July 2022 Newsletter
The 4th of July is always awesome to celebrate, because for many the day is one entirely of celebration. Race or creed does not matter; we are all Americans and we each enjoy the freedom we celebrate on the 4th. More than any other time of year I am thankful on the 4th of July to live in America. Celebrating our country's independence should put us all in a thankful mood. The opportunity to live freely is what drove our forefathers to come here and to fight for their independence. Freedom is in my mind the best part of being an American. Freedom is what has helped our country become what it is today. Ours is the best country in the world and offers the most freedoms to its people. The chief reason for this in my mind is because we possess a constitution of ‘negative liberties,’ which means our constitution or more specifically the Bill of Rights focused on what the ‘God-given rights’ of the people were. These United states were set up, the Constitution established to protect those rights and promote them. All other countries are of ‘positive liberties’ or hold the idea that the rights of the people come from the government. As Americans, we are free because our rights come primarily from God and are, or were therefore inalienable, or unable to be separated or alienated from us. From that perspective also the founders also perceived said truths and rights were “self-evident” or obvious, because above all things even over government, God is sovereign.
In the same vein of the freedom that we love, celebrate and are oh so thankful for as American citizens we also enjoy very real and awesome freedom as God's people. By the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us we have been set free from sin. Paul talks extensively in his epistles about the contrast between bonds of slavery to sin, and freedom in Christ, as was the case just this past week in Galatians 3&4. As God's people we are filled with thanksgiving and joy for all that God does for us and provides us with, but most especially are we thankful for the freedom from sin, death, and the devil and eternal life we have in Christ. Jesus also makes note of this distinction in John chapter 8 where He says, "Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free you are free indeed." By the Son of God, we have been set free from the bonds of slavery to sin, and as Paul noted last week you have been made an heir of eternal life.
But there’s something I'm sure some of you may have been thinking while reading the first paragraph, "Yes pastor, I love our country too, but we are losing more of our freedoms and rights all the time!" I don't deny this and sympathize with the frustration, anger and fear that comes from losing different freedoms in our country. We fight for freedom and struggle to maintain it. We are still fortunate to have the freedom to worship publicly as a church; speak our faith and pray openly (at least in some places).
Are our freedoms as Americans and as Christians under attack? Yes! And that feeling ought to motivate to understand where our freedoms come from, as I sought to inform in the opening paragraph, and redirect as I did in the second back to where our true comfort and confidence comes from. The fact that we know we enjoy God-given freedoms means that the attacks we feel serve as a healthy reminders to motive us to use our rights to glorify God and benefit our neighbor. In Bible and book studies in the past year (Do what You Believe or you won’t be Free to Believe it much Longer, Judges, the Smalcald Articles), I have talked about how we are living in a post-Christian America. The reality of this while uncomfortable is becoming more and more undeniable. Christianity is no longer the prevailing mindset of our country and those who disagree with a true Christocentric Gospel are even making ‘collective and social’ roads into church to pollute the pure singular message of the Gospel. What this ought to say to each of us is, "How best can I use my freedom as a Christian to promote the Gospel, to promote freedom of religion? What must I understand about my faith and my freedoms as an American Christian so I am able to speak clearly and winsomely about the God-given rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution? And how these rights actually find their home in God’s Word?" How will we make every use of the time and freedom that God has given us as Christians freed from sin and as Americans freed from tyranny, to use our freedom to promote and protect the rights and freedoms we’ve been given? I truly believe that even in the midst of all this we do still live in the best country in the world and ask firmly that our Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - would indeed bless America!
Happy Fourth of July!