The Lie and the Truth
Text: John 8:31-36
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The lie imprisons. The lie enslaves. The lie kills. The lie has always done these things. In the Garden of Eden, the lie told to Adam and Eve chained them to sin, death, and darkness and condemned an entire world of their descendants to the same sad fate. The lie came between the first brothers, Cain and Abel, the lie that Cain could be angry and hate with no consequence, and the lie murdered Abel and banished Cain. The lie divided Jacob and Esau in order to seize an inheritance. It blinded the descendants of those men, both Israelite and Gentile. It warred and robbed and killed and maimed.
The lie cannot do anything but imprison, enslave, and kill. For what is it that the lie does, at the very heart of the matter? It pulls and pushes away from the Truth. That is to say, it pulls and pushes away from God. For what is God, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life? So if something pulls and pushes away from the Truth, it pulls and pushes away from the Life too. The lie kills.
But if we know this about the lie, how is it that the entire world—ourselves included—fall for it, time and time again? Because the lie hides itself well. It adds one word of poison into the Truth. “You will not surely die,” the father of lies tells Adam and Eve, adding one tiny drop to the Creator’s true warning, adding only the small, three-letter word, “not”, and thus corrupting and changing the statement from true to false. “This is not sin…” the liar whispers as you read the Commandments. “It’s your life, and no one else’s,” the serpent explains, separating you from all those whose lives are touched by yours. “You are saved by grace and…” “You’re saved by Jesus if…” “You’re loved by God if you…” “You’re forgiven but…” So with that one lying word added to each of these, hidden as a hook is hidden in bait, we swallow the whole lie. We’re poisoned. We’re imprisoned, enslaved, killed. And what’s worse, because the lie is hidden so well, because the bait tastes good to our fallen nature, we don’t even know it’s happened. Our handcuffs are comfortable—comfortable enough to not complain—but they’re handcuffs nonetheless. Our poison makes us numb so that we aren’t as aware of the damage, but it’s still poison. So we say with those who doubted Jesus in our Gospel reading today, “We are offspring of Abraham, of Luther, of Elmhurst, of America, and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” We’re so very comfortable in our imprisonment, we’re so very pleased with our captors, we’re so intoxicated with our poison, that we think we know better. We smirk when someone tries to warn us that we might be wrong and we take another sip of the lie.
But God, who is Truth, will not abandon His creation to lies. So He sends His Son, the Truth made flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, to be the Way, the Life, the Light that exposes the lie for what it is. He speaks only the words of God, words of Truth Himself, showing how things really are. He pushes back the darkness with the light of His Word. He breaks chains with the force of what He proclaims. He pulls the mask off the slavers, the captors, so that we can see them for false idols and bullies that they are. He pulls the poison out of our hands and drinks it to the bottom. He dies the death that the lie had planned for Adam and Eve, for Cain and Abel, for Jacob, Esau, all God’s people of old, for those who doubted His Word. He dies the death that the lie was leading you to, leashed and quiet as a lamb being led to slaughter. He dies in the place of those who ran away from the Truth. And in doing so, He set you free.
This is what Reformation Sunday is all about. We speak with oomph. We sing with gusto. We turn up the intensity of what it is we believe, teach, and confess. We do it not out of some kind of national or denominational pride. We do it because we’re throwing a full spotlight on the Truth. The intensity and force of that light might hurt our eyes and sensibilities a little. It will definitely hurt our pride a little more. It’s hard to admit you’ve fallen for a lie. It’s harder to admit you couldn’t get yourself out of it. But rejoice, you who stand by the shining Truth today. It’s intense, it’s radical, it’s laser-focused, it’s strong and undiluted; hard and bright as a diamond, but it’s Truth. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” We hold that we are saved by Christ alone.
What lies have coiled themselves around you, around your heart, your mind, your schedule, your wallet, your soul? Is it the lie that the princes of this world, politicians and parties, can save you? Is it the lie that if you just get that one more thing, that one object of your desire, the thing you covet, that then you’ll finally be happy and complete? Is it the lie that if that one lack, that one pain, that one person, that if they were gone from your life, that then it would all be OK? Is it the lie that if you want God to really love you, to give you His grace and favor, that you have to do something to earn it? Is it the lie that you’re actually a lot better than those others sinners, or at least that other sinner, so you don’t need to repent as much as other do? Is it the lie that God could never love someone like you, lost as you are?
No matter what lie has imprisoned, enslaved, or is killing you, drink deep of the Truth today. Drink deep of the Truth from God’s Word: that there is no salvation but Christ, that He’s come for all sinners, even the worst, even for you, and nothing—not even crucifixion and death—will get in His way of coming to you. Drink of the Truth that God loves you apart from works of the Law, apart from how much you try to earn it, that He cannot love you any more than He already does; all because of who He is, because of what He’s done. Drink deep of that 200 proof Truth that you have the absolute shining brilliant righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, given to all who believe; justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus.
And then, when you’ve drunk that antidote, drink the Truth in the cup at the Lord’s table. One little word of a lie can kill. But one little word of the Truth can fell the father of lies. And what an array of beautiful little words of Truth we have at the Communion rail. “This is My body; this is My blood; given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Drink deep of that Truth, that Way, that Life.
You have been set free from the lie: the lie of thinking that you have to win your Lord’s love and mercy, the lie of believing that anything else out there in the world could possibly compare to what your Lord gives you in here. Rejoice that today the Son has set you free and that you are free indeed. You are free to receive all that your Lord is giving you in His house forever, all out of His love and grace alone. In the name of Jesus, who is the Truth. Amen.