Grace Bible Church, NY
Pastor Scott L. Harris
July 4, 2004
"In Celebration of Freedom"
228 years ago today, the General Congress formed by Representatives from the
13 Colonies voted to approve the Declaration of Independence which dissolved
their allegiance to the British Crown and severed the political ties to the
State of Great Britain. The celebrations held today commemorate not only the
actions taken that day, but also the results of those actions including the
Revolutionary War & its victory that established this new Republic as a nation
and the eventual writing and passing of The Constitution of the United States
upon which our system of Government is established. The Fourth of July is about
celebrating the birth of this nation and the principles upon which it was
founded which has given us Liberty.
"Liberty," and "Freedom," are foundational words that represent the reason
the nation was founded. They are in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold
these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." "We, therefore, the
Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled,
appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,
do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly
publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be
Free and Independent States…". They are also in the Constitution –
"We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,
establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,
promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves
and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United
States of America."
The heralding of liberty and freedom are also in our national hymns:
"America" – "My country, ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty….Let
freedom ring." "America, the Beautiful" – "O beautiful for pilgrim
feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress. A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness." "The Star-Spangled Banner" – "…O’er the land of
the free and the home of the brave."
AN HERITAGE OF FREEDOM
We have a heritage of freedom and liberty, but we now find that historical
revisionists have already accomplished much in removing from our national memory
the heritage left to us by our forefathers concerning the freedoms they sought
in coming to this land. I would like to review that heritage briefly because in
doing so we see the hand of God at work and can regain a sense of the
celebration that should mark today – rejoicing in what God has done in bringing
this nation into being.
Before I briefly trace our nations heritage let me be clear that I am in no
way a reconstructionist theologically. This nation is not, never has been, and
never will be God’s "New Israel." However, our history is so clearly marked with
God’s intervention in like manner as He did for ancient Israel that it is easy
to see why such a doctrine developed. God has shed His grace upon America.
In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue with mixed reasons for his voyage of
discovery – economic, fame, and religious. There was money to be made if a
passage to the Indies could be found, fame for its discoverer, and there would
be an open door for the extension of the church. Columbus was many things,
including very religious.
Columbus’ story is an interesting one in that we see God aiding or hindering
him depending on what Columbus was striving to do. Unusual weather phenomena,
precise timing of meetings and encounters, successes and failures all directly
attributable to the providence of God.
The first heritage of freedom is that Spain’s interests stayed in Central and
South America. They had very little influence on what became the U. S., and so
we were spared the legacy of their fanatical Roman Catholicism that has so
hindered the countries to the south of us (remember, Columbus’ voyages were at
the same time as the Spanish Inquisitions). The Conquistadors ended the bloody
reign of the Aztecs and Mayans which practiced human sacrifice, but it left them
in bondage to Spain and the Pope.
The hope of economic gain fueled the first attempts to colonize America, but
these were disasters. Sir Walter Raleigh’s 1587 settlers on Roanoke Island, N.
Carolina disappeared. In 1607 Jamestown, Virginia, was founded under charter by
the London Company, but it did not become self-sufficient until 1624. It’s death
rate had been 66% over those years, with some years reaching 80 & 90%. The
Virginia colony became a Royal Colony in 1624. It brought settlers to America
who were seeking economic gain, but it did not give any new direction for
liberty and freedom.
The direction for liberty and freedom came in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived
in the New World. Though the 35 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower only consisted of
about a 1/3 of the people on the ship, they were the instigators of the
expedition and the ones that gave direction to what would eventually happen. The
Pilgrims were separatists, those who had given up on the Anglican Church as too
far gone to salvage, so they had separated from the Church of England to form
their own church in which they could worship God in all good conscience. They
had been greatly persecuted in England and so fled to Holland in 1608, but after
a decade they felt they were losing their distinction as Englishmen and would
never be able to fulfill the vision they had. Their believed their answer was
the New World.
By God’s providence a storm put them off course and they arrived off the
coast of Cape Cod rather than Virginia. After some exploring they decided to
settle there instead of Virginia. Before going ashore they drew up the Mayflower
Compact which had a direct effect on the direction of freedom and liberty in our
nation. "We whose names are underwritten…. Having undertaken, for the glory
of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and honor of our King and country,
…. do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one
another covenant and combine ourselves under into a civil body politic…."
