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Today we remember the birth of a nation as we celebrate our nation’s independence. The 4th of July is more than fireworks, cookouts, and parades. There is much disagreement, but the 4th of July is about a country founded, rooted, and established on Christian principles.
It was Patrick Henry that said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington said, “Do not let anyone claim tribute of American patriotism if they even attempt to remove religion from politics.”
“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” – Pres. Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Danbury Baptists on Jan 1, 1802.
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. . . it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams
Despite what politicians, the contemporary media, or the history revisionists say, America was founded not on the concept of freedom to worship any god, but on the freedom to worship Jesus Christ. It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies at the time were known as British Americans. They were citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament levying taxes on them to pay for the French and Indian War (7 Years War). There was the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, Townshend Act, the Tea Act and others. Colonialists called them the Intolerable Acts. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or was regulated. This led to the famous phrase, “Taxation without representation” and later “Taxation without representation leads to tyranny.” The Colonists had no representation in the British Parliament which led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.
Hundreds of Colonists gave their lives to regain these rights. It was during this time of conflict that Patrick Henry, a politician from Virginia gave a speech before the Virginia Provincial Convention. Here is how he concluded it:
“The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare absolute freedom from England. John Adams was on the drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence wrote his wife saying, “The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable day in the history of America; I believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, with shows, games, sports, balls, bon fires and illuminations, from one end of the country to the other, from this time forward and forever more.” It was on July 4th that the final wording was ratified and signed by the 56 members, representing the 13 colonies. John Adams was right.
After America declared her independence, she had to win it by force. There was no Army or Navy and their fighting forces consisted of militia units in the colonies. England had an army of well trained and disciplined soldiers. Declaring independence and achieving it proved difficult because the people were never fully united behind the war effort. About a third of the colonists were apathetic. As many as a third of the colonists sympathized with Great Britain calling themselves loyalists (Tories). This meant that victory in the Revolutionary War depended on patriots who made up about a third of the new country’s entire population. 7200 Americans were killed during the war; 8200 wounded; 10,000 died from disease and exposure with nearly 3000 men dying at Valley Forge alone. 6500 died in prison after being captured and 1400 soldiers were listed as missing.
What was the price for allegiance? Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died. 12 had their homes ransacked and burned. 2 lost their sons to the Continental Army. 2 sons were captured. 9 fought and died from wounds of the war. Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships sunk by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in poverty. At the battle of Yorktown, the British General Cornwallis had taken over Thomas Nelson’s home for his headquarters. Nelson ordered Washington to open fire on his home destroying it. Nelson died bankrupt. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. His fields were destroyed and for over a year he lived in forests and caves returning home only to find his wife had died and his 13 children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion. The war that began on April 19, 1775 ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. America was established, a nation where every person could be free and have an input into the ways things should be done. Though many signers of the Declaration paid a high price, others reaped a great reward. 2 of the signers became President, 3 Vice-President, and 2 sons of signers became President. 6 served in the House, 7, in the Senate. 16 state and federal judges. 13 became governors and dozens of others held other high political offices. Each holds an enduring place in our history.
If you are here today and you call yourself a Christian, you have made an allegiance pledge. Do you remember the day when you made that decision? The day you understood that your sin separates you from God and without the shed blood of Christ, there is no hope? Do you remember the day where you understood the free gift of grace that God lavished up you? Do you remember that day? The day you made that declaration?
At that time you were pledging your allegiance, your devotion, your loyalty, your dedication, your commitment, your very life, to Jesus Christ. You made the same proclamation Paul made in Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”Paul says that he is has been killed with Christ, he no longer lives, but Christ is living within him. No longer will you live for yourself, you’ll no longer seek your will for your life; you’ll no longer live for the things of this world. You now seek God’s will for your life, seeking to do what pleases Him. That’s scary for a lot of people. Becoming totally dependent upon Him. Some refuse. Remember the words of Joshua, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15)
When you become a follower of Christ, you must pay a high price. It’s one thing to make a bold declaration. It’s another to live up to it. Saying it is a lot easier than doing it. Joshua made his declaration, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” (Josh. 24:16a) Israel pledged their allegiance to God, but it didn’t last long. Ju. 2:11-12a tell us, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers.” Wars are not won by people who make declarations. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being won by lawmakers, but by men and women in harm’s way on the ground. In the Lord’s Army, we find the same thing the colonists found; we’re having a hard time because there are so many that just don’t recognize the enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Satan comes at us like a roaring lion and an angel of light. The battle is hard to win because some Christians are just like the Tories; they’re still loyal to the enemy and to sin. Remember that a third of the colonists couldn’t care less? We’ve got some who are uninvolved – people who are content to let others fight the good fight. Jesus demands total, radical, and unswerving allegiance. “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26)
Our allegiance to Christ has got to be more than words. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21)“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Tit. 1:16) Why don’t Christians fight? We get in the way, our pride, our opinion, our desires, our comfort, our convenience, our will, our way. That’s why Jesus said we must pick up our cross, and deny ourselves daily in order to be his disciples. The church should be leading the battle. The church should be a place of hope for the hopeless. A place of joy despite circumstances. A place of peace beyond understanding. A place of love, forgiveness, healing and acceptance. A place of new beginnings.
In Matt. 16:18 Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” One day we will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give an account of our lives. Will we be able to say our allegiance is to Jesus Christ and to Him alone?