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We’ll take a break from Proverbs this week to honor Independence Day. America celebrated its 239th birthday yesterday. In some ways, that’s a very long time. When compared with the history of other nations, it’s just a drop in the bucket. We celebrated yesterday with a parade, great festival food, cooking out, swimming, having a good time with family and friends and capped it all off with a great fireworks display. We celebrate freedom, but it was not always this way.
In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies in those early years were British Americans; citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament imposed 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. The Colonists called them the Intolerable Acts. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or was regulated. These excess taxes 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. They had no voice, no influence, and no input. The British government would do what they wanted regardless of the will of the people or what those people believed. This led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 when, “The shot heard ‘round the world” was fired from the North Bridge. 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. On July 4th, the final wording was ratified and signed by the 56 members of the Continental Congress representing the 13 colonies. The United States of America was born out of a desire to be free from the tyranny of a repressive government bent on controlling its citizens. Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
What is freedom? Freedom is often misunderstood in America. We speak of being free, but are we really free? Some define freedom as the ability to do what you want to do. In the first amendment to our constitution, we speak of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the press and the mostly forgotten freedom to petition the government to redress wrongs. This was something the colonists were not able to do with King George. Even with these freedom guaranteed by our constitution, are we really free? Many would respond by saying yes, we are free. Yet with our so called freedom, we also have restrictions. These restrictions are known as laws. Every civil society has laws and our founding fathers were not attempting to exercise undue restraints on our freedom. The Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedoms, but even these individual freedoms are restricted. Your individual freedoms cannot trample on the individual freedoms of another. Our laws are designed to protect people and give us the ability to live among one another in relative peace. We are free, but if you choose to exercise the broadest definition of freedom and ignore the measures we have in place to maintain good order and discipline, there is an entire segment of government established to ensure that what freedom you do enjoy will be taken away.
Although we live in the greatest country on the planet, Americans may never know true freedom. In the pledge of allegiance, we speak of liberty and justice for all. America’s freedom was won by the spilled blood of our fighting men and women. But there can never really be liberty apart from the One who is able to guarantee our complete freedom. Some will use their freedom to reject God which does not bring freedom. Some will use their freedom to denounce the activities of the very people that bought their freedom. We celebrate our independence, yet most Americans remain slaves to sin. We have seen recently that many are enslaved by their past. We must move from the throne of tyranny to the throne of grace. As Christians, our freedom was won by the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. In Jo. 8:36 Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” So what of this Christian freedom? Some would argue that this freedom in Christ gives us the liberty to do as we please, to live our lives in any way that we see fit. 1 Pet. 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.”At the core of our Christian freedom is complete obedience to God and His Son. It is an awesome responsibility to carry the truth found in Christ. It is a privilege to share in God’s plan to reach humanity with the only real truth that will free men from the oppression of sin. Instead of hoping that someone will share the truth of our freedom with others, we must offer our service to the King just like the prophet Isaiah did when he said, “Here am I, send me.”
Many Christians are content to sit back and watch others to do the work while they enjoy the benefits of that work. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It has been said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. We say we love God and we love Jesus, but does it stop at that? If we are truly Christians, we must carry the Gospel message with us, telling others what will bring true freedom. Living and spreading the Gospel is sometimes tiring, sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful, but is always worth it. Is. 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
We have a responsibility. As a nation, we have the responsibility to stand up to nations that do not have freedom. We have a responsibility to stand up to tyrannical, oppressive leaders to promote the freedoms we enjoy in America. Our freedom in Christ is far more important than the freedom we enjoy as Americans. We have freedom from the control and bondage of sin. We can live our lives wholly committed and sold out to the freedom and liberty found in Christ. This is our responsibility; our duty; our privilege. Is. 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” We have the keys that can unlock the prison doors of people’s lives that will allow them to be truly free. Many Christians use this Christian liberty to do nothing. As with our American freedom, there are some content to let others to carry on freedom’s work. Some will even criticize how that work is done, but don’t want to get into the fight for Christ themselves. We must fight for freedom! We must join shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, hand in hand to carry this truth to whoever we can! 2 Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
True liberty and true freedom will never be found in a government or in a country. True freedom can only come through the finished work of God in His One and only Son Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to share this truth with others, to live out this truth in our daily lives, to be committed to the truth found in Christ. Ja. 1:25 says, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” As Americans we celebrate our independence, but as a child of God, I declare my total and complete dependence on God and His Son Jesus Christ and I can boldly say, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last.