Your Freedom Is Christ - Not Politics, The Economy, Or Social Agendas

Text: John 8:31-36

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Throughout America’s history, we have witnessed, and perhaps, even participated in the tension and fight for freedom. Yes, freedom! 

Freedom – it is a beautiful word, is it not? Freedom is the ability to be free from restraints. It is the ability to think, act, and talk without being controlled by another nation, political power, economic group, or social movement.   

Unfortunately, though, as we see in America, one person’s version of freedom is another person’s slavery. 

It is true. What constitutes freedom for one person will be slavery for another person. And so, when everyone is striving for their own version of freedom, it does not result in more freedom but more conflict. That is to say, if two people are striving for opposing freedoms, it will result in them having to use power, control, and intimidation to obtain their version of freedom. And, again, once a person wins their version of freedom, another person is enslaved. 

While we certainly do not want to get bogged down in philosophical and political arguments on this subject, it is perfectly clear as we look at history and read the Bible that mankind has this peculiar and evil trait to seek freedom for oneself at the expense of putting other people into slavery. A simple look at the Old Testament, and we see this with the Jews. 

They were slaves to the Egyptians. 

And later on? Well, they were slaves to the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. And in the time of Jesus? It was the Romans and the Herodians who enslaved the Jewish people. 

They were constantly being pushed around by larger political and economic superpowers. Hardly ever free; always in slavery to someone bigger, stronger, and more powerful.  

And so, it doesn’t quite make sense why the Jews said to Jesus in our reading from the Gospel of John,

“We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” 

Isn’t this response weird? Their response that day was essentially saying to Jesus that they did not need to be free, for they were not in slavery, to begin with. Pride blinded them from their present reality of slavery to the Romans and Herodians. And so, they appealed to their independence by referencing their heritage with Abraham, who was a free man. To the point, the Jews did not understand the kind of freedom that Jesus was talking about. 

Now, please keep in mind that people have many different shapes and forms of freedom in our diverse world. And, as I previously stated, one person’s freedom is another person’s slavery. And so, let me be perfectly clear for us - in this life under the sun, there will never be perfect political, economic, and societal freedom. There is no such thing as a perfect utopia on earth. All those dreams about freedom from social justice warriors, clever politicians, and cultural stars? Well, they are just that – dreams. And if they happen to establish their version of freedom for a time, well… it creates slavery for another group. That is until the other group gets enough power to push back and establish their version of freedom, which then puts others back into slavery.  

Martin Luther struggled to obtain freedom in the 1500s. As you know, Luther lived in a time when the Roman Catholic Church was extremely oppressive.

Now, it is often believed that the Reformation was a time where the Lutherans fought to break away from Rome, to establish their own church. It is often believed – even in Lutheran Churches – that Luther and his friends were about breaking away from the Roman Catholic church to get freedom. 

My friends, this could not be further from the Truth. Martin Luther did not want to break away from the church. The Reformers never set out to establish their own church. In fact, let me tell you something that may seem very radical: if the Roman Catholic Church were to repent of its false doctrine, we Lutherans should be ready to pack up our bags and return back to the Catholic Church.  

So, what is going on here? 

Let me paraphrase a quote from a theologian who described the Reformation. It is a helpful quote: 

“The Reformation was a time when men discovered in the dusty basement of the church, a whole cellar of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof Grace. Bottle after bottle of pure Scripture of God’s freedom from the grace of Christ! One sip would save anyone single-handedly. The Word of Christ – after all those centuries of trying to lift oneself into heaven by frantically pulling on bootstraps – suddenly turned out to be a clear and bold announcement that the baptized Christian was home before he even started. The baptized Christian was trying to fight for freedom when he was already free.”   (Adapted quote from Robert Capon) 

Dear friends, the freedom of the Reformers was not in their breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church. They did not set out to try and obtain freedom by being set free from Rome. No! They found freedom in Christ and His Word of Grace. They already had freedom! The Word of Christ gave them Truth – Truth that they were free from sin’s condemnation, the devil’s deceit, and the world’s trickery. They were kicked out because Rome preferred slavery to freedom.  

And so, this Reformation Day, we do not celebrate freedom from the Roman Catholic Church, but we celebrate freedom in Christ and His Word of Truth! We celebrate freedom in Christ from sin’s condemnation - freedom from the devil’s deceit and freedom from the world’s lies. We celebrate with our forefathers the same Christ and the same Word and the same freedom that they discovered buried underneath the layers of manmade traditions and silly superstitions of the medieval church.   

You see, Christ says to us that freedom is in Truth. And Truth is in His Word. And the Word is the Word of Christ. And so, while people in our world will continue to fight for their own version of freedom, you must know right now that true freedom – a freedom that lasts and freedom that we can all receive – is neither in politics, nor social justice, or economic equality but in Christ and His Word.  

Dear friends, please hear this! Freedom in Christ is not one person’s freedom and another person’s slavery – it is freedom for all of humanity. Freedom in Christ is for every person of every group of every sector of life. 

Christ has atoned for the sin of the world; He has defeated the devil and given us Truth in the midst of the world’s lies. This is for you and for your neighbor.  

But unfortunately, as we heard with those Jews that day, who insisted that they were not in slavery, many today will not want to admit that they are in slavery to sin, the devil, and the ideologies of the world.  

You see, that is the catch-22 that we face in our world. Many will admit that they are in slavery to political, economic, and social systems, but they will refuse to admit that they are in slavery to sin, the devil, and the ideologies of the world. Mark this; one can achieve a version of political, economic, and social freedom but still be completely in slavery.    

But you, dear Baptized Saints, you are not slaves. You are free in Christ. Even if you are in political, economic, and social slavery – you are not in slavery to that which ultimately threatens and hurts you. Yes, political, economic, and social powers can wreak havoc and cause tremendous pain, sorrow, and injustice in this life. But this kind of enslavement is not eternal – it is only a little while. Do not fear that which can only kill the body.  

And so, hear this! You have Christ; Christ has you. You have His Word of Truth. And in the Truth of Christ, you are free regardless of your circumstance in life. There is no condemnation in Christ. No scheme of mankind in Christ. No power of darkness in Christ. Free! 

And what is perhaps the best news of freedom in Christ? Unlike being in slavery, you have certainty in Christ. You see, when you are in slavery and slavery, you never know what the present or future may hold. A slave can never be sure of his present or future status. Political structures, economic powers, and social pressures seem to change on the dime, which is why so many live with such fear. But not freedom in Christ! In Christ, you have the freedom to rest with the assurance that as good or bad as it gets, you have the hope of forgiveness, the resurrection of your body, and life everlasting.    

Freedom is not the absence of slavery but abiding with Christ and His Word of Truth, which you have this day.

Happy Reformation Day – happy freedom to you in Christ.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen

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