v.34-36 Jesus answered them, "Amen, Amen, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Dear friends in Christ, we put a great deal of emphasis on freedom in our country. We have freedom to do many things. One of the biggest, of course, being the freedom to vote for those who govern us (there is an election coming up in the US in just a couple of weeks). We sometimes mistakenly believe that this opportunity to choose different things--from the kinds of shoes we buy--to the leader of our country--means that we are completely free in all areas of our life. This is simply not true.
Particularly, for the Christian. For we know, as people called by God, that we are not free in everything--we are not free to do anything we want--we are especially not free to sin--to rejoice and revel in it. But isn't that sometimes what we tell ourselves anyway? "I can sin--I can do this, that or the other thing--I can lie, cheat, and steal--just a little bit--and God will forgive me. After all, that's why Jesus came. To forgive. So I can do what I want then." But, beloved, this is not so. As Paul writes in Romans 6, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!"
You see, continuing in sin--rejoicing in it--wrapping ourselves up in it--whatever it may be--is not freedom. Now, it may be comfortable--our sin may sometimes feel like that old sweatshirt we keep in the closet to wear on those days when we just wanna lounge around the house and relax. It feels just right and fits oh so well. And, depending on the person, that sin can take any form--whether it is gossiping about our neighbour behind their back--or continuing in that adulterous relationship. Sure, it can make us feel good at times, and we may tell ourselves that we have the right to be happy and so to act in these ways, but these are deadly lies we tell ourselves. For Jesus says this is not freedom, but slavery. "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin."
When we engage in sinful activity, we become enslaved to it. Do we have a choice not to do it? Sure. Just as much choice as a crack or heroin addict or alcoholic has a choice not to drink or shoot up. But we can't help ourselves most of the time can we? Apart from Christ and His renewing Spirit, we are addicted to our sin--we love it--and so we grow trapped by it--bound to it--no matter how much it hurts us and those around us.
Take a look at the evidence that is continuing to mount in our society in the wake of the sexual revolution, which began in the 1960s. There was a tremendous push in society to "loosen up" on the sexual morals that had been so firmly set in our culture, largely based upon the Word of God. We turned away from that and began to push the boundaries, leading to common practices like: no-fault divorce, leading to broken families; sexual promiscuity leading to children of single-parent families (usually no father), or to abortion (no children, but devastated women).
These things have led to further attacks on marriage and family both inside and outside the church. People no longer want to get married, but to live together outside of the public commitment to each other. What has been the result? Children raised in less than ideal circumstances, if at all, as well as broken and hurting men, women, and children. All in the name of the freedom of sexual activity. Well, that's really turned out well, hasn't it? Yet we just can't seem to stop ourselves, can we? We see the writing on the wall--study after study that shows how children and families--real people--are being hurt and destroyed by these sinful activities, but we just can't seem to stop. In fact, we want more. We want to push the limits ever further--all in the name of "freedom." You want to marry someone of the same sex? Why not? What harm can come of that? You want to claim you are man when you are biologically a woman—why not? Who cares about objective reality or truth? There's no such thing! We will all just make it up as we go along and hope for the best.
What is the answer? What is the solution? Each of us have sins that we are entrapped and enslaved by. Though they may not seem very "big" in comparison to others--anything that leads us away from God and His Word of Truth is bad for us and those around us. These sins--like all sins--lead ultimately not to personal fulfillment and peace--but to suffering and death. "For the wages of sin is death."
We, as slaves to sin, cannot be in God's house. We don't deserve to be there and we can't get there on our own. Only "the son remains forever." We must be set free by the Son, in order to be truly free from sin, death, and the devil.
Jesus, who is God the Son, is alone free of all sin. He alone, as the Son, has power and authority to set you free--by the power of His Gospel Word--and His shed blood and righteousness. His forgiving blood--poured out upon you in your Baptism makes you a new person--a new creation in Christ Jesus. One who is not merely a pawn to sin--but one who has been freed by the Son Himself.
Christ Jesus has, out of love for you, shouldered the burden of your sin--the guilt of your addiction to your own pet sins and that of others--and He has taken them and borne them in His body on the tree. Jesus has suffered and died for you so that the binding power of sin over you might forever be broken and shattered. The chains of sorrow and guilt might be forever cast off--all because of the blood that He shed for you.
It is this rich and undeserved mercy of God in Christ that truly sets us free. He frees you with His forgiveness earned by His death and resurrection. He frees you by the power of His Word of absolution that removes all the echoes of sin that taunt and tempt you still. He frees you by the power of the Word made flesh who gives His very body and blood for you in the Sacrament of the Altar. So that you can come, no matter what you are facing, what trials you are being forced to endure, and you can know with absolute certainty and trust--that Christ Jesus Himself is present here, for you, right now--to forgive--to heal--to restore. To free you of the burden and guilt of your sin--and to usher you into His house wherein you will live and abide forever by His grace and mercy.
This message of the great freedom of the Gospel is the heart and centre of the Reformation that we celebrate this day. Luther knew well the guilt and despair that plagues the sinner in this life. He tried, unsuccessfully, for many years to cast off the works of the flesh by his own power and will. He failed in epic fashion. But upon reading in Scripture that the Gospel, "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," he was filled with joy and happiness, as the freedom of the Gospel took hold of his heart and sin's dread curse was broken by faith in the blood of Jesus.
We, too, beloved, have a blessed opportunity to share this Good News with people in our own families, in our workplaces, our friends and neighbours, with our brothers and sisters in Christ beside us in the pew--with people who are broken--who are suffering and dying. We have the joy and privilege of sharing with them that in the end, it's all about Jesus. Jesus who is our Lord and God. Jesus who is our Redeemer and Saviour. Jesus who alone has set us free from bondage to sin, death and the devil--delivering us to true life and freedom in His Word and will. Freedom that rejoices in God's Word and wants to serve our neighbor in love. Freedom that flows ever and only from the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.