On this 4th of July weekend, we look back, give thanks and remember that no nation in history has a past more concerned and connected to bringing freedom to people than America. From the beginning of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, our founders saw freedom as a God given right that should be defended,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
This focus on freedom and liberty has defined the American spirit and led our nation to have a profound influence on world history. The love for freedom has led Americans to defend it around the world in battles that have cost the lives of untold thousands in a series of wars. That love for freedom helped create the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor that welcomed millions of freedom-loving people from around the world. That same love for freedom led the architects of American democracy to place the Statue of Freedom on top of our Capital Dome in Washington as a reminder that our laws and government was committed to maintaining and protecting freedom for our nation.
But in the last few years our nation has exhibited signs that many do not understanding what freedom is all about. This conflict over defining and applying freedom to our lives has created a moral civil war between right and wrong, good and evil that is growing each year. Can you see it? Issues like abortion and what defines marriage have divided our nation in ways few thought possible just a few years ago. So this 4th of July is a good time to look back and ask some hard questions about the meaning and definition of freedom and not only what our founders had in mind, but more importantly how freedom is understood by the Lord and how that freedom is to be lived out in our lives.
For most people, the idea of freedom is not a very well thought out idea. Most people simply believe freedom is living your life the way you want to live it. And yet, it doesn't take too long to realize that such a definition of freedom can never work. After all, if someone wants to drive their car 125mph, such freedom will destroy the freedom of someone else that only wants to drive 70mph. People are always going to have very different ideas of freedom that are going to clash sooner or later and sometimes violently. So, without a clear and agreed upon definition of freedom, and how it is to be lived out, it is not possible for freedom to exist. All you end up with is a bunch of people trying to impose their ideas of freedom on others that can quickly turn to tyranny. This battle over the meaning and application of freedom is the foundation of the culture wars that are being played out before us at the present time.
Now the Bible is clear that the Lord is very interested in freedom, but that freedom has to be God's view of freedom, not ours. If we go back to the original story of the creation of humanity in Genesis 2-3, the Lord had a very different view of freedom than did Adam and Eve. The essence of the Lord's view of freedom was rooted and grounded in being in a relationship with Him. If the creation rejects that relationship with their freedom you end up with sin or pushing the Lord away from our lives and becoming a "god," just as the devil said in Genesis 3:5. So, sin then is an outright abuse of freedom, not a rejection of freedom. The Lord loves freedom because He invented freedom, long before the Declaration of Independence was written. But the freedom that God had in mind must consider what is good for everyone according to God's laws and principles, not just what a few strong-willed individuals want to happen to make their plans come to pass.
And so the real definition of freedom is ultimately making the right kind of decisions that are guided and informed by the Lord. If any other definition of freedom is allowed, sooner or later chaos will unfold, as everyone ends up competing against one another trying to implement their idea of "freedom" on others. All of this brings us to an obvious conclusion that real freedom is spiritual in nature and must consider God. True freedom has to consider all the moral and spiritual issues behind everything we might do from driving our cars to what to do with marriage and unborn children.
All of this discussion comes to a focus in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord, who created and designed freedom, came to bring it to us through His life and ministry. Only the Lord can bring us true and lasting liberty and freedom for our lives and nation in this hour. This explains why the founders of America inscribed Leviticus 25:10 on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia in 1752. They realized that no bell could ring out or nation could exist and be blessed without the Lord and His Hand upon them.
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.
This passage from Leviticus 25 was referring to the celebration of the Jubilee when all debts were cancelled and everything started over again. The Bible was telling us then and now that only God can cancel our debt of sin and give the world a new beginning of freedom that we all need today. Only our Lord Jesus brings the real Jubilee of new life to the world. Prior to our Lord's coming people believed they were "free" too, but they did some terrible things to others. They couldn't see that their bad choices and ideas about freedom were wrong. Our Lord takes on this thinking of the religious establishment in John 8:31-36 where we hear,
To the Jews who had believed him, 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." They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" Jesus replied, "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.
Much of the leadership of Israel believed they were good people, and yet in the abuse of their freedom they would end up murdering the Son of God on a cross. Their thinking about themselves and freedom was deeply flawed, but they were blind to it. They had used their freedoms to live out a corrupt life of spiritual and moral evil that was far from the Lord's plan of the spiritual freedom He wanted for His people.
The lessons from our Lord's ministry are absolutely central to all the current battles about freedom and liberty going in our nation on this 4th of July. Today's battles lines are drawn and come down to two very different views of America and freedom. One group believes in a freedom to live their lives as they see fit. Such individuals are resistant to having anyone tell them what to do about moral issues. They do not want to submit to the laws of God, nature or the nation that might challenge them. In many ways these individuals reflect a spirit of lawlessness. Their hope is to apply political power to stop anyone from challenging their behavior on any level. They have convinced themselves that their view of life brings the true freedom and is supposedly what our nation has always stood for in the past.
On the other hand, there are many individuals that believe our views of freedom need to be challenged and shaped by God's laws and our government for the good of all. Laws that are carefully conceived in a Biblically grounded and Constitutional manor help to protect everyone so we can better enjoy our freedoms together. This view of freedom realizes that God's truth needs to be reflected in good laws that will maintain a healthy moral order, not just a political one. This view understands that real freedom and liberty are gifts from God and as the Declaration of Independence stated are "inalienable rights." When a society deeply understands that freedom is God's gift and not something the government can create or take away you begin to understand the spiritual and moral freedom that the Lord Jesus Christ was talking about.
And so on this 4th of July weekend we come to see that the greatest freedom God gives to us is the freedom NOT to sin. When we don't sin we protect ourselves and others and fulfill the Lord's purpose for our lives. When our decisions are made with God in mind and deeply consider others we will make good decisions for everyone. No longer is freedom just about us. No longer is self the focus of freedom alone. When we are able to make decisions that are rooted in a relationship with God's love and purposes, and not just what we want, we begin to experience the real freedom that Christ died to give us on the cross. That spiritual and moral freedom is what makes life sweet. That kind of freedom sets people free from slavery to ourselves and our small view of life and our place in this world. Real, spiritual freedom opens life to a new and amazing life with God and others, a life where our desire to choose sin vanishes amidst a glorious plan and purpose for our lives that is eternal.
Everyone in the world tonight, whether in America or anywhere else, has a choice to make. We can either live as the Lord Jesus Christ's disciples in His love and freedom or we can live as slaves in a world of shortsighted politics that lasts but a few years. So here's to freedom in Christ this 4th of July and forever. May each of us choose well and use our God given freedoms to share our hope in Him with everyone we can. Happy 4th to all from the Carlson Report.