This was the first colony that both in word and deed was truly interested in the
glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith, and second, these
ordinary men, for there were no nobility among them, formed their own
government. This compact became the prototype of many similar covenants.
It also should be pointed out that God’s providence not only blew them off
course so that they would settle in Plymouth, but that the spot chosen to settle
was the only place along the New England coast were they could have settled and
not been massacred by the Indians, for Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag tribe,
was friendly to the settlers. In addition, the site of Plymouth was were the
hostile Patuxet tribe had been only four years earlier. They had killed most
white men that landed on their shores, but in 1614 a mysterious plague had
killed everyone of them except a fellow named Squanto. To make a long story
short, Squanto had been captured and taken to Europe. Eventually he attached
himself to an Englishman and made his way back to New England with a Captain
Dermer only six months before the Pilgrims. He became their tutor in how to
Ten years later an exodus of Puritans from England began as even these
reformers gave up hope in seeing a purified Anglican church. They saw a chance
for a fresh start in New England without the interference of the hierarchy of
the Anglican Church. By 1640 10,000 had arrived and they changed the
Massachusetts Bay Company from a commercial venture into a religious one. They
learned much from the Pilgrims just a short distance down the coast, and a
democracy, the forerunner of the New England Town Meeting, began. From the
Pilgrims they learned to make the church separate from the state so that the
state would not interfere with the church. (The opposite of what our Supreme
Court is doing today – they had freedom of religion, not freedom from religion).
Under John Winthrop, who had been elected Governor by the Stockholders, adult
male members of the church were granted voting rights as freemen. Rev. Thomas
Hooker who founded Hartford, Conn. expanded voting to non-church members as
Our system of government traces its heritage to these Pilgrims and Puritans,
who though few in number, were substantial in influence and were used by God in
the formation of the nation. From them we gain our heritage of freedom of
religion and our political liberty to be directly involved in our government.
History records events that were clearly God’s chastening when the people of
the nation drifted from its Christian underpinnings. Drought, flood, pestilence
and even the Indian uprising known as King Phillips War. Through each of these
God not only sought to bring the people back to himself, but taught them in the
responsibilities that accompany liberty.
The country consisted of thirteen separate colonies and God used the Great
Awakening under Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield and others in the mid-1700’s
to move the colonies to a greater dependence on Himself and a unity with each
other. The Revolutionary War could never have been successful without dependence
on God and unity with each other.
It is significant that the Revolution was not fought for monetary gain. Those
who fought knew very well that even if they won they would suffer much hardship
in the process and many would die in battle, and if they lost, the King would
have their heads for treason. The Declaration of Independence states the reasons
for their separation from the British Crown, and while some economic reasons are
given – high taxation, trade restrictions, etc. – those are very few. Most of
the reasons deal with violations of their liberty which "the Laws of Nature and
of Nature’s God entitle them," and the Kings failure to fulfill his duty in
protecting them and promoting their welfare. The King had become a tyrant who
obstructed government, justice and any means to work to a settlement of the
disputes and had carried out acts of war against them. The war was fought over
the principles and ideals of liberty and freedom. That is the heritage left to
us, a heritage of liberty and freedom.
But what freedom and what liberty is this all about? Certainly to say that we
are a free nation does not mean it is without cost. A simple look at your 1040
form each year tells you that. The nation is not free in that sense, in fact it
is rather expensive. In fact as one person said, "Patrick Henry should come
back to see what taxation with representation is like!"
Liberty has several meanings in the dictionary. The definition fitting the
usage here is, "freedom from arbitrary or despotic control and the positive
enjoyment of various social, political or economic rights and privileges."
Unfortunately many in our day are taking it to mean, "the power to do as one
pleases" or "freedom from physical restraint." But our national liberty does
not mean being able to do anything you want. There are a host of things that you
can do that will land you in jail. Liberty and freedom cannot take place in a
vacuum, for then only anarchy will reign and despotism will rise. Liberty
carries responsibility with it. Liberty can only exist where the people are
willing to defend it at their own sacrifice. Let me add that this in turn
requires a set of absolute beliefs. People will not sacrifice themselves for
questionable beliefs and arbitrary standards.
