On July 4th, 1776, the world was changed forever. The “thirteen united states of America” came together to declare their independence from Great Britain, which launched the Revolutionary War. Fifty-six individuals signed their name to the document that has cemented itself as one of the most important writings in world history, the Declaration of Independence. One of those signatures was Button Gwinnett, the man our county was named after. Little did they know while signing that document, many were signing their own death warrant for King George. Throughout the Revolutionary War, over 20,000 Americans died for the belief that all people are given the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Just think of the tremendous price that was paid for America’s independence. 243 years later, we still celebrate that independence.
This past week, millions of Americans surrounded themselves with family and friends around grills and kitchen tables to the sound of fireworks to celebrate one of our nation’s greatest holidays, Independence Day. Each and every American stands on the shoulders of these great people who stood against tyranny. Independence Day means much more than feasting on hamburgers, hotdogs, and homemade ice cream, and watching fireworks…it is a celebration of the birth of our country we love, cherish, and believe in. July 4th is a day Americans from all different political parties, ethnicities, races, socio-economic backgrounds, and beliefs can join in a united celebration of our nation’s freedoms and ideals. Without those individuals willing to risk it all, there would be no United States of America, the land of the free, and home of the brave. There would be no realization of a place where all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There would be no Constitution or Bill of Rights ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens, to which we hold so dear. The price for this was steep, but the independence it bought was priceless.
When Jesus was born, the world was changed forever, but in such an incredibly and infinitely more substantial way. God the Father sent His only Son to live as a man on this Earth. He didn’t live in royalty, clothing Himself with the riches that are found here. He lived a humble life, not having a place to lay His head at night, Luke 9:58. He did not force people to follow Him. In fact, “who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:6-8. He decided not to become an earthly king of a nation. Instead, He became the King of all nations. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in Heaven, and those on Earth, and of those under the Earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Philippians 2:10-11.
Mankind has always had the same issue, sin. Before Jesus, there was no sacrifice for those sins adequate to remove them completely. So Jesus, the Christ, lived a perfect life. He never made a mistake, He never had a failure, and He never let His inward desires trump the will of the Father. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin,” Hebrews 4:15. The eternal died for the mortal; the Creator died for the creation. The unspotted Lamb of God was slain, and Jesus died to redeem the sins of all obedient mankind dating from Adam all the way to whoever is living at the time of His return. The sacrifice was adequate. Finally, mankind’s issue of sin was resolved. Mankind had gained their independence from the dark serpent of old who had separated creation from the Creator in the garden. Just think of the tremendous price that was paid for mankind’s independence. Jesus literally had to die and rise from the dead, to give us the independence from the spiritual death we deserve.
The cost of independence is great. Whether that independence is paid for by the blood of soldiers, or by the blood of the Son of God…the price of independence for one nation, or all of mankind for all time, is steep. Webster’s Dictionary defines independence, as “freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.” America’s independence is amazing. Even more so, the independence we have with Christ is far greater. Christ has bought us and freed us from the control and influence of Satan, death, and sin. How great and truly unfathomable that independence is. Which independence are you happier about? Christ came to bring all nations, all people, man and woman alike, to Him. Which independence do we celebrate more? We celebrate America’s independence, which pales in comparison to the price Jesus paid on the cross, but do we celebrate our spiritual independence with the same fervor, pride, and gratitude?
We are given the opportunity not just once or twice a year to celebrate our spiritual independence, but every single Sunday and more than that, every single day. Yet many refuse to truly celebrate how jubilant the independence in Christ is that we enjoy. Many choose to remain under the control, influence, and bondage to their sin when Christ has already paid the price and redeemed us from them. Many neglect to celebrate in their spiritual independence and rather complain, whine, and moan about the sacrifices they have to make in their obedience when Christ has given us an easy yoke and a light burden, Matthew 11:30. Many leave their pews empty choosing not to join in worship and praise of Him who offers this independence from death and sin, but would never dare to be found not standing for the National Anthem.
Where does our gratitude lie most? Do we stand up for Christ on social media with the same fervor we do for the leaders of our political parties? Do we see people we disagree with as souls that Jesus loves and offers independence to…or do we treat them with hatred and anger because we disagree with them, besmirching the Church in the process? Do we tell others about the greatness of the United States of America, but neglect to tell others about the perfection of Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God? I am proud to be an American, but more than words can express…I am honored, humbled, and thankful to be a Christian, for my citizenship is not of this world. “For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 3:20.
-Ben Hogan, Minister of Evangelism