Set Free
John 8:31-36

As we just saw in the video that Barry Petering discovered on the internet for me Martin Luther became aware of contradictions in the teaching and practices of the church in his time as he was reading his Bible.  When he was a lay person he had never had access to the word of God except through preachers and teachers, now that he was allowed to study it he realised the truth and wanted to be set free.

The man got frustrated, there were things going on that he wasn’t happy with and he wanted to set things straight.  Yes he got into all sorts of trouble for it, he had to make a stand for what he believed in, but in the long run we all gained benefits from what he did.  Out of his suffering and exile came one of the major benefits for all people.  In his time hiding away in the tower he translated the Bible into the language of his people.  In doing so he made it possible for more people to have access to the truth that he had been given access to through his study.

No longer did the people have to go and seek out the truth from another; they could begin to read it for themselves.  What a wonderful gift that was, how amazing to be able to read the word of God for themselves.  The Bible is still the number one best selling book of all time, but is perhaps the least read book of all time too.

How many copies of the Bible do you have at your place?  Do you know where yours is?  When was the last time you picked it up and read from it?  As we heard from the apostle John, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”  The truth got Luther into a fair bit of strife and for a fair while in his life.  But ultimately it did set him free.  What about you, do you think the truth, God’s Word, has set you free.  If someone like me asks you when the last time was that you read from it you will probably feel guilty if its been a while, if it was this morning or yesterday it is probably close enough ago for you to feel indignant because I had the front to ask you about it in the first place.  But really, who else should be checking up on you about your time with God’s Word but your pastor? 

I want to strongly encourage you, urge you, implore you, to drag out your Bible when you get home today, put it on the kitchen or dining room table, and open it up and read a little, you never know what you may discover!  Read a verse or two with your family over lunch or dinner, discuss them, ask some questions of them, try to discover how those words of God may have an impact on your life today, pray about them, pray them!

Why not put them to good use in your life.  Here is a suggestion for you.  Remember a couple of weeks ago we used a section of Psalm 119 in the service, and then I mentioned one verse in particular, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  These are words of praise for God from the writer of the psalm.  I had a look through a bit more of that psalm too, not only does it continually mention, law and statutes and decrees, but it constantly refers to the importance of the Word of God.

It refers to ways God’s word can guide us, “How can young people keep their way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.”  It can be used to make a plea to God, “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” Or to keep us from evil, “I treasure you word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.” And then perhaps one of my favourite verses, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Do you have a favourite verse that you turn to in times of need, or in times of joy?  At Head to the Heart last Friday night we were discussing the role of God’s Word in our lives, and I shared my verse with them, most of you have heard me mention it at some stage, Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”  It was the first text I read as a student in Chapel at Australian Lutheran College, and was the first text that I preached on here, in January 2006, and used it as a greeting text for the two new chaplains here at Luther this year.  It’s one that I reflect on often.

As we asked the kids at H2H, do you have a text that you call your favourite?  Christie led an exercise that night where there were hundreds of texts all on small pieces of paper, she threw them out like confetti on the floor in front of the altar at Lilydale and asked the kids to search through them and find one or several to take and learn and reflect on and make them their own.  At the end of the night there were even a couple of kids trying to make snow angels in them.

We take scripture for granted, we have ready access to it each and every day, I have four versions of the Bible on my phone!  Think of those people at the time of Luther who had no access to one, they had to rely solely on someone else to tell them what was in there.  Thousands of people today still don’t have access to a Bible and yet would love one.  I challenge you to get to know yours better, find some texts that impact on you, commit them to memory, write them on your heart, have them dwell in your heart richly, meditate on them day and night.

We are truly blessed to be able to continue in God’s word, by reading it and hearing it regularly we will be set free by it, and again from Psalm 119, “Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice because I have hoped in your word.”  What a wonderful gift to share with our fellow believers, to walk together in the word, to share it with each other and to cling to it each day.  And of course not only in the Word written on the page but also in the Word who became flesh and lived among us.  The very same Word who spoke to the disciples and told them to continue in the word and to be made free.