On the Fourth of July the very words of liberty and freedom make us think of
Patriots in Three Cornered hats battling Redcoats on a New England Town Green;
Of Washington crossing the Delaware River in a snow storm to capture Trenton
from the Hessian mercenaries; Of the Continental Army in the snow at Valley
Forge; Of the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Each of these are of men
sacrificing themselves to achieve liberty from the despotic rule of King George
III. These were not people doing whatever they wanted for their own pleasure.
The Fourth of July is a celebration of freedom, but not of license; of
Liberty, but not of irresponsibility. Tragically we find that license and
irresponsibility are increasingly becoming the meaning of freedom and liberty in
our society. Though there be many that in the name of liberty call for evil to
be accepted as good, such was never the intent of the founding fathers. Those
that landed on the shores of this nation in the 1600’s and those that have
fought in our nations wars since then did not do so in order that homosexuality
could be accepted as an "alternative lifestyle." They did not do so in order
that under "freedom of choice" babies can be slaughtered in the womb. Liberty
has been perverted into a lifestyle of licentiousness, and tragically, many of
our leaders rejoice in it.
Where are we at today in the name of this perverted liberty and freedom? We
have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the western world. We pass out
condoms in high schools while STD’s are epidemic. The CDC estimates 12-15
million infected each year. Venereal Diseases thought to have been under control
have come back with a vengeance because they are now resistant to anti-biotics.
In 2000, the CDC estimated that 65 million Americans have incurable STD’s. AIDS
become the first communicable disease protected by law, and it carries a
devastating cost on our society. 25,000-26,000 cases are diagnosed with AIDS
each year (males in 2002 made up 71% of cases with 62% homosexual, 14.7% drug
and 5% homosexual & drug. In females in 2002 – 18.8% drug use and 78.4% from
heterosexual partner) with another 140,000+ diagnosed with HIV. Through 2002,
886,575 cases have been diagnosed with 501,669 already deceased – 5,315 of those
Our marriage rate has fallen to a very low point. Census Bureau statistics
for 2000 report that households of married couples have dropped to 52.8% from
70.6% in 1970. Single parent households have risen to 16% and the number of
single people living alone jumped to 25.5%. The drop in marriage rates have also
resulted in a drop in divorce rates (fewer marriage result in fewer divorces),
but the estimates still range from 43 – 50% of first marriages will end in
divorce with 9.7% of the population currently divorced and single. Other sources
estimate that over 60% of people cohabit with each other before marriage, which
in turn is a significant factor in the divorce rate being one of if not the
highest in the world – some 40% higher than the next closest major nation.
Overall, 30% of all children now born in the U.S. are to single mothers, with
that figure rising to over 70% in some sub-cultures. These figures do not even
count the number of children never born because the mother chose abortion
instead of life for her child. Since 1973 it is estimated that over 44 million
babies have been aborted in the U.S. with the current rate at about 1.3 million
per year. All these things have been and are being promoted out of a perverted
sense of liberty and freedom. This is not the liberty and freedom upon which our
nation was founded.
When you celebrate the Fourth of July today, do not celebrate these twisted,
perverted, ideas of freedom that are defiling our land, but celebrate America’s
heritage and the liberties we still enjoy. Pray that God in His mercy would
grant revival to our people that we may still be a place where we are not
subject to despotism, but can have a say in the direction of government and even
criticize it without reprisal; A nation where we can still dream dreams and
pursue after them; A nation where we can meet openly to worship the Lord and
proclaim His word publicly. When you celebrate the Fourth of July, do it in
commemoration of what God has done in bringing about its formation. Celebrate
God’s grace shed upon this nation and praise Him for His compassion,
long-suffering and mercy that continues to sustain us. That is what our
celebration of National liberty is all about – God’s handiwork in all of it that
has brought good things to us.
True liberty, true freedom does not mean being able to do anything you
desire. As I have already pointed out, that idea has resulted in much of the
depravity we have in our nation today. True liberty and true freedom come only
when the responsibility they bring is taken seriously. Freedom demands self
control or that very freedom will result in the worse bondage imaginable,
because without restrictions, man will give himself over to his sinful nature
and become addicted to the very things he demands freedom to do.
Examples of this are many including drugs, alcohol, pornography, illicit &
perverted sexual activity, etc. There are advocates for each of these wanting no
restrictions upon them, but in each case, as restrictions are relaxed, more
people become enslaved by them and all of society pays the price in crime,
medical care and non productive workers. The individuals pay a higher price in a
life enslaved to their addiction. They no longer have freedom to do other things
because they are driven to satisfy the craving of their addiction. Even good
things can be enslaving if self control is not practiced – entertainment,
sports, computers, eating, fashion, work, etc. No wonder the writer of Hebrews
tells us in 12:1 to not only set aside the sin which so easily entangles us, but
also "every encumbrance." For even good things could enslave us and keep us from
reaching our goal of living our lives for His glory.
