in yourself, but in Christ. The truth is God loves you by justifying you, by taking away everything wrong in you (your sin) and giving you everything right in Christ – His obedience, death, and resurrection.
God’s justification takes you back, back in history, back in time, back to the beginning, for now, once again, in Christ, you are free. (Read 32c and 36) Free. There’s another word that has changed in meaning. Today the word free means I can do, think, believe whatever I want. For God, the Word free means my enemies have been destroyed.
The Christian’s freedom contains two paradoxes. The first paradox is that your greatest enemy is you. That’s not what the world will tell you. The world says “It’s all about you.” The Bible says, “It’s all about Jesus.” You can live for your happiness, your desires, your peace, but you will be enslaved to your gods – to busyness, to money, to experiences, to happiness. Jesus lived and died for you, to set you free from sin (that’s you), death (that’s yours), and the Devil (He owns you.) In Jesus you are free. By faith you are a righteous saint in God’s eyes. Even though you die, you’ll live. Even though your body isn’t what it used to be, it’s going to get better. You will have a perfect body in the resurrection.
The second paradox is that God’s freedom makes you a servant. Now in Christ, you’re free, not to do what you want, but free from fear of your sin, death, and the devil. Now you’re free to go back in history, back to the sixth day of creation when humans lived by faith in God and in love toward each other. Free from yourself you can cling to God and look out for your neighbor.
Happy 504th Reformation. May God take you back to the good old days when man abided in His Word, knew the truth, and were free – in the name of Jesus. Amen.