Sermon – October 13, 2019
What if we are just living in a simulation? What if some being, brighter and bigger than us, is just pulling the strings and making us dance in some complicated computing scheme? While such problems and ideas have long been addressed by philosophy and science, we know that these are best addressed by religion. Jesus has come to help us understand the very nature of reality as it truly exists. But, because our eyesight is so limited and our understanding so poor, the adjustment to the truth of reality is daunting. Nevertheless, our good Lord Jesus has come to our aid! Let us consider the real reality today from John 8:31-47.
1. The reality of freedom
Jesus begins by telling those who have believed in him that, if they are to be true disciples, they must abide, remain, with him and in his words. If they do, they will know true freedom. Many in the crowd protest at this – “we’ve never been enslaved!” But they don’t understand the power of their sin and it’s enslavement of them. Jesus then provides a fairly enigmatic parable about slaves being sent out, and in being sent out, not being free! This seems backwards to us, but Exodus 21 helpfully sheds light on our problem. To remain in the house, as a slave of God, is to be truly free. To be sent out, to be your own master, is nothing but to be mastered by your flesh and sin. Friend, if you would know true freedom, you must know what it is to serve God through Christ. Remain in his words, and remain in his house, and the gift of freedom in slavery is yours!
2. The reality of fathers
If there was confusion about the nature of freedom, there is even more about fathers. The Jews confess that Abraham is their father. While Jesus admits that this is true, they are in reality serving another father. They finally settle on announcing that God is their father. Jesus calls them out: if he was your father, you wouldn’t do what you do. Sons imitate their fathers – just as Jesus does all he sees the Father doing, says what he hears the Father saying, and always does what pleases him. Of course, God is something of a Father to all of us, primarily through creation. However, that is a different kind of “father” than one that is based in love, covenant, and redemption. Creation gives God a position of authority, adoption gives him a position of love and provision for his children. Many only see the reality of creation around them, and assume that God is their father in this second way: he will only give good things, and is there for them in all respects. But outside of Christ, loving him and remaining in him, this can never be true. Don’t give in to this understanding of reality! It is a lie, and a deadly one at that. Which leads us to:
3. The reality of frauds
While he has been avoiding the name of the other father that the crowds serve, now Jesus makes it clear: the Devil. For Jesus, Satan is clearly real, dangerous, and served by those who are enslaved to their sin. He is a liar, for he stands always against the truth, and he leads all who follow him into death. But many today would deny the presence, and reality, of personal evil. But Paul admonishes us to understand that our fight is not against flesh and blood. In fact, understanding that the devil is powerful and enslaving helps to provide our pity and mercy to those who cannot know better. And, by not believing that he exists, many people are led into evil. But our Christ is better, and has destroyed his power by his death and resurrection. Trust in this Christ, for in him there is freedom and power over all our foes!