A message presented Sunday, July 5, 2020 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron, OH:
For audio of this message, please click here. This was outdoors on the church’s front lawn, so please excuse the excessive traffic noise.
When I was very young, I always looked forward to the 4th of July celebration. When you’re still a child, the most important thing about the 4th of July was hot weather, cookouts, deviled eggs, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, baked beans with molasses (notice that a lot of this was all about the food), and you could wash it all down with soda pop and Kool-Aid on ice. You might even get a bomb pop or two, or a fruity popsicle. After all of the belly-swelling food, you would hear the occasional “pop” of a firecracker across the street or somewhere nearby, and one year, my family piled into the car and went down to Edgewater Park for what was arguably one of the biggest fireworks shows in the Cleveland, if not the entire Midwest. We were parked near Captain Frank’s Seafood restaurant at East 9th Street with hundreds of other cars. The evening sky was starry and clear, and I experienced blast after blast of the largest and most colorful firework displays that I had ever seen. The display lasted for about an hour, and it was incredible. It was already a special day for me that was only surpassed by Christmas morning.
As I got older, I learned more about the meaning of Independence Day. I learned that it was more than just food and fireworks. I learned about the significance of the day of July 4, 1776. From my recollection, it started by watching the movie musical “1776” when I was in junior high school, and it continued when I took a United States history class in high school. I also learned to associate the firework displays each year to the line in the Star Spangled Banner that spoke of the “bombs bursting in the air.” It was very important for me to understand the reasons how and why our nation was born. The primary reason is within the name Independence Day. The Continental Congress of the thirteen American colonies voted on July 2, 1776 to become independent of King George III of the British monarchy. After the vote and some revisions to the Declaration of Independence, July 4 was the first official day of the United States of America. 1
I went through this little exercise to show the importance of knowing the meaning behind the different things that we participate in. You might be surprised to learn that a recent Marist Poll in 2017 reflected that about 1 out of 4 Americans did not know that the United States declared its independence from Great Britain. Of the 1 in 4, which is 23 percent, 8 percent of them mentioned another country altogether, and 15 percent of them were unsure. In the event that you may think this is a peculiar result, this same survey had very similar results 6 years earlier. Here’s another tidbit from the survey: Three in 10 Americans did not know the year when the United States declared its independence. 11 percent of residents mentioned another year other than 1776, and 19 percent were unsure. 2
The evidence suggests that a number of people participate in historical events that may be of significant importance without knowing the meaning behind them. And this can continue year after year without any need to gain greater understanding of why the event is important. Let’s face it, a lot of people KNOW that the 4th of July is a holiday, and that it is a national holiday, but beyond the cookout, the food and the fireworks, that may be as far as the understanding will go.
Let’s look at this a little more closely. And let’s broaden our scope beyond the 4th of July. Let’s look at life as we know it today. When looking at the big picture and your place within it, I want you to see how important it is for you to seek out information to help you to deal with life, and to not settle for your own understanding of what is taking place. There are two passages of Scripture that come to mind:
Proverbs 3:1-8 ESV
Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart
1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
And then there is this passage that takes your faith and trust in God’s teaching and brings it to completion:
Paul and Silas in Berea
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
So the message today surrounds the importance, on this Independence Day weekend, as to how a person who desires to know Jesus Christ can do more than go through the motions:
1. Listen to God’s teaching—it is relevant to everything that you do and everything you will experience.
2. Trust in His teaching—because sometimes seeing isn’t believing. He wants you to believe beyond what you can see.
3. Test His Word—because application of His Word provides the ability to deduce and a conclusion supporting what you believe.
And with this information, we can look more effectively at what keeps us from doing these three things. Guess what keeps us going through the motions in life and not asking questions of God about our experiences? Plain and simple, it is sin.
