Today is the 4th of July, the day that we Americans have set aside to celebrate our freedom as a nation. We all pull out the barbeque grills, stir up the baked beans and get together with family and friends. Children decorate their bicycles for neighborhood parades, and fireworks light up the evening skies. The beaches are crowded, and there is a waiting line at every ice cream stand. Freedom is good. Freedom is great. And we owe such a debt of gratitude to every man and woman who has served our nation, gaining our freedom, keeping our freedom. Not everyone has these rights, you know.
I remember being in Thailand when a major tsunami came through Myanmar. We saw disturbing images on the Thai TV channels. Thousands were killed and even more left homeless. Many countries tried to come to Myanmar's aid, but their government would not let people in to distribute the food and help that was needed. I think of North Korea. Those people live in such literal darkness. The government has successfully brainwashed a nation. The people don't even know the truth about their poverty and oppression. Governments across the globe are filled with corruption and tyranny.
In America, we have the freedom to say anything at all that we want to about our nation. As a result, you can open any newspaper, turn on any channel, and you will see someone making a negative comment about the way things are being done. It's true. We are wrought with imperfections. We are stained beyond recognition at times. The sins that plague us are many, and we have much for which to repent. But we are free.
We are free to speak, we are free to worship. We don't realize the great honor that is ours. But our freedom came at a cost. Many died defending this great land. We have gone outward and defended other nations who cannot stand up against the evil that pushes against them, as well. We are defenders of freedom. We are known for it, even criticized. But we are free.
If you look at our freedoms, though, they are often cheap imitations of true liberty. We are free to speak, yet we rant and rave about ungodly topics - because we can. We are free to bear arms, yet crime is rampant. We are free to vote, yet our process is so covered in mud that we can't even see the merit in our candidates. We are free to worship, but what a mess we've made of God.
What is freedom, then? One of Merriam-Webster's definitions is this: liberation from slavery or restraint, or from the power of another. John 8:34-36 tells says, "Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, 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.'" In other words, we are not truly free if we have sin in our lives. All of us have been a slave at one time or another because the Bible tells us that we have all sinned. It is our very human nature to live at odds with God. We have no righteousness on our own that allows us to come into fellowship with the perfect nature of a perfect God. The passage above reminds us of that. As slaves, we do not have the same rights as the family, but as sons and daughters, we can lay claim to the fellowship of the household. How can we get beyond our slavery and enter into our spiritual inheritance? Through Jesus Christ. The Word is very clear. There is no doubt whatsoever of our salvation if Jesus, Himself, has given us our freedom. We cannot earn fellowship with the Father, righteousness in our deeds. This is something that is given to us freely. The plan of salvation that was orchestrated by God the Father is a spotless plan of redemption for each of us. We don't have to wonder if we did it right. We don't have to question whether or not we can enter into fellowship with God. If the Son has set us free, we are free! There is no fear.
Romans 8:15-16 says, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, 'Abba Father.' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." We are not illegitimate children roaming the streets of eternity. We are co-heirs with Christ! We are invited into a permanent place in the family of God. The cost that was paid was precious, and we can receive the benefits freely.
I appreciate our nation and the liberties that we pursue for ourselves and for others. We still have a godly hope that draws others within our borders. But this freedom is nothing in comparison to the great liberty that is found in Christ, in fellowship with the Father. Once you step into that, you are free, indeed.
Thank you to those of you who have served our nation. We don't regard your dedication lightly. We are one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. I pray that we will continue to stand for godly precepts in these last days.