Let me be as plain here as I can. Without the Lord Jesus Christ in your life
you are doomed to bondage and you will never know true freedom and liberty.
Those who advocate freedom to do anything have forgotten that man is utterly
depraved by nature. They may believe that man is innately good, but they believe
a lie. It is not man’s environment that causes him to be depraved and abuse
liberty, but the sinful nature that is inherent in man. Scripture states clearly
than man is sinful (Gen. 1; Rom 3; 5; Isa 53:6; Ps 14:3, etc.), and is in fact
born dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1). Unrestricted and irresponsible
liberty only allows the full expression of the wickedness that is in the human
Man is born as a slave to sin (Eph. 2:1f; Romans 6). In fact, that is all
that he can do because even if he does a good thing, it will always be from the
wrong motivation. Jesus came to break that bondage so that we would have the
freedom to not sin and have liberty to do righteousness. Paul put it this way in
Romans 8:1,2 – "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free
from the law of sin and of death." In Christ Jesus there is freedom from the
law of sin and its effects. That does not mean that we will not sin again in
this life, but the bondage of sin is broken and we can now choose to do right.
You did not have that liberty before.
Look at Rom 6:12f – The context is Paul talking to Christians and how they
should now live since they have been baptized into Christ’s death that we should
no longer be slaves to sin… "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal
body that you should obey its lusts and do not go on presenting the members of
your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to
God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of
righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you for you are not under
law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but
under grace? May if never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves
to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey,
either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
If you keep on being obedient to sin, your are its slave and that is utter
bondage. If you are obedient to Christ you live in righteousness. "But thanks
be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart
to that form of teaching to which you were committed (The gospel and the
apostles doctrine) and having bee freed from sin, you became slaves of
righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your
flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to
lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness (When you sin, it leads to
more sin) so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting
in sanctification (obedience to God’s commandments results in holy living)
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness
(i.e. you could not do righteousness) Therefore what benefit were you then
deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those
things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you
derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus our Lord."
True freedom is only found in Jesus Christ otherwise you are slaves to your
sinful nature. Only in Christ is there liberty to be righteous, but that liberty
brings responsibility. Throughout this passage Paul tells us that our
responsibility is to be obedient to Christ and not return to our former sinful
pattern of life. Paul adds in Gal. 5:1, "It was for freedom that Christ has
set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke
Jesus said in John 8:31,32, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly
disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
free." The truth is that real freedom only comes through Jesus Christ and
obedience to His word. To disobey Him is to be enslaved to sin.
Freedom is not cheap. The first colonist and the founding fathers paid a high
price to establish this nation with the liberties it offers. What are you doing
to protect those liberties? Are you at least registered to vote so that you can
help elect men and women that will uphold what our founding fathers sacrificed
to give us? It cost even more for Jesus Christ to purchase our freedom from sin.
What are you doing with the freedom He offers to you? Are you at least striving
to serve Him as best you can so that others might also know freedom in Him?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the term "freedom" and
"liberty" are used. What do these words mean to you? Talk with your parents
about what it means to be "free in Christ."
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What does the
word, "liberty," mean? What does the word, "freedom," mean? Why did the early
settlers travel to the new world in the 1600’s? What were the reasons for the
American Revolution? What were the reasons for the formation of the United
States of America? How has God’s hand been clearly seen in the formation and
preservation of the U.S.? What is the foundation for the religious and political
freedoms of our land? What are you doing to protect and promote these freedoms?
Does the U.S. Constitution make any statement about a separation between church
and state? What does the First Amendment say? How has our society redefined
"liberty" and "freedom?" What is the hope for our nation? What should you
celebrate on July 4? What is the liberty/freedom given to us in Jesus Christ?
What are we freed from? How is that freedom made available to us? What
responsibilities must we accept with that freedom? How should a Christian live
according to Romans 6? Are you living that way? If not, what needs to change so
that you do? When will you start making those changes?
Sermon Notes – 7/4/2004
In Celebration of Freedom
"It was for freedom that Christ has set us free; therefore keep standing firm
and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1
"Liberty" & "Freedom"
An Heritage of Freedom
Early English Settlements
The Perversion of Freedom
A Change of Masters – Romans 6
A Change of Masters – Romans 6