On Independence Day, we gather to thank God for and celebrate our country's freedom—but what good is civil liberty without freedom in Christ? Jesus promised freedom to His followers—freedom from spiritual ignorance, freedom from sin, and freedom from death. These give cause for a deeper, more meaningful, celebration.
The Topical series of teachings from Calvary Albuquerque includes various teachings, special services and holiday messages. Some of the special services include; A Valentine's day message, A Mother's Day message, Good Friday and Easter messages, Christmas, New Years, and special worship services.
Publications referenced: The Declaration of Independence; "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus
Figures referenced: Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Alexis de Tocqueville;
Cross references: John 11:25; John 14:2; Hebrews 1:1-2
We live in the most unique country in the world, wouldn't you agree? The United States of America, you live here. It's a very unique place. There are a lot of great places in the world and a lot of places on earth have their own border issues. Typically though, it's people wanting to leave their borders and get out of town.
We have a border problem in our country but it's the kind where everybody else wants to come over into this country because it is such a great country and you live here. We live in a very free and unique nation. And we're celebrating America's 236th, I think, 236th birthday. So, give a big hand. Say, "Happy birthday" to your country.
When we talk about freedom, we have to realize that not everybody on the earth lives in a free country. There's an outfit that monitors the kind of freedoms that we as a nation enjoy, it's called Freedom House. And ever since 1978, they looked at what countries in the world are free, what countries are partly free and what countries are not free at all. And by free, they mean countries that enable their citizens to have civil liberties and personal freedoms without too much government intervention or crack down.
There are 90 nations in the world representing 47% of the earth's population, 90 countries that are considered free countries. There's another 56 countries representing 30% of the global population that is only partly free. And there's another 45 countries in the world representing 23% of the world's population that is considered not free at all. People live oppressive regimes in those countries.
Now, guess where, according to this outfit Freedom House, guess which country has the least freedom of any country in the world. Any guesses? I'm not hearing, anybody? Okay. It's North Korea. And it's because all of the power is held by one single individual, one guy, their "Supreme Dear Leader," they call him and that is the son of King Jong-il, his name as a young man, Kim Jong-un.
And the way they structure their government is you can't have any benefit at all. It is all predetermined by the government, where you live, where you work, access to medical care, access to education, any benefit at all. You are placed in a category according to your perceived allegiance to the dictator. The government kind of looks you over and they grade you and they perceive your allegiance and they put you in that group. And you can have medical benefits if you're really sworn to an allegiance and you don't get much help at all if you are not.
It is not a free country. But once again, look at where you are. You live in the United States of America. It's your home and I love it. You guys did a great job as you gave your little greetings a little bit ago. What struck out to me is that second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence. "WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certainty inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." That's our declaration.
Many, many years ago in the 19th century, a man was commissioned by the French government to come and check out what was called then the Freedom Experiment or the experiment in democracy. See, the Europeans looked up on the United States of America suspiciously. They didn't know if this experiment in democracy would work out too well.
So, the French government sent a representative by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville, who is the statesman, who came over here and observed America and he wrote about it. I want you to hear what he said. Alexis de Tocqueville in travelling around America said, "The United States of America is the only place in the world where the Christian religion holds the greatest sway and power over men's lives."
And then he said this, "America is great because America is good. And when America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." Don't you find that interesting? You had a guy looking from Europe to see how this democracy experiment was working. And he noticed that there is an allegiance to a God, an allegiance to Jesus Christ that was remarkable in this country by the founding fathers. And that there was a relative righteousness or goodness that made us great but he said, "When America ceases to be good," that is held sway by that Christian ideology, "it will cease to be great."
My fear is we're becoming less great everyday because we don't care about those same values and standards and goodness and righteousness that have been passed down to us. Back in 1941, we had a president named Roosevelt, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He gave a State of the Union speech on June 6th 1941, a very famous one in which he outlined four freedoms, four freedoms. It became known as the fourth fundamental freedom speech.
He says there are four fundamental freedoms that every person in the earth who lives here should be able to enjoy. Number one, freedom of speech. Number two, freedom of religion. Number three, freedom from want. And number four, freedom from fear. The four freedoms that he said, "Every person on earth should enjoy." Well, in John's Gospel, Chapter 8, Jesus boils it down even further to even more fundamental freedoms and He gives us three fundamental freedoms.
Here they are. Number one, freedom from ignorance, spiritually speaking, freedom from spiritual ignorance. Number two, freedom from sin. And number three, freedom from death. Now with those three in your mind, let me read you a couple of verses. This is John Chapter 8, this is Verse 30 and as he spoke these words, many believed in him.
