So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, 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.”
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Today we celebrate 497 anniversary of the Reformation. Almost 5 centuries has gone since the day when the Holy Spirit through His humble servant Dr. Martin Luther begun the cleansing of the Church.
How do we picture the Reformation? For some it is – battles, arguments, even warfare for the sake of the truth. Men who were not scared to die confessing their faith. When we imagine it, we can almost feel the level of adrenalin going up.
For others the Reformation is about old, good Luther bashing poor Roman Catholics. Some can remember it with a smile, some with a shame, trying to do everything in their power to overcome the separation that was caused by the Reformation.
But today, we’ll not focus on battles and warfare, nor or criticizing others. Today we’ll try to answer two simple questions. First, what is reformation, what does it mean to reform in Biblical sense? And the second, how can we participate in it?
To explain what ‘reformation’ means, we need to proceed from the opposite. The opposite word is de-formation. Something that is deformed, distorted, corrupted. Then re-formation is simply returning to the initial state.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus speaks about the truth. About returning to the truth, for the truth will set us free. What is the opposite of the truth? Lies. When the truth is deformed and corrupted by lies, there is a need for a reformation.
Now we are getting closer to Biblical understanding of reformation. In the beginning, when God created heaven and earth and all that there is, He looked at it and rejoiced, for everything was ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31).
This world was good, first man and woman were very good. Everything was functioning according God’s design. But then the first corruption, first de-formation, first lie took place.
Do you know what I’m talking about? About the first temptation and the fall. That was Satan who persuaded Eve and Adam that actually – you can’t trust this God. He just hides the best part from you.
If you will disobey Him, if you will act against His will, you yourself will become like gods. And about the consequences. O, don’t worry about these. Surely, you will not die. Not at all.
This is what every lie does. It persuades us that we can’t trust God. That He doesn’t want good for us. Instead we need to trust the devil. For he truly desires good for us. M-m? In ancient Greek the word for devil is ‘diabolos’, which literary means ‘one who confuses’. This is exactly what he does.
This is how ongoing deformation and corruption of God’s good and perfect creation started. This is how the truth about God and us was lost. But at the same time we can see how the first reformation begun.
Right after the Fall God spoke to Adam and Eve and promised to reform what was deformed. He promised that He Himself will restore the goodness of His precious creation. We can’t comprehend how much this promise meant for God.
Apostle John wrote that no one has ever seen God, the only begotten God or Son has revealed Him to us. What it means is that every time when we read in the Bible that God appeared to us and spoke to us, it was no one else, but the Son of God.
Now, think about this dialogue in Eden, right after the Fall. Our first parents felt prey to Satan’s lies. They distrusted their Creator. The truth was distorted. Death came into the world.
Amidst of this, who gave to Adam and Eve the promise that He will reform what was deformed? It was the Son of God. Now think – what it meant for Him? This first couple had just allowed corruption to come into God’s creation.
It meant that the Son of God will have to suffer and die, to reform what was deformed. This was the first promise about reformation. And He said it to the two people who were responsible for causing this havoc. What kind of person can love us so much?
Many years later the Son of God came into this world as one of us, to complete what He had promised. To reform His corrupted and deformed creation. To restore it to its goodness. No reformation ever comes easy.
Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price, He gave up His life to expose the lies of Satan, to reveal the truth about God’s unconditional love to you, and to begin the greatest ever reformation, which will end with the restoration of entire creation.
And you are invited to be a part of it. Here and in the blessed age to come. You see, we can say that reformation is the very essence of the Christianity. It is God’s gift to fallen humanity.
God’s presence with us. With you. It is God’s reforming work when He tries to bring restoration where corruption and lies reign. This is exactly what Dr. Martin Luther was doing.
Trying to reform what was so much corrupted. To bring the truth where lies reigned so mightily. This is what we all as Christians are called to do. To reform what is deformed by sin, lies and devil.
Here we come to our second question. How can we participate in God’s own reformation? Jesus gives us the answer in today’s Gospel text.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” But “if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We don’t usually think about ourselves as slaves to sin. Even less people in society. We praise ourselves that we are free, we live in free country and celebrate our freedom.
