Declaration of Dependence1
“Declaration of Dependence”
Declaration of Independence
Food, family, friends, and fireworks on July 4th celebrate the signing of Declaration of Independence on that same day in 1776. 56 of our nation's founding fathers penned such words as,
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. —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. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…. Then listed are a large number of grievances against King George III of England. And finally,
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America,… appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World... do…declare, That these United Colonies are and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;... And for the support for the Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
These are some of the words signaling our nation’s determination to live free from Great Britain’s rule. Our forefathers fought against oppression from unfair taxation and representation. The Declaration of Independence was an act which brought war to our land to free this land of an evil and tyrannical rule.
To forget why we celebrate Independence Day is to forget the foundation of our freedom and the distance we have come from the rule of those ruled by sin. It is to forget the former bondage and the price paid for our liberty. In the same way, celebrating 4th of July or Independence Day with no thought of why is like celebrating The Lord's Supper without recognizing its purpose. Not knowing why we celebrate the Lord’s Table would be to forget our former bondage and the price paid by our Lord Jesus Christ to set us free.
A part of why we celebrate The Lord's Supper is to remind us of how Christ brought us freedom. The Apostle Paul gives his freedoms purpose at the beginning of Galatians chapter 5, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (5:1). It is from "the Law" and the judgment it brings upon us from which He has set us free; it’s that seeking justification through law, or the things must we do, instead of faith in Christ (5:5, 3:11-14) which Paul speaks against. Paul’s command there to stand fast in their freedom in Christ will “safeguard the [believers] against submission to legal bondage; in v. 13 it will safeguard them against danger from the opposite direction,” unrestrained license to do as you please.
Paul explains earlier in the letter to the Galatians that the purpose of the law is to bring us to Christ through faith (3:23-25). Yet it is easy to forget the freedom that our faith brings to us. Like the Galatian churches, we can take for granted the freedom of Christ as we can so easily take for granted the freedom our forefathers fought and died to gain for this country, this free country. Yet, we should be careful not to abuse our freedom.
We, as Christ-followers, should strive to express our freedom in Christ by living according to the profound and wise instruction given by Paul in Galatians 5:13-18. For there, Paul writes to guide us in how to live by the Spirit and in freedom.
13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, actually commands us, to express our freedom in Christ in two ways. He gives us a positive and then a negative example. The first is to live out our freedom by serving one another through love. (13,14)
When Paul repeats Christ’s words to “Love your neighbor as yourself” he’s saying we should love others with the same naturalness or ease with which we love ourselves. (e.g., overlooking our faults)
In verse 6, Paul points out that “In Christ Jesus...the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” That means the Law of Moses and circumcision doesn’t matter, whether or not you dress a certain way doesn’t matter, following a specific way of worshipping, doesn’t matter. Paul says that no rule, custom, or tradition matters. It’s only faith expressing itself in love that matters.
Freedom's Ugly Side
But I think we all realize freedom has an ugly side. It is easy for some of us to want to restrain the abuse of the freedom we have in Christ by a “stiff dose” of the law. However, nothing is further from the truth. Christian scholar F. F. Bruce rightly points out “nothing [is] more calculated to kill true freedom. The freedom of the Spirit was the antidote [both] to legal bondage and unrestrained license.” (Bruce, Galatians, 240)
Paul here also commands us to express our freedom in Christ by not indulging our sinful nature (13). To not "Indulge" is to not set up a base of operations for the sinful nature or to allow a springboard or an excuse for sinful desires. The pattern of living that is lead by the sinful nature is easily observable and Paul lists them in verses 19-21, 26.
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
We see here a list of sexual, religious, social, drinking offenses among other things. We can also see examples of emotional manipulation, special cliques (the cut above club), backbiting, gossiping, making enemies, unchecked anger, etc.
Christian theologian, John Stott, puts it this way, "Christian freedom is freedom FROM sin not freedom TO sin." Before Christ, we did not have the freedom not to sin. As with the Declaration of Independence the real war did not start until independence was declared.
Through Christ, we have unrestrained license to do some things. Instead of indulging in the sinful nature, we are to express our freedom in Christ by being led by the Spirit(16-18). The Holy Spirit gives us freedom's license to express the fruit of the Spirit as Paul writes,
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
We cannot miss that the first of the fruit is love. It is the primary wellspring of joy and peace. These fruit are evidence of our walking in step with the Spirit who keeps us from fulfilling the desires of the sinful nature (16).
We would do well not to forget that the sinful nature and Spirit are now at war. We must choose one or the other. Can you tell how you are doing in this battle? As one commentator put it, “By finding oneself on either list of vices and virtues, one could also identify whether one was led by the Spirit.” (Elwell, Baker Commentary on the Bible, p. 1017)
If we are led by the Spirit, we have no need for the law, because we are fulfilling the law in our expression of love to the Lord through the Spirit. So we can live in an ongoing state of love, joy, and peace. The outworking of this relationship is the fruit of the Spirit. Be mindful that we cannot overcome evil desires through holding to a legalistic mindset.
We should be careful to remember the reason we celebrate The Lord's Supper is to commemorate the work that Christ did to set us free from sin and the law which brings death.
We should also remember to live like free people, not bound by the law or living in with unrestrained license to do as WE please.
Therefore, we Christians should work to express our freedom in Christ in our lives so we may:
1. live lives in unity, serving one another in love
2. refrain from our own sinful desires which cause division
3. follow the Spirit who brings us the freedom of Christ.
Remember, "Christian freedom is freedom from sin not freedom to sin."
As you watch fireworks and festivities this day, remember what the fireworks represent. They represent the bombs bursting in air with which our freedom was bought. They call to mind the battle waged for the freedom we enjoy. They remind us of our nation's Declaration of Independence.
They are not any different in purpose than our Lord’s Table. The bread and the cup represent the broken body and shed blood of our Lord’s body with which our freedom was bought. The elements call to mind the battle waged for the freedom from sin we have in Christ. They remind of our Declaration of Dependence upon our Christ Jesus. As our forefathers, "we pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" to live free in Christ.