Can I just be honest with you and tell you that my prayer is tonight, as some of you are listening, you've been invited by friends or relatives, you're not a believer, you're not an ardent follower of Jesus Christ. You might be a nice person, a spiritually minded person, a good citizen, a patriotic citizen but you're not a follower of Christ.
It says, "As Jesus was speaking these words, many believed in him." It's my prayer that as some of you hear these words of Jesus tonight, you too will believe in Him and experience real freedom. So, it says many believed in him. And then, Jesus said to those Jews who believed, "If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." That's freedom from ignorance. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.
I want you to think about that statement. "I know the truth." Do you know how foreign that sounds in our modern age? We live in a post-modern era they call it. And in the post-modern era, the only thing that is absolutely sure is that there are no absolutes.
People are absolutely sure that you can't be absolutely sure about anything. So, when you stand up in a crowd like in a college and say, "I know the truth." They'll look at you like you're from Mars because they think nobody can know the truth. "Your truth isn't my truth dude and your," et cetera. It's all relative. It's all based upon your own personal experience.
Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." Why would He say that? Because, one of the great facts of history is that God has spoken throughout history. Hebrews Chapter 1, the first verse, "God, who in different times and at different ways spoke in the past to our fathers by the prophets has in these last days once and for all spoken to us by His son."
God has spoken. And true liberty comes from having those fundamental questions that everyone has answered. Everybody comes into this world with the same set of questions that they ask at some point in their lives, questions like, "Who am I? Why am I here? What happens when I die? After death, where will I go? Is there anything?"
Those are questions every human being struggles with. And so, Jesus offers freedom from ignorance. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Here's a second freedom, freedom from sin. Now, the story continues. They answered Him and they said, "We are Abraham's descendants and we have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say you will be made free?"
Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly I say to you, whoever commits sin is the slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever but a son abides. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." So, Jesus says, "You will know the truth. The truth will set you free." Immediately, they interrupt His train of thought and they said, "Now, wait a minute. How can you be saying that to us? We have never been in bondage. We have never been slaves. We are free people."
Well, when I hear their statement, I laugh and I think, "Do you mean you guys have forgotten your own history that quickly?" They were historical revisionists as what we call them. They took their own history and they deleted portions of it and revised what really happened because if you think back to the history of the Jewish people, when weren't they slaves? "We have never been slaves to anyone," really? What was Egypt all about?
Let's move a little bit closer. What about Assyria and Babylonia and Medo-Persia and Macedonia and after that, Syria and again Egypt? And at the point they were speaking these words, they were under the control of the Roman government. So, it sounds ridiculous for them to say, "We have never been enslaved by anyone. We've always been free." There are two periods of their history where they were free and that was under Moses and the Monarchy and the second was under the Maccabeans which is between the Old and New Testament.
The rest of the time, they were enslaved to other peoples. But they are probably saying this. "We're Jewish. We're children of Abraham and because we're Abraham's children and we're of Jewish ethnicity, it means no matter where we are, no matter under what occupation, we are free people." But they were blind because you can be free nationally and you can be free ethnically but you can be in bondage morally and spiritually.
You can be in bondage to sin and that's what Jesus speaks about. He said, "A slave does not abide in the house but a Son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." What is He speaking of? Freedom from the bondage of, the control of, the domination of sin.
Now, I want to throw something else at you because you know this to be a fact. In the 32nd verse which says, "Jesus said to them, 'You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." That's a very famous statement isn't it? In fact, if you have seen some of the great universities and the great colleges especially back east, they have those words embossed on their seal, the seal of their school.
It will say, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." But you know what they mean by that don't you? They mean academic knowledge. "Come to our school and listen to our professors and we'll teach you truth and you'll become smart and brilliant and successful. And when we teach you academic truth, you'll know it and you will be set free."
Now, I'm smiling at that because those colleges ought to know better. Those professors ought to know better. You would think at least a college professor would know that every text has a context. And if you take a text out of context, you have a pretext that is a false premise. Here's my point. Jesus spoke these words. He didn't mean academic knowledge, "The truth will set you free."
What He meant is in the context of what He said in Verse 36, a few verses down. He said, "Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." Jesus isn't speaking about academic knowledge. He's speaking about spiritual liberty, being set free from spiritual ignorance and knowing the truth about God and His son Jesus Christ and being set free from the power and dominion of sin.
