The Celebration of Freedom
Study Guide – July 2, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
I was thinking, wouldn’t it be great if after a firework went off it would then leave some significant message in the sky afterwards…like a great patriotic quote or a verse from Scripture? Well, we don’t have any fireworks that will do that, but let’s imagine setting off some quotes and Scriptures this morning that are like fireworks going off, and then we’ll talk about their messages a bit.
Let’s set one off; here it is: “America really needed two statues. On one side of the country there is the Statue of Liberty, and on the others side there ought to be the Statue of Responsibility.” I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks say that one time. But what a great picture and message to our country that would be. Of course, liberty has always been connected with responsibility. It’s like we posted on our Church sign: Freedom is the right to do what is right in God’s sight.” Freedom or liberty is not just something you have, it is something you have to do. We have the freedom to openly worship and serve God; the freedom to work hard to comfort our families and to contribute to our churches and our communities; the freedom to love our neighbors as ourselves; and on and on.
Even the Lord of liberty, the Lord Jesus, said this about His own responsibility when He quoted Isaiah 61. Isa 61:1-3- “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” NASU
The author of liberty carried this sense of responsibility of not just experiencing life for Himself, but of giving of Himself to others, so that others could then experience what God intended for them to experience in life; good news in their affliction, hope in their hardships, freedom instead of their confinements, God’s favor instead of judgment, gladness instead of heartache, and praise instead of despair. And then in that blessed life, they could then pass those things onto others, as they carried out their responsibility of serving others. And of course you realize, that passage is also like a job description for each of us, too. These works are our responsibility to others as well.
Here goes another firework: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it on to our children in our bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” That’s quite a ‘firework’ quote. And one you would expect to hear from – former ‘President Ronald Reagan’. So why do we have to fight to protect freedom? Protect it from whom? Well, as Christians we have some insight on the situation here. Look at this: Eph 6:10-12- “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” NLT
Have you ever noticed that whenever you hear someone say ‘A final word’ about something, whatever word it was basically becomes the first word about whatever it is that you should now be doing? The primary enemy of liberty and freedom is the Devil himself, who longs to keep unbelievers held captive to do his will and to deceive believers to drift away from the faith and to think and live in such a way as to basically be enslaved once again to living in the bondage of sin.
Remember, even as Christians, who are now free from the penalty of sin, we are still at war against the ‘inclination of sin’ within our old natures. Or, we could say, we have a ‘sin-clination’ within us. Our old self is inclined toward sin, and therefore, we are to daily put off the old self and put on the new self, which is inclined toward worship and service to God.
We certainly do live in a world of warfare. And we certainly do see it fought against flesh-and-blood. But we are to understand that the reason it is being fought in the arena of flesh-and-blood is because there are spiritual evil rulers and authorities and powers that are behind the physical scenes that are pushing evil and promoting strife around the world and in our own country. So yes, as our beloved President Reagan said, we must fight and defend our freedoms; for otherwise the next generation may become enslaved to these unholy powers.
Speaking of defending freedom, look at this firework quote: “Freedom is never free. America is the land of the free because it’s the home of the brave.” That’s by an unknown author, although we do hear similar lyrics in our National Anthem: “Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
When that great song was written we were once again at war with Great Britain. Most historical accounts record that Francis Scott Key, who was a lawyer, had gone out to a British ship in the Baltimore harbor to negotiate a release of a Doctor that had been arrested. But while on board, the bombardment of Fort McHenry started. Throughout the night they heard bombs bursting and saw the red glare of rockets. And then on the morning of September 13, 1814, after the smoke cleared and the sun came up, they saw the American flag still there. And while still on board the ship this lawyer wrote a four-stanza poem, which was originally called “Defense of Fort Mc’Henry.” And, of course, it was later set to music as ‘The Star-spangled Banner’, and in 1931 was declared the official anthem of the United States of America.
Here goes another firework quote. And speaking of lyrics, I think you’ll recognize these: “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me.” Yes, that’s from country music singer Lee Greenwood. But whenever we think about the freedoms we have in our country, we are to know that our freedoms are directly connected to the sacrifices of others who have gone before us.
