A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on October 31, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Hold on to Jesus’ Teachings!  John 8:31-36Have you ever wondered why two people can read the same Bible and get three different interpretations?  We know that happens by the fact there are so many different denominations and even within denominations there are lots of “agree-to-disagrees”.  So, how can we be sure when we read the Bible that we’re getting it right?  In Luther’s day there was only one church, and that church said the only way to understand the Bible was whatever they said.  At first Luther went along with that.  But then in 1508 when he was 25, Luther was given the job of lecturing on Book of Romans at the University of Wittenberg.  The more he studied Romans for his lectures, the more he saw contradictions between what the church said and what the Bible says.  For example the church said a person could buy forgiveness and keep himself out of hell by paying money.  Luther said, and I quote, “Forgiveness of sins is not something we earn for ourselves by our own good deeds.  Rather, it is a free gift which God gives to us as a result of all that Jesus did for us as our Savior.  Salvation, therefore, is completely and only be faith in Jesus.”   How sure are you that this what the Bible really teaches?  Did you ever burn yourself?  Maybe you accidentally touched a hot pan and it blistered up right away.  Burns hurt a lot.  Luther was put on trial by the church and given a choice.   Deny that his understanding of the Bible was correct, or be burned to death.  Here’s what Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by the Scripture and clear reasoning – I do not trust in popes and councils since they have often been wrong – my conscience is bound to the Word of God.  I neither can nor will recant anything, for to act against conscience is wrong and dangerous.  Here I stand.  I cannot do otherwise.  God help me.” For the sake of our faith, for the sake of our witness to others, God wants us to be as certain of our beliefs as Luther was.  Our text this morning shows us how.  Hold on to Jesus’ teachings.  1.  We will know the truth.  2.  The truth will free us from guilt and sin.   Correctly understanding the Bible isn’t that hard.  To prove my point I have four Bible questions I only want children to answer.  1.  Who created the world?  God!  2.  Who is Jesus?  The Son of God.  3.  Why did Jesus die on the cross?  To pay for our sins!  4.  What happens to all who believes that Jesus paid for their sins?  They go to heaven.  In our text when Jesus told the Jews to hold onto His teachings, these four points are what He was talking about.  And so these four points not only summarize what the Bible says, but as we read our Bible, if we keep these four points in mind, we will correctly understand what we’re reading, assuming of course that we pay attention to word meaning and grammar and so forth.  Now, everyone can do this on his own.  However, if you would like help seeing these four points as you read the Bible, try the Today’s Light Bible.   Each section has a little application that really nails it.  And how do we know those little applications are correct?  Just read it, you’ll see! However, not only does holding to these teaching give us a true understanding of the Bible, but then through the Bible we’ll also have a true understanding of everything else that’s important.  For example suppose someone let’s go of the first teaching that God created the world, and buys into evolution.  How does that person look at man?  Not as the crown of creation in the image of God, but as just another animal!  Or how does such a person look at morality?  As something that’s evolving, and there’s no such thing as right or wrong?  Or, how does such a person look at death?  As natural thing and not the wages of sin!   You see how important it is that we hold on to Jesus’ teaching about creation.  It’s even more important that we hold to what He says about Himself.  We read in verses before our text, “"When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me."  Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.”  The Jewish leaders did not put their faith in Him, because they insisted they did not need a Savior from sin.  They only needed a Savior to make their lives here better.  They based this on that they were descendents of Abraham, and had never committed any of the big sins; and whatever little sins they did commit they could pay for themselves.  They were only fooling themselves, because they were facing the wages of sin.  Also, everyone who dies with sin on him cannot enter heaven.  Psalm 49 puts it this way, “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough- that he should live on forever and not see decay – Psalm 49:7-9.” This good news here is Jesus is more than a man.  He is God the Son.  What is more, throughout the Old Testament it was prophesied that God the Son would die on the cross for man.  And so when these Jewish leaders would crucify Jesus that would be their second clue of who he is.  The first clue was His miracles.  And the third clue would be His resurrection on the third day, which was also prophesied in the Old Testament.  