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What is freedom?

Throughout the nations of the world and the centuries that have passed, Christianity has been persecuted and still is, from the Apostles, to the early Church fathers, to the Waldenses of France in the 1300s, to the Quakers of England in the 1600s, to the Pilgrims who sought a safe place to practice Christianity in 1620. Those who truly believed in Jesus were imprisoned, unfairly treated, driven in the caves and hidden places of the world, and killed for the bold stance that Jesus is the only way and Scripture is the ultimate authority. Then, the Pilgrims, risking all, sailed across the treacherous Atlantic Ocean.

In the words of Peter Marshall, chaplain of the U.S. Senate in 1947, said in his sermon entitled, “the American Dream”, “Ours…is the only surviving nation on earth that had its origins in the determinations of the Founding Fathers to establish a settlement “to the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” That was what William Bradford and [John] Carver had in mind when, beneath the swinging lantern in the cabin of the Mayflower, they affixed their signatures to the solemn declaration which established the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They had come from the Old World and were seeking refuge in the New. They had come from tyranny and oppression…they had come from fear and coercion…they had come from faimine and from difficulty…from wars and threats of wars…..and they sought a new life in a new land. Religious liberty to worship god according to the dictates of one’s own conscience and equal opportunity for all men…These are the twin pillars of the American Dream….There have been periods in our history when the American Dream has faded and grown dim. Today there is real danger that the American Dream will become the Forgotten Dream [Reminder: this was a sermon from the late 1940s]. For freedom is not the right to do as one pleases, but the opportunity to do what is right. The Founding Fathers sought freedom…not from the law but freedom in loaw; not freedom from government—but freedom in government; not freedom from speech—but freedom in speech; not freedom from the press—but freedom in the press; no freedom from religion—but freedom in religion. We need to ponder these things today…..” (Quote from book, American Government and Economics, pg 112-113).

The main reason American began, the force driving the Pilgrims across the frothing ocean, was freedom to worship.

But what is true freedom? Can one be free when imprisoned? Can one be free when physically persecuted? Is freedom something physical? Tangible? Something that can be touched?

America has been such a place of tangible freedom. But, even if and when that tangible freedom is wiped away, there is a freedom that still upholds the peasant girl in China who will never attend a university and may never know how to read, but she has Jesus in her heart and she sings songs while sitting in a sweatshop. There is a freedom that still emboldens the young man in Indonesia who preaches Christ and Him crucified in spite of all odds against him and his young family and the threat of imprisonment looms inevitable. There is a freedom that comforts the elderly as they lie in their dirt hut deep in the jungles of South America with no tv, no radio, no telephone, no internet, no nurses or doctors to attend them, but theirs is a deep freedom that cannot be touched by hardship nor pain. The greatest freedom is not that which is merely tangible, but is intangible. For true freedom is inside first, not outside first. There are nations in this world who have tried for freedom, but cannot accomplish it because freedom must first be in the heart.

Thus, if the Statue of Liberty stands no longer as a beacon of freedom, the Capital dome lies in ruins, the monuments to presidents of the past begin to crumble and fall, and our bold and brilliant flag of red, white and blue fades to gray, and liberty’s song falters off-key, I want you to know that freedom has not died as long as Christ still resides in the hearts of Christians. The verse that embodies this truth is found in John 8:36, “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” And 2 Corinthians 3:17, “And now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Back in Peter Marshall’s day, 63% of the American people were “without even a nominal connection with any church.” Today according to Barna Research though a majority of Americas claim to be Christian (as if it is equivalent with being American), only 35% claim to be “born again,” a mere 23% are “Bible-minded”, and only 7% are “Evangelical”. Evangelical, according to Barna did not mean they said they were Evangelical, but it did mean that they met seven criteria including faith is vitally important, salvation is by grace alone, a responsibility to share their faith, belief that Satan exists, Jesus was sinless while here on earth, the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, and God is sovereign over all. Only 7% believed this in 2016.

In all of our tangible freedom, Americans have forgotten God, and it is God who made America and gave it liberty both physically and in heart. Though the American Dream, to which Peter Marshall referred, has all but completely faded, within its fading light, the light of freedom remains undimmed. Though America has been representative of both tangible and intangible freedom, true freedom is not bound up in a flag or monuments or capitals or presidents or high sounding speeches or the colors of red, white and blue, but is found in Christ and in Him alone. And I emphasize again John 8:36, it is he whom the Son has set free that is free indeed, and 2 Corinthians 3:17, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”

Now, we here are a part of that minority of “born again” believers, and as born again believers we must continue to pray for this nation, and choose this day whom we will serve. As for me, and my house, that’s “this” house, we will serve the Lord! And in so doing, freedom will never die.

 

Sources:

American Government and Economics, quote of Peter Marshall on pg 112-113.

“The State of the Church 2016,” by Barna Research, https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/

“William Penn: English Quaker Leader and Colonist,” https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Penn-English-Quaker-leader-and-colonist

“Quakers in America: from Persecution through Toleration to Domination,” by Ryan C. MacPherson, Ph.D., fhttps://www.ryancmacpherson.com/publications/26-research-papers/74-quakers-in-america-from-persecution-through-toleration-to-domination.html

“The Waldenses Religious Movement,” https://www.britannica.com/topic/Waldenses