Sermon Topic - 4th Of July - I've Got to be Free
An excellent sermon that reminds us of what we often forget, that in declaring our independence from England, our forefathers made an equally strong declaration of dependence upon Almighty God.
By Melvin Newland
Today the United States is celebrating a crucial moment in the history of our nation - the signing of the Declaration of Independence. And as we look back at that event we need to realize that it was a fateful & very dangerous decision for each man who dared to sign that Declaration.
In fact, as John Adams signed it he said, “Whether we live or die, sink or swim, succeed or fail, I stand behind this Declaration of Independence. And if God wills it, I am ready to die in order that this country might experience freedom.”
It was that kind of patriotism which led men, armed with little more than hunting rifles, to engage in battle with the most powerful nation in the world.
Many of our forefathers paid a terrible price in the Revolutionary War, but finally they won the victory so that you & I might be citizens of this “land of the free & home of the brave.”
But what we often forget is that in declaring their independence from England, our forefathers made an equally strong “Declaration of Dependence” upon Almighty God.
I. THEY DECLARED THEIR DEPENDENCE UPON GOD
The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence begins with these words: “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.”
The closing words of their Declaration solemnly states: “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes & our sacred Honor.”
It is important that we remember this declaration of their dependence upon God, for in a time of world turmoil, the United States today is rapidly forgetting the God of our fathers, the God who gave this nation its birth & its greatness.
I trust that all of you recognize the name of Patrick Henry. But I’m afraid many of our school children know almost nothing of him at all. Patrick Henry was a famous statesman of colonial Virginia. In 1764, he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses where he became a champion of the frontier people, supporting their rights against the arrogant exercise of power by the aristocracy. In 1774 he was a delegate to the First Continental Congress. In 1775, before the Virginia Provincial Convention, which was deeply divided between those who supported England & those who desired freedom, he uttered his most famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!”
During the Revolutionary War he became commander-in-chief of Virginia’s military forces. He was a member of the Second Continental Congress. He helped draw up the first constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, & was primarily responsible for drawing up the amendments to our Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. He became Virginia’s first governor, & was re-elected 3 more times. Then he retired from public life. But despite his strong objections, the people went ahead & elected him Governor for the 5th time. But he meant what he said, so he refused to take the office. He was offered a seat in the U.S. Senate, & posts as ambassador to Spain & to France. President George Washington asked him to join his cabinet & become Secretary of State, & later wanted to appoint him the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But he refused all such honors & recognition.
Now why do I mention these things about Patrick Henry? It is because I want you to realize that he was an important & respected leader in those days when our nation came into being.
Now listen to his words. He said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians - not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
His Last Will & Testament was filed in the Brookneal County courthouse in Virginia. Read his Will & you’ll see that he bequeathed everything to his children, just as most people do. But the last paragraph in his Will is especially interesting. He wrote, “I have now given everything I own to my children. There is one more thing I wish I could give them & that is Christ. Because if they have everything I gave them & don’t have Christ, they have nothing.”
I love reading about Patrick Henry & George Washington & John Adams & Thomas Jefferson & John Jay & many of the other patriots who gave of themselves so valiantly that we might enjoy the freedoms that are ours. But we also need to be reminded again of the solemn warning that God gave to another nation which was experiencing the thrill of independence after centuries of slavery in Egypt. Although it was written over 3,000 years ago, this warning could very well apply to the United States today.
In Deuteronomy 8:7-14, Moses tells the people, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land where you shall eat food without scarcity. When you have eaten & are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.”
Now listen to His warning: “Beware. . .lest, when you have eaten & are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them and your silver and your gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart becomes proud, and you forget the Lord your God.” Do we today have a reason to be concerned about this warning?
II. WATCH OUT THAT WE DON’T FORGET GOD
The testimony of history has made it abundantly clear that not only nations, but also individuals, need to heed that warning. The greatness of a nation is not measured by its military power, technological advancements, or national wealth. Righteousness & justice are the determining factors.
Solomon, the wisest of men, said: “Righteousness exalts a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)
Someone wrote: “What in the world is happening with our kids today? Let’s see…I think it started when Madelyn Murray O’Hair complained that she didn’t want any prayer in our schools.” And our Supreme Court said, “Okay.”
Then someone said ,“You had better not read the Bible in school” – the Bible that says, “Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And our nation said, “Okay.”
Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem. So we said, “Okay, we won’t spank them.”
