Truth and Freedom
by Seattle ALC
The Truth Will Set You Free
“ Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:28-32)
We have all been confronted by the events of the past week. Confronted in the much the same sense as was Pontius Pilate, when Jesus was brought to him and he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” We live in a country that sought after truth, that began with a Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” In this declaration, this country was established on truths that were self-evident, the first being, that “all men are created equal,”. The second, that we are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,”. Having stated those rights, it took seven years to gain that independence. Then in writing the U.S. Constitution, and establishing the “supreme law of the land”, the first leaders went on to establish the responsibilities that go along with the rights, that they fought for and attained. Freedom is made up of a tenuous balance between rights and responsibilities. For us to maintain our rights, we need to be responsible. Being responsible is looking out for our neighbor’s rights and wellbeing. This land was established on Biblical principles and truths. These principles are based on love, not our self-centered human love, but on God’s Love. A Love that gave, and continues to give, in spite of our broken humanity and world.
Laws establish good principles to live by. The Law, that Moses gave to humanity, says that if you fulfil the Law, you will live! This a wonderful goal for all of us, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” What we struggle with is not our rights, but our responsibilities, how we treat and love our neighbor, which in the biblical sense is all of humanity. In the search for truth and justice, it is incumbent that all of us examine our own hearts first. Do we see the intrinsic value, the God given worth and dignity of our neighbor? Do we see our neighbor as one that God loves so much, that He gave His Only Son to die for them? It is important for all of us to examine first how we see our neighbor, and then to treat them with dignity and respect not based on race or creed, but on how God sees all of humanity. Just as the foundation of our country was established on the truth of the Bible, so must we maintain this land in that same truth. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6,7) The deep-rooted problems in our country are found in each one of us, rooted in self-love, and it takes something outside of ourselves, the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus the Christ to teach us to how to love our neighbor.
Jesus was born into our world and lived among us. In doing so, He brought to the Jewish people, the message of the Gospel of peace. The Bible is open about the hostilities between the Jews and Gentiles who could not even converse with each other. We heard last Sunday how Jesus made the Jews and Gentiles into being fellow citizens. “And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2: 17 & 18) It is only through Jesus that we can find unity. This truth that Jesus speaks of, is not a truth created by human minds, but is of Devine creation. The truth will not be found in a particular political party or sect, but only in what God is willing and able to supply. Jesus is the only one that can bring about a unity of heart and of mind.
The Apostle Paul was a hardcore partisan with a hatred strong enough that he wanted to destroy the fledgling church founded upon Jesus Christ. That is until he encountered Jesus on the Damascus road. A profound change took place when Divine Love intervened and brought a recognition of his need for grace. God used him in a powerful way, an individual humbled before God and his fellow human beings. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3: 26-29) Jesus was mindful of the issues of the day. As He did back then, Jesus is able to supply to us now what cannot be found in human philosophies or institutions, a change of heart and mind. Only then can we find a true and lasting peace. John wrote in his Gospel: “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1: 17 & 18) God is able to use each one of us in the same way. We can all share this message of Jesus, wherever God has placed us, and in whatever circumstance we are in. Grace is a free gift to be distributed.
The opening verses of the 8th chapter of John tells the account of a woman that had transgressed the Law of Moses. The leaders of the church brought her to Jesus and reminded Him that she should be stoned to death according to the Law. Jesus told them this: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8: 7-11) We all have sinned. In Jesus we find grace, or unmerited favor, and forgiveness. Our instruction is the same, go forth, sin no more, having been turned away from death to life.
When God’s Law becomes alive to us, it convicts us. No longer can we judge, condemn, knowingly mistreat, or in good conscience do harm to our neighbor. Jesus made the Law alive, or spiritual, in that he defined murder as being angry with our brother, and worthy of being brought to judgement. (Matthew 5: 22) The Law had become alive to the Apostle Paul and he put it this way: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Romans 7: 7-13) At the end of the 7th chapter of Romans Paul writes this: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (verse 25)
Jesus is defined as grace and truth. In John 1:17 we read that it is of His fulness that we receive. As believers we are encouraged to look to Jesus. It is in His fulness and His complete work, that we receive strength to overcome the sin that is an inborn part of us, to love our neighbor as our self. It is because God so loved the world that we have Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. Just as it is the truth awakens us to our condition, it is His grace that saves us. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5: 1-5)
As the Church, let us pray that God will send a revival and let it begin with us. Even at a time of such great social upheaval, Jesus is the answer. Love has overcome death in our behalf, it surely can work miracles in the world today. Empathy for our fellow human beings is founded in Scripture, established in hearts by God and carried out by His grace. Let us pray for wisdom and strength to listen and pray for those that are hurting, seeing in them the intrinsic value that God has created. We can stand up for those that are treated unjustly and not become a partner in hatred and violence. There are no answers in violence, be it individual or by governmental authorities.
May the Lord give us faith in these troubled times, that we would be able to walk as the children of the One True Light that lights the entire world. (John 1: 9) We can rely on Jesus because he has overcome, and has risen victorious, so we might live. He provides for us the faithful guide, the Holy Spirit that lives within and guides without. He reminds us that we have the right and privilege to ask! John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” We can trust and even be of good cheer, because He has gone on ahead of us, and even now continues to make intercession for us! We know the one that is Truth!.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1: 1-4)
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12: 1 & 2)
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)
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