Freedom means many different things depending on the circumstances. When I was a young school boy, I was so excited when the last day of school was over for the summer—free from home work and sitting in classes and taking tests—at least for a few months! Later, when I was working on my Masters degree I remember thinking how wonderful it would be to finish the degree and instead of having to read required books for various classes, I could read some of the books that I wanted to read!
I like to watch old Westerns and in many of them there were the settlers or those in a Wagon train who were being attacked by the Indians (a term that is politically incorrect now). And in many of those scenes, just as it looked like all was lost—the ammunition was almost gone and the Indians were about to overrun them– there would be the sound of a bugle and suddenly there was hope—the Calvary was about to arrive. In those situations, freedom means being delivered from almost certain death!
I know of people who have been overwhelmed by medical bills and other debts. For them freedom means getting out from under those debts! In a new John Grisham book that I just read this week, the main character agreed to work as an informer or spy because the agency recruiting her promised to immediately pay off her student loans. Freedom from that stress!
Having worked closely with the medical field over the years as a volunteer chaplain and later a part time hospice chaplain, I am well aware of the incredible relief that comes by hearing the words “Cancer-free” or learning that a person’s medical condition was very manageable. Freedom meant being relieved of the worry of impending physical doom.
And we probably have all witnessed and most of us have experienced the expectations in our youth of growing up and exerting our independence with the idea that we needed to be free from the parental controls on our lives. Freedom meant doing whatever we wanted to do. Fortunately, maturity teaches us that boundaries are important.
As this month quickly draws to an end and July arrives, our thoughts quickly turn to July 4th and the birthday of our Nation. Already there are big tents that are set up in various parking lots that will be selling fireworks as we get ready for the big celebration of the date when our forefathers determined that we would no longer allow England to regulate our citizens. Patrick Henry’s passionate speech that served as a rallying cry for freedom still stirs our hearts—how much more it must have moved those people who felt oppressed and beaten down by the British. Listen again to the closing words of that speech: “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!”
In a few short months after that speech was given The 13 colonies that formed our nation found themselves in a war that was painful and costly—the birth pangs of the birth of the United States of America.
As we begin our celebrations of the 241st birthday of our nation let’s pause and reflect on this concept of freedom—Freedom as a people, Freedom as a Nation, and Freedom as the People of God.
I. FREEDOM AS INDIVIDUALS. There is a sense that we are all free people, regardless of our particular situations. We are free to make choices, we are free to dream. We are free to be creative. You can imprison a person bodily but you can’t control their attitudes and thoughts. I’m sure you’ve at sometime seen the cartoon of the little boy that is being forced to sit in the corner because of misbehavior. The caption is, “I may be physically sitting in the corner, but in my mind I am swinging on the swing set!”Each of us is born with a free will—and I fully believe that we have that free will until we die—the freedom to choose our thoughts, our actions, our attitudes, our loyalties.
And in a newsletter article that we will be sending out in a week or so, I wrote about the tension between Freedom and Responsibility. There has to be boundaries to our individual freedoms or there will be anarchy and war as our freedoms tromp over others and their freedoms.
II. FREEDOM AS A NATION.
I know that a big concern that many of us share is that we are moving in a direction where we are giving up too many of our freedoms. The growth of governmental control over our daily lives is something about which we should be careful and on guard. We could spend a lot of time here, but I think you all have ideas about this.
But our Nation is a sovereign nation. That means we make our own laws, provide for our own citizens and determine how to best interact with other nations and people. Within our nation we have set up guidelines and safe guards in our constitution and our legal system. Our Nations’ freedom is in our right to govern ourselves instead of being forced to submit to others. Sometimes that freedom means knowing when it is good to submit to others as we form alliances and agreements that are for the protection of all people, not just our own.
I rejoice in the freedoms we have as a nation that allow us to assemble together in our churches to worship our God is the way we believe God desires. I enjoy the freedom of free speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom to bear arms, and so many more freedoms that set us apart as Americans. And, yes, it concerns me when I see some of those freedoms being exploited and misused—things like the revision of history, or the misrepresentation of truth as is now being termed as “fake new.”
I am proud to be an American, but I realize that with the freedom we have as citizens of this land there comes a great responsibility to guard and preserve those freedoms.
III. FREEDOM AS THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
Now we get to our scripture passage in John 8. Jesus was speaking to Jews who were becoming new believers in His message. Their lives had been focused on certain creeds and by stifling restrictions that they thought were necessary to please God. Jesus came to tell them that pleasing God was not about keeping rules, but instead was about having a personal relationship, a day by day walk, with the living God. It was about Loving God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, and about Loving others in the same way we love ourselves.And even beyond that, it was about being forgiven and delivered from the control of sin. Notice in our scripture passage today how Jesus proclaimed freedom to these new believers: In John 8: 31 & 32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”And then, in verses 34-36 He said, “…Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the Family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”
Today, we are starting our celebrations as we approach Independence Day on the 4th of July. We have every reason to celebrate—our freedoms that we hold dear have been purchased at a great cost. Many of you have served our country in military service while others have kept the home fires burning as they supported our troops. So we should celebrate.
But while we rejoice in our Nation and pray for it to be strong and fair, let’s remember that our first loyalty must be to the Kingdom of God—it was purchased at the price of God’s only begotten Son. And while this nation may one day cease to exist, God’s Kingdom is eternal. And He has made provisions for us to be citizens of His Kingdom.
Put your faith in Jesus Christ. Ask Him to forgive you your sins and to be your Savior. Turn over the controls of your life to Him. And experience true Freedom—the Freedom to live and children of Almighty God!
If the Son set us free, we are free indeed!