However, very often we understand our freedom as a permission to do whatever we desire. And what we desire so often is contrary to God’s will. Yes, we are free to do what we desire, but – we are not free to desire what is good.
Jesus speaks about a different freedom. It is a freedom to desire what is good, what is in accord with our Creator’s will, and not against it, to desire it freely and rejoice in it.
He speaks about this freedom where we trust that Triune God is the source of all good gifts, that He cares for us more than anyone else. He speaks about this freedom where we actually know the truth and are free from lies. How?
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is the key. Abide in my words. Then you will know the truth.
How can we participate in God’s own reformation? It begins with us. Right here. By abiding in His words. What does it mean practically? It means that you read, listen and meditate upon what God speaks to you.
For He is the only One who reveals us the truth about Himself, about this world, about us, about what is wrong with this world, about His solution, about the reformation that He is doing. This is the first and the most important step for us.
To listen to the truth. To understand who we are, and for what kind of life we are created. This is a life-long learning. When we do it, the Holy Spirit reforms us. It takes what the words of Jesus teach, and applies to us.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, we begin to see the truth, we begin to desire what is good. That’s His work in us. We are gradually reformed into what we are created to be. Into fully humans, who trust their Creator and live for their neighbors.
However, often this is like making two steps forward, and two steps back. For devil doesn’t sleep. He can’t create anything. He keeps lying and deforming.
He takes God’s good gifts and corrupts them. Then he persuades that trusting his lies will bring us happiness, freedom, joy, security and peace. For example, He takes the gifts of marriage and sex and distorts them.
He persuades us that the gift of marriage as God created it is boring. But, if we indulge without hesitation our sexual desires, we’ll be happy. And if we aren’t … then we need to try something or someone else.
He takes the gift of work. He persuades us that actually our work and money will grant us security and meaning for our lives. So we need to keep toiling…
He takes the gift of education and knowledge and persuades us that unless you have spent long enough studying there is no real value to you. Devil keeps lying, and people keep trusting him, even if he never delivers what he promises.
Only those who abide in the words of Jesus can see the truth. The truth about God’s unconditional love and care, about our sin and brokenness, about the grace of Jesus Christ, and about the gift of eternal life.
It takes the Holy Spirit to make it known. This is the truth, that you can trust God. He loves you more than His own life. He provides for you daily, even if we are often ungrateful.
He has created you for the blessed life in His presence, and He has promised to reform this creation, so that you certainly receive what He has prepared for you.
If you are here, it means that the Holy Spirit has been working with you, reforming you. He never stops, He never gives up on you. He is working with you, so that you can see this world as it is, as God’s wonderful, but for now corrupted creation.
Once you begin to see the truth, the Holy Spirit allows you to see this deformation in lives of those around you. He also gives you wisdom to help them. Gently, lovingly, unmasking devil’s lies and pointing to God’s love that is revealed in Jesus. This is how we participate in God’s reformation.
Remember, reformation always comes with a price. Once the Holy Spirit begins to use you as His tool, you will have to pay the price. Lies are happy to coexist with the truth. The truth can’t coexist with lies.
Once you are free and willing to stand for the truth, Satan will not hesitate to attack you. If you are God’s coworker in His reformation, as you all are, you have obtained this very powerful enemy.
The same way, this world will not favor you, for you’ll be exposing its lies. Sin can’t tolerate the truth, and those who have embraced sinful ways can’t tolerate messengers of Christ. Don’t expect to receive praise for your efforts to reform the world, expect resistance and rejection. That’s how it is…
Concluding. Even if this world still abides in darkness, and seems to embrace it more and more, we have so many reasons to celebrate this day. God is at work reforming us and His fallen creation.
He is the Creator, and there is nothing that can stop Him from finishing His work. He has already chosen you, He has already done a lot of reformation with you, and He will most certainly finish His work.
And when it happens, when God’s reformation is accomplished, we’ll no longer confess that we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life eternal. We will live it. In presence of the Greatest Reformer Himself.