One thing we ought to strive to do is to carry with us a continual thankfulness for those in our military, of whom all gave some, and some gave all, so that we can have the kind of freedoms that many the world over have never experienced and can only hope for. For as Thomas Campbell said: “The patriot’s blood is the seed of ‘Freedoms tree’.”
Here goes another one: “While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.” Stephen Covey One of the virtues most prized by young people is ‘freedom’. And, of course, they view it as this newly gained right to make their own choices about things in life. One of the odd things about it all, though, is that they often neglect to look beyond the choices to the consequences of their choices. Somehow, they overlook the fact that every choice is linked to a consequence. Every choice they make sets into motion a consequence or a series of consequences. And this connection is one of the most fundamental laws of life.
Thankfully, God informs us of this over and over in His instructions for living – the Bible. In fact, the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, took some time to speak directly to young people with some counsel about the rest of their lives. Here’s what he said: Eccl 12:1- “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them”; 12:13-14- “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” NASU
How many people understand that every choice they’ve ever made, every thing they have ever done, every freedom they acted upon is now in their record book of things for which they will give an account of before God? Thankfully, for His saved children, God has assured us that confessed and forsaken sin has been removed from the record. But still, the consequences of a believer’s disobedience will come into play as loss of privileges and inheritance rewards that would have been theirs if they had chosen differently – if they had chosen to fear God and keep His commandments. Choosing that is what brings peace and joy to life now and privileges and rewards in the coming Kingdom of Heaven.
It’s part of that unalterable law of the spiritual and physical world. Gal 6:7-10- “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” NKJV
So, since we have this wonderful God-given freedom of making choices about life, the wisest course of action is to first choose what consequence or set of consequences you want in life now and in the Kingdom to come. First choose the consequence of your choice before you make the choice itself. Remember: Choices are not stand alone things in life. ‘Choices’ are only one side of the coin of life with ‘Consequences’ on the other side.
Here’s a firework from one of our Founders…and it’s certainly bright and striking: “We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!” You would think that would be from the Apostle John. But that was from President John Adams and also from John Hancock, a Signer of the Constitution. If they said that in Congress and in the Capitol Building today, that would be like setting off fireworks in there! These Founders made it perfectly clear that our Government is at the most only a servant, and is to serve under the sovereignty of God and the Lordship of King Jesus!
But didn’t they know about the separation of church and state? Yes, in fact, they knew a whole lot more about it than most politicians know about it today, that’s for sure. They knew what it did mean and they also knew what it didn’t mean. In commenting on that, Billy Graham said, “The framers of our Constitution meant that we were to have freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion!” The furthest thing from our Founder’s minds was the thought of removing the teachings of Jesus and the Bible from the classrooms or the courtrooms of America. And if there is any doubt about that, well, let’s send up another firework into the sky and read it: “All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ results in the purest patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship.” That was stated by our 22nd and 24th President, Grover Cleveland.
Oh how far we have fallen from what America was intended to be. All Americans were intended to have and to enjoy religious freedom and to proclaim their faith and practice their faith in public and in private. Remember that’s what Robert J. McCraken pointed out when he said: “We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs, but to secure liberty for their souls.” So the primary reason that there even is an America today is because the founders were seeking freedom to practice their faith in every area of their life in this new country. And that didn’t take away the liberties from other differing beliefs, but it did settle the issue that as far as the how this new country would be ruled and governed, that would be determined by the laws of the Creator and and the teachings His Holy Word, the Bible.
And in connection with that, watch this firework go up: “The Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed…No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” Noah Webster, also known as ‘The Schoolmaster of the Nation’
Let’s finish with this great flashing firework: John 8:31, 32 – “…Jesus said…If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 36 – “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” NASU
The source of true freedom is Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can free us from the penalty of sin against our lives and also free us from the power of sin over our lives. God frees us to become His forever born again children and He frees us to become the people we were created to be; faithful followers of the Son of God. And this is a freedom worth celebrating every day!
Quotes about Freedom and Liberty, liveintentionally.org
Patriot Quotes, legendsofamerica.com
History of our National Anthem, by Cate Lineberry, smithsonianmag.com