Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We pride ourselves on living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” We are champions of such things as personal freedom, individual liberty, do what you can or what pleases you in our society. The only real “law” that seems to triumph for most people is the law of freedom as long as it does not hurt or harm someone else and interfere with their freedom.
We have trumpeted freedom all over. Care and views of life issues vary and even to the extent of ignoring part of the natural law, that we not hurt or harm others, since it interferes with our own desires and the way we think we ought to view things. So we change definitions and come up with all kinds of rationalization. And most obviously we think of abortion, where under permissiveness and freedom all kinds of things like changing the definition from conception to implantation, to creating new words like “fetus” and “pre-born” to substitute “child.” But life issues and where many Christians might question themselves in their claim for freedom might come in end of life where we speak of personal freedoms, quality of life, and euthanasia and aiding others in dying becomes something viewed as merciful and good. Because we have freedom and we have standards we want to uphold.
We trumpet freedom in our sexual ethics and permissiveness, as long as you stay out of my business I’ll stay out of yours. Christians are notoriously good at coming down on the issue of homosexuality. We stand on the Word of God when it comes to defining marriage as one man and one woman. (Though many among us even question if that’s free enough.) But what about my freedom to redefine things like adultery. Most of us would simply define it as simple as a spouse cheating on the other. Nevermind that the primary Scriptural definition involves words we have virtually erased from our vocabulary like fornication and lust. Fornication being any sexual relationship outside the marriage covenant. Lust, often ignored and viewed as a private issue in things like pornography, thoughts of images on the TV, movie, computer, phone, or tablet, not to mention those looks and lusts at real life people.
Autonomy, which means a law unto oneself, is our biggest desire and viewed as the best thing we could attain. Our culture and society abounds in personal freedoms. We have placed freedom as the highest good. Which then begs the question, are we really free?
The Jews asserted: “We are descendants of Abraham, and we have never been in bondage to anyone.”
Really? What about those years in Egypt? Apparently these descendants of Abraham forgot about that 430 year period of time. Oh, and later there was the forced exile in Babylon where they have no king and ruler nor did they have their own land. And during that time they were not free to worship and build the temple, in fact it was destroyed to show they were not free. And even at the moment in which these words being spoken they had to ignore the Roman guards walking the streets and patrolling Jerusalem and Pilate’s house on top of the hill directing such soldiers.
If we start with the assumption that we are free we will only find ourselves in bondage, that is, that we are in service to someone or something. We may tell ourselves that we are free but we serve our families, our vocations, our jobs, our responsibilities. We are not as free as we like to think. If we really had total freedom then we could literally do whatever we wanted. We are blinded by our own reality and our sin. We live denial that no matter how hard we try, not matter how much we work at it, we cannot seem to shake of this sin. No matter how we we try and no matter how much we discover medical and technology advances we cannot shake the death that sin brings.
Luther sought freedom. He sought freedom for his own life. He sought in the monastery. For truly Luther was looking for freedom from sin in his life. The bondage of the rules and regulations and daily requirements actually had little effect on Luther. He was fine with living the life. What bothered Luther, and many servants of the church before and since, was that he was too much a sinner to preach God’s Word and even more so to administer His Sacraments. The cursed law abounded. The torment and accusations of conscience abounded.
What only the Law does is where Luther found himself, bound in Satan’s chains with death brooding darkly over. For if we truly read the Law and recognized our sin, recognizing from the time my mother bore me, daily deeper falling we see not a God we can fear, love, and trust but only a damning God that we would despise and hate. Because let’s be honest, truly at many times life becomes a living hell.
Luther did what many of us try and do. If I do more for the church, if I volunteer for this organization, if I do this work, then I can redeem all the bad stuff I’ve done. We seek our free will against God’s judgment, on our own terms, which leaves in bondage to sin and deeper in death.
Dear saints, there is only One who is free. The Lord of heaven and earth. Even if one wanted to deny the Scriptures and God’s Word, we would have to deny the existence of God in any way to be completely free in the way we want to be free. We can hide behind all the masks we want, we can hide behind everything that gives the illusion that we are free but we are not. We are bound in this sinful creation, in this life. Bound to sin. The boundaries and the natural law that God has placed, the law of God at work even among the unbeliever leaves us broken and dead in sin.
Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay;
Death brooded darkly o’er me.
Sin was my torment night and day;
In sin my mother bore me.
(Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice, LSB 556, st. 2)
A slave to sin. Chained by the sin that brews in our hearts, without partial credit for our own attempts to free ourselves. No matter how free-thinking or free-feeling we imagine ourselves to be, we are by nature enslaved, bound to death and the grave, so firmly sin possesses me.
Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice! “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. If the Son has set you free, truly free men you will be” (John 8:35-36). “[All] are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation [a sacrifice in substitute] by His blood, to be received by faith…. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:24, 28). There, in little words, the eternal Gospel once proclaimed in its truth, purity, and wholeness.
You see, the Law still stands. It is still God’s Word for His people. Yet, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The debt and punishment of death and hell still had to be paid and satisfied. This is the very purpose Christ came. To take it on for you, to set you free. No longer are you enslaved to sin, owing the devil anything and owing nothing for your sin. You are no longer a slave, one who has no rights and no possessions. You are free, you are a Son, an heir, one who has all the rights and privileges of the kingdom of God, receiving His Word in its entirety as it all preaches and proclaims the eternal Gospel of Him who was put forth as the offering through His blood.
There was still hell to pay for your sin and mine and that is just the price that has been paid through the blood of Christ. That death is given to you as you were violently drowned in Holy Baptism that you may be buried with Him and risen with Him.
What a blessed release! Your sins are forgiven by the Lord! You are justified by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. His forgiveness is so thorough, so completely cleansing. He buries you with him in the waters of Holy Baptism and says, “Baptism now saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21)
Beloved, dwell on this truth! If the Son sets you free“ – not nature – not some higher power – not some inner spark – If the Son sets you free (the bloodied, beaten, dead and buried Son of God) – If the Son sets you free (the risen, absolving Son of God) – (the one who says to you, “take eat, this is my body -take drink, this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins); If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. You are no longer a slave, but a son who will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
How are you justified, saved, and made righteous before God?
He who has ears to hear, let him hear. You have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption of Christ, whom God put forth as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. Your sins are forgiven, His divine forbearance has passed over your former sins. The Son has set you free and you are free and an heir. If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.