Anyway, the Jewish leaders could not see any of these truths, because of their insistence that they deserved to go to heaven.  What about us?  Do we really mean it, when we confess that we are by nature sinful and have sinned against God in our thoughts, words and actions?  Or, are we just saying that because it’s our Lutheran tradition?  However, why else would God the Son die on the cross than to pay for our sins?  And since He did die for our sins, let’s hold to His teaching that everyone who believes this HAS eternal life.  Again we read in our text, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Free from what?  Free from poverty or suffering?  No, for we must through many trials and tribulations enter the kingdom of heaven.  But free from sin’s guilt and sins’ power!  However notice that his freeing is in the future.  For example, suppose we commit a big sin, or even if it wasn’t that big, but we knew better or we repeated it to many times, our feelings of guilt may not go away right away, even after we ask God to forgive us.  That’s because Satan is an accuser and doesn’t give up easily.  Or, maybe the person we sinned against – just the sight of him/her reminds us of what we did.  But hold to Jesus’ teaching.  Hold to the fact that God the Son died for you, even though your conscience is still sticking it to you or you’re still suffering the consequences of your sins.  Hold to Jesus’ teaching until the joy of your salvation comes back to your heart.  In other words, hold on to Jesus’ teaching for as long as it takes, because Jesus did die for us and so He will say to us when we see Him, “Come, you, who are blessed by my Father, and receive the inheritance prepared for you since before thet creation of the world.”But many have argued that this makes salvation too easy, and then what’s to stop a person from sinning all he wants?  We read on in our text, “I tell you the truth, 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.  Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.”  There’s no such thing as just a little sin, just like there’s no such thing as just a little cancer.  Cancer spreads.  Sin spreads and as evidence the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus.  Likewise for us.  If we ride the horse of sin, to more sin, sin will take us.  But now by paying for our sins Jesus has set us the horse of righteousness that carries us to words and actions of love even before we have a chance to think about it.  However, here’s the thing.  We’re not totally free from sin yet, because the devil, the world, and our flesh are constantly trying to pull us off the horse of righteousness so that we’ll ride the horse of sin again.  But hold on to Jesus’ teachings that He not only made you, He made you to be His child and an heir of heaven.  And now live up to who you are!  Also, whenever you feel yourself slipping, don’t swallow the lie that your Creator doesn’t care, because if you do, you’ll end up a slave to sin again.  Rather remember that Jesus freed you from guilt and so get back on that horse of righteousness and ride it!Perhaps some of you are wondering why I used the illustration of riding a horse.  Actually Luther came up with that.  His point was there’s no in between.  Either we ride the horse of sin or the horse of righteousness because either there is one God or there isn’t.  Either He created the world or He didn’t.  And either Jesus died to pay for our sins or He did not.  But He did, and so there is only one way to heaven – not by the Jewish way of works, not by the Islamic way of sacrifice, or not by Eastern way of infinite lives until you get it right.  There is only one way – Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.But how does one come to Jesus?  Jesus explains, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw Him, and I will raise him up at the last day – John 6:44.”  The Father drew us to Jesus through our Baptism.  And so Baptism is not our commitment to God, it’s God’s commitment to us, and knowing that draws us to trust Him and so live for Him.  Or, Holy Communion isn’t what we do to earn our forgiveness or show what fine Christians we are.  It’s Jesus bringing His body and blood to us as a guarantee of our forgiveness to strengthen our faith and increase our love.  I mentioned Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as examples, that holding on to Jesus’ teachings gives us a clear, united understanding of everything else in the Bible.  As a result, Christians may agree to disagree on the best people to vote for on Tuesday, or they may agree to disagree on what color altar clothes to use today.  But God does not want Christians to agree to disagree on what He says in His Word.  Paul writes, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – Romans 15:5-6.”  Do you understand what’s at stake here?  What we believe and how we live is at stake, and that’s why Luther was willing to be burned at the stake rather than let go of the fact that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, based on Scripture alone.  May we with same determination also hold on to Jesus’ teachings!  Then we will always know the truth and we will be eternally free!  Amen.     

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