“Slaves to sin”
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
When the founders of the United States drew up the Declaration of Independence and framed the Constitution, they adopted Luther’s principles [although not his Theology]. This has been freely admitted by many great leaders of our country. Daniel Webster said, “The Reformation of Martin Luther introduced the principles of civil liberty into the wilderness of North America.” President McKinley said, “Luther gave us civil and religious liberty.” Henry Ward Beecher said, “Our civil liberty is the result of the open Bible, which Luther gave us.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315) The Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of the Press, of Assembly, to Petition, of Speech, of Religion, the right to bear arms and have a state militia, the freedom not to quarter soldiers in peacetime, the right to privacy, the need for a search warrant and probable cause, rights in legal procedures (grand jury, due process, lawyer), the right to a speedy and public trial, no excessive bails or fines, no cruel or unusual punishment, and other rights.
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 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?” (John 8:31-33)
How many of you know the story of the Israelites? What were the Jews considered when they were held captive in Egypt? (Slaves) Later in history the Jews were held in captivity by the Babylonians; in the same way what were they considered? (Slaves) What about us? What are we considered?
In our country we have the freedom to choose how we live. We have the freedom to abort as many babies as we want. We have the freedom to commit adultery. We have the freedom to choose our own sexuality. We have the freedom to drink too much. We have the freedom to…[fill in the blank]. All of these things done with many defending it as the pursuit of happiness. Yet we are not free. No; we are slaves. Many may argue we are Americans. We are not slaves to anyone! We are Thomas Jefferson’s sons; we are George Washington’s sons, We are Abraham Lincoln’s sons…we are slaves to no one!
“Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)
We sin by putting other things first before God. We misuse God’s name when we cuss and swear and when we use other phrases that have the same sinful intent like gosh darn. We don’t always keep the Sabbath Day. We aren’t always in Church or worshiping God and often we make excuses to not go to church. We often disobey our parents instead of honoring them. We murder others. Many take the lives of others through murder but many also murder the unborn and still others murder with their lips and thoughts. We commit adultery with others, we commit adultery when we look lustfully at another person whether its walking down the street, reading a magazine, looking at a calendar, or surfing the internet. We steal from others by taking what isn’t ours, cheating others of what they have, or finding means to get things that are untruthful. We speak badly about others, start rumors, and lie to make others look bad or make ourselves look better. We covet things that aren’t ours. We wish we lived in the bigger house; we wish we drove the nicer cars; we wish we wore better clothes. Yes, we are sinners and truly we are slaves to sin for we sin over and over and over.
In a letter to his friend Philip Melanchthon on August 1, 1521, Luther wrote: "Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly...Pray boldly--you too are a mighty sinner." Luther doesn’t want you to sin and not care…but to follow your conscience boldly. Luther says this about Christians: “simul Justus et peccator” which means “at the same time saint and sinner.” But how do we go from being poor miserable sinners to being saints that sin boldly, believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly and pray boldly? How are we freed from the bondage of sin; from being slaves to sin?
“Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:35-36) “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)
This is the heart of Lutheran Theology; the heart of our Theology: Justification by God’s grace alone. What is sad is that many do not know what Justification is. Justification is God’s declaration that we are innocent; forgiven for Jesus sake. An easy way to remember what justification is “just as if I didn’t do it.” Through Christ’s death and resurrection we are forgiven. But that doesn’t mean we can go and do whatever we want. It doesn’t mean that once saved always saved. It doesn’t mean we can ignore being in this place.
During the memorable retreat of the French from Moscow, the soldiers froze to death by the hundreds. It is said that at night they gathered together all the combustible material they could find and made a fire. Then, gathering round it as closely as possible, they lay down to sleep. In the morning, after a bitter night, those in the outer circles were found dead, frozen to death. They were too far away from the source of the heat. So the Christian’s strength in the warfare of life lies in close and constant communion with Christ by the means of grace. To withdraw from them may—and will eventually—prove fatal.
My brothers and sisters in Christ you have been given the wonderful gift of faith in Baptism. You have been declared righteous; forgiven; innocent through Jesus by your Heavenly Father. Here in this place you receive that guarantee the very body and blood of Christ given and shed for you. Receive the forgiveness of sins. Receive strength for this and every day. Come and share in Christ Jesus your Lord.
“Let me not doubt, but trust in Thee, Thy Word cannot be broken; Thy call rings out, “Come unto Me!” No falsehood hast Thou spoken. Baptized into Thy precious name, My faith cannot be put to shame, And I shall never perish.” Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.