The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

Reformation Sunday October 26, 2014

 

John 8:31-32 God's Pure and Simple Truth

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

 

There's only one kind of truth: God's truth which is pure and simple.

* It's pure in the sense that it stands on its own; it does not contradict itself.

And it's simple in the sense that the very simple can understand it.

* However, hypocrites have no tolerance for this truth.

And we pick up on this in today's Gospel.

* Jesus had gathered around him a number of Jews.

To those who believed in him he said, "If you abide in my word . . . You

will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

* He spoke of the truth of God's grace which frees a person from sin.

True freedom comes from receiving Christ's forgiveness.

To know the truth is to know how you're freed from the curse of sin and how you're freed

from death and are given eternal life.

* But the majority of the Jews could only think to themselves, "You will know the

truth?! . . . The truth will set you free?!"

Who did this Jesus think he was preaching about the truth to them.

* They were children of Abraham whom God had promised, "I will surely bless you and

make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky . . . through your offspring all

nations on earth will be blessed."

 

But what the religious Jews made of this promise was anything but the truth.

* The prophecy of a coming Messiah, they believed, assured them that sin had no relevance

for them. They were already free and they'd always be free despite the persecutions of

the government and the pretentious talk of some want-a-be prophet.

* But then the Messiah came and suddenly it was very easy to identify sin.

The sinner was this fraud who fancied himself as the Son of Man and the keeper of the

truth. God couldn't possibly reveal his truth through this man!

* It was the height of hypocrisy. They accuse the one who's righteous in order to conceal

the truth about themselves. They were the sinners.

 

And sadly, many of today's so-called religious are just as hypocritical.

* They don't want to talk about sin unless it's someone else's sin and it gives them an

excuse against hearing the pure and simple truth.

* Interestingly, as with the unbelieving Jews, it works in two stages.

First, we don't need to hear the truth. Our sin is not so great that we must rely strictly on

God's grace. There's no curse from which we need to be freed, for sin is not a condition

which corrupts the entire being.

* Sin is more like an inclination or a tendency.

It's what we give into if we're not careful, causing hurt to those around us.

But as long as God can see the good we do, sin isn't that relevant . . .

* . . . unless we can pin it on someone else who's so bold to tell us the truth about ourselves.

And suddenly man's deficiencies are extremely relevant.

Because man is imperfect, sinful if you will, you surely cannot expect what he's recorded

in Scripture to be reliable in every case.

* No. For now you'll have to settle for something less than the pure and simple truth.

* It's really quite convenient for the sinner who doesn't want to hear the truth.

First the truth is irrelevant. You don't need to hear it.

And secondly, when the truth gets too personal, the truth it's unreliable.

You're not able to hear it.

 

Over the course of time the argument really hasn't changed a lot.

* Apparently God is incapable of communicating the truth to us.

He's simply not able to find a suitable instrument through which he may relate to us his

pure and simple truth.

* You've heard the argument. The warring factions in the church make it impossible to

know who's telling the truth!

1 One church says you should baptize babies, another says you should not.

2 One church says that the body and blood of Christ are truly present in the bread and wine

of the Supper, another church says they aren't.

3 One church says you can be absolutely certain about going to heaven.

Another says, "Oh no. Nobody can be certain until they die."

4 One church says Christians go to heaven the moment they die.

Another says you must first do some more penance.

5 One church says Jesus said everything the New Testament attributes to him; another

church says it's doubtful whether he said any of what's been recorded.

* So how can you know who's telling the truth?

Many will say, "I'm not sure we can, and I'm not sure it really matters."

 

And so when all is said and done, many have are of the opinion that the pure and simple truth

can't be known!

* "One church says this. Another church says that. And we're supposed to choose and

then say this is absolutely true? You can't be serious!

* "The Bible isn't that clear. We can know some truths, but not all truths.

Scripture's doctrines are a matter of interpretation."

 

Did you know that 66% of Americans do not believe there's such a thing as absolute truth.

53% of evangelicals and 57% of church youth don't believe in it.

* In many cases, the church has let our society determine what truth is.

As a philosopher once said, "Truth is what one's peers let one get away with."

* Or there's the postmodernist thinker who puts it this way: "truth is a worn out

metaphor, a coin which has lost its picture."

* In other words, in our modern world, we're not to think of truth as something

objective." Rather, truth has decayed and disintegrated and we must settle for an

assortment of "disconnected truths," all equal to each other but unrelated to each other.

* A well know feminist of the day has said "only when we hear . . . all the stories will we

finally arrive at the truth." Now that's profound!

 

Needless to say, we're fighting a much different battle than some years ago.

* Today we're no longer arguing which doctrine is true.

We're arguing whether there is such a thing as true doctrine.

Can we ever know the truth?

* Today's cynicism even affects why people join churches these days.

It's not because other people there will believe the same thing.

* It's more like who's got the best selection at their smorgasbord?

After all, I can be a Catholic and also believe in abortion.

I can be a Baptist and believe the Bible contradicts itself.

Or I can be a Lutheran and believe in Open Communion!

* In any case, people just don't want to believe there's such a thing as pure and simple

truth.

 

"So what about in Jesus' day? Were people so cynical about the truth?

* Well, one thing we can say for sure is, the debate wasn't as sophisticated as it is today.

