This weekend people all over the country are celebrating their independence. However, "independence" has come to mean something different today than what many early Americans meant. To them, independence never meant independence from God. For them, freedom meant freedom to serve God without interference. There was no thought of freedom apart from God or freedom to do whatever one wanted. In fact, unrestrained freedom apart from God was seen as a form of bondage. Freedom was only found in submission to God. They did not make these ideas up, but formulated them from scripture.
"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' " (Rom 8:14-15).
Notice the categories this passage compares are not slavery vs. freedom, but slavery vs. adoption. Only as we are adopted to be God's children can we find freedom. Freedom is not found in indulgence, but in submission to God.
"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF" (Gal 5:13-14).
Freedom is not the freedom to indulge, but the freedom to serve and love. Submission to the will of God and his instructions on righteousness brings freedom. This is true on both a national and personal level. However, many today do not see any relationship between submission and freedom. What would society look like when everyone engages in unrestrained freedom? Romans 1:24-31 paints an ugly picture of those who were given over to unrestrained freedom because they insisted on being free from God.
Here is a contemporary illustration of this. Authorities say servicemen in Iraq were safer than our own citizens walking thru streets of our major cities. The FBI paints this grim picture. Murder every 24 minutes, forcible rape every 7 min, robbery every 68 seconds, aggravated assault every 51 sec., violent crime every 27 sec. All this means a major crime is committed every 3 seconds in America.
Is this what the nation's forefathers envisioned for the land of the free? Of course not. Freedom was to be found in submission to God's will. Unrestrained freedom has brought all kinds of ills on both a personal and societal level. Uncorrected, these ills will lead only to bondage.
In 1863, President Lincoln designated April 30th as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. He had some very insightful and timely words. He said: "It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, who owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by a history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. The awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has grown, but we have forgotten God."
Perhaps we need a dependence day more than an independence day. In our Lord we can have true freedom that no oppressive ruler of this world can ever take away.