July 4th. Independence Day. Fireworks. Hot dogs. Apple Pie.
The 4th of July celebrates the unique spirit and freedom of the United States, a country of religious freedom, protection of rights, and opportunity for all. I love being an American. I count it a special privilege and blessing.
For over two centuries, the United States has enjoyed more religious liberty than almost every other nation on earth. For years I have read stories of Believers in other countries who suffered for the cause of Christ. Many people now languish in prisons around the world for speaking of Jesus in places where is is forbidden to utter His name.
I wonder if our abundant freedoms, as Christians, have not only spoiled us, but possibly made us feel entitled. Because now, as we not only observe our freedoms being whittled away, but also become suspicious of possible coming persecution, we are tempted toward fear. How will we react? What will we do?
There are brave individuals who continue to fight to preserve religious freedom in our country. I appreciate those people.
I feel called in another direction. I am compelled to remind the church of some hard truths. To all Believers I say, persecution will almost certainly come. But when it does, we shouldn't walk in fear. Instead, dear church of Jesus Christ, let us stand up and walk in the freedoms that can never be taken away.
Four Freedoms We Will Never Lose
1. The freedom to love God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
No matter what restrictions or difficulties the government may eventually cause the church, as individual Christians we have the liberty to fully love God and fully love others with all that is within ourselves. Government restrictions can never limit my loving God with every fiber of my being. In fact the only limitation on how much I love my Lord is my own flesh that gets in the way.
As for my neighbors, my love is only limited by my selfishness, busyness, and distraction. But it is not constrained by the government or any law that is enacted.
2. The freedom to be set free from my sin.
It is for freedom I have been set free. (Galatians 5:1)
I am set free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)
No law of man can put the penalty for my sin back on my head. Jesus took my penalty plus my guilt and my shame. I am free from that eternally. I will NEVER lose this freedom. There is NOTHING that can separate me from the love of God. (Romans 8:32)
What better freedom could be available to me than that?
3. The freedom to tell others about Jesus.
I have the freedom plus the responsibility to tell others about the eternal life found only in Jesus.
You may be thinking, "I may not always be free to do this. Just look at repressive governments that outlaw evangelism."
You are right- this is something this may be outlawed someday, possibly even soon. When and if that happens I will not be free from the consequences of my actions, but I will still be free to tell others. Having freedom does not mean I will never incur a cost for my actions. All we need to do is read the book of Acts. Peter, John, Philip, Paul, and others were free to speak forth the name of Jesus. They may have been beaten, imprisoned, stoned, and run out of town, but they never stopped walking in their ability to teach about the name of Jesus.
4. The freedom to suffer for the cause of Christ.
Someday there may be laws in the US against living for and speaking about the cause of Christ. As Americans, we are so accustomed to our liberty that we assume that a cost means we can no longer do something.
But look at Christians in China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea. Look at Believers in countries like Russia, which threatens to shut down all churches outside of state control. They suffer, yet the cause of Christ has not stopped- even in the most repressive of environments. Why? Because Christians have never stopped walking in their freedom to love God and speak His name, even in the face of great personal cost.
"For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him." (Philippians 1:29, NIV)
Will we, as the American church, have the fortitude to faithfully live for Christ when it actually costs us something?
Hebrews 12:1-2 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Let Us Walk In Our Freedom
May the Lord find us faithful, come what may.
May we be willing to follow Him, regardless of the cost.
May we love Him more than our own convenience or safety.
Let us walk in the the freedom to love God and speak for His truth, no matter what. Jesus is worth it. He is infinitely and eternally worth it.