What does sin do to us? It certainly limits us. In fact, it hinders us. In our own flesh, we are comfortable with sin. In our sin, there is no room for God’s Word and no opportunity for fellowship with Him. The experience of sin is anything but freedom. Sin keeps us in bondage to Satan and puts us in the company of those in the world who choose to remain ignorant to Christ and what He represents to us.
On this Independence Day weekend, it is time for us to recognize the importance of independence from sin. Jesus wants you to see the importance of freedom from sin.
- Freedom from sin requires faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
- Freedom from sin requires faith and trust in His teaching.
- Freedom from sin requires searching His Word and applying it to receive its maximum effect on your life.
You recognize this freedom from the presence of the Holy Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Independence from sin means freedom from sin.
This leads to our first point, where faith and trust in Jesus is a necessity to recognize this freedom.
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Free indeed. Freedom in Christ overcomes the bondage of sin.
A person who lives in the flesh does not realize their plight, and even that their sin could lead to disaster. The only remedy for sin is Jesus Christ.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Independence Day in the United States represents freedom from the British monarchy, and the Revolutionary War waged beginning in 1775 between the Americans and the British was to maintain freedom. The Americans had to fight for freedom. In contrast, the freedom that we experience in a relationship with Jesus Christ is a gift. A free gift of freedom. No need for a war or a battle to receive a gift. It doesn’t cost you anything.
His freedom is all about freedom from sin. Freedom from its penalty. Freedom from condemnation.
So with this freedom now comes responsibility.
Galatians 5:1, 13-14
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The second area of this freedom pertains to trusting in His teaching through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the Book of Romans Chapter 6, the entire chapter discusses this concept of freedom from sin, and how our responsibility to live for a purpose in Jesus Christ needs to be all about who we are as believers. He died for our sin in order that we may live for Him, and as we live for Him, we are to embrace this freedom with reverence for His sacrifice for us. We embrace this freedom by trusting in what He teaches us and resisting those things that keep our hearts and minds enslaved.
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Because of Jesus, we are free from the encumbrance of sin. Christ desires for you to not allow the world to bring you to a place where you remain enslaved, and as a result, live in unrighteousness.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Freedom is a gift from God because He loves us. We live in Christ under righteousness because of His grace.
Do you sense His grace in your life?
Do you sense growth in your life because of His freeing presence?
Here is the third point of this message: To live for Christ and grow in His presence. We are to live in obedience to His teachings; in other words, He wants you to live in freedom and grow as an example before others.
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
So we see that true freedom involves a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. This freedom assures a successful life in Christ and a life with Him in eternity. Paul uses the term “slaves of righteousness” in order to make the point that we all follow something. It is certainly better for all of us to follow Jesus Christ in righteousness then to live as a slave to sin, and living as a slave to sin only leads to an ending that you really don’t want.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Slaves to sin will ultimately die in their sin. Freedom in Christ releases a former slave of sin to a place of fellowship and eternal life in Jesus Christ.
How does this happen? All it takes is for you to know Him, to honor Him, to trust Him and to believe in Him.
- It requires faith in Jesus.
- It requires trust in His Word.
- It requires living according to His Word.
This is your freedom from sin. When you believe in Jesus Christ for the very first time, that day is your Independence Day. You are no longer dying in sin. You are free in Christ. It is His gift to you for all eternity.
If you do not know Jesus Christ in this way, your day of independence from sin is right in front of you.
What day is your Independence Day from sin? Do you know what day it is? My Independence Day was in June of 1986. I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Lord and my Savior.
Let freedom reign in your hearts and minds. You have the power of freedom in Christ. Live in such a manner that all who you meet will see you as a good and faithful servant of Jesus Christ.
You are free indeed.
1 Wikipedia contributors. (2020, June 24). Independence Day (United States). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:09, July 1, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Independence_Day_(United_States)&oldid=964334529
2 Marist Poll (2020). 7/4: Don’t Know Much About History…Home of the Marist Poll. Retrieved 1 July 2020, from http://maristpoll.marist.edu/74-dont-know-much-about-history/#sthash.Ypnn3Dht.dpb