In 1983 I had the privilege of traveling with Dr. Charles Kirkpatrick who was then General Secretary for Free Methodist World Missions. Through a series of circumstances God had enabled me to become a link in contacting the leadership of the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship. These were pastors and congregations who had been disenfranchised by the Hungarian State Church and who were then basically homeless having lost churches and parsonages which had been taken away from them by their government.
Some really great things happened on the trip and now we have a seminary in Buda Pest and a strong Free Methodist presence there. But I will never forget the moment when we landed at the Buda Pest airport.
We had taken off from Sweden for the last leg of our trip where I had been on a Swedish chocolate buying binge just prior to take off! As our plane rolled up to the terminal I looked out my window to see soldiers with automatic rifles standing at the foot of each plane’s stairway. I suddenly realized I wasn’t in Kansas any more!
This was especially confirmed later that night when driving to our host’s apt. we were stopped by police and had to show our papers.
…Just like in some Cold War spy movie!
These and other experiences from that visit in what was then known as an Iron Curtain country have given me a deep appreciation for the independence we enjoy in this country.
Today our nation celebrates that independence and much will be rightly made of it.
We thank God today for those founders who courageously pursued a vision of human government which may genuinely be called enlightened and unlike anything known before it. We also pay homage to the thousands of Americans which have sacrificed themselves to protect our independence in conflicts at home and abroad. Our heartfelt prayer today should be God bless America…God bless our leaders and our people with the wisdom and courage to live the right and just way in this fallen world of ours.
As Prov. 14:34 says,
Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.
And that is the issue isn’t it?...Sin?
No person or people can be free if they are not free from sin. No one is genuinely independent when bound by sin.
When God intervened to deliver his people from bondage in Egypt God did so by rescuing them from the powers of the gods of Egypt. The people’s salvation was realized as they discovered the living God and were led out to follow him in faith and obedience. This transformed these former slaves into the independent nation of Israel. Their freedom came through their relationship with God and whenever they forsook that relationship they found themselves in bondage once again.
This weekend millions of people across our nation will use the 4th as a reason to celebrate. Whether they will be genuinely thankful for America and the freedoms they enjoy here or just use the holiday as an excuse for self indulgence is up to them. But unless there is acknowledgment of sin and the need for repentance, individually and nationally, the celebration will be hollow at best.
As the Lords says 2 Chron. 7:14,
…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Individual and national sin is linked for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
This is why the ultimate source for independence is not a human vision or document, but the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. God’s Word, not the words of man, is the way.
As we celebrate those patriots who suffered under the burden of foreign tyranny and sought to bring a solution to save this nation from it…to declare its’ independence from such power…let us not forget the One who came to bear the burden of the weight of everyone’s sin and to offer himself as the means whereby God can deliver us from its’ tyranny.