"The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor ... to comfort all that mourn; ... to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that he may be glorified."
The liberty, the freedom that we know most about is political freedom. We all know that our Founding Fathers were willing to risk everything for the liberty that we all hold so dear. This is what our Founding Fathers said to the world:
"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states: ... And, for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Yes, they were willing to die if necessary to be free. Consider Patrick Henry's view. He said,
"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
They believed that life was not worth living under oppression. Consider this statement by Thomas Jefferson:
"I am committed forever against every form of tyranny that seeks to impose itself upon the mind of man."
These ringing declarations of the value and worth of civil freedom easily and quickly move us to agree with these principles and to support the spread of these ideas throughout the world. Wouldn't you agree that all of the people in all of the colonies must have agreed with these ideas and supported the Revolution? Well, that would appear reasonable to me. But that was not the case. The people of the thirteen colonies were very roughly divided into three very different opinions on these matters. About one third of the people agreed and supported the revolution. About one third of the people remained loyal to the King. And about one third of the people had no clear opinion on the matter and tried to stay out of it.
Let us consider our own probable view for just a moment. If we had lived in one of the colonies at the time, would you have supported the revolution, remained loyal to the King, or would you have tried to have no opinion and stay out of the conflict?
That is not a good question. We probably could not give a well reasoned answer at this moment. I have given the matter enough thought, study, and prayer to know what I would want to do. Whether I could do what I wanted to do is another matter. I don't know that. I do not believe that I could, in good conscience support or participate in either sides actions.
I do not believe that political freedom has anything to do with spiritual life in Christ Jesus. I do not believe that National Citizenship has anything to do with spiritual life in Christ Jesus. I know that most religious people in our country believe that the United States of America is, or ought to be, a Christian Nation. I do not believe that. I believe that the only Christian in this world is a person who has named the name of the Lord and departed from unrighteousness; a believer who has renounced his allegiance to this world and who has announced his allegiance to our Lord and Savior. All of us know very well that Christians are people and nothing else. All of us here know very well that relationships between people and God are individual and personal. We know very well that when we stand before the bar of judgment we will stand alone and give an answer for the deeds that we have done in this body.
"For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and; be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1)
We all know very well that the freedom we have in Christ is spiritual. It is in no way carnal or temporal; this freedom does not bare on political issues. It is not related in any way to financial freedom or success. There is no financial promise attached to citizenship in the Kingdom of Christ. The freedom we have in Christ has no application to social issues found in this world. I do not mean that Christians have no social responsibilities. We do; and these responsibilities must be met.
"So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of faith."
When the opportunity to "do good" is present, as it was to the "Good Samaritan", we must respond to the need. This is not an indication of any kind that Christians are to participate in organized efforts to change any social conditions or practices. Changing social, political, or economic conditions in this world is no part of the purpose of the gospel. The gospel will produce changes of all kinds within the lives of Christians; changes produced as a result of a new value system for every believer.
"For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage."
We know that the principal application of this passage is to the Jews who had learned the truth and who had obeyed the gospel, but whose faith was being subverted by "Judaizing" teachers. But the passage contains a principle having application beyond Jewish believers.
All of us who have responded to the invitation of Christ, having put off the old man and having been born into the family of God must know, we must be aware, that it is Christ who has set us free. He died so that we can be free. We must know that the forces of bondage from which we have been freed are constantly at work trying to bring us back under that bondage. Knowing this, it is essential that we "stand fast" against the possibilities of slipping back into those old ways of life.
Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by man, except for all the others". His emphasis was, of course, the unending difficulties we have trying to govern ourselves.
All of us believe that we want to be free, but in truth we are able to tolerate only a measure of freedom, most of us, only a small measure. Many years ago I taught in Junior and Senior High Schools. As you know, particularly if you have children, teenagers and their parents often find themselves in serious disagreements as to what freedom the children should have. I do not know how many of those students said to me, "I just can't wait to be free of my parents! They won't let me do anything!" At times it was hard to keep a straight face. We all know that young people of that age have a very warped idea of "freedom". They have little concept of the self-discipline and responsibility we must have if we are to be "free". Freedom requires the exercise of responsibility and few of us are willing, or able, to assume such complete responsibility for ourselves. We want, we need for someone else to be responsible for us.
