TEXT: JOHN 8:31-36/ROMANS 3:19-28; REVELATION 14:6-7
BUT NOW…YOU HAVE FREEDOM IN CHRIST!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – the giver of true freedom!  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:

The town wasn’t large – perhaps a half mile from one end to the other.  Thousands of visitors came and went each year.  In the local church about 9000 masses were said each year (averaging about 170 per week).  These masses provided sizable incomes for the clergy.  The wider church of the day in Western Christianity seemed outwardly healthy.  Statistically it was doing fine – buzzing with activity!  Material possessions were substantial!  People were energetically involved!  There was interest in relics and the requirements of penance and purchasing masses and indulgences.    

Then on October 31, 1517, a monk named Martin Luther took a half-mile walk from the monastery to the town bulletin board – the doors of the castle church.  On those doors he posted 95 theses – 95 points of doctrine and life which he invited others to discuss.  The common townspeople who stopped to read them would have been disappointed for they were written in Latin.  Father Martin was not saying to the people of Wittenberg – do not listen to the Church.  Rather he was saying to the church – let’s get back to the source of faith – to the Word of God.  As Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Fellow-redeemed, that freedom is present for you right now!  

 

TEXT: JOHN 8:31-36/ROMANS 3:19-28; REVELATION 14:6-7
BUT NOW…YOU HAVE FREEDOM IN CHRIST!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – the giver of true freedom!  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:

The town wasn’t large – perhaps a half mile from one end to the other.  Thousands of visitors came and went each year.  In the local church about 9000 masses were said each year (averaging about 170 per week).  These masses provided sizable incomes for the clergy.  The wider church of the day in Western Christianity seemed outwardly healthy.  Statistically it was doing fine – buzzing with activity!  Material possessions were substantial!  People were energetically involved!  There was interest in relics and the requirements of penance and purchasing masses and indulgences.    

Then on October 31, 1517, a monk named Martin Luther took a half-mile walk from the monastery to the town bulletin board – the doors of the castle church.  On those doors he posted 95 theses – 95 points of doctrine and life which he invited others to discuss.  The common townspeople who stopped to read them would have been disappointed for they were written in Latin.  Father Martin was not saying to the people of Wittenberg – do not listen to the Church.  Rather he was saying to the church – let’s get back to the source of faith – to the Word of God.  As Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Fellow-redeemed, that freedom is present for you right now! 

The Reformation causes us to look back at the past with thankfulness.  Its rediscovered truths also give us reason to look forward with calm confidence in Christ.  But even as we look backward and forward, it is so very important that we not overlook the present – the now of the Reformation!  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  

The powerful impact of that now is trumpeted throughout Paul’s missionary letter to the church at Rome.  We are now justified by His blood (Romans 5:9).  We have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).  We are now set free from sin to become slaves of God (Romans 5:22).  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  Dear Christian, do not miss the now of the Reformation for by it you have freedom in Christ!  With this now and only with this now God continues to give you life and to set your life in order.

Such a stabilizing now is crucial for there are so many other “now(s)” crying out for your attention.  Pastors I have talked with in recent months have indicated that people seem to be more and more on edge.  There is the “now” of economic strain – whether for the college student or for the senior citizen or for the family budget or for the struggling business or for the work of the church or for the nation.  There is the “now” of political decision and direction for our nation –in just a few days.  There is the “now” of a society that is shifting in so many ways in our country.  And, there is always the “now” of self-justification and of dreaming that we are in control of earthly matters and of our spiritual status.   

But only God’s now has a “then” to follow.  He steps into our broken world and shatters all of our babbling with His own But now!  But now a righteousness from God apart from the law has been made known.  This now is so unique that God explains it with great care.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  

That word “justified” is a word borrowed from the Roman courtroom and it means “innocent” or “case dismissed.”  The now of the Reformation as the Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to write it here is that All have sinned…and (all) are justified as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  There is no doubt about our guilt, but the strange verdict God renders is innocent; innocent by reason of Christ’s sacrifice and purchased forgiveness.

Without the now of the Reformation – all the other “now(s)” – the present realities of life - can rob us of joy and sap us of hope.  Those realities – those “now(s)” include Monday mornings and tight schedules and tighter budgets and dirty diapers and lack of sleep and sack lunches and peer pressure and misunderstandings and visits to the doctor and growing older and life-threatening illnesses and real struggle with real temptation and ongoing suffering from which there is no magical way out.  

That is a lesson we’re forever in need of learning.  Reformation Day is also known as National Magic Day.  It marks the death of escape artist Henry Houdini.  Its observance bears testimony to humanity’s enduring belief that we can devise an escape from any situation, no matter how desperate.  But it’s simply not true. No matter how many séances are held, Houdini is not going to escape from death.  Human magic and human might and human promises are not the answer to the ultimate hurts and weakness of life.

