Each month, a guest writer will pen a devotion for us at the end of the month. This month, Rev. Dr. Wayne Braun, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod missionary pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Frankfurt, Germany, is our guest author. Rev. Braun is the pastor of Trinity, which is an English-speaking congregation in Frankfurt. Trinity is a church home away from home for people whose first, and even second or third language is English, including members from America, Germany, Great Britain, India and more.
–By Rev. Dr. Wayne Braun
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, ESV).
The bird was trapped in a restaurant packed with people. In panic it flew wildly around the room crashing into window after window and wall after wall until it fell dazed to the floor. Only then was one of the patrons of the restaurant able to gently pick up the bird, take it to the open door and set it free.
Like the bird, no matter how hard we try, no matter which way we turn, we cannot stop our sinning, and we cannot escape the consequences of sin. Jesus said it. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34, ESV). That was certainly Luther’s story. He believed himself trapped by his sin, condemned by an angry, righteous God whom he could not appease. Luther tried everything. At first He ran from God, thinking to become a lawyer. That didn’t work. Then He ran to the monastery. Temptation and sin found him there too. He tried doing penance. He punished himself. He went to Rome, bought an indulgence, prayed on every step of St. Peter’s. None of it was ever enough. He tried the confessional. But he could never confess everything. No matter which way he flew, Luther crashed into another wall. It’s the same for us. No matter which way we turn. We cannot change ourselves. We cannot escape our guilt.
How easily our lives become like a painting I have been told about called “Checkmate.” I am told that it’s a painting of a chess game between the devil and Dr. Faust. The devil has Dr. Faust cornered. It looks like it’s checkmate and the game is over. But then one day, as the story goes, a chess champion took a tour through that gallery. He stopped to ponder the painting. Suddenly, the quiet of the gallery was broken. As the chess champion began to shout, “It’s a lie! It’s a lie! The King has another move!”
That’s the message that is at the heart of the Reformation. That’s the truth that changed the life of Martin Luther. When the devil tells you or me that we are trapped by sin, that there is no way out – “It’s a lie! The King has another move.” That’s the truth Jesus speaks of: “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 8:31a-32, ESV). Here are the three great truths of the reformation in one verse. All three – grace alone, Scripture alone and faith alone – expose Satan’s lies. He whispers in your ear that God could never forgive your sin. But the great truth is that God is gracious. He loves us and forgives us even though we don’t deserve it. That great truth is found only in the Scriptures. So Jesus urges us to “abide in my word…” Then, He promises, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This knowing is more than just head knowledge. This “knowing” is faith.
All three have one thing in common – Jesus! It is to Jesus that God points us in His word. Jesus is God’s gift of grace. He is the object of our faith. Jesus is the King’s other move. This is the move that God made when He sent His Son into this world. Jesus never allowed Himself to be trapped by temptation. He lived the perfect life. Then He offered that life as the payment for our sin. On the cross He entered the death trap that should have closed on us. Then on the third day Jesus sprang the trap. He rose again from the dead. He opened a door to freedom for you and me. Now in baptism, in confession and absolution, at His Table, Jesus does for us what that patron did for that little exhausted bird in the restaurant. He picks us up, takes us to the doorway of faith, forgives our sin and sets us free. That’s the truth.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, by Your word open our eyes to recognize the lies of the enemy and to see clearly the greater truth of Your grace and forgiveness. Grant that abiding in Your Word we might always know and believe that truth and the freedom You alone give. In Your name, amen.
- Learn more about Pastor Braun.
- Learn more about Trinity Lutheran Church in Frankfurt, Germany.
- Read last week’s devotion.
- Come back next week for our regular devotion, and check back for our next monthly guest devotion at the end of November from Rev. Hugo Gevers of Leipzig, Germany, the Missionary to the Migrants for The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK).