Of all the holidays celebrated by our nation, the 4th of July, Independence Day, stands out above the rest. It is a time of flag waving, parades, and feeling thankful for our liberties and freedoms. We have every reason to be proud and to glory in our heritage as Americans, for Independence Day is much more than just another holiday. It is the birthday of a great idea. Not merely the idea of independence from those who oppress us, but the idea that basic rights of freedom and liberty are for each and every person. That was a very radical idea in 1776.
The Declaration of Independence adopted in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 laid down the principles, the foundation stones, and the truths of this nation. The Continental Congress declared that certain truths are self-evident, although most of the world had failed to take notice of them. These truths, the Declaration stated, are “that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with such unalienable rights as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence also states that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” There are many parts of the world where the words of this Declaration would be considered sedition and treason today. Even so, the idea of basic human rights was put forward and continues to be declared. The Declaration signaled the birth of American self-government, and our freedom has inspired democratic movements on other continents ever since.
The Declaration of Independence strongly proclaims the idea and truth that each and every person is and ought to be free.
But let us be clear. The idea of freedom was not original with the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom is a concept and condition which God alone gives. We are made in His image and likeness. God made us to be free and functioning individuals, who are accountable to Him. Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) In 2 Corinthians 3:17 we are told: “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
There is no true freedom apart from God, for freedom is God-given.
Sadly, today some Americans do not understand or have regard for freedom as created by God and declared by the Declaration of Independence. They selfishly live their lives as they please without regard for God, the common good, or anyone else.
There is always risk in a free society. Some people are bound to abuse what they ought to hold dear and sacred. That is the nature of sin. In the name of freedom of speech, there are Americans who reach for new levels of vulgarity and bad taste on a daily basis. Most days they succeed in being uncivil.
Let us be reminded: God has placed the concept of freedom at the very core of the Christian Gospel. He has made us to be free and He offers us freedom through His Son, Jesus Christ. At the center of this concept of personal freedom is the privilege of personal choice, and that is part of the doctrine of the soul competency of every believer before God. Personal and responsible choice in all areas of life is the badge of freedom worn by a free people.
Freedom is an idea that may not be fully appreciated by people who have never known any other way of life. It is like good health, we do not think much about it until it is lost. Understanding freedom is somewhat like that.
Let us never forget that our freedoms did not come free. There were enormous costs, for freedom always has a big price tag. Long ago it cost God the life of His own Son. Freedom is not without cost today. It is to be paid for with good citizenship.
We must guard the freedoms that have been handed down to us for there are always threats from within and from without today. The many efforts toward conformity and “correctness” are such dangers. These are methods often used by enemies of freedom. Beware of those who want to limit free inquiry, or dissent, or the right to be different. Let us cherish and vigorously guard our God-given freedoms and those of all other citizens as well.
America is a great nation today because it has been built on a great idea. Our founding fathers thought that spiritual values were ultimately more important than material things. Those early Americans believed that significant issues should not be decided by impulse, or expediency, or public opinion polls. Issues should be decided by the truth God has written into the very fabric and nature of the universe.
When we go back to the roots of our national ideals we discover people who had strong convictions. The concluding words of the Declaration of Independence say: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Freedom in America did not come free! In our day we need to renew our commitment to liberty, freedom, and personal responsibility for our actions. Responsibility for our city, state, and nation is a sacred duty.
Even with all that is lacking in America today, we are still a people of achievement, in a land of opportunity, and God expects us to responsibly use the freedom He has given us. Instead of giving attention to a few hate-mongers and the blame-placers, let us rethink the wonders of our nation and thank God. Let us raise our voices in praise with true gratitude for all who helped bring this nation into being. May we honor the past achievements and continue to support the truth. The future will be secured by those Americans who are committed to pay the price, to blaze the trail, and who will be true to our spiritual values. There is much to do and we need to spend more time thinking about the remarkable and positive aspects of our country. Let us on this 4th of July celebrate the idea of freedom and liberty for all. And let us thank God. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”