There are certain things in our culture I don’t understand the appeal of. Two of them are parades and fireworks. I don’t see the point. I’m not trying to be a jerk here, believe me. I’m just sharing my opinion.
But just a little while ago, we returned from a July 4th fireworks display at our local county fairgrounds, having been invited by some friends to come along. After a great cookout and laughter at their house, we all piled in the cars and caravaned over to the fairgrounds. We meandered through the thick crowds until we finally found an open patch of ground to lay our blankets and unfold our chairs. As darkness fell, we laid back on the ground, looked skyward and watched fireworks. And you know what I thought when they were over? I thought, “Yep, those were fireworks.”
I know, I know. I can already hear some of you screaming at your screen, “But you’ve never seen the fireworks in MY town!” Or maybe you’re thinking I should see the fireworks in New York City put on by Macy’s or in Washington D.C. over all those historic monuments, or in Boston where they thought up the ridiculous idea of having a live symphony orchestra play music synchronized to the explosions. You’re thinking, “Jerry, you shouldn’t make up your mind until you see THAT.” Maybe you’re right, but I’m guessing that you’re not. To me, fireworks are fireworks.
What I DO love about the fourth of July is the freedom that we’re celebrating. I can do without the explosions. Give me a good piece of cheesecake and I’ll be just as happy–no, happier. What I DO love about it all is the fact that we’re stopping and remembering what makes this nation so great: freedom. Freedom that allows me to speak my mind, even when its something you think is idiotic, like my view on fireworks. Freedom that lets me write a blog like this to share my thoughts on anything under the sun. Freedom that affords me the greatest privilege I have as an American citizen; the freedom to worship the God I love so desperately; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who cares enough about me to save me by dying on a Roman cross in my place, all while I was still sinning against Him. The God who right now is both on His throne in heaven AND residing within this frail, flawed, faulty, and often faithless jar of clay I am.
So I think about freedom on this day of the year more than any other. I think about both my grandfathers and my dad who served proudly, heroically, and honorably for this great country. I owe to them and to all service men and women an unpayable debt of gratitude for their gift of freedom. Before them, I remember those who fought and died in the Revolutionary War, and the great minds and hands the crafted the Declaration of Independence which is perhaps one of the greatest if not the greatest document in all of human history. I think about them and my freedom and how we are connected. I’m thankful to live where I do, to be who I am, and to know what I know. I understand that to be an American is not just a lucky break for anyone born here or immigrated here. It’s a solemn responsibility to live up to our ideals, to handle our freedom with care, and to make the most of every chance we have to improve ourselves, both individually and collectively.
As much as my mind has been on the idea of national freedoms today, I must admit that I am also in thought about the words of Jesus regarding freedom as well. Jesus spoke those very well-known words in John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Free from what, though? What is Jesus referring to here? Here are a few things…
1. Freedom from sin’s power. As a willing recipient of God’s forgiveness and grace, I am also in the position of having been freed from sin’s grip and power. I am now free NOT to sin. I now have a choice. I am no longer enslaved to the power of sin in my life any longer.
2. Freedom from sin’s penalty. Imagine yourself convicted and on death row. Imagine your execution day quickly approaching. Imagine waking up the morning of the day prescribed by the courts for your death. Imagine hearing the sounds of the guards shoes as they approach your cell. Imagine hearing the sound of the key slide into the lock of your cell door, turn, and release the bolt holding you in. Imagine looking up to and hearing the guard tell you that you are free to go. Your debt has been paid. You are free.
3. Freedom from sin’s guilt. Satan is a trash-picker. He spends lots of time going through the trash of your past and bringing things back to your attention, even things God has forgiven you for. He will keep you paralyzed in guilt and shame while Jesus only wants you to experience freedom. Not only freedom from guilt, but freedom from having to pretend any longer. Knowing that you are accepted by your Creator, you are set free from having to earn the acceptance of anyone else.
There is much more to say, but I hope that this has encouraged to to live fully in the freedom that comes from Jesus Christ, the lover of your soul, the redeemer of your eternity, and the purchaser of your freedom.