Eric Fromm's book, Escape From Freedom, clearly describes some of the most frightening aspects of freedom for most of us. We recognize that freedom is a psychological condition, a frame of mind that consciously accepts responsibility for the possibility of success or failure. Few of us actively seek to embrace such personal risk. If we can share the risk of failure, we can reduce the risk of personal responsibility. If we place ourselves under the leadership or supervision of someone else, we can virtually eliminate personal responsibility for failure. This is what most of us most often prefer.
There are many different kinds of freedom: political, social, economic, moral, religious, spiritual, and others. It is the freedom that Jesus offered when he said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free", that we are primarily interested in. I suggest that it is this freedom that we are most reluctant, to embrace. Spiritual freedom carries the most serious consequences of all freedoms. And it is probably the least understood of all.
The primary way that people escape from freedom is by submitting to an authority figure. Do you know grown people who are still "tied to their mother's apron string"? It is easy to understand why these people don't want to be cut loose from the safety and security of their mother's authority figure. Do you know of men who repeatedly commit crimes in such a way as to be caught and sent back to prison? It is because they cannot cope with the personal responsibility of living outside the security of a prison system. Do you know men who are committed to military life? They like the ordered, regimented, predictable life style. What's wrong with that? Nothing. It just indicates a preference of life style.
Did you ever think about why advertising is often done by celebrity people? It's the authority figure. If Datril is good enough for John Wayne, it's good enough for me. "Gimme that ole time religion. It was good enough for Papa and it's good enough for me". The authority figure makes the decision for me. I can escape the responsibility of making a decision for myself by allowing someone "better qualified" to make the decision for me.
It is very easy to understand why we have hundreds of "Churches" in America, isn't it? So very many people are willing for someone "better qualified" to decide what I believe. And there are so many out there who are anxious to tell me what I should believe.
The problem with this is that it didn't come from God. This practice is of the world. It may be okay to use when selecting a brand of aspirin or cereal, but this is no way to develop a faith that comes from the Word of God.
Being spiritually free is a fearful responsibility, But that freedom does not mean that we are alone, that we are isolated. This emphasizes the quality of our fellowship and expands the value of such encouragement as:
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised: and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more as you see the day drawing nigh" (Heb. 10:24)
When the load of our responsibilities sometimes becomes more than we can handle, help is close at hand.
"Bear one another's burdens, an thus fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
"But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one shall bear his own load". (Gal. 6)
One of the most moving moments, to me, in our Founding Fathers' discussion of getting the Colonies to stand together against Great Britain was when Benjamin Franklin said, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Our spiritual life is not of this nature at all. No group of believers or unbelievers will be saved or lost as a group. The Broadway Church will not be saved or lost. Lubbock, Texas will not be saved or lost. The United States of America will not be saved or lost. God does not deal with nations, cities, or any other congregation of people. God deals with individual men and women. Only individuals can believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Only individual men and women can confess their faith in Jesus and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Only individuals will stand before the judgment bar.
But we are still human enough to want to "share the risk". We still have enough psychology of the child to want an authority figure to be responsible for us. That is why the people of God allowed themselves to be organized into "Churches". That is why the people of God are willing to invest a "Board of Elders" with spiritual authority over them. The people of God today are no different than the Israelites who demanded to have a king. They demanded to have a king that they could see, hear, touch, and follow. They demanded to be like the Nations around them. We, the people of God, today are no different. Except for the few.
"Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straightened is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it". (Matt. 7:13)
Those of us who are saved will be among the few. "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, These that are arrayed in the white robes, who are they, and whence came they? And I say unto him 'My Lord, thou knowest'. And he said to me, 'These are they that come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God; and they serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eye'". (Rev. 7)
"He who testifieth these things saith, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus."