Fourth of July: the words alone create images in our minds of red, white, and blue; hot dogs and barbecues; fireworks and parades. We see the words “freedom” and “independence” on signs, home décor, and tee-shirts. Indeed, we are celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which stated that the thirteen colonies were now a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer a British colony! Freedom!
However, it was not an easy road to freedom. In fact, the Department of Defense states that more than 4,000 deaths occurred throughout the Revolutionary War. Our nation’s freedom was certainly not free.
As we celebrate our nation’s freedom, we actually have a much greater freedom worth celebrating: our freedom in Christ. Just as our nation’s freedom was not free, neither did our freedom in Christ come without a great cost. Jesus, the Son of God, sinless and perfect in all His ways, paid the ultimate price for our freedom: His very life. Jesus said in Luke 4 (quoting Isaiah 61), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed.” We were captive, we were oppressed to sin and to self, unable to free ourselves. Yet Jesus, on the cross, overcame sin and death, purchased us, redeemed us, and freed us!
Yet do we live as those who are free? Do we live and experience the freedom that was purchased for us by the precious blood of Jesus? Or are we still caught in the web of sin that entangles us, in lies that defeat us, or in a past that haunts us, all of which prevent us from living in freedom?
Why might we not experience freedom in Christ? There may be a few reasons, but one to consider is found in John 8:31-32. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” By the cross we are set free; by abiding in the Word we grow and learn how to truly live as those who are free.
In the early days of our nation, the magnitude, the appreciation for, and the importance of what was taking place were deemed worthy of celebration. In fact, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that July 2nd (the date that the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence) “will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival” and that the celebration should include “pomp and parade…games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.” He was saying – you are free – now celebrate this freedom that was won for you!
How this could be applied to our walk with the Lord! If we are growing and walking in the freedom that comes from knowing the truth, let us celebrate this freedom, not just once a year such as we do with this month’s national holiday, or periodically, but daily. Jesus has not only saved us but has also set us free: free from ourselves, free from sin, and free from our past.
How can we celebrate this freedom? In the book of Exodus, the people of Israel, God’s children, were slaves in Egypt. God, who heard their desperate cries, raised up Moses to deliver and free them. Moses confronted Pharaoh and spoke on behalf of God Himself. Six times he said, “Let My people go that they may serve Me…” Some translations say so that “they may worship Me.” What a beautiful picture of the purpose of our freedom and how we can celebrate it: to worship and serve the Lord.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Doesn’t that seem a bit redundant? Not when we realize it is for freedom to worship and to serve the Lord that we have been set free, as opposed to using our freedom to do whatever we want or to stand up for our rights. Yes, we are now free to really live, to really worship, to really serve, to “live as free people…as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16). Freedom is being able to say yes to God, yes to worshipping Him, yes to serving Him, yes to being His slave, while simultaneously being free from any of this having to do with ourselves, because it is all about Him! Furthermore, not only are we now free to truly serve and worship Him, we are free to love. “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:13). No longer in bondage to self, to sin, to lies, to the past – we can be truly free to serve others through love, not expecting anything in return or making it about us. We know the truth which makes us free. We worship. We serve the Lord. We serve others through love. This is true freedom. This is worth celebrating. This gives all glory to God. This is possible only by the cross of Christ and the power of His Word.
John Quincy Adams said, “Posterity – you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” How much more should we aim to “make good use of” the freedom we have in Christ: knowing the truth, being free from anything that keeps us from worshipping and serving the Lord, and using this freedom in order to serve others through love.