Two-hundred and forty years ago today, fifty-six men signed a document that was the equivalent of signing their own arrest warrant. If arrested, these men would be tried for treason, have all their earthly possessions confiscated, and mostly likely be executed.
Why did the signers of the Declaration of Independence decide that liberty was more important than anything else? What motivated these men to “ mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” How did they come to the conclusion that liberty, above all, was worthy dying?
They believed that liberty was a right that was self-evident to all men and that it was endowed to them by God. We have liberty as long as we have life. However, liberty means freedom with responsibility; it does not mean license to sin. Samuel Adams explains:
“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
Liberty is secured by a self-governing people, people whose passions are controlled by a moral standard. This moral standard derives from the knowledge of a righteousness attained by following a righteous code. Specifically, our Founding Fathers knew that a nation such as America would be possible by only a people who had a biblical worldview:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams
Liberty itself is a biblical principle. While it is wired into our hearts to be free, it is so because we were designed to worship God and to live a life free from the ravages of sin. In His first sermon Jesus read from the Scriptures the purpose of His ministry:
“And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’” (Luke 4:17-19)
The most oppressive and ravaging affliction a human can suffer is sin. It is sin that brings physical death; it is Jesus who rescues us from that death. Jesus also rescues us from the guilt of sin, allowing us to walk in liberty. When we are right with God through our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are truly free:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
This is an interesting concept that Paul is introducing. As born-again Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. If we allow the Holy Spirit preeminence in our lives, Paul says we have liberty. Matthew Henry explains it is because of the Gospel that we have:
“…freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and from the servitude of corruption; liberty of access to God, and freedom of speech in prayer. The heart is set at liberty, and enlarged, to run the ways of God’s commandments.”
Running in the ways of God’s commandments is only possible if we seek to learn and live His ways. It means I study God’s Word and then apply it to my everyday life:
“And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)
If we are to be good American citizens, then we must align ourselves with the standard set before us by our Founding Fathers and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. This means we must first start with our Bibles.
I encourage each of you to read the Declaration of Independence today. Tomorrow, I encourage you to begin anew studying your Bible.
Happy Independence Day!
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Copyright © 2016 David Jeffers