The 4th of July falls on Sunday this year. The comparisons between our liberty and freedom as Americans and the freedom found in Christ are easy to make, but we need to be careful. I wish to present a sermon that is both patriotic and scriptural, but also fair and truthful. The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 – the Bible was not.
1) The United States is not Israel. Plenty of well-meaning pastors and Bible teachers read promises made by God to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and then apply those to us today. What’s the problem? The Old Testament is filled with symbols and examples that New Testament Christians are meant to learn something from. The problem is that imagery can be subject to interpretation. We must be sure we understand what the symbols mean before giving them application. The Old Testament nation of Israel represents God’s people. They were slaves in Egypt; God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and through the wilderness; they eventually crossed the Jordan River and entered into the Promised Land. We (Christians) are God’s people, and were once slaves to sin. God sent his son Jesus to lead us through this wilderness and into God’s Kingdom. That is the short version, and the basis for everything else we could say about the Old Testament.
God’s promises to his people are always his promises. But some of the promises God makes to the political nation of Israel were meant only for Israel. The nation of Israel had political borders, a government, collected taxes, etc. The Hebrew people, the citizens of Israel, represent God’s people. We need to be very careful we understand who God is talking to when he speaks. Is it the political nation of Israel, or his chosen people. Back then, they were the same folks. Today it makes a difference in our application. For example, when Joshua led the Hebrews across the Jordan God promised the land would be given to them without a fight. Any Old Testament promise concerning land – a physical piece of real estate – that’s not about us. Canaan Land represents God’s Kingdom, heaven, to the Christian believer. It is the reward for making it through this present wilderness. This promise does not mean the United States will never have to fight a war to secure our land. God’s people are still God’s people, but the USA is not Israel of the Bible. God’s promises to that nation do not automatically apply to ours, but some will argue this point.
2) Freedom does not mean doing whatever you want. The Constitution of these United States spells out many of our rights. It also includes some responsibilities. A friend of mine and recent high school graduate made some comments about the draft. He said if Obama starts a draft then he’s going to Canada. Uncle Sam can’t tell him to go and fight. That’s fine; we have an open border with Canada, and he will be welcome there. BUT… if his American brothers and sisters win the war and once again secure the blessings of liberty, he better not come back here and expect to sponge off the rest of us. The cost of our liberty has been high, not in dollars but in American lives.
One of our rights as citizens is to a jury trial, a jury made up of our peers. How many people have every schooled you on how to get out of jury duty? There are legitimate reasons that people cannot serve, but how many people are basically writing books on how to never serve? If no one ever served on any jury, then that right could not be guaranteed. Remember “no taxation without representation?” Those words weren’t just put together because they made a catchy slogan. The people of England had a promise of no taxation without representation since the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. The colonists simply wanted the same rights as other English citizens. But they were not refusing to pay taxes.
If everyone did whatever they felt like, all the time, we would live in anarchy. There must be some rules of order to have a society. We enjoy the benefits of civilization because we all agree, at some level, what we can and can’t do. There must be some sort of law to enforce those rules and keep the peace. As Americans, some of us serve in the military, we all pay our taxes, and at times may be asked to serve on a jury. As Christians, we were once slaves to sin, but now serve a new master. Paul describes the Christian as a slave to the Gospel. We simply traded masters. We follow Christ, obey his commands, and that serves our best interests. God has ordained the events of history, and has a plan for each of our lives. This life is short, by eternal standards, and we will be eternally rewarded in glory for a short service here. Freedom and liberty look nothing like anarchy, the absence of all rules and regulation.
3) Freedom isn’t free. That’s not just a cliché. We should be reminded that our freedom as a nation came at the cost of many American lives. The signers of the Declaration were guilty of treason, and if they had not won the War of Independence would have all been put to death. A group of farmers and merchants took up arms and challenged one of the greatest empires in history. With a determination that King George III couldn’t understand, and a little help from France and Spain, the words of the Declaration became true; in 1781. It took 5 years of war, not on some distant battlefield but in our front yards, to secure that liberty.
The cost of liberty for the Christian should be obvious: the blood of God’s own Son. “He was wounded for our transgressions, and by his stripes we are healed.” God’s wrath toward sin was poured out not on the guilty, but on the innocent. As he hung on the cross, the one that did not know sin became sin for our sake. We are no longer slaves to sin, but that’s not the end of the story. After his death, burial and resurrection, Christ is alive and lives forever more. He has also concurred death, hell and the grave. What looked like defeat to the world was God’s greatest victory. A victory that we can all celebrate. But remember: there was a great price paid for our freedom and liberty, both as Christians and Americans.