Sermon: Abide in My Word (John 8)
Order of Service: Divine Service 3 w/o Communion
#644, “The Church’s One Foundation”
#656, “A Mighty Fortress”
#582, “God’s Word Is Our Great Heritage”
Location: Trinity, Mountain Lake & Trinity, Alpha, MN
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.” (John 8:31-32)
Jesus makes a distinction between hearers, believers and disciples. A distinction that sadly still plagues us today.
Hearers are outside the Church. They know Jesus’ name, even if it’s only as an expletive. Believers have heard and accepted the Gospel, but they go no farther with their faith and life. Disciples are believers who put their faith into action in their lives. They abide in His Word.
What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ Word? Abiding is stationary. Not a slowing down. Literally, sitting. Setting up camp. Taking off your coat and staying a while.
This is the essence of Jesus’ abiding. Jesus wants everyone to abide in His Word. He does not want people to stay as hearers. Hearers will go to Hell. He doesn’t want people to stay as believers. Many believers will also be in Hell. He wants people to be disciples. Disciples will be with Him in Heaven.
So He sends the “angel flying directly overhead” to proclaim His eternal Gospel “to those who dwell on earth.”1Revelation 14:6 To those outside and inside the Church. To hearers, believers and disciples.
The hearers, abiding in the world, outside the Church, dismiss the Gospel and all its promises.
Even as a believer or disciple, you protest against Jesus because you are a sinner. Enslaved to sin, you cannot help but sin. Jesus said to Jews who believed in Him, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill Me because My Word finds no place in you.”2John 8:37 A generic faith finds no place for Jesus’ Word. Especially when it doesn’t make sense.
Jesus doesn’t doubt their faith. He’s talking to believers. He says they don’t accept Him because their father is not Abraham but Satan.3John 8:44 They believed His Word, but they didn’t want to do it. They wanted to remain in the world but have His Word as a “Get Out of Hell Free” card.
Jesus calls believers to abide in His Word. To live in His death and resurrection. Hearers seek His death. Believers seek intellectual understanding. Disciples seek deeper practical meaning for their lives. They abide in His Word that says, “You who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”4Romans 6:18-19
Abiding in Jesus’ Word places you in “the holy habitation of the Most High.”5Psalm 46:4 This habitation is not only in Heaven. This habitation came down from Heaven, “tabernacling” among us in the flesh.6John 1:14 This habitation is open to believers. Enjoyed by disciples. Those who seek refuge and strength from God the Father.7Psalm 46:1 Believers become offspring of Abraham through faith in Jesus.8John 8:33 True offspring of the promise given to the patriarch thousands of years ago: “Look toward Heaven, and count the stars … so shall your offspring be.”9Genesis 15:5
Being a disciple, abiding in Jesus’ Word, is the best way through the “short pilgrimage”10LSB #748.1 in this fallen world. Disciples not only hear. Disciples not only believe. Disciples also confess their faith in word and deed. Disciples see Law and Gospel lived out in their lives as “our great heritage.”11LSB #582
Martin Luther, whose Reformation of the Church we celebrate today, was the perennial “John Galt.” John Galt is the male hero of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. A man who not only heard but did. Both men had the same issue: dealing with people who heard but did not do.
Galt is a philosopher and inventor. One of three great students of the greatest philosopher and greatest scientist alive. He believes in the glory and power of man’s mind. When the government takes advantage of the great minds among its citizens, Galt organizes a strike. All of the greatest minds–philosophers, inventors and businessmen–join his strike. Hoping “to stop the motor of the world” so they can rebuild it in their capitalistic image.
Luther was a theologian and professor. Member of one of the strictest orders of Augustinian monks. He believed in the glory and power of the Gospel. When the Church took advantage of the simple faith of its citizens, Luther sought to bring about a Reformation. Not overpowering or arrogant like Galt. Humbly seeking discussion of the abuses to go back to the basis of worship and life found in the Scriptures. Seeking to raise up the simple faith of Christians to the level of disciples.
While Galt abides in his own mind and the world he seeks to create, Luther sought the voice of the Church. What the Bride of Christ taught and confessed in generations past. Luther abided in Jesus’ Word. Galt looks to his desired future. Luther drew on the experience and faith of the past.
At the Diet of Worms, Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the Pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”12Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Translated by James L. Schaaf. 1:460
Luther was Jesus’ disciple. He not only heard the Word. He believed it. He lived it in his life and work.
Today, a Reformation is still needed. A Reformation to change Galt’s world of the mind to Jesus’ belief and confession of His Word. This Reformation has three steps. The same three steps the Church has used for its entire history.
First, we must bring everyone to hear God’s Word. St. Paul writes, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”13Romans 10:14 In our world, filled with people who believe Galt’s ideology of the mind, we need now, more than ever, to proclaim the everlasting truth of Jesus’ Word. We need to make Jesus’ Word the most important book in our lives. We need our every conversation to be governed by Jesus’ Word. When people see that the message is important to you, they will listen to what you have to say about Jesus. Then you can begin with the basics of the Christian faith.
Once they hear and understand Jesus’ importance to you, then you can help them believe it as well. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”14Romans 10:16 Hearing the Word is not enough. It is only the beginning. Hearing Jesus’ Word leads to more listening. This listening leads to faith. The more you listen, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. A simple faith grows and sprouts into discipleship.
The third step is the step many Christians try to make the first step. You cannot disciple someone who doesn’t believe. Who has never heard Jesus’ Word. Jesus calls us to discipleship. Not brain washing. The Christian Church is not an establishment of the human mind. The Christian Church was established by the Holy Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together to create, redeem and sanctify the entire human race. And they work through you.
You are their means to reach your family, your friends, your neighbors. You continue to follow God’s command to Moses: “Gather the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.”15Deuteronomy 4:10
Abiding in Jesus’ Word makes you His disciple. A doer and not just a hearer.16James 1:22 A Christian who doesn’t stuff your faith in the closet except for Sundays. A Christian who lives out your faith twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year.
Jesus calls to you, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples.”17John 8:31 Abide in His Word. Be His faithful disciple. Amen.