A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on Ash Wednesday February 18, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Anyone Who Sins Is a Slave to Sin
John 8:31-36

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?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave 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: 31-36

In the Passion History you heard the chief priests planning to murder Jesus. They believed they were serving God in doing this. We wonder, how could they believe that lie? Or, we heard Judas agreeing to betray Jesus for money. How could he believe the devil’s lie that he could get away with it? And then there were the disciples. Each believed the lie that he was better than the others. You know, it’s one thing if a person lies, because he’s afraid of being caught in something he said or did, and he’s trying to protect himself from the consequences. But when a person starts believing his own lies, that’s when we’re done with him, because how can we have a relationship with someone, when everything he says is dripping with lies, and he don’t even seem to notice? We might feel like giving up on liars. Thank God He doesn’t. Instead God sent His Son.

This evening we begin a 40-day journey with Jesus to the cross. As we walk with Him, He will expose the lies that Satan keeps throwing at us. For example, “You’re your own boss… or, you’re worthless, no one loves you… or, that’s unforgiveable… or, that’s not against God’s will, it’s just a cultural thing.” We’ve all heard these lies again and again. Maybe at times we’ve even believed them, and ended up committing sins that aren’t too different from things the chief priests, Judas and the disciples did. Yet we have hope. Jesus came here to work repentance and renewal in us, and He does this with His truth. Each week Jesus is going to tell us something very important. In fact these things are so important that He always begins with, “I tell you the truth…” Actually, in the original language that phrase is a solemn oath. Tonight’s truth is: Anyone Who Sins Is a Slave to Sin. 1. We too were slaves to sin. 2. We were freed from sin.

1. We Too Were Slaves to Sin

We don’t always like to hear the truth. We don’t like to hear it that what we’re wearing isn’t appropriate, or that people we’re hanging with aren’t the best influence, or that we’ve made some bad mistakes at work. The reason we may not like to hear the truth is too often, “truth” is about how we want things to be, rather than the way they really are. So it was with the Jews in our text. Jesus promised He to set them free, and they responded: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” – John 8:33b Apparently they had short memories. Let’s see, they were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Then later because of their idolatry, they were slaves in Babylon for another 70 years. Once they got back to the Promised Land, they suffered such oppression by the Greeks, that they begged the Romans to take over their country, and the Romans were exactly known for allowing people to live free. So, then, how could the Jewish tell Jesus they had never been slaves to anyone? It was a lie that made them feel good about themselves. However, not only were they lying to themselves about how well off they were physically, but they were using that lie to block out their spiritual slavery from their minds.

And so, Jesus told them the truth. We read on in our text: “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” – John 8:34 A slave is someone who is not in control of his life. Now, we do have some control over where we’re going to work or live, or what projects we’re going to tackle we get up in the morning. Yet there are still so many earthly things we don’t have control of, and much less over our sinfulness. St. Paul put it this way: I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. – Romans 8:19 There’s something we need to understand about sin. Sin corrupts the person who sins, so that he is controlled by it. For example, a person starts off with visiting websites he shouldn’t, because he’s just curious. Or, he just “borrowing” a little money from his employer, because he’s a short this week and he’s going to pay it all back anyway. Once a person crosses those lines, sin will keep on taking over more and more of his life, till maybe his name ends up in the Florida Today. However, sin isn’t only the bad we do, it’s also the good we fail to do. And so, skipping worship easily becomes a habit, as does not giving our family the time they need and deserve, because we got “more important” priorities. This list of examples could go on and on.

Okay, so we get it. We’re slaves to sin. But so what? “Everyone sins, and I know who Jesus is and what He did for me, so what’s the big deal if I can’t stop all my sinning?” Do you recognize where those words are coming from? They’re from the devil. Sin is a big deal. Still, we don’t like to hear it; we don’t want to be reminded every week that we’re sinners. We’d rather be hear about the good things we’re doing, because don’t they outweigh the bad? But that’s another lie of the devil. No matter how good our deeds are according to the world’s scales, they can never free us from the power and slavery of sin.

Jesus explains why: “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family.” – John 8:35 This is another way of saying that there’s no room in heaven for slaves of sin. That’s a tough one to swallow. We’re used to hearing the truth that we are sinners. But to be told that we deserve to go to hell, that just plain makes our sinful heart angry, which is why the chief priests wanted to murder Jesus, and which is why Judas blocked out everything Jesus said and focused on money, and which is why the disciples fought with each other over who was Jesus’ greatest disciple. All of them in their own way were running from the truth that they deserved hell. However, running from that truth was enslaving them to even more sinning. This Ash Wednesday may we not run from the truth! Rather may we face the truth that we deserve hell!

2. We were freed from sin.

However, tonight Jesus shares with us an even greater truth. Our text reads: “A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:35-36, 31 Jesus’ teachings are not just a bunch of religious facts, which if we memorize, we go to heaven. Jesus’ teaching is that He is God Himself, who became our flesh and blood brother. Jesus’ teaching is that He defeated sin for us, by perfectly resisting every temptation and never failing in perfect love even for the chief priests or Judas or His hardheaded disciples. Jesus’ teaching is that while on the cross He experienced the hell we deserved in our place, and then after that He conquered death for us by His resurrection.
All that Jesus did for us is reality, and it’s the truth. And so, for Jesus’ sake, God has made us His sons and daughters forever. St Paul put it this way: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – II Corinthians 5:19, 20b-21 Lest someone falsely say that this sounds like we are free to sin, let me explain something. Just as sin is powerful to enslave and corrupt, this Gospel is even more powerful to set free and give life.

Therefore, let’s hold to the truth that Jesus has made us heirs of heaven. Also, going from deserving hell to receiving heaven renews our hearts. In fact by the Holy Spirit this fills us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” And now what’s especially freeing about these qualities God puts into our hearts, is there no law against them. There’s only compounding blessings for being and doing what we would want anyway. However, the key to all of this is holding to Jesus’ teaching.

And so, when we’re tempted to justify a sin by whatever excuse is coming our way, let’s hold to Jesus’ teaching by reminding ourselves that everyone who sins is a slave to sin. And then let’s ask ourselves why would we want to enslave ourselves to something that we don’t really want to do in the first place, and which makes us miserable, and hurts the people we love, and dishonors God? Rather, as God’s dearly loved children, we have the freedom and the power now to say, “No”, to that sin. Or, suppose someone is being a pain to us, and they should know better. Slaves to sin get even, or they abandon the “problem” and walk away. But let’s hold to Jesus’ teaching, how He never abandons us, but keeps serving us at God’s right hand, by interceding for us and guarding and guiding us to keep bringing us back to His Word. As we remember this, let’s also remember what Jesus told His disciples, “If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

But what if we look back on our life and can think of many times when we failed or refused to do that? Or what if we realize that life could be so much better for so many, if only we had done what we should have? Then hold to Jesus’ teachings. Believe that He was holy for you and that He died for you, and don’t get caught again by all those excuses why our sins and failures weren’t really our fault. Rather, live guilt free for Jesus’ sake, so that moving forward you may serve freely one another to the glory of God!

However, all this is not an overnight fix. This is a journey one day at a time, and it’s not complete till we’re in heaven. So please join us again next week as Jesus tells us the truth about faith that can move mountains, a faith we can have too! Amen.


Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net