Either you were a Jew or you were not.

* Either you were related to Abraham and you knew the truth, or you were a

pagan and you didn't know the truth.

* True, you had certain disagreements between the Pharisees and Sadducees.

But even so, they did believe there was such a thing as truth.

* And therefore, as for the unbelieving Jews in today's text, it wasn't so much that they

didn't want to know God and his truth.

They didn't want God to know them and the truth about their sin.

* That's how the Pharisees had gained such influence.

By their meaningless traditions and their modifications of the truth, they believed they

could keep God from seeing into their heart.

* Jesus talked about the truth setting them free.

Through Christ, they could "know the truth"; the pure and simple truth.

Jesus was the world's Savior. Through him was forgiveness and salvation.

* But all they wanted to do is lay claim to being Abraham's offspring in which case they

didn't need to be freed. They didn't need the truth because their sin wasn't an issue as far

as they were concerned.

 

So, how different are we today?

* What is the truth that frees you? Is it the fact that you're Missouri Synod?

You were baptized and confirmed in a Lutheran Church.

Or everything got better when you attended that information class and converted.

* You're a part of this heritage that has in its possession all the different truths of the

Christian faith. You know the true doctrine and cherish it.

* But let's be honest. As well as you know the doctrine, do you know what the doctrine has

to do with you?

* Do you know the pure and simple truth about your sin? Did you bring your sin with you

this morning so that you might uncover it for you to see and for your Lord to see?

* It's sad but true. People don't want to know the truth, because don't want to face the truth

about themselves.

* Maybe it's not part of our confession but it's become a part of our thinking.

The pure and simple truth in my case is not black and white.

It's not absolute in the sense that I'm absolutely convinced God sees everything, including

my darkest secrets.

 

On the other hand, what if there were such a thing as absolute truth, but it went further than your

secrets and included the secrets of a gracious and saving God?

* Would that be cause for alarm? Or would it be cause for thanks?

"If you abide in my word...," Jesus says, "you will know the truth."

* We can actually be quite thankful for such truth. When it comes to being freed from sin,

after all, pure and simple truth isn't something we have to speculate about.

It's not some obscure idea that's out of our reach.

* It's as close as God's Word which the Holy Spirit caused to be recorded for us in

Scripture and which we may truly cherish.

* It's what kept Luther going until he found what you might call a missing but crucial

piece to the puzzle.

* Remember his tireless efforts to live a righteous life?

For years he was faced with a paradox: On the one hand, God demands perfection.

On the other hand, sin makes it impossible to be perfect.

* "What gives?" Luther asked. "This can't be the way God would leave things.

Scripture must contain some other truth to help us through this predicament."

* So Luther searched and searched until he found the missing truth.

 

He came across Romans 1:17: "The righteous will live by faith."

* And he learned that becoming righteous in God's sight does not happen as a result of doing

our best. God's righteousness and salvation are received strictly as a gift by faith in Jesus Christ.

* Finally the words of our text would begin to make sense.

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

* In his search for the truth, not only would Luther discover God's grace and

forgiveness, but this same truth would set his conscience free.

* His guilt was removed, not by keeping up with the latest law imposed on the people by the

church. Sin was taken away by the blood of Christ.

 

Five hundred years later, of course, nothing's changed.

* We still have in our possession God's pure and simple truth.

And that means God's Word can teach us every truth he wants us to know.

* That's why we still study Luther's Catechism and the Lutheran Confessions.

We believe God's Word is pure and simple; it can and does communicate truth!

* As we read from 2nd Peter: "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain."

 

What God's word means is certain. And you and I can learn what it means for ourselves, instead

of wondering whether anyone is right.

* Imagine not knowing whether babies should be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, or

not knowing whether Christ's body and blood are truly present in, with and under the

bread and wine!

* Imagine not knowing whether you'll go to heaven when you die, and that you'll go to

heaven the very instant you die!

Imagine not knowing whether Jesus said what the Bible says he said?

* But of course we do know! We know there's such a thing as God's pure and simple truth

and we happen to know what this truth is!

 

You know why so many have trouble believing that God can communicate the pure and simple

truth to us?

* They're judging God according to man's limitations.

The thinking is, men are sinful. Therefore God can't get them to write his Scripture and

expect it to be true from beginning to end.

* Furthermore, God can't expect his Scripture to remain unchanged from generation

to generation. Sinful man's going to want to touch it up.

And it's going to become increasing uncertain over time what God meant.

* But here's the truth. If Jesus can be both human and divine so can his Word.

If Jesus can become human without becoming corrupt and sinful, so can his Word

become human without becoming corrupt and sinful.

* Whether or not Scripture is true and we can understand it as God wants us

to, hasn't to do with how deficient or imperfect we are.

It comes down to who God is.

* Ask yourself: Is God smart enough, powerful enough and gracious enough that he can

cause his Word to be recorded for our hearing and learning?

* Is he wise enough, masterful enough and loving enough to produce a written Word which

happens to be absolutely true without any errors of any kind and also happens to be

absolutely understandable?

* And finally does our same God have the ability to use the very same truth to free us from

sin both in this life and the next?

* Yes?! Well, guess what? That's just what he's done!

He's given us his pure and simple truth right here in his Word! Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.