Those are two fundamental freedoms. Here's the third, freedom from death. The passage goes on and in Verse 48, we read this. "The Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not rightly say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?' Jesus answered, 'I don't have a demon but I honor my Father and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek my own glory. There's one who seeks and judges. Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, He will never see death.'" Wow, what a promise. What a freedom, freedom from death.
Everybody comes into this world and says, "Why am I here? What will happen when I die? Jesus said, "If you keep my word, you won't die." Do you realize what a great promise that is? In John Chapter 11, remember Jesus said to those two women whose brother Lazarus died and they were weeping.
He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die." He promised life, freedom from death. We do a lot of funerals at this church. I did one on Monday for a dear brother, 87 years old. He went to heaven. He was released. And I told the crowd, "You can't say that he died. You have to say that he moved. He didn't die. That's inaccurate. He just simply moved. He left earth and he went to heaven."
Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions. I'm going to go prepare a place for you." So, our friend John, didn't die because Jesus said, "If you believe in Me, you won't die. You'll live forever." That's such a glorious promise. And when you look at a crowd in a funeral, you can tell who's tracking with you and who is blank.
Some people look at you so confused like, "I have no idea what you mean or what you're saying." And other people are nodding like, "Yes, yes. I believe that. I have hope even in the midst of death." So, Jesus offers the most fundamental of all freedoms, freedom from ignorance, freedom from sin and freedom from death. Now, we're celebrating the birth of our country and in New York City, Harbor is that beautiful Statue of Liberty that has welcomed immigrants to this country for years, those who passed from the boats from Europe and came into New York Harbor.
And at the base, part of the wording, the Statue of Liberty holding up the torch of freedom high, part of the wording goes like this. "Give me your tired and your poor. Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," all the people in the world who longed to have freedom, civil freedom, personal freedom. But think how many people in the world don't have the freedom of ignorance, don't have freedom from sin and are still living under the shadow and the sentence of eternal death.
I, along with you, I'm really glad to be a part of this country. I'm glad for the freedoms we have. We live in a great nation. But if we just celebrate the liberty we have as a nation here at this church tonight, I think we would be lessened in our experience. What we really celebrate more fundamental than living in a nation where we breathe freely is that we know God personally because of what Jesus Christ, his Son, did for us on Calvary's Cross in shedding His blood and then rising from the dead to give us the power that He spoke about in the words I just read.
And since we're all gathered here, you would be remised if you just came tonight and saw a beautiful firework display and ate some really good food and then eventually died and didn't go to heaven. That wouldn't be good, would it? Celebrating freedom on your way to hell. Not a good gig.
I say let's celebrate our freedom. But I say if you're not free in Christ, tonight make this your real spiritual Fourth of July. So, here's what I'm going to ask you to do and it's not going to take long but I'm going to call you out because Jesus so often did that while He was on the earth. He would call people publicly to follow him. He'd walk up to people and say, "Hey you, follow Me." And he would have to do it or reject it publicly.
So, as we close off this portion of the service, I'm going to pray right now but I'm going to ask you to get ready to come if you don't know Jesus Christ personally because you're going to get ready to come and pray a prayer right up here with me asking Jesus to come into your heart, your life, forgive you of your sins and give you everlasting life.
Let's pray. Father, we thank you for this evening and we thank you for the weather, slight bit of rain Father, we're experiencing, the coolness of the evening, the enjoyment we've had, the good food, the good friends and fellowship, all of that. But Father, we are most grateful for the freedom, the liberty that we have from spiritual ignorance.
We do know what truth is. Moreover, we know who truth is. Jesus said He was, the way, the truth, the life. Thank you Lord that we know the truth, that we're free from ignorance. Thank you that you've come to set us free from sin, from the grip and the bondage and the power that sin can have on a life and so many people are taken by its grip. And thank you for the freedom from death, the eternal death that even when we die physically, really, we as believers don't die. We just move on to glory waiting that day of resurrection.
Father, I pray for people who have gathered here. They've been invited by friends. They've been invited by relatives. They've come to a church but You, brought them here by an appointment. You brought them here because you want them to hear the message that they just heard and You, want them to respond to it. We pray they would in Jesus' name, Amen.
For those of you who have come forward, congratulations. You did the right thing. I'd like to lead you in a prayer. Prayer is just simply talking to God, saying words to Him. But, this is a prayer of invitation. So, what I'm going to do is pray out loud and I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me. You just say these words from you heart and you say them to God.
Okay. Let's do it. Lord, I give you my life. I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus that He died on the cross and he rose from the dead and that He did it for me. I turned from my past. I leave my sin behind. I turn to You, as my savior. I want to follow You, as my Lord. Help me to do that, in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.