Freedom

This weekend, we celebrate Independence Day.  On July 4, 1776, delegates from the thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson.  This document lays out 27 grievances against Great Britain resulting in the colonies’ decision to absolve all allegiance and political connections to the British Crown and its tyranny and declaring themselves to be independent states. 

It is considered the birth of the United States of America and the freedom that we now enjoy.  It began a new government that put in place many measures to prevent tyranny by establishing three distinct branches of power guided by a simple, but incredibly powerful document; the constitution of the United States of America.

Just last weekend, our family spent some time in Philadelphia and Valley Forge experiencing firsthand where many of the events of the founding of this nation began.  We saw the very weapons used, read the personal journal entries from those involved, walked through the buildings and grounds where it all took place. 

We were amazed by the courage and sacrifice that so many made to participate in the following war for this freedom and the nearly impossible odds that they faced to win that victory.

Only 250 years later, these sacrifices have produced one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth!  We have been blessed with so many civil freedoms that many right now across the earth are being denied.  We’re not a perfect nation, but as the founding fathers wrote, they certainly formed a more perfect union!

Any government established by humans and operated by humans will never be perfect.  Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence lays a foundation defining that governments are instituted to secure the unalienable rights that we are endowed with by our Creator which include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  These governments derive their power by the consent of those who are governed by it and warned that they should not be changed for light and transient causes.

Our nation’s leaders today continue to struggle to ensure the rights of all people groups without also infringing on the rights of others.  It’s an incredibly difficult balance to maintain!  In our constitutional republic, we have the opportunity to be a voice into our government and to directly influence the decisions that are made and the laws that are legislated.  As Christians, we should speak up and take a stand to ensure that the government continues to protect and defend our rights.

There are plenty of scriptures that instruct us to do so, but one of my favorites is:

Psalm 119:45-47

45 I will walk about in freedom,

    for I have sought out your precepts.

46 I will speak of your statutes before kings

    and will not be put to shame,

47 for I delight in your commands

    because I love them.

From a Christian perspective, we have had a few huge wins as the Supreme Court decided to overturn the decision made 50 years ago with Roe v. Wade indicating that a right to abort the life of an unborn child is not protected by the constitution.  They also decided that a coach named Joseph Kennedy’s right to pray at the 50 yard line on the field after public school football games is protected by the constitution.

Here is where we begin to transition and where my personal, Biblically guided, perspective often becomes unpopular as a Christian living in the US.  As a follower of Christ, we have dual citizenship.  All of us sitting here this morning are citizens of the United States of America.  Those who have put their faith in Christ are also citizens of Heaven.  The USA is a constitutional republic, Heaven is a kingdom.

Biblically, this is evident as the apostle Paul claimed to be a Roman citizen (Acts 16,22) and claimed and leveraged all of the rights ensured him because of this status.  He also claimed to be a citizen of Heaven (Philippians 3).

We are incredible blessed to live in a nation built on God’s Kingdom principles and moral values.  Though we can’t know with certainty the personal faith of the founding fathers, there is at the very least clear evidence that they were heavily influenced by the Bible, often quoting from it in their writings, and that they established this government with many Judeo-Christian values. 

Though their personal faith can be debated, very clearly, they wanted to ensure that the government would not create laws establishing a religion nor prohibit the free exercise of its citizens to live out their religious beliefs.

We can debate the founding father’s personal faith and whether the USA is a Christian nation, but the following warning is absolutely true if everything that Jesus said while walking this earth is truth.  Can we agree here this morning that everything that Jesus speaks is truth? 

That means that this nation will either cease to exist at some point in the future or it will turn against Christians at some point.  Sometime between now and the end of the age, one or the other will take place.  This nation will cease to exist or will no longer grant us the right and the freedom to follow Christ.  The is the danger of combining and making one and the same our patriotism and our faith. We should have both, but they are not the same.  If you are offended by this or doubt this, take Jesus at His own word:

Matthew 24:3-14

3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

During the end times, Jesus said that we will be hated by all nations because of Him.  Our faith and freedom cannot be derived from our earthly citizenship of the USA, but must rather be fully derived from our Heavenly citizenship.  That freedom is ensured and will stand strong under any form of man-made government!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with patriotism and we should be proud to be Americans.  We should be grateful for all of those who gave their lives to establish and defend our freedom!  We absolutely should be active voices into all levels of government over us.  However, there should be a clear distinction between our civil freedom, which is so incredible fragile and uncertain, and our true life’s freedom found in Christ.  We must be careful not to unify our worship of God with devotion to a man-established government.

