Monday, July 4, 2016

Conceived in Liberty

"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." - Lincoln's Gettysburg address, Introduction

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." - Declaration of Independence

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." - US Constitution, Preamble

These are the words of our heritage of liberty in America.

It could be said though that in the beginning God brought forth into the universe a new creation, CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY and dedicated to the proposition that He loves us and wants us to freely enjoy fellowship with Him as His people forever. 

Freedom was born in the Garden the moment God added the tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil and told Adam and Eve not to eat from it.  God knew that there can be no freedom, no liberty without the option to say "No".  God values freedom so much that He risked the entire creation and His relationship with us by giving people the freedom to disobey, to go our own way. 

Some might say that the greatest gift that God gave us is life but that is not true.  The greatest gift God gave us is the freedom to choose.  Without this freedom we cannot love.  Love demands choice.  If we are not free to not love God then we cannot be free to love Him either.  Love is risky.  It demands choice.  It demands the freedom to say "No".

God is the author of freedom.  In creating us in His image we have been given a very godlike power.  The power to choose freely how we will live.

Of course our ancestors chose badly and we suffered for it.  We exchanged His lordship to go our own way.  As people we became slaves of sin, slaves to our impulses. 

People continued to choose badly.

It was not long after the people of Israel had been supernaturally rescued by God from extremely abusive slavery in Egypt that they were clamoring to return there.  Somehow, seeing the Angel of Death pass over their homes and kill all the first born in Egypt, seeing the Red Sea parted while they walked through on dry land, and seeing a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire at night to guide them in the wilderness was not enough to convince them to trust God.  They wanted to go back to the slavery that was harsh but was, at least, familiar. Somehow the certainty of slavery was preferable to them than the uncertainty of freedom.

Once the people were settled in the Promised land they had no King or earthly ruler. They lived freely according to what they believed was right. 

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.  (Judges 17:6 )

We take for granted that governments are necessary.  Yet, From Abraham to Joseph (approximately 200 years), there was no recorded earthly government over the people of God.  From Moses to Saul (approximately 500 years) there was no recorded earthly government over the people of Israel.  There were laws to guide them and judges to resolve disputes between people and lead them in battle but no King, no governing authority except God.  Each man was expected to know the law and follow it on their own.  There was no law enforcement, no auditors to make sure you paid your taxes.  There was no earthly government over the people before Israel's first king, Saul.  This was God's plan.  Plan A for God is that we should not have any earthly government over us.

God has been trying to gather a people for Himself out of history to love and enjoy Him forever.  God's plan is that He will be king over His people.  When the people demanded an earthly King they rejected God from being King over them.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. (1Sa 8:4-7)

"Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day--in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods--so they are doing to you also. "Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them."

So Samuel spoke all the words of the LORD to the people who had asked of him a king. He said, "This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.

"He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to reap his harvest and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.

"He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. "He will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves and give them to his servants.

"He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants.

"He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys and use them for his work.

"He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants.

"Then you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day." Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." (1Sa 8:8-20)

God never required any of these things from the people.  In the law He gave only requirement for a tithe, 10% of the first fruits from the growth in wealth of the people to fund the temple.  God warned them that choosing an earthly king will be alot like slavery.   (It sounds a lot like governments in our age only the taxes are nearly 500% higher.) This is not the kind of life that God wanted for His people.  The people wanted again to exchange the freedom of doing what was right in their own eyes, with God as their king for an earthly government as slaves to an earthly king.

Why is liberty so hard to sustain?  No democracy in the history of humanity, prior to the US,  has lasted longer than 200 years and ours is decaying.  Is it something in our human character that always leads us into slavery, to seek the authority of others over our lives?  The Apostle, Paul, describes us this way 


Consider this.  Every human and our leaders have this character.  Even Christians are in process of being transformed from this into the image of Christ.  Ideally, when we die to ourselves in baptism and rise to new life, we would like to think that all of these characteristics would be left behind but if we are honest we must admit that we have a long way to go.  We know that we are not perfect yet and neither are any human leaders.  This is why all human governments are fundamentally flawed. Even David, as the God anointed King of Israel from whose descendants Jesus will come as the final King, was a flawed man and flawed king.  All humans are corrupt and self-interested.  No exceptions. 

