I Tell You The Truth

Peace and love to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

After a very long and boring Reformation Day sermon, the parishioners filed out of the church saying nothing to the preacher. Towards the end of the line was a thoughtful person who always commented truthfully on the sermons. "Pastor, today your sermon reminded me of the peace and love of God!" The pastor was thrilled. "No-one has ever said anything like that about my preaching before. Tell me why." "Well," replied the parishioner, "it reminded me of the Peace of God because it passed all understanding and reminded me of the Love of God because it endured forever!"

I promise you although it is Reformation Day, and we are a church that claims the reformer Martin Luther as a forefather, and I am wearing a Martin Luther hairstyle wig, and he was a man who preached four hour sermons, today's sermon won't be that long, and hopefully understandable, and hopefully not boring.

The title of today's sermon is "I tell you the truth," a quote from Jesus' words from our Gospel lesson today.

I love those words: I tell you the truth, don't you? Isn't it great when you finally get to the truth of something? Isn't great when your kids, who try and try to not give you the whole truth about something they did, finally get to the meat of it, finally get to the truth of it? Isn't it great when something that is purposely made confusing, or purposely distorted, or if you are purposely misled, and finally the truth comes out?

Truth is wonderful. Truth clears the air.

And the next thing I love about 'truth' is whatever it is that is being said that is the truth. And today, in the Gospel lesson, Jesus says, "So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." Eugene Peterson's translation, THE MESSAGE, translates the last part as "you will be free through and through."

In this passage Jesus is talking about how we make ourselves slaves by entering into thoughts and actions that aren't healthy for us; they are ones that keep us in a rut, keep us from seeing the truth, keep us from seeing what really is. When we are a slave to our thoughts and actions, we aren't free. We don't make any permanent place for ourselves in the realm of truth. We create our own process of slavery that prevents us from living free.

Jesus says, the Son makes you free through and through. Jesus wants us to be a family member of his household; he doesn't want us to be a slave. And he doesn't want us to be a slave in our own household, our own body, our own life; he wants us to live free.

So, how do we get free of anything that is holding us back? Is it alcohol? Is it drugs? Is it sex? Is it overeating? Is it anger? Is it laziness? Is it cheating? Is it lying? Is it pretending? Is it unkind thoughts? Is it jealousy? Is it tradition? Is it bitterness? Is it bias? Is it lack of perseverance? Is it lack of prayer? Is it selfishness? Is it prejudice? Is it confused priorities? Is it judging others? Is it apathy? Is it addiction? Is it pettiness? Is it depression? Is it peer pressure? Is it trying to 'keep up with the Joneses'? Is it trying to fit in with the cool kids? Is it trying to be part of the 'in' crowd? Is it a feeling of superiority? Is it being insensitive toward others? Being insensitive to the needs of others? Is it an attitude of rudeness? Is it lack of gratitude? Is it willfulness? Is it self-righteousness? Is it blaming others? Is it stubbornness? Is it refusing to admit we're wrong? Is it irresponsibility? Is it control issues? Is it lack of compassion? Is it feelings of unworthiness? Is it low self esteem? Is it poor self image? Is it hate for self or others? Is it making excuses? Is it a habit of putting others down? Is it denial? Is it always having to be right? Is it never admitting our faults or shortcomings?

Whatever it is, the question is: How does any one of us get free of what is holding us back? How do we let the Son set us free? How can we feel free through and through?

And you know what? As complex as life is, as complex as we make situations out to be, as involved, convoluted, confusing and mixed up as we make our lives, there really is a very simple answer, and it's not 'just say no.'

The answer will not make all our challenges go away. The answer will not suddenly make all our difficulties disappear. When you've been in a self-imposed prison, and step out into freedom, everything doesn't become easy. It's like a person being released from prison after many years. Once free, life is a challenge. Life lived as a free person has lots of responsibilities. Sometimes running from that reality is why we become slaves to habits, or addictions, why we hide from the truth, why we bury ourselves in actions and thoughts that keep us from facing what we need to face, why we strike out against someone rather than reach out to them, why we blame others rather than face our own responsibility, why we become opinionated rather than open to the facts.

Nevertheless, the answer to: How does any one of us get free of what is holding us back? How do we let the Son set us free? How can we feel free through and through is still simple.

Maybe most of you are now at the point of saying, so tell us already, tell us. Maybe I should be like a psychiatrist who tells you "I don't have the answer, the answer is within you. You have the answer to your question." Or maybe I should tell you the answer is bright as day in the teachings of Jesus. He gives the answer to us over and over. Maybe I should tell you that you can find it in Jesus' teachings.

But what you really want is a definite, clear, understandable answer. And you probably think the answer is something you need to DO. Like a diet that makes you lose weight, or a training program that builds stamina and muscle. If you recognize there's something holding you back, and you indeed want to be free of that, then you want to know what to DO to be free of it through and through.

And if I give that to you, will you REALLY try it? You have to be ready, you know. You have to be willing you know. And if you try it and it doesn't work, will you blame me? Will you think I didn't tell you the truth? Will you be disappointed in Jesus?

Okay. Here's the answer to how the Son, Jesus, sets you, me free, through and through.

Oh, one more thing before I tell you…you're probably not going to like the answer.

The basic answer is not something you can DO, but more like something you let happen to you. I mean, if I told you to open your heart and mind, that's not something you can really DO, it's something you let happen to you. You let the Holy Spirit work in you. It's actually a matter of NOT doing. That is, you DON'T BLOCK the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

So, the basic answer to how the Son, Jesus, sets us free through and through is: believe. If you believe Jesus can set you free through and through, you are set free through and through. It's then up to you, letting the power of the Holy Spirit work through you, how to use that freedom. Every one of us is already set free; some don't see it because they don't believe it.

Now, for those who might need something more concrete, which Jesus' teachings are full of because his own intimate 12 disciples were constantly asking for concrete examples, here are foundational biblical building blocks to help you see you are set free.

  • Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
  • Love one another as I have loved you.
  • Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you.
  • Do to others as you would have them do to you; that is, ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself; that is, love others as well as you love yourself.
  • Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind; that is, with all your passion, and prayer and intelligence.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie