The celebration of the 4th of July, as we shared together last week, is always a joyous time for our country. It’s a time for all Americans to not only remember the founding of this nation, but also reflect on our freedom. This creates a special bond for all who call this nation “home.” Similar but yet far superior, is the bond that all believers in Jesus Christ share. As we see how they compare, we’ll also see how the bond of Christians far surpasses that of Americans.
First there was one declaration for us. That declaration is for freedom. For the United States it was a declaration of independence from the tyrant King George III and his oppressive government; for Christians, there’s a declaration of freedom from Satan and the bondage of sin and death. Jesus said He was sent “to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18, English Standard Version), and He also said, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, ESV). While for Americans our physical liberty is surely something to acknowledge and appreciate, but it’s even more so for the Christian, for what Jesus promises far surpasses any physical liberty. Jesus’ declaration of freedom has broken the bonds of Satan, sin, and death that would have destined us to a life apart from God and, ultimately, condemnation and hell. Paul tells the church in Galatia that when they were immature in their thinking, they “were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:3, ESV). The Declaration of Independence boldly declared our break from Great Britain; God’s Word authoritatively declares that anyone who comes to faith in Jesus Christ is no longer a slave to this world but is now a child of God. This freedom transcends this visible life on earth as it joins the believer forever with God starting at the point of faith and lasting throughout eternity.
Next there was one victory to us. We know the Declaration of Independence was not the end of the story; a war was necessarily fought to secure the freedom that had been declared. The Revolutionary War which was won for the United States cost as many as 25,000 American revolutionaries (8,000 lost in battle and 17,000 lost from disease, according to Wikipedia). The victory secured by Christians also took a bloody battle, for our great Captain battled Satan and won our freedom on a Roman cross raised on a mountain called Calvary nearly 2000 years ago. On that cross, Jesus Christ bore all of Satan’s arrows, and all of my sin and yours, and He even bore the very wrath of God to secure our eternal freedom. Jesus spoke both metaphorically and plainly of the necessity of the cross in John 12 when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (vs. 24). Then later, He says, “’Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die” (vs. 31-33). For you or me to bear the fruit of freedom and peace with God, the “ruler of this world,” Satan, had to be cast out. Jesus went to battle and was lifted up from the earth for you and for me and paid it all to set us free. Praise the Lord!
Next there’s one nation among us. With the declaration declared and the battle won, the people of the United States of America were secure. Formerly, they were mere colonists under the regime of King George, but after the victory over Great Britain, they were a separate nation. For all the believers in the Lord Jesus, we too have become a nation; not a physical nation with geographical boundaries, but a spiritual nation. The apostle Peter speaks to dispersed Christians everywhere, when he writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10, New International Version).
Then there’s one spirit in us. At the celebrations last Thursday, there were all kinds of Americans: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, young, old, rich, and poor. We all share a spirit within us, an America spirit that not only unites us, but equalizes us. For believers in Jesus, there’s an even deeper bond, for the apostle Paul writes, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28, ESV). What makes us one is the Spirit, God’s Holy Spirit, whom God gives and whom indwells every believer. Paul again helps us in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, when he says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” When you and I die, our American spirits will die; but believers in Christ will forever bear and share “the eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14).
Finally there’s one banner over us. That banner that unites all Americans is, of course, that star- spangled banner, which perfectly symbolizes our country, our independence, our liberty, and the tremendous costs of human life that have been made to secure our freedoms. For us believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s the cross that is our banner. The cross reminds us of sin, my sin and yours, that made it necessary for Jesus to come to this earth and surrender his life and die for your freedom and mine. It’s the cross that both reminds us of the cost Jesus was willing to pay, and also the cost He calls you and me to make for Him, for Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, by whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24, ESV). Because of what Jesus had done for him, the apostle Paul knew very well the banner that waved over his life, for he declared, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).