Ahh…. July 4th. The day we Americans celebrate our freedom. Our clothes are red, white and blue; we gather with friends and family; we grill and we watch fireworks.
As I plan and prepare what patriotic clothes I will wear and the menu for the cookout, I reflect on how much I appreciate freedom. I recognize how I am grateful for the vision of our forefathers to establish a free country where its citizens enjoy rights that shouldn’t be taken away.
Our Declaration of Independence states “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.”
Unalienable is defined by Merriam-Webster as “incapable of being alienated, surrendered or transferred.”
Living in the United States of America allows me the ability to do what makes me happy – within reason of course. I’m able to pursue happiness and for me a big part of my happiness comes from being able to worship God in the ways I believe are true and right.
This past week, I attended Johnathan Creek – a Christian camp in Kentucky for students from 7th through 12th grade. I was privileged to be one of the leaders for the SMC group. It was a moving experience that I will never forget. I was reminded of the sacrifice of Christ that gives us freedom in Him.
Freedom in Christ is a little different, but perhaps it delivers even more powerful results. As Christ-followers, we are called to walk in love. In all situations. “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
“So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Galatians 5:1 (NLT)
I grew up in the Catholic church which has rules for the rules. On top of that, my Dad was in the Marine Corps. More rules. I. Am. A. Rule. Follower. I find it very difficult not to follow rules and sometimes it’s also hard for me to be around rule breakers. I don’t understand them and they REALLY put my love walk to the test. I am learning that relationships are more important than rules, but after nearly 50 years of living rules, this passage is difficult for me to follow.
But God gave us Christ so we could be free from law. “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14
That good ol’ grace that this human sometimes finds difficult to achieve. It’s almost impossible for me to wrap my head around God’s endless grace. It seems unattainable for me to emulate at times.
But as Christians we do have certain laws to follow. Think 10 Commandments. And it’s not just rules and laws. In Matthew, Jesus told the Pharisees important commandments not found in the original ten. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39. We are called to be in relationship with Him so we may become one with Him. There is no other way to love Him heart, soul and mind.
“They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.” 2 Peter 2:19
In 2018, what does control us? We have MANY options to choose from. Does Christ have our hearts, souls and minds? Have we become a slave to Him, or is it our phones; money; food; clothes; sports; our children that take first priority? Ironic, isn’t it, that when we give over our life to Christ and become obedient to Him, that’s when we become most free. When we allow THINGS to control us, instead of our walk with Christ, it becomes a negative thing.
We arrived at camp Monday afternoon. Soon after, the leaders took phones away from the teenagers until Friday night. It was important for them to devote their time and stay focused on God and His word. When asked, my group of 14-year-old girls didn’t really miss their phones. In fact, I think in many ways, they were happy not to have the pressures of social media on them constantly.
Have you ever felt like there was something that was put on your heart to do? An idea or thought that wouldn’t go away and you couldn’t shake? What if that is God directing you to your calling? What if in those thoughts or ideas we were to find our true purpose? Further, what if in that calling, we were to find complete freedom in life because we were fulfilling our purpose? Pursuing and ultimately finding, our true happiness.
We know God loves us and wants nothing but good for us. One place we learn of this is in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you future and a hope.”
The saying freedom isn’t free is not only true for our country. Being a Christian is hard and it comes at a price. But when we devote our lives to Christ heart, soul and mind, the freedom that follows will bring us to our heart’s desire.