Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:31 - 36 (NLT)
To ring a bell is to sound a clear note. Carl Sandburg captured a clear note about America when he said,
I see America, not in the setting sun of a black night of despair ahead of us, I see America in the crimson light of a rising sun fresh from the burning, creative hand of God. I see great days ahead, great days possible to men and women of will and vision.
The Liberty Bell ought to sound out clear and strong. However, many people live as if deaf to the sound, and blind to freedom's holy light. Freedom is not a thing to be pursued. Rather, it is what men are! Ringing the bell of freedom means living a life worthy of that freedom; it means living free; it means life in Christ.
This morning, the word "freedom" becomes an acrostic for teaching us how to live a genuine life of freedom intended by not only the founding fathers of our great nation, but the Father Whose name is hallowed:
Faith and freedom are inseparable. When Columbus came to our shores in 1492 it was with one goal in mind – by faith he determined to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Pilgrims made a faith covenant together to serve God in the new land, even before they landed at Plymouth Rock. Most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence expressed their deep faith in the framing of that great document, and its brother, the Constitution.
John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence, was a Scottish Presbyterian minister. So great was his influence in the Continental Congress that the British blamed the revolution on the Presbyterians ... Said Horace Walpole in England's Parliament, Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson.
Samuel Adams, cousin to John Adams who would later become president, has often been referred to as the father of the American War for Independence. His house was known as a house of prayer. He was the organizer of the Boston Tea Party, and led his countrymen in many other causes for liberty. [He] said,
The rights of the colonists may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.
John Adams was one of four signers who were assigned to the task of assisting Thomas Jefferson in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and it is said that when he saw Jefferson's first draft without any mention of God, he insisted that God be made a party to this momentous event, and then assisted him in the proper wording.
Faith and freedom are inseparable. The fact is that we depended on God at the beginning; departing from Him will be our ending.
Privilege demands responsibility. We have a ballot box - that is a privilege. To fail to exercise that privilege is a shirking of responsibility.
Bill Vaughn has said, A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but 'won't cross the street to vote in a national election.
When we blame God or government for our woes and failures we are simply avoiding the responsibility we don't want to bear. A man called a pastor to say he wanted to join his church. But, he went on to explain that he didn't want to take on the added burdens of responsibility of worshipping every week, studying the Bible, visiting the sick or witnessing to the lost. He couldn't serve as a leader or teacher in any way. The pastor thanked him for his desire to join, but told him the church he was looking for was located in a different section of town. The man took the directions, and when he arrived at the other church, the man came face to face with ignored responsibility – for there stood an abandoned church building, boarded up and ready for demolition.
Ideals never get anything done until the idealist does something. Living a life of freedom means taking responsibility.
Believers care when people hurt. Much of our culture teaches isolationism. We are so afraid of each other these days it is like people find it impossible to trust.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Living a life of freedom means caring about others.
Followers of Jesus have always lived in the light. A lot of things that used to be done in the dark – drugs, crime, hatred, prostitution, homosexuality – are done in the light of day now. The acts aren't what postmodernism claims as being enlightened, it’s just more in view than in days gone by. It’s just brazen, pagan indifference to God.
Christians are still bringing light to bear on society. Public education had its beginning in the church. Women and children's rights didn't begin with the feminist movement, or a benign government program. Gentleness and courtesy, peacemaking and honor were not the brainstorm of a 60’s hippie philosopher. The kind of genuine light that makes society bearable and workable came from the heart of a no-name Rabbi 2,000 years ago, uttered from the slopes of a hillside in a no-name province called Galilee. They called him Jesus, and the principles of life and freedom we still call "The Sermon On the Mount" ... the Beatitudes. Living a life of freedom means honoring the teacher that still teaches honor .
It is hard to teach our children that the devotional life is important when we legally bar corporate prayer and Bible reading from our schools. However, it is important to remember that prayer and the Bible have not been banned from our homes. YET!
Jesus said we need to work the works of righteousness while it is still day. The night is coming! That means, as much as possible we need to teach our children the right life of devotion in the Word and prayer.
And when the darkness does come –when and if we are barred from owning our copy of the Bible, we must resist to the end.
A life of freedom is a life of devotion, even if devotion means the end of that life .
Unselfish giving of ourselves, our resources, and – in some cases – our very lives, is the price we pay to continue the legacy of our heritage.
I love the story of Johnny Appleseed. You remember the man who walked across North America planting apple trees. Johnny knew he would never sit under the shade of any of those trees; he was planting for a new generation.
All of us here today had no part in the construction of the building in which we now worship. Not a single one of us had a thing to do with the original foundation of this church body. This was accomplished by saints who built for another generation. Their sacrifice met the obligation God places upon all our lives
You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19b - 20 (NLT)
We belong to God – a life of freedom means planting for the coming generation, not living to please ourselves.
Historian Henry Jaffa quoted Abraham Lincoln: Democracy must not be based on 'mere opinion' but a moral purpose.
When Jesus said we could be free, He was not talking about license to do what we want; Jesus pointed at being freed to live as we ought.
Morality is not a straight jacket to enslave us. It is a comforting suit of spiritual armor to protect us from our own proclivities towards sin. Epictetus said, No man is free who is not a master of himself.
Seven letters in the word "freedom" teach us how to live a life worthy of free men:
Faith – Have faith in God. He died for you.
Responsibility – Accept responsibility for liberty, commit to following Christ, loving your family, and community.
Empathy – Care and act like a Jesus person, full of compassion.
Enlightenment – Honor the teacher who teaches honor.
Devotion – Teach faith by faithful example.
Obligation – Pluck up a weed today, plant a seed for tomorrow.
Morality – A life of integrity – Doing right, no matter who's watching.
Beloved, if you live a life like that, you won't have to worry about guilt and conscience. You won't worry about what others think. You won't worry about eternity.
Now that's being really free!