Bondage vs. Freedom

Bondage vs. Freedom October 29, 2014

Our pastor said that each one of us is a “filthy, rotten, putrid, maggot-infested cesspool of a sinner.”  But he meant it in a nice way.   See his Reformation Sunday sermon, drawn from John 8:31-36, on the bondage of sin and the freedom that Christ gives.  Excerpt after the jump.

From Rev. James Douthwaite,  St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Reformation Sermon:

For the Pharisees, as we heard, thought they were free. They told Jesus: We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. (I guess those 400 years in Egypt and those 70 years in Babylon really didn’t count.) But setting those aside, the Pharisees themselves, in their lifetime, though subject to the occupying Roman authority, weren’t slaves. They could come and go as they wanted, and do what they wanted . . . um, mostly.

And many people today believe the same thing. We are free. We sing it in our national anthem. We abolished slavery in our country 150 years ago. We work against it around the world. But even more than that, we are not only free in that institutional sense, most would assert that we each personally and individually have free will. That we are in control of our lives. We are the masters of our domain. We are enslaved, we are bound, to no one or no thing.

But to think that is a dangerous place to be. For while it’s true on a certain level, like: you can freely choose what clothes you’re going to wear today, that cereal you’re going to eat for breakfast, or what car you’re going to buy – you do have free will in all of those things – you do not have free will when it comes to spiritual matters. Not by nature. Not since that day Adam and Eve fell and plunged not only themselves but the whole world into bondage to sin. You’re not the exception – as St. Paul said: there is no distinction, there is no difference. There are not some born this way and some born that way. Some born good and some born bad and some born neutral. No, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And if that’s you, if you sin, Jesus said, you are a slave – a slave to sin. And that is true whether your name is Abraham or you are a first century Pharisee, a twenty-first century American, or a little sixteenth century monk named Martin.

You see, that’s what Luther first realized – the situation he was in: that he was a slave to sin. That all those things he was being told to do and told that he should do, and could do, if he just tried hard enough, he couldn’t do. And the harder he tried, the worse it got. The more he looked at himself, the more he confessed, the more he saw his sin. He couldn’t stop it and he couldn’t get around it. It was a tornado tossing him about that he couldn’t get away from. It was a cancer growing within him that he couldn’t cut out. They told him he was free, but he knew the truth was far different than that. He was in bondage, a slave to sin.

And so are you. And the person next to you. That’s why you sin. You’re not a sinner because you do sins, you do sins because you’re a sinner. That’s why you sin even though you don’t want to. You want to do what’s right, but don’t. You make promises and want to keep them, but then you don’t. You lash out and then hate yourself for it. You doubt and worry when you know you shouldn’t, you covet and lust, and you have this weird paradox within yourself that those things you’re proud of about yourself you know are lies! You want to believe you’re a good Christian and you want others to think it . . . but you know it’s not true. That underneath your proper, button-downed, good looking appearance is a filthy, rotten, putrid, maggot-infested cesspool of a sinner. Yes, you stink. (And yes, the stench wafting forth from the pulpit is pretty bad too.)

Now, it may not be pleasant to know that and acknowledge that, but it a dangerous not to know that. To be so fooled and deceived and blind and so die in your sin . . . physically and spiritually, and so be that slave forever.

And so while it may not be pleasant, it is good to know that, and then to hear this too: there is freedom for you. Slavery is your beginning, but it need not be your end. For, St. Paul said, the righteousness of God – or, the freedom from sin that God wants for you – has been manifested – it happened and is for the whole world – apart from the law – apart from what you do or can do – the righteousness of God – or again, the freedom of God – through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Or Jesus said it this way: if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

That’s what the Reformation was all about. Telling the truth about the situation we are in, and then pointing to the solution. Pointing you not to yourself and your efforts and your doing, but pointing you outside of yourself, away from yourself, to Jesus. For if you are to be free, He’s the only one who can set you free. Free from slavery to sin, free from fear of death, free from the bond of the grave, free from the oppression of the devil, free to live as the child of God you are. For if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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