Next Monday we celebrate the Fourth, a uniquely American holiday. No other nation has a holiday quite like it. No other nation on earth has aspired to a higher and simpler ideal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Two of the most prominent men who created the Declaration of Independence died fifty years to the day after the signing. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration died in his home at Monticello on July 4, 1826. A few hours later, on the same day, John Adams, who edited the early drafts and won approval for the Declaration before the Continental Congress died in his home. Thirty-seven years afterward, on July 4, 1863, Lee’s Confederate army withdrew in defeat from Gettysburg. On that same day, Vicksburg fell to Grant, two pivotal battles that decided the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery. On July 4, 1884, France presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States.
In many ways the history of our nation has been written by our efforts to live up to the Declaration of freedom and equality for all. We have struggled among ourselves, often falling short. We have sought to defend and extend freedom among foreign nations by sending our young men and women to lay down their lives.
We have learned that ultimate freedom can never be achieved though legislation and government alone, as important as those are. Ultimate freedom must be achieved in each human heart. Every one of us must fight a personal war with our own sin nature that seeks to make us captive and steal our freedom. We see everyday in the lives of our politicians, sports heroes and celebrities the consequences of losing that battle in the secret places of the heart. Greed and corruption remain the greatest obstacles to freedom and equality among the nations of the earth.
The pervasiveness of sin is perhaps the best documented reality in our world. The media is filled with daily accounts of its presence and the horrendous consequences it can create.
Two thousand years ago another document was drafted. It was not voted upon by representatives and did not found any government. But those words spoken long ago hold the secret to the ideals that we have embraced. Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin … If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
God sent His Son into the world not merely to pay the penalty for our sin so that we might enter Heaven, He sent Him in order that He might overcome sin’s grip on our lives and set us free. The Apostle Paul had once been enslaved to ambition, anger and resentment. He started his early career persecuting the Christian faith. But he found a better way. He confessed, “The good that I would do, I don’t. And that that I don’t want to do is exactly what I end up doing … Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24).
This Fourth, as we celebrate the freedom envisioned by our nation’s founders, may we experience true freedom that is found through faith in Christ.