Freedom. Isn’t that a beautiful word? It is one of the most precious words in any human language. Although we often ignore or abuse our freedom, we are reminded of how precious it is whenever we see people with limited or no freedom.
In the United States, the 4th of July is uniquely associated with freedom. On this day we celebrate our freedom as a nation. We acknowledge that we have not always lived up to our ideal of freedom for all our citizens. There are those who attempt to use our past failures to bring division and conflict. We certainly are not perfect, but we have done more to allow more people to experience freedom than any other nation on earth.
While the 4th of July celebrates our political and civil freedom, there is an even greater freedom. The Bible tells us that all humans are held captive by sin’s power. One day Jesus and his disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee to the Gentile region on the other side (Luke 8:26-39). Upon their arrival, they were met by a wild man—a man so enslaved to sin that he was a menace to society and to himself. Local authorities had attempted to control him by binding him with chains, but all their attempts were futile. His bondage ultimately drove him away from society to live among the burial tombs.
This probably isn’t a picture that any of us would want associated with ourselves. We don’t see ourselves as a menace to society. We don’t see ourselves as raging like a wild man. We don’t see ourselves in this kind of bondage. And, to a degree, we are correct. We don’t have the outward manifestations of bondage and corruption that this man had. But long before this man exhibited these outward manifestations, he was enslaved to inner sin. He didn’t transform into a wild man overnight. What was his life like in those years prior to his maniac behavior? Was he a respected businessman? A leader in the community? A husband and father at home? On the outside, everything looked in order. Yet he was already enslaved. He already had chains binding him—not on the outside yet, but definitely on the inside.
Although we will never be driven to the extents of corruption that this man was, we must be able to identify with him. We must be able to see that, like him, we have inner chains that enslave us.
So where do we find freedom from these inner chains? One of Jesus’ first preaching opportunities came at a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). After he was handed a scroll to read from, Jesus found the place where the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah (Isaiah 61:1-2). Part of this quotation reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives….” (Luke 4:18 esv). Completing his reading, Jesus announced that “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” You would think that this would be welcome news to these Jews. However, they soon attempted to throw Jesus off a high cliff to kill him. He was the only one who could give them true freedom but they rejected him.As we celebrate this 4th of July, be thankful for the nation that has provided the political and civil liberties that we have. But even more, let’s recognize and surrender to the only one who can give us real freedom—Jesus Christ.
Senior Pastor, Gary O’Neal