A 4th of July Message
A Sermon Manuscript by Robert L. Cobb
Editor, NewsForChristians Dot Com
"And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts."
The liberty that was claimed for America in the Declaration of Independence and codified later in the Constitution has a lot in common with the type of liberty described in the Bible. The two Old Testament words that are translated "liberty" in the King James Bible mean "free-flowing movement" and "broad and wide movement." It literally means having "free-run of the house." As children, my brother and I would occasionally find the adults of our home outside in the garden or across the street visiting neighbors, and for a slight sliver of time, the house was ours! No adult supervision! No rules! No monitoring from adults! We had free-run of the house! We thought we enjoyed a kind of liberty.
But the second part of our text verse is descriptive. It says that I will "walk at liberty....for I seek thy precepts." There is a qualifier in the second part of the verse. BECAUSE I SEEK GOD'S PRECEPTS...I can walk at liberty. The child needs a baby-sitter because he cannot be trusted to do the right things. He may injure himself or the house. He needs supervision. His liberty is curtailed because he is unable to handle it.
I am alone in the house as I type this message on my computer. My children are grown and have their own families and my wife is out visiting family. I have free run of the house! As a 52-year old man, should I call my brother today and tell him, "Hey! Everybody's gone! We have free run of the house! Come over and visit." He would probably ask me if I have taken too much of some prescription. Why? Because having free-run of the house is different when you own the house, pay the bills, and have the job of keeping it clean.
With all liberty there comes a measure of responsibility. Galatians 5:13 says, "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." 1 Peter 2:16 tells us, "...not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. The blessings of national liberty have responsibility also. Our country was designed to thrive with a moral and righteous citizenry:
George Washington said in his Farewell Address: …Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.
John Adams said: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Patrick Henry: “It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]
And James Madison: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]Let us examine both the liberty and the responsibility we share in America today.
I. LIBERTY FOR THE CITIZENS
There has never been a nation like the USA! Our freedom and liberty are unprecedented in human history! If you study history you will see that the ancient nations had lords and serfs, kings and peasants, the haves and the have-nots. Owning land, having a right to the work of your own hands, controlling your own destiny, were things that were undreamed of 300-400 years ago. The time of our founding as a nation was unlike any other. The elite scholars were steeped in the knowledge of ancient Greece with its government and philosophy. The nations of Europe had tried many forms of government and fought many wars over them. And England, America's benefactor, was the most powerful nation in the world, which was both a blessing and a curse to America's people. The king of England used the American colonies and its resources for his own pleasure and afforded the people only a portion of its gain. The taxes were heavy and the duties were wearisome.
Our nation was born from those conditions. Our liberty and freedom comes after numerous attempts and failures throughout history. Our founding fathers were truly inspired- if not from God- then truly from the excesses and despots of past failures, to create an almost perfect form of government. This creation has been the key to our nation's success for 235 years because it can be traced back to the truths of the Bible.
Our nation honors the individual, rewards and punishes the individual. So does God. in theory, no individual enjoys more privilege from the government than another. Likewise, God is no respector of persons. We have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to due process of law, the right to own and protect our property, the right to privacy. Also, God honors the rights of his creation. God allows man to choose to serve or deny Him. God allows man to ignore Him and build his fortune without the blessings and pleasure of God.
A man that defies God is a man who does not understand his liberty. We have the right to do as we please, but we have a responsibility to honor and worship our Creator and God. Failure to do so only injures and kills the spirit. Likewise the citizen who will not vote, will not take an active interest in the affairs of his country, will not hold his leaders accountable, does not understand his liberty. I believe we have a both a spiritual crisis and a national crisis in our land today because we do not understand our liberty!
II. LIBERTY FOR THE CHURCHES
In dealing with a king, the framers of our nation were bound and determined that no king would rule over us. With a state-run church that collected pew taxes and paid the preachers from public funds--and controlling the messages of the preachers--our framers were sure to have complete and full religious freedom. In fact, the church people of the day demanded it.
The conditions created by the Founding Fathers concerning the churches are the reason why America is the most religious nation in the world today. Our government favors no one denomination or belief, but should equally protect and defend the free speech of each one. This allows the church to stand or fall on it's own merit. It is difficult to deceive Americans for very long. Given time, we usually see through the false and the foolish.
Where else in the world can
an individual Christian go downtown and rent an abandoned building, put
a sign out front, and begin preaching on Sundays with no harassment or
complaints from authorities? Traditionally, this has been done in
America! You say, "I know some churches that local governments are
giving a hard time." Well, what are you doing about it? Our
liberties will continually be under attack, what will we do? Do you
understand that liberty requires responsibility?
We have the liberty to congregate together regularly and worship together. Do we avail ourselves of that liberty? We have the liberty to tell others about Christ and His salvation. Do we? We can support our local church with tithes and offerings? Do we? We have the liberty to support mission projects and missionaries to foreign lands. Do we? We think we understand the liberty, but do we understand the responsibility?
More and more, local and federal government is putting their hand in the local church, in fees and taxes, or worse yet, in demanding that certain speech be curtailed. In ten years, it will probably be illegal for a preacher to preach against the sin of homosexuality in America! Do you understand your liberty? Do you understand your responsibility?
III. LIBERTY FOR THE CHRISTIAN
Our text verse tells us that the godly person can walk at liberty because he seeks God's precepts. Let us look at those words. The word "seek" means "to investigate, to carefully inquire after." It is not enough for the Christian to carry the Bible under his arm, or have it on his desk at work. We are to spend quality time in the Word, carefully inquiring after God's will. If we do that, God will give us free-run in this life. He can trust us, because we are no longer children. Ephesians 4: 14-15 says, "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But... may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ..."
And Hebrews 5:13: " For
every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for
he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full
age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern
both good and evil. The word "precepts" in our text deals with
the rules from a governing authority, that is, the laws of the land.
We recognize God as our Authority, so we obey His "precepts" as we obey
the laws of our nation. It is for our own good that we follow these
laws, both spiritual and national. It is better for us and better
for our nation. Our nation is successful with its citizens obeying
its law. God's work is successful as His people obey His precepts.
CONCLUSION: At this time in history, I believe we have a crisis of liberty. Both citizens and Christians have concluded that the liberty given us is to be used for our own advantage, our own consumption. Our society is permeated with ME-ism. "What's in it for me?" "Gotta look out for number one!" "Got to get whats mine!" Tocqueville prophetically said, "their chief business . . . is to remain their own masters," but "to neglect to hold liberty fast is to allow it to escape." And later he warns, "How can a populace unaccustomed to freedom in small concerns learn to use it temperately in great affairs? What resistance can be offered to tyranny where each individual is weak . . . ?"
In the day of Zedekiah the king, a prophet named Jeremiah prophesied to the nation of Israel: "And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my name...Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. (Jeremiah 34:15-17) God gives liberty to His people and He expects His people to honor His precepts!
Brethren, our collective
weakness is our individual weaknesses. We must seek to be better
citizens and better Christians, each of us individually. And we must
seek to congregate and collect ourselves in the church and in the voting
booth to ensure our liberty and freedom. There are some Christians
who think they are somehow "lowering themselves" to become active in politics.
I say God has given us a great gift and we must cherish it and appreciate
it as His blessing to us! The blessing of liberty!
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