April 14, 2019
Pastor John Hering
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
It isn’t hard for us to imagine that Jesus spoke to thousands of people—many of those were probably waving palm branches. They heard Jesus and probably came back wanting to hear more. When Jesus taught them with authority they were even more impressed because they recognized that they were hearing the truth. (Confirmands have been listening to the truth of God’s Word for years at home, reading/listening to the Bible, in Catechism and Bible Class). After the service today we will go out those doors and run into people that will question our beliefs. Especially, the truth Jesus presents in John 8—that there is absolute truth. You will run into people who will question: “Don’t we all have the right to determine our own truth?” The movement of people today is that religion is a very private thing, so “Keep it to yourself. Don’t share it with others, because we all have the right to determine our own truth,” they say. Against this Jesus says he wants us all to
Be Disciples of the Truth
To Till the Soil
“31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.”
What can we say to people who don’t believe that Jesus is telling the truth? Probably it isn’t the best answer to say, “You have to believe it because Jesus said it!” They probably won’t want to listen to you after that. But, first you want to till the soil. We could present three points to people who believe there is no such thing as absolute truth:
1) Talk about the origins: Where did this thought of no absolute truth come from? In the early 20th century mankind made great advances in science. It was also during an incredible time of suffering—namely WWI. The world had never seen pain like this by so many people. Then people began to be so smart that such horrible pain shouldn’t ever happen again so let’s rid the world of evil. There was great effort to learn about poverty, racism and sickness. The world view was called “Modernism.” They worked hard to have the ability to solve things. There were great advancements to defeat polio and malaria, but then doctors discovered another disease called Cancer and had no idea how to treat it, no matter how smart they were. Then the world view switched to say no matter how smart we are, we reasoned that we couldn’t solve the problems of the world. This gave way to the “Post-modern” view of the world. Namely—that there is no absolute truth. Their proof was the fact that science could not solve the problems of the world, so let people determine for themselves what they wanted truth to be for them. Then they said, “People have little comfort for themselves. So, work hard to discover who you are and what truth is for you! No one should have the right to take that away from anyone.”
If someone says to you, “There is no such thing as absolute truth” then answer like this: In the history of the world no one believed the idea that there is no absolute truth until very recently. It was only because science couldn’t give the answers to poverty, identity, racism, wars and sickness. Till the soil.
2) You can also question the logic of the statement. Think about it. If someone says, “There is no absolute truth” their statement defeats itself. If it’s true that nothing can be true, then how can they know their statement is true? A good question to ask them is, “Are you certain about that?” The statement defeats itself.
3) Help them to see how impractical their statement is, that, There Is No Absolute Truth. No one lives like that. Ask a mother with a child with a fever who has ibuprofen. What mother says, “It’s not absolutely truth that this medicine works so I’m not going to use it.” I have flown plenty. I would never get on a plane if it wasn’t absolute truth every time that the air flowing over the wings could lift up the plane off the ground and land it again safely. I don’t need to know how it works to know that it is absolute truth. Everyone lives like that! No one lives as if they believe there is no absolute truth! And if they agree, Yes, there is absolute truth in science, but not in morals then I’d ask them this: Take a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Atheist and ask them all the same question: Is it healthy to live just for money? They would all agree that if money was your highest priority then it would be hard to hold down relationships and detrimental to your own mental health. Till the soil! But, realize that just tilling the soil doesn’t save, but it might open up their ears to God’s Word, so be ready
To Provide Satisfying Answers
When you say there is absolute truth some will argue that this asserting robs people of their freedom. Jesus said,
““If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
You don’t get freedom by denying the concept of absolute truth, but by embracing the right truth! To understand the right truth you also have to understand the purpose for my existence. What if I said the purpose for my existence was to get high on drugs. Are you going to infringe on my liberty to do that? You see, you can’t pick and choose what you want to be true for you and expect that everyone else is going to be okay with that. My cocaine habit would put lives in danger: mine, yours and those around me. Till the soil! Some people will say that asserting absolute truth robs people of freedom. Then till the soil some more. Remind them that freedom is not the absence of rules. Freedom is not the presence of rules either. Freedom is the presence of right rules.