Jesus is the only one who can truly set us free

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (Joh 8:31-36)

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)

Fear vs Freedom

Fear is the number one reason why people will choose slavery over freedom.  We fear death.  We fear news of threats of harm. We fear not having a job or enough money for our  families to have a home and food and a car. We fear that people don't like us or worse that people may not notice us at all. We fear disease and we fear loss of a loved one. 

The government and business and the media seem to create new fears for us daily.  If all of the fears we hear about in the media were really true most of us in this room should already be dead. 

Most people are even afraid of freedom. They fear what would happen if their neighbor and brother-in-law were really free.  They imagine a world similar to the post apocalyptic world of Mad Max if everyone was to "do what is right in their own eyes".

Jesus frees us from fear if we let Him.  We do not need to fear death.  He has promised that He has gone to prepare a place for us so that we can be with Him.  He promises that anyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that our bodies are just tents where we are temporarily living and that we have a permanent home waiting for us with God.

Jesus promises that God loves us and will provide all that we need. 

"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Mat 6:25-34)

Paul teaches us that we do not need to fear condemnation by God or slavery to sin

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 8:1-2)

We must honestly admit that our nation that was CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY now some 12  score and 10 years ago is no longer the same. 

Thomas Jefferson rightfully warned, "Where the government fears the people there is liberty.  Where the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

George Washington warned the nation, in his farewell address on leaving the office of president, against foreign entanglements and against a standing army. 

Ben Franklin warned us that if we are willing to give up some of our liberty to obtain safety or security that we will end up with neither.

Our Constitution was written in such a way not to limit the people but to limit the government. The government existed solely to protect the liberty of the people and yet today we have many in the government and in society trying to limit the rights of the people to free speech and to bearing arms.  We see many in the government and society claiming that we must be willing to give up our rights for safety. We must be willing to accept constant surveillance of all of our correspondence and communication without due process.  We must be willing to submit to random searches and seizures without a warrant.  We have Federal judges claiming that the Constitution is irrelevant and not worthy of study.  We have political leaders who believe that we should subordinate our laws to international authorities.

  • We celebrate this weekend the vision and the sacrifices of those who founded our nation, CONCIEVED IN LIBERTY.

  • We celebrate our independence from the foreign authority that was Great Britain and that we remain mostly free of foreign authority today. 

  • We celebrate the America that has attracted people from across the world yearning to breathe free. 

  • We celebrate that as Americans so far we still have a voice in how we are led and governed. 

  • We celebrate that so far we can still gather as the people of God and worship as we choose. 

Regardless of changes in our nation, God is the author of freedom

  • We live free because Jesus set us free.  The Spirit of the living God lives within us.
  • We live free because we are no longer slaves of sin, slaves of our bodily impulses and feelings. 
  • We live free because we are no longer afraid.  The God of the heavens cares for us and provides for us and has an eternal home ready for us.

As Christians we know that this world and this nation is not our home. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God.  We have taken Jesus as our Lord believing that He cares for us, gave His life for us and has prepared a place for us so that we can live freely in this world, fearing nothing, and trusting in Him for all things.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence closed with this line.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

If you have not made Jesus your Lord and accepted His free gift of eternal life why not make today your INDEPENDENCE DAY?  Why not declare today that you will no longer live in fear but cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you?
Why not declare today that you will not go quietly into that dark night but declare that you are free because you are in Christ?

Nations throughout history have come and gone.  Nevertheless, our freedom in Christ cannot be taken away from us no matter where the political winds blow. Christians through out history, even in the first century when Jesus and Paul taught us these things, there was very little thought about true political freedom. governing authorities like Rome would never tolerate that.  Even today Christians in many places around the world are imprisoned or fear for their lives.  Yet they can still be free in Christ because this life is not the end and is not all there is.  Eternity awaits us.  We will discover that what happens in our lives here is trivial compared the real lives that we have yet to begin.

"They may take our lives but they will never take our freedom."  - William Wallace, Mel Gibson, Braveheart