Celebrating Freedom

On July 4th, 1776 the founders of our nation signed the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  This grand document began with the famous words, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness.”  Is our country imperfect?  Of course.  The Bible declares that “all have sinned and fall short (continually) of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).”  If this is true of every individual, then it is certainly true of any collection of people.  That having been said, I am very thankful to be an American.  When I look at the globe, there is no other land I could point to where I would rather live.  Overwhelming multitudes agree with me, for there are far more people trying to get into this country than there are trying to get out.  I’m not aware of anywhere else on the planet where people have more freedoms and enjoy more comforts.  However, as grateful as I am that God ordained for my family and me to reside in the USA, I am infinitely more grateful to be a citizen in the Kingdom of God through the blood of Jesus.  In this month’s newsletter we will look at and celebrate some Scriptural freedoms that believers have been afforded in Christ!

            FREEDOM FROM CONDEMNATION (Rom. 8:1—Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus)…A few years back my wonderful wife had a vehicle situation occur where we needed to call the authorities.  It was not an emergency and she wasn’t far from home (where I happened to be), so she decided to wait until we could call the police together.  I dialed the number to the Ft. Myers Police Department (FMPD) and described the situation to them.  However, though our home is in the city limits, the location where the incident occurred was on the east side of Prospect Avenue which is County (not city) Territory and under the jurisdiction of the Lee County Sheriff (LCSO) (*those of you familiar with the geography of East Ft. Myers know that Prospect is just about a mile and a half down Palm Beach Boulevard from the church*).  I hung up from the FMPD and called the Sheriff’s Office.  They informed me that they wouldn’t come to the house because our home was in the jurisdiction of the Ft. Myers Police Department.  I asked them to please advise!  They told me to drive to a location on the County side of Prospect and then call the Sheriff’s office and they would come and meet with us.  So, we got in our car and drove down to a fast food restaurant in the right vicinity.  I won’t tell you which one but we ordered some fried fowl (chicken) and buttered biscuits while we waited!  The deputies contacted us as promised and the matter was dealt with.  I think both the FMPD and the LCSO wanted to help us out, but jurisdiction matters!…If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are free from condemnation because you are in a different jurisdiction.  And truly, IN CHRIST is not just a different location and a different jurisdiction, it is an infinitely superior location and an infinitely superior jurisdiction than being OUTSIDE OF CHRIST!  Thanks be to God, there is freedom from the jurisdiction of condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST JESUS!

            FREEDOM TO OBEY GOD (1 Pet. 4:1-5—Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.  In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.)…Most of you know that, in addition to pastoring, I teach 7th Grade Math in the public school system.  I have had some students over the years with severe behavioral issues.  I warn them about the consequences of their misdeeds, but some still persist.  I tell them that they will be going to timeout, but some still don’t care.  I let them know that I may have to write a referral (which is about the strongest action a teacher can take in today’s society) and some laugh telling me they’ve seen plenty of those in the past.  I call for the assistant principal to come and remove them from my room, but some cuss the administration out as well.  The School Resource/Police Officer has even had to be called for some, and so far that has always taken care of at least any immediate situation I’ve encountered (by the way, I know it may sound different than when you were in school and it’s certainly different than when I was in school as well, but as a teacher I cannot imagine what some schools I’ve taught at through the years would be like without a police presence on campus and I am very thankful they are there in our county).  Many times the disrespect of these students stems from some version of the thought that “no one is going to tell them what to do!”  In their mind, they will rebel against my authority and anyone else’s anytime they want to!  They aren’t going to conform no matter what!  Unfortunately, I’ve later seen some of these students’ pictures on wanted posters passed around at neighborhood watch meetings and listened to their names read as the perpetrators of very serious crimes on local news reports.  The “freedom” they thought they had when they rebelled so vehemently in their youths eventually led to a loss of “freedom” in the future due to the consequences of ever-increasing criminality…Ask almost anyone who has recovered from substance abuse of various kinds and they will tell you that what they thought was “freedom” in their past to do what they chose to do was really a bondage that led them to sometimes serious consequences.  The recovered will tell you that being able to choose NOT to indulge in their substance abuse from the past is what real freedom looks like…Now, you may not be one of my former rebellious students who later in life found out the consequences of criminal behavior.  You also may not be anyone who ever faced a recognized addiction of some sort.  However, as believers, all of us, if we are honest with ourselves and more importantly true to Scripture, can acknowledge that before coming to Christ we were rebellious against the Word and ways of God.  And many times during our rebellion we were under the demonic delusion that we were free and in control of our own lives and no one, not even the Almighty, was going to tell us what to do.  Thankfully, in the words of the old hymn, “by God’s Word at last my sin I learned, then I trembled at the law I’d spurned.”  Those who receive the grace and gospel of Christ come to the realization that we have broken the law, that we can be forgiven in Christ, and then that through the power of the Holy Spirit we who did not keep, indeed could not keep, and sometimes reveled in not keeping God’s Word, now are free, truly free, to follow in the path of God!  In the words of 1 Peter 4:1-5, Christians know that the time for going after the ways of sin which lead to bondage has been enough and we want it to be no more; and in Christ we now walk contrary to worldliness, which while making us often unpopular, provides unbelievers with a witness, showing them that true freedom is not found in disobeying God, but rather in obeying Him through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit!

            FREEDOM FROM FEAR OF DEATH (Heb. 2:14-15—Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,  and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.)  I once visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  One of the many powerful displays that stood out to me were pictures of Jews in concentration camps when they were liberated by American soldiers.  The prisoners had lost many of their friends and relatives to the gas chambers and other means of torture to which they were exposed by Hitler’s forces.  For those Jews, every moment brought with it the very real fear that it could be their last.  When U.S. troops came to those concentration camps, they were aghast at the condition of the prisoners who were still alive, for they were truly barely alive, quite literally skin and bones, mere shadows of healthy human beings.  The Allied Soldiers freed the Jewish prisoners from death and the fear of death at the hand of the Nazis…Most of those who read this article will never know what it’s like to be under the constant threat of death by torture or malnourishment thrust upon us by the tyranny of a foreign power.  That having been said, unless the Rapture of the Church occurs first, none of us are getting out of here alive.  However, those who are believers in Christ, while not spared from death, are spared from the fear of death!  Our crucified and risen Savior is the first fruits of those who sleep (who have died), death has lost its sting, the grave has lost its victory, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and we will one day have a glorified body that, unlike this one, will be imperishable!  Christians have been liberated from the fear of death and have been spared the judgment of the second death by the One who is the resurrection and the life!  And when we are set free from the fear of death, when we know that the issue of the “next life” (eternal life) has been settled, then we are set free to live a life of peace and joy even in the midst of this current fallen and sinful world!