1) Freedom is not the absence of rules! It is very childish to say, “I don’t want any rules!” Actually, to achieve great freedom I might actually have to impose some very strict rules. Take the guy with muscles bulging and six pack abs. He is free to run for 10 miles on the beach, or hike up the trails in the Rocky Mountains. He is free to do that because he has imposed on himself the restrictions to of eating healthy, working out 5 times a week and running 10 miles every morning. I want a different freedom so I eat what I want, don’t run, and exercise some during the week to keep my heart going. So I rob myself the freedom to run like a gazelle on the beach or up a mountain. I can live with that. Freedom is not the absence of restrictions. Drive from DFW to OKC without restrictions and you will lose your freedom when you drive your car into the Red River & you won’t be free!
2) Freedom is not the presence of rules. Let’s say Ty wants to play NFL football. However, during his Jr year in High School he stops growing at 5.5 and 140 lbs. He’s not getting any bigger, but he still wants to play in the NFL. So, his mom says, “Oh Sweetie, you can do whatever you set your mind to!” So, he eats to bulk up, exercises every day, studies all the NFL offenses and defenses. But, he’s still not in touch with reality. 5’5” 140 lbs guys don’t play in the NFL. So, freedom is not achieved through unrealistic rules. You need to fulfill the purpose for which God has created you, and following all the rules so you can play in the NFL may not set you free to do so.
3) Freedom is the presence of the proper rules! You see, your rules need to support the purpose for which you were designed. So, on Sunday morning I get my cup of coffee to study my sermon and outside my kitchen widow is a cardinal eating his breakfast on my bird-feeder. Should I catch him and put him in a cage so that he is free from the danger of cats and hawks! Have I set him free? I could catch him and take him to the pool and plunge him under the water and say, “Little Cardinal, I’m trying to free you from the restrictions of having to fly in the air & sky – now swim!” Have I set him free to exist in the water? No, I’ve killed a Cardinal! Freedom is not the absence or presence of rules. But the presence of the right rules sets you free! You live the way God intended for you to exist.
Jesus taught this.
“Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
We understand what sin is. But, if you’re tilling the soil for someone who doesn’t know the truth of God’s Word, you probably need to come at this concept from a little bit of a different angle. How about this: Sin is everything contrary to the way God designed you to live. Everyone gets it that things are designed for a purpose. There’s green grass out there. It time to mow the grass so grab your guitar and start swinging it at the grass. All you’re going to do is wreck your guitar. Or some people say, “I’m going to save sex until marriage” and their friends think they’re crazy! They say we’re robbing them of the freedom to sleep with whoever they want. They are rebelling against the way God intended for them to use sex the way he made it—to be used between husband and wife for the most intimate expression of love for each other. But, those who wreck it end up with a guilty conscience, unwanted pregnancy and a trained mind that breaks God’s rules for sex and will no longer do what God intended for it to do. Using it contrary to the way God intended it to be used makes me a slave to sin and robs me of my freedom! But, with the right restrictions we can live free under the blessings that God intended for marriage.
I know – when we assert the truth people will say that we are trying to control them. But, the truth is, the gospel has nothing to do with controlling people. Jesus said,
“ 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
God has no interest in a slave/master relationship. Listen! Don’t you think if God wanted to control you, he could? He could send angels with heavenly shock collars and when you try to sleep in on Sunday morning—ZAP! Or when you try to skip church—ZAP! Or when you are tempted to sleep with whoever—ZAP! Or when you say a potty mouth word—ZAP! This is proof that God loves you! God doesn’t give you a shock collar, but he gives you his WORD!
God the Father says, “I’m your Father! I made you and I saved you. I designed you in a certain way so you could lead a happy life on earth until you join me in heaven. If you live contrary to the way I’ve designed you, you’ll be like a cardinal under water! We can prove God is not about controlling you: He gives us the Gospel and rescues us! That’s not about control, it’s about love! It’s about God’s Son who was born of Mary as the Father designed. He lived his life according to God’s design. He showed perfect love to his Father, fellow man, and role a donkey into Jerusalem and even when being nailed to the cross, he prayed for those people to be forgiven! Jesus didn’t come and die to control you, but to control your destiny. Listen to his promise!
“36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
When Jesus spoke, he spoke with authority and he spoke the truth. You, dear Christians friends, are disciples of the truth. Yet, you will run into people who will say they have the right to determine their own truth. That is the time we have to till the soil, speaking what God’s Word and history says, talking logically against their illogical claim that there is no absolute truth, and rather than robbing them of freedom, you can set them free by showing them the joy of living according to God’s design. You can till the soil and tell them the satisfying answer that in Jesus Christ we have the identity of being God’s own dear children and heirs of eternal life! That’s absolute truth! All of this made possible by Jesus Christ, so that you can enjoy being a disciple of Christ! Amen!