July is upon us and with it comes the celebration of Independence Day. Without any doubt, this is my favorite of all secular holidays! This year, July 4th marks our 244th birthday as a nation. On July 4th, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. On that day, twelve of the thirteen colonies voted in favor of adoption with the only one colony, New York, abstaining from the vote. Over the years, some historians have challenged that date on which the Declaration was actually signed. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams all wrote that the Declaration of Independence was signed by Congress on the day it was adopted. That assertion is confirmed by the signed copy of the Declaration, which is dated July 4th. Additional support for this date is provided by the Journals of Congress, the official public record of the Continental Congress. The proceedings for 1776 were first published in 1777, and the entry for July 4th states that the Declaration was engrossed and signed on that date. The American War for Independence actually began on April 19, 1775 and ended on September 3, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. During that time period approximately 25,000 Americans died to establish this nation and our independence. Today, the question arises, have we forgotten the struggle, the tremendous costs, and the price paid in human suffering and deaths to secure the freedoms, liberties, and rights that we enjoy every day? Why is it that words like “patriotic,” “patriotism”, and “patriot” have become offensive? To be “patriotic” is to be supportive, loyal, and devoted to one’s county. The word “patriotic” comes from the Greek word “patris” which literally means “father”. To be patriotic is to remember, to understand, and to appreciate the sacrifice of our forefathers and foremothers who wanted this nation to be extraordinary. In Psalm 33:12 we read, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.” The Ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called The Bill of Rights. The very first right, the 1st Amendment, clearly affirms, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” This is our first and most basic political right. The first part of this Amendment is known as the Establishment Clause – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” and the second part is known as the Free Exercise Clause – “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Clearly, our nation’s founders, embraced our religious liberty as the most basic and most fundamental right upon which to establish all the other rights that we enjoy. Eight years before the U.S. Constitution was written, the Declaration of Independence was ratified. Most of us recognize and perhaps can even quote the first few lines of the Declaration of Independence. They are, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” To the fifty-six men who signed their names to this significant document, those were not mere words or some sort of political theory. With those words, fifty-six men, literally placed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor on-the-line for the truths they held dear and for the principles they embraced. The closing words of the Declaration accentuate the courage, the fortitude, and the fact that these men were willing to die for a cause they held dear. The final paragraph affirms the depth of their personal commitment, “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.” History reveals to us that five signers of the declaration were captured, condemned as traitors, and tortured to death; twelve had their homes plunders and burned; two lost sons in military service; two others had sons captured and tortured; nine fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the War; thirty, more than half of the fifty-six signers, personally suffered and paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy every single day! It is true, freedom is never free. Someone, somewhere, somehow has paid the price to secure that freedom. In the Gospel of John, Jesus made this fact very clear. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) and “Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). As Christians, we know our individual spiritual freedom from sin, Satan, death, and the grave was secured by the death and resurrection of our Saviour. As to the Christian church, the great Christian theologian, Tertullian, who lived from 160 to 220 A.D. made this interesting observation. He said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Throughout the book of Acts, the disciples and followers of Jesus were martyred even as the church grew. Well into the first few hundred years of the church, Christians were persecuted for their faith. Prior to and after the Reformation in 1517, Christians were martyred. Even in our day, Christians are still being martyred for their faith. The point is this, freedom, whether it is spiritual freedom or national freedom, is never free. Someone, somewhere, somehow has and continues to pay the price for freedom. Alexis de Tocqueville was a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, and historian. He is best known for his works Democracy in America that appeared in two volumes (1835 and 1840). In this famous work, de Tocqueville wrote, “I have toured American and I have seen most of what you have to offer. I’ve seen riches of the fields and the wealth of your mines. I’ve seen your industrial might, the beauties of the rivers, the streams, the lakes, and the grandeur of the mountains [but] in none of these things did I see the greatness of America. It wasn’t until I went into your churches that I saw the reason for America’s greatness … America is great because America is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” Not too long ago, Dr. Clay Christensen, Professor at Harvard School of Business, had a conversation with a Marxist-Socialist-Communist-Economist from mainland China. The Chinese national was attending the Harvard School of Business on a Fulbright Scholarship. Dr. Christensen asked, “Have you learned anything that was surprising or unsuspected?” Without hesitation, the Chinese national replied, “Yes! I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy. The reason democracy works is not because the government is designed to oversee what everybody does but rather democracy works because most people most of the time voluntary choose to obey the Law. In your past most Americas attended a church or synagogue every week. Americans follow rules because they believe that they are not just responsible to the Law but they are accountable to God.” The man went on to add, “As religion loses its influence over Americans, what will become of democracy? What other institutions will teach Americans that they need to voluntarily choose to obey the Laws. Because if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.” Is this where we are today? Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, correctly stated, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.” Just after the signing of our Constitution, Benjamin Franklin stood on the steps of Constitution Hall, surrounded by citizens and newsmen, and said, “We have given you a republic, if you can keep it.” Ultimately, that really is the question, isn’t it? Only with the help of God can this Republic endure. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul penned these words, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) Is the freedom God has graciously given to us something that is worth dying for to maintain? The history of the church and the history of the world both proclaim a resounding YES! It is only when we are yoked to Christ that we are better able to stand up for the things we believe and know to be true. When we are yoked to Christ, we are better able to appreciate, understand, and emulate the sacrifices made on our behalf. So, as we reflect on the meaning of Independence Day, we thank God and we thank those dedicated persons who made it possible for us to worship and to live in freedom. No other country in the history of the world has enjoyed the freedom, liberties, and basic rights that you and I take for granted every day. Today, more than ever, we must stand upon the Gospel of truth, we must speak and we must defend what Almighty God has given to us. May we constantly repent of our sins, commit ourselves to God, and pray, “God, bless America.” Blessings, Pastor Jim

Is Freedom for Others Worth Dying For?

Pastor Jim

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