If the gospel that we believe and share with others cannot exist in communist China, then it’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ.  If being a disciple of Jesus means that we have to be a conservative republican and hate all democrats and anyone with liberal political views, then we have failed to know what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus didn’t tread lightly on the subject of being a disciple and making disciples.  The religious people of His day also misunderstood what discipleship was all about and Jesus said to them:

Matthew 23:15

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Jesus gave a command to us in what we call the Great Commission found in Matthew 28 to go and to make disciples of all nations. 

Matthew 28:18-20

18 … “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All nations.  The power of the gospel is not weakened because it lacks the support of the government over those sharing it, hearing it, and receiving it.  The gospel doesn’t need a man-made government’s support to radically transform the people of a nation!

Read the New Testament.  The early church was commanded not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  They were beaten, imprisoned, and murdered by governments for doing so.  Their property was confiscated and were publicly humiliated in so many horrific ways all because of their faith in Jesus.  Even with this high cost of following Jesus, every day people were being saved.  Paul wrote:

Hebrews 10:32-34

32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

In fact, listen to how Christians responded to such severe persecution and how God responded to them!

Acts 4:24-31

24 …they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage

    and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth rise up

    and the rulers band together

against the Lord

    and against his anointed one.’

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Let’s be honest with each other this morning.  Most American Christians are feeble and whiny and powerless.  We have more concern for civil religious rights than we do saving the lost.  Where is our boldness?  Where is our courage?  Where is our strength?

Why isn’t everyone getting filled with the Holy Spirit?  Why is it that the places where we meet are not being shaken by God?

Perhaps we have forgotten that we are a free people.  Truly free! 

John 8:34-36

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Perhaps we are so busy worrying about losing our government-given religious freedoms that we have forgotten to live out our Jesus-given freedom and the power and authority that we have by the Holy Spirit.

Imagine with me for a moment.

What if we started being the salt and light of the earth and reaching the lost with the power of the gospel?  What if the lives of those in this nation were radically transformed by Jesus?  Were that to happen, then the government could legalize everything that the Bible condemns and criminalize everything that the Bible commands that we do, and it wouldn’t even matter.  Right?

Too many of us have a misplaced belief that if the government criminalizes what the Bible condemns and legalizes what the Bible commands that people will start getting saved.  If prayer was put back in school, if the government did this, if the government did that, then people will follow Jesus again. 

The eye-opening reality is that that was never, ever God’s plan!  This was also not the founding father’s plan, either.  That is a hope for essentially a state-ran church, which is something that they wanted to ensure would never happen here in this nation.

Jesus saved and sent you and I to reach the lost.  Jesus commissioned you and I to make disciples and to teach people to obey all that He commanded.  Jesus gave you and I freedom and then sent us to set captives free!

Today is a day of freedom!  Stop waiting for the SCOTUS or the POTUS or any other governmental form or power of the United States to do what Jesus has commanded and commissioned you and I to do!  We have been given freedom and authority as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God by Jesus, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Tell others the way to freedom!  Show them the way to His provision!

Let’s start making the number of people entering the Kingdom of God in the USA every day exceed the number of people pouring through our southern border!  If they are willing to risk their lives to receive what the US provides, then why wouldn’t people be willing to give their lives for all that Jesus provides?

Let freedom ring!  Make every day a day of declaration that today is the day of freedom!  Today is the day to be set free from sin and everything that trips us up and weighs us down!  Today is the day of independence from destruction and the snares of the devil!  Today is the day of a new life, an abundant life, and the fullness of life!

Freedom reigns in this place!