Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity
October 27, 2013
What is the need for reformation? We confess in the Creed the holy Christian and apostolic Church. Is there something deficient about the Church that it needs to be reformed? Believers in Christ make up this holy Christian Church; is there something about them that is lacking, that they need to be reformed? What do we say? “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints.” Saints are ones who are holy. The Holy Christian Church is the Communion of the holy ones. God’s Church is holy, pure. What is the need for reformation?
The need most certainly is not with God. His Church He created is indeed pure, holy. His saints He has gathered into His Christian and apostolic Church are indeed saints. They stand in His presence without their sins counted against them, with the righteousness of Christ accounted to them. This is you. You are a saint. You are one who is holy, one who is among the Communion of Saints.
God created the universe in perfection. He has created His Church in perfection. No evil and ungodly people will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. So, no, the problem is not with God. His Church does not need reformation, because, man, He just didn’t quite it right the first time; so we’ll try it again; we’ll reform it.
The problem, and therefore the need for reformation, is with you and me. You and I are saints. But you and I do not live as we ought, do we? You and I sin, don’t we? We fall short of the glory of God. You and I reject the notion that we are in bondage, don’t we? If you don’t think this is so, consider this: the fact that you sin shows that you reject the notion you are in bondage; just like those people Jesus was speaking to in the Gospel reading.
You don’t fully realize the bondage you’re in. That’s why you do things you know are wrong and against God’s will. You act on your emotions or you plan ahead of time how you are going to get back at someone. But you don’t even need to act on these things to willfully sins against God. Your thoughts alone condemn. The disgraceful thoughts you think toward others. The egotistical things you think about yourself. The way you go through the motions regarding God’s Word and being a steward of the time, and the abilities, and the money and possessions God has given to you. The way you hoard your things for yourself instead of being freely giving of them to serve others.
You are in bondage and you don’t even realize it. You minimize your sin. Well, that’s just the way we are, right? We can’t help sinning, so it’s not like I can do anything about it. I may be in bondage, but I can’t help it, so there’s nothing I can do about it, right?
Wrong. Stop sinning. Stop doing those things you have rationalized away. Stop thinking ill toward others and start praying for them. Better yet, reach out to them and befriend them and love them and find ways you can serve them and help them. Instead of going through the motions, be deliberate in your devotional reading of God’s Word, and your study of God’s Word in Bible Class, and your hearing of God’s Word in the worship service. Put yourself in the background and hear what God has to say to you, not what you would like to hear.
Only the truth will make you free. Your sinful nature would like for you to think that you are free already. The world and Satan would like for you to go their way because then you will not be bound by the rigidness of God’s holy will. You will be able to fudge a little or lie a little or spread a little gossip or not take to heart God’s Word or ignore the person who needs your help. Only the truth will make you free. The truth is, you are a sinner. The truth is, you are not free. The truth is, you are condemned already, you are in eternal bondage. Jesus said, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”
The Jews Jesus was talking to wouldn’t hear anything about being slaves. They were offspring of Abraham. They were the recipients of the promise of God to Abraham and his descendents that they would be the ones who would inherit the earth. They weren’t slaves. But that’s the problem with our sinful nature. It wants its freedom according to the ways of the world. It doesn’t want to hear of the Law of God, which strikes through the sinful heart. You are in bondage. You are a sinner, and unless you realize this and confess it and repent of it, you will remain in your bondage; you will remain in your condemnation; and it will be forever.
Only the truth will set you free. Jesus comes with the truth. The freedom He brings is not freedom to do what you wish but freedom from your sin and freedom from the condemnation for your sin. The freedom He brings is freedom He brings about. It is not a plan for your escape from this bondage or even a guiding you out of it. It is freedom that He actually brings about. He says in the Gospel reading, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” He doesn’t say that you must become free but that He sets you free.
There are billions of people who have walked the earth, all of them sinners. All of them in bondage. You and I are numbered among them. You and I share the same condemnation. The Epistle reading says, “there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is one among all, though, who likewise has walked this earth, but with this distinction: He alone is without sin. Pure, holy, unstained. Jesus walked this earth for one purpose, to set you free from sin. There is only one who accomplished the entire Law God requires of us. It is this one. There is only one who has suffered the condemnation for sinners in the place of sinners. It is this one. There is only one who was confirmed in His accomplishing of salvation by rising from the dead. It is this one.
The Son sets you free. You don’t. You don’t even try. You keep sinning. You “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And yet, even as all are in sin and don’t measure up to the glory of God, the Epistle reading says further: all “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
At the heart of your life is yourself. Your sinful nature makes certain of that. You are in bondage to your sin and your sinful flesh. That is why you need to be set free. That is why you need reformation. The heart of reformation is not you, or doing what pleases God, or trying to overcome your sin. The heart of reformation is Christ. The Son sets you free. Jesus, the Son of God, your Lord and Savior, frees you from the bondage of your sin.
The Son sets you free. You want to remain in your sin. Remain in His Word. Rest in it, abide in it. Here is reformation. Here is Christ, for you, for eternity. Amen.