Happy Independence Day, America! Today is the day barbecuers get to nearly burn down their decks because they are free to do so. Pool goers can scream till their lungs give out, because they are free to do so. Huge, noisy, bombastic fireworks are set off in mind-blowing numbers because, as a country, we are free to do so. We are free to eat too many nitrate-filled hot dogs. Free to throw entirely wasteful water balloons. We are even free to hand small children seemingly innocent sparklers that reach dangerous skin-melting temperatures exceeding 2,000 degrees.
We are free to do all of these (and more) silly, stupid and sometimes just plain ridiculous activities because on July 4, 1776 fifty six brave men signed their names, and in turn their lives, to the cause of making an entire people free from tyranny and the rule of a government.
There is no doubt that this day in history is significant and important, not a day to be taken for granted. The freedoms we enjoy in this country are traced back to this day and the decisive decision made to stand up and fight for those freedoms. But the meaning of July forth goes beyond the border of this country, the fifty six men who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights that would soon follow. As John Quincy Adams famously said, "… Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birth-day of the Saviour? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfilment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?"
The importance of a country's freedom, any country, any people, is only a glimmer of the magnitude of the freedom bought and paid for by Christ. Celebrating our country's independence is just a speck of a picture of the independence we enjoy in Christ no matter where we live or what rights we have according to a government or a constitution. Without Christ, without true freedom, July Forth would just be another day in the summer sun.
But thanks be to God that we have the truest of freedoms. We have freedom from the tyranny of sin and the bondage of slavery that binds us to our lust, greed and selfishness. Jesus wrote the ultimate declaration with His blood shed on the cross. He purchased our right to be free with His very life.
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13) We are not made free for the sake of doing our own thing - to be silly, stupid and sinful. Christ didn't pay the ultimate price for our lives so that we could make a royal hash of things just like the Founding Fathers didn't fight for a country only to see it elect a ruthless government that would put them in heavy taxation and stifling bondage once again. They signed their names and drafted the Constitution to give their best human effort to maintaining freedom for the people of America.
Christ bought our freedom and it is a freedom that can never be lost because it is not based in human regulation or the law of man. Freedom in Christ is eternal and heavenly, it is not of this world just as God is not of this world. Because of Christ we are free to live holy, blameless and upright lives, righteous in the sight of God. We are not slaves to sin. We are not at the mercy of our every thought, desire and half-baked idea. Christ has set us free from our foolishness and released us into the glory of eternal salvation.
On this Independence Day those of us in this country have countless reasons to be thankful but two stand out to me and are the cornerstone of my praise today. One is for the freedom to serve God, praise Him and say His name in the public square. Christians all around the world don't know that privilege and would be elated to have the right to express their faith openly. Some still do proclaim publicly the name of Christ and pay the ultimate price for their bold witness.
Secondly, but really first and foremost in importance, I am thanking God that I am eternally and forever free. I was once wrapped in the chains of my sin and shame. I was unable to break free from the guilt of my rebellion and the destructive path I was walking. But Jesus came and set me free. He signed the ultimate Declaration with His body on the Cross of Calvary. Because Jesus lived, died and rose again I am truly free.