Then someone said that teachers & principals better not discipline our children when they misbehave. And our administrators said, “No one in this school is to touch a student when he misbehaves because we don’t want any bad publicity. And we surely don’t want to be sued.”
Then someone said, “Let’s provide our children with condoms so they can have all the ‘fun’ they desire.” And our nation said, “That’s a great idea.” Someone else said, “Let’s provide abortions for underage girls, and they won’t even have to tell their parents.” And our nation said, “That’s another great idea.”
Then some of our top officials said that it doesn’t matter what we do in private. And we said, “As long as I have a job, it doesn’t matter to me what anyone does in private.”
So now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with “We reap what we sow.” Wow! What a concept!
III. DON’T LET OUR FREEDOM GET OUT OF HAND
We have sung, “I’ve gotta be free,” but sometimes our proclaimed freedom has become the very thing that enslaves us.
In Titus 3:3, Paul says, “At one time we were foolish, disobedient, deceived and entangled by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”
This is the enslaving and deceiving nature of sin. People who are caught up in sin think they are free, but in reality they are enslaved to sin.
Go to the wino on the street and say, “I want to set you free from alcoholism.” He will say, “I’m not a slave to anything. Give me back my bottle.”
The prodigal son came to his father and said, “I want to be free. Give me what is mine.” Then he wandered into the far country, saying, “I’m free! I’m free!” But his freedom was brief. His friends left him when his money ran out, and he found himself enslaved to a Gentile taskmaster and to a group of hogs in the hog wallow.
It was not until he came home and submitted to the father that he really found freedom.
IV. OUR REAL FREEDOM COMES IN CHRIST
So when we stand back and look at this land of the free we begin to wonder, “Is there any real freedom anywhere?”
But thank God, as Christians, we have a greater freedom than any Constitution can grant us. We have the freedom that is offered in Christ Jesus.
There is a word for freedom in the New Testament. It is the word “redemption.” “Redemption” means “to be set free.” It means that we have been bought with a price, that we have been freed of our bondage, and now we are really free.
In Paul’s letter to Titus he tells us that we have been set free from the bondage of sin. “For the grace of God teaches us to say ’No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, Godly lives in this present age. . . Jesus Christ. . .gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” [Titus 2:11-14]
If you really are concerned about America; if you earnestly want God to bless her, then live a life in harmony with the will of God. Only then does one truthfully have the right to sing:
God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her, Through the night, with the light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam. God bless America, my home sweet home.
So, as we celebrate again the birth of our nation, pray that our country might have a new birth of freedom; not a freedom from God, which always leads to license and ultimate slavery, but rather a freedom built upon God and His commandments.
Also, may each one of us, as individuals, reaffirm our dependence upon God so that, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,” we might experience the freedom He gives not only from worry, doubt and fear, but also from all those sins which do “so easily beset us.”
Then, as did the founding Fathers of our country, we will find in Him our life, liberty, and true happiness.
Listen to this story: The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver and, using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg.
It had been a year since Susan, 34, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis, she had lost her sight and was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, frustration, anger, and self-pity. And all she had to cling to was her husband, Mark.
Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again. Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to go by herself. So Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city.
At first, this comforted Susan who was so insecure about herself now. Soon, however, Mark realized the arrangement wasn’t working. “Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again,” he admitted to himself. “But she is still so insecure, so angry – how will she react?”
Just as he feared, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. “I’m blind!”, she responded bitterly. “How am I supposed to know where I am going? I feel like you’re abandoning me.”
It broke Mark’s heart when he heard these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened.
For 2 solid weeks, Mark accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses, especially her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment.
Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. Monday morning arrived and before she left, she threw her arms around Mark. Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyalty, his patience, and his love.
She said “Goodbye,” and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself!
On Friday morning, Susan took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying the fare to exit the bus, the driver said, “Boy, I sure do envy you.” Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all, who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year?
Curious, she asked the driver, “Why do you say that you envy me?” The driver responded, “It must feel good to be taken care of and protected like you are.” Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about and again asked, “What do you mean?”
The driver answered, “Every morning for the past week, a fine-looking man in a military uniform has been standing across the street watching you as you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss and walks away. You are one lucky lady!”
Tears of happiness poured down Susan’s cheeks. For although she couldn’t see him, she had always seemed to feel Mark’s presence. She was lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift that she didn’t need to see to know – the gift of his love.