But God’s now is!  God’s now gives a value and splendor to all the incompleteness and all the heartache and all the disappointment and all the suffering of the present time.  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Martin Luther entered the monastery in hopes of finding freedom from sin and from God’s judgment.  He strove to follow Jesus’ example of holiness.  He prayed and prayed and prayed.  Yet the more he sought to be a slave to good works the more he saw that sin still bound his heart and mind.  The more he sought to perfectly please God the more clearly he saw his imperfect fear and love and trust in God.  Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin said Jesus.  That includes you and me!  Through His study of God’s law, Luther saw that we truly are dead in our trespasses and sins – not just battered around a bit!  Freedom is not doing what we want to do when we want to do it!  In fact true freedom is often doing what we don’t want to do when we don’t want to do it!

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” 
True freedom comes not from any human circumstance but from God’s Word.  We sinners need to be set free again and again – this morning is no different.  Whether we feel it or not we are in bondage to sin apart from Christ’s ongoing bestowal of freedom.  As He called out to Luther so God calls out to wake us up from the so-called wisdom, of the world and from spiritual superstition and from self-deception.  He warns us through strikes of lightning, through hurricanes and through drought.  He warns us through a collapsing culture and through sickness and death all around and within.  He warns us through those who love us enough to speak God’s Word to us.  Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  

Martin Luther was a man whose mouth God stopped.  The Holy Spirit led Luther to finally and fully see that by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  When God shut his mouth by showing him that all fall short of the glory of God, by showing him the fullness of his accountability to God, then God opened His mouth by showing Him another blessed eternal truth!  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  Luther continued to abide in the Word of God.  He studied it in Hebrew.  He studied it in Greek.  He studied it in Latin.  He preached it and taught it despite threats to his life.  He restored the reception of the visible word – the Lord’s Supper – in weekly worship!  No more 9000 masses per year in Wittenberg most often performed solo by a priest - but the blessed presence of the living Christ to feed His people gathered for worship.  The truth of Christ freed Luther from indulgences and works righteousness and the misuse of the mass.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. 
Beloved, this is the truth that caused the Reformation!  Here is freedom from the accusing condemning law!  Here is freedom from sin!  Here is freedom from eternal death!  That freedom is yours right now!

The kingdom of God cannot be obtained by a treasury of other people’s merits – for all fall short of the glory of God.  The kingdom of God cannot be linked to an earthly economy – good or bad.  The kingdom of God cannot be bound together with the outcome of an earthly election – whatever its effects in time.  The kingdom of God is only received by the ongoing gift of God’s grace.

That grace comes through the blood of Christ.  As St. Paul said, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith.”  Your real freedom is therefore bloody!  Your real freedom is due to the life of the one man sacrificed for all others.  That’s what the word “propitiation” means.  It is a sacrifice that satisfies the righteous wrath of God.  That’s why Luther considered the crucifix such a beautiful sight.  To set you free Jesus became the most shackled man in human history!  Every sin of every heart – including yours – was chained to Him!   In His blood is freedom from sin and death.  In His sacrifice is freedom from the law.  The judgment that rightly terrified Luther and that you and I also deserve fell on Jesus.  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…

This is the truth by which God always reforms and restores His church.  This is the truth by which the Holy Trinity gave you new life in Holy Baptism and by which He keeps you alive in the faith.  But now you are free from all the sin of your past!  You might remember it, but God does not!  You are declared innocent through faith in Him.  Case dismissed!  There are no believers in Christ in this house of worship with any record, except the record of Christ Himself!

Now
there is peace for you in a world of turmoil!  It is peace the world cannot give!  Now there is purpose for you amid the vanity of vanities that brings nothing new under the sun in this dying world.  Now there is reason for thankfulness and joy for you even in the face of the uncertainties and bitterest disappointments of life.  National magic day cannot give you eternal life!  The day of national election soon to occur cannot give you eternal life!  Jesus can and does!  Only God’s now has a “then” to follow!

You are free to abide in His Word and not to follow your feelings!  You are free not to fear even though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.  The slave does not remain in the house forever but the son remains forever.  The freedom Jesus gives you reaches beyond the grave.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifest apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  If the Son sets you free
(the bloodied, beaten, dead and buried Son of God) – If the Son sets you free (the risen, ascended, absolving, present-in-your-midst, teaching, feeding, peace-bestowing Son of God) – If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  

In His Name to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be honor and glory now and forever.  AMEN. 

 

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a