Another Declaration of Independence:
Freedom in Christ
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Like millions of Americans, I’m thinking about the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend, and what it represents: our freedom as a nation. This freedom is a precious thing, bought with the sweat, toil and blood of countless Americans who fought to obtain it (Revolutionary War), as well as those who have fought to secure it in the centuries that have followed.
Gratitude fills my heart when I think about the brave men and women of the American military who, this Fourth of July, will be fighting to combat the tyranny of terrorism. These soldiers stand on the shoulders of valiant warriors who fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and, current wars. Each of these conflicts—share the common goal of protecting American freedom. Today’s battles are no different.
But, even as I value my freedom as an American, I reflect on a greater and permanent freedom—my freedom in Christ. A freedom that comes with being a disciple of Jesus Christ: “If you abide in my word,” our Lord declares, “you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Those words surprised Jesus’ followers. Proud people thought they already had all the freedom they needed by virtue of being “offspring of Abraham” (John 8:33). Jesus proceeded to point them beyond any national, social or religious freedom they might enjoy, to the freedom that comes through His sacrificial life and work: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34,36). Contrary to what Jesus’ listeners thought, they were held captive to sin and were subject to its tyranny.
Commenting on these verses of Scripture, Leon Morris writes: People do not always, or, even usually, realize that they are in bondage. They tend to rely on some fancied position of privilege, national, social or religious. So, those early followers of Jesus, proud of their religion heritage, did not even know their need to be free.
Even Christians today can fall victim to the temptation to trust in other things for our freedom from the tyranny of sin. But the devoted follower finds freedom in Christ and Christ alone.
What are we trusting in today?
The Fourth of July is a wonderful time to consider our freedom—as Americans, and, as Christians. Our national freedom is precious, but, our freedom in Christ is of infinite worth.
The great hymn writer Charles Wesley was undoubtedly moved by his freedom in Christ when in 1738 he wrote this hymn:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
The saving truth that Jesus speaks of in John 8:32 brings our ultimate freedom—freedom from sin and death and from the devil; freedom from a life of futility, free from an eternity of wrath. Freedom from bitterness and cruelty. Freedom to love God and neighbor.
May God’s saving truth, His “Declaration of Independence” be on our lips and in our hearts on the Fourth of July holiday weekend.