Know the Truth and the truth shall set you free. It's a very famous saying. Jesus actually said that in John 8:32 to some new Jewish Christians. It was meant to be refreshing and uplifting and when we hear it quoted today, it still is. As Christians, we think primarily of the Gospel, which promises liberation from the penalty of sin and death. Jesus died on the cross and those who believe in Him are eternally set free.
And eternity is the big picture. Sometimes we forget that here in this life with its distractions and circumstances. We lose sight of the eternal by focusing on the temporal or the things in the here and now. In our Old Testament reading today, there is the prophet Jeremiah, who was called to remind Israel about the big picture. God used Him to denounce the obstacles the Israelites were building between themselves and God. He called the people to repent and turn to the truth so that God might restore them to Himself.
Now, it's not the truth setting you free part that's the problem. It's the first part of that phrase – knowing the truth. That's where the difficulty lies. To the people of Jeremiah's time, the truth came across as insulting and derogatory. Jeremiah says in verse 10, "For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side. Denounce him. Let us denounce him, say all my close friends watching for my fall."
When you're the prophet, you stand as God's representative. The Words you speak are not your own although the people make no division between them. They see those words as your words and they see the truth that you proclaim as your truth. And so as the prophet you become marginalized. You have to be- it's the only way for people to ignore you.
This past week, I traveled to Faith Lutheran Church in Plano for a continuing education class on a 20th century Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse. If that name sounds familiar, it's because we did a Bible study on his theology just last summer. Sasse was in Germany throughout World War II. He saw the changes happening there and wrote many articles that condemned the philosophy of the National Socialist party which you know better by its acronym, Nazi.
Sasse had a post at the famed Ehrlangen University, but the Nazis tried to have him removed after reviewing his articles about them. But Sasse had some friends on the faculty and they were able to preserve his position. Unfortunately, some of these faculty members were also early Nazi sympathizers.
After the War, Sasse was approached by the allies to help identify such supporters at the university. And he did so with the understanding that it would be confidential. Well, it wasn't. And when the other faculty members found out, including those who had likely helped retain him, Sasse became an outsider. Before long, he soon had no other option other than to leave Germany for Australia where He took a significant pay cut.
Sasse's confession of the truth caused him to be forsaken in his own homeland…a story the prophet Jeremiah knew all too well, "I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me," he says to God in verse 7. And so this isn't quite the life you would envision for a faithful believer, is it?
And it makes you wonder, why did these two men persevere through this kind of a life? Why did they continue despite the threats and the danger and the personal loss? Why didn't they just walk away or compromise? Well, I like what Jeremiah says in verse 8 and I think this is where our answer lies. He says about God, "If I say, 'I will not mention Him or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.'"
Knowledge and faith in the truth bring conviction-especially if it relates to God's truth. It does create a fire in your bones to testify and confess. It does make you want to call others away from the temporal to eternal things. But at the same time, you quickly find out that your confession can also bring alienation because our culture has no such fire for the things of God. It's passions burn for fleshly causes and for sins which God finds offensive. Those heralds of God who come to bear His truths are placed in the category of outsider, outcast or worse.
And so the temptation is to hide the fire in your bones or at least try to tamp it down. And so no one wants to be the prophet because we all know what happens to the prophet. And if you know the truth, then you may feel that is enough. After all, you're not your brother's keeper…or at least, that's what Cain once said.
But if you know the truth, then you know the glory of this world will fade; you know the causes that man chases will someday be weighed in the scales of God's judgment and found wanting. And you know that ultimately, God always vindicates His servants in the end.
See, the reason the truth sets you free is because it makes you alive. The truth puts the Spirit of God inside of you. The truth kills you and resurrects you, not to make you alive to yourself or to the things of this world, but to make you alive to God.
The Word of God has its way with you. It brings about the knowledge of your sin and your corruption. It leads you to repentance. It leads you to understand where you have fallen short with God. But most importantly, it brings you to the forgiveness of sins and absolution that you can receive nowhere else. The blood of Christ cleanses you and heals you. It liberates you from penalty and judgment. It sets you free. It's meant to be shared with the world; it's meant to be shared with your neighbor. When you know the truth, you don't think I'm not my brother's keeper. You think I'm the whole world's keeper.
In the Gospel, God reveals the truth that ushers us into eternity. When we believe the Gospel, we're brought into the understanding that this promise and gift of God are unique. They cannot be found anywhere else-in any other prophet, philosophy, teaching or religion because there are not many truths in our world. There is just one.
This truth created a fire in the bones of a prophet and in the life of a theologian. Those men fought against the tide of culture. They challenged not only individuals, but entire societies and movements. And despite all the pressure to do otherwise, they remained faithful unto death. But they also remained faithful throughout alienation and personal loss. While the world hoped in things that came to abrupt and disastrous ends, these two men continued to testify to the truth.
As Christians, this is our testimony—that the truth of Christ and His salvation perseveres through all of human history. It outlasts the misplaced hopes that people put in leaders or nations or city walls or prosperous economic times. It outlasts popular lifestyles and pursuits. If you see anything in the lives of these two men today, then see how their confession in the truth outlasted everything else that surrounded them.
Jesus Christ was crucified by an entire city. His enemies celebrated His death believing that they had triumphed in their thinking and actions. But Jesus rose from the dead three days later. The truth not only sets you free and the truth no only creates a fire in your bones. The truth cannot be killed or done away with. Psalm 46:6 says nations roar and kingdoms totter. Matthew 24:35 says heaven and earth will pass away. Matthew 24:2 says of the great Temple in Jerusalem, "Not one stone will be left one on top of another."
The truth of Jesus Christ outlasts every earthly treasure or pleasure. It cannot be conquered or killed. It cannot be removed or dismissed. It is intended for the whole world and it is intended for you. The truth Jeremiah shared and Hermann Sasse confessed continues to this day and it will survive every false god or teaching you can name or find in the world right now. The big picture is a beautiful thing to see and those who have a clear view of it are those who know the truth of Christ's coming and dying and rising. Everything else in life that is not of Christ is merely a distraction. Just ask the Prophet Jeremiah or the theologian Hermann Sasse who now dwell in the presence of Christ abiding in His truth forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Chris Bramich