Today, as we remember the birth of this country, and the blood shed to establish the fundamentals of religious freedom, we are thankful for the vision and the courage of those Founding Fathers who lived on the cutting edge of what God was doing in their generation, as God used these men – each imperfect in his own person, and collectively, so often, imperfect – yet used by God to establish a nation which proclaimed God as Creator and as the source of human rights, chief among them, being the rights needed to assure religious freedom.
The United States of America was born on the 4th of July, 1776, by the publication of the Declaration of Independence in which the American colonists, listed their grievances against the rule of King George III of Great Britain and declared themselves, and their land, to be free of the rule of King George III. In so doing, they declared themselves determined to engage in war as a means of self-defense in order to be free. Indeed, at the closing line of the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers took an oath, pledging, to this claim of freedom, their “lives, property
and sacred honor” That is how much they yearned for freedom – they pledged it all and so many of them gave it all. In a war that lasted seven years, but had been going on for more than a decade before, our Founding Fathers led the American colonists to a successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War. It was formally ended by the 1783 Treaty of Paris, but the fight was effectively over in 1781 when British General Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.
Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our country 234 years ago, we remember those immortal words from the Declaration of Independence, “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.”
Then, in 1787 upon the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and in 1791 with the ratification of its initial ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights, of the Unites States of America, those individual human rights, generally referenced in the Declaration of Independence, were laid out with obvious priority:
The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble , and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This Amendment does not require separation of church and state, it only forbids the enactment of a law which establishes a religion, like the Church of England, the Anglican Church, which is the official state religion of England, and has been since its establishment by King Henry VIII, by which he made the King of England the head of the Church of England, so he could control doctrine and policy. Other wise, this First Amendment only declares freedoms – all essential to religious freedom – freedoms of the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech, and of peaceable assembly. We have so much to celebrate today: because we still have freedom of speech, although the Government threatens to take away that freedom from the airways, and then we must ask what is its next agenda to freeze dissent to anti-Christian governmental viewpoints and policies. We have much to fear about the direction of religious freedom in America, because it is not just the occasional fringe zealot anymore, but whole towns (as in Michigan), school boards, counties and states, even Canada, are depriving Christians of their free expression of religion, at least of Christian religion. But God is sovereign and we pray His will to be done in our Nation, and through us as the conservators of religious freedom.
And we do have remedies for dealing with the deprivation of our religious and other freedoms. Every available remedy should be preceded by and bathed in prayer, and waiting upon the Lord, and continuing prayer, patience and obedience, with no remedy sought except by God’s direction.
The First Amendment also assures us of the right to petition our Government for redress of our grievances. Surely, we are privileged to know that we have that right, and that is our first process, our first remedy, for dealing with a government that deprives us of our unalienable rights granted by our God, the Creator of the universe, of Nature.
The second process, the second remedy, for dealing with a government that deprives us of our unalienable rights granted by our God, the Creator, is set forth in the Declaration of Independence: “to dissolve the political bands which have connected (us) with another people”. If our Government will not respond to petitions for redress of grievances, then secession of Christians or emigration of ‘Christians is the next way.
The third process, the third remedy, is the one to which our Founding Fathers were forced to resort, and that is the right of self- defense, a right from our Creator, by which we defend and protect the rights, the unalienable rights, to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. In my application of these rights to my life, I accord the right of religious freedom as chief among these rights, and chief in the ways in which I find Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This right, in next priority in the Bill of Rights, is set forth in the Second Amendment: “. . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In two major decisions within the past year or so, one arising from Washington, DC and the other from Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed this right of self defense.
My prayer is that we never have to petition our government, or dissolve our political bands with it, or engage in self-defense of our inalienable rights, but I speak today to inform you of your rights, in respect to religious freedom, and of your privileges as a citizen of American to exercise your religious freedom as you choose (with one exception I shall address shortly), and to speak freely and publicly about your religious views, and to assemble to share and speak about your, our, religious views.
The one exception to this is set forth in our recent sermon concerning religious freedom, and that is a self-evident limitation on the right of religious freedom: you have the right to evangelize and exercise all aspects of your religion, as long as you respect the right of others to do so, and when your religion, or the way you exercise your religion, prevents me from so exercising my religion, then the law cannot permit, does not legalize, the free exercise of your religion. Right now we see this principle applicable to Islam and secular humanism and socialism and communism, as religions which would prevent us from the free exercise of our religion.
Psalm 119: 41-48 gives us a clear picture, in words, of religious freedom: “Let your mercies come