In the heat of a Philadelphia summer, two hundred and thirty five years ago tomorrow it was signed. Jefferson composed its words and, still today, it stands as an eloquent monument to call to freedom thumping in every man and woman’s chest. Freedom! That’s what Jefferson penned; that’s what the founders signed, and that’s what every patriot wants: Freedom!
His words spoke the essence of liberty elegantly and concisely: We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These words say a lot about freedom. They describe freedom as a destiny. It may be taken for granted now, but then, the idea that all men were created equal was a foreign concept. Monarchs in England, France, and Spain, the three superpowers of the day, begged to differ. When Jefferson said that we are equally created, he was describing our destiny. If everyone, by birth, had equal legitimacy, then we could finally, in this country, work for the kind of society where everyone would one day have equal opportunity. And so, from its inception, America had a destiny of freedom because we sought a society of equality.
And these immortal words describe freedom as a gift. We did not earn our freedom, nor our rights. We may have fought to have them recognized, but we did not fight to receive them. They were given to us; It says that we are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.. That’s important. As much as you may love your American government, it is not this government that gives you your freedom. Your rights to not flow from the constitution, nor even from the Bill of Rights. They flow from God. You see, if I say that my rights flow from the government, then what the government giveth, the government may take away. But if my rights come from God, the government cannot take them away and any government that tries should be withstood by its citizens. Freedom is a gift! It is our destiny.
But there’s one more thing you and I have to understand about our freedom: Freedom can be a trap. That’s right, it may be a trap. The declaration further says that some of the rights which we have been given are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s that last one that can become such a trap: the pursuit of happiness. At first glance, especially in our culture, pursuing happiness leads many to a life of unmanageable desires and unsatisfied longings. Many husbands have pursued happiness with another woman only to discover that the pursuit trapped them in a thousand regrets. Many teenagers have pursued happiness through drugs only to discover that the pursuit addicted them, ruined their health, and butchered their future. Many business men have pursued happiness through ruthless dealings only to discover that money is a poor substitute for lasting relationships. Very often the pursuit of happiness is a trap, unless. . .
Unless you do it Christ’s way. You see, Christ knew a little about freedom. He said that the one whom the Son (that is He, Himself) set free would be free, indeed. Christ knew something about us that the declaration failed to acknowledge: We were born in sin. Our intrinsic nature is to do wrong, so, when we are given freedom, we tend to go very wild with it. It’s built into us. He also knew that the only way for us to truly be free was to come to Him and allow Him to direct our freedom.
He said it like this in Romans 6:18: Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Now what the Apostle Paul said about freedom here was very important. He basically told us that, as sinful men, we will serve someone. In our quest for freedom, we’ll either serve our own desires and become slaves to them, or we will serve God and become a slave to doing right. There is no middle ground. We serve God or we serve sin. The amazing thing to realize is that Jesus says that, when we choose to serve God as His slaves, He actually sets us free. So really the only way you and I will ever truly be free is not to fight for our freedom, and it certainly isn’t to pursue our own selfish happiness. It is to surrender to Jesus Christ.
People that do that experience a real quality change in their lives. They are given the ability to stop struggling for happiness. They are filled with an exquisite joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. They gain the amazing ability to look trouble in the face and not lose their confidence. Why? Because it isn’t dependant on their own personal pursuit of happiness. It is grounded in Jesus Christ and it is made possible because, when you and I were sinners and under the terrible judgment of God, Jesus Christ went to the cross, stretched His arms out in love and died to pay the penalty for our sin and make real happiness possible.
So, where are you this morning? Are you caught up in the mad pursuit of your own happiness? If you are, I want you to know that you are caught in a terrible trap and you will never be free from it. The only way to really experience freedom is to know Jesus Christ personally.
You say, How do I do that? (Go through abbreviated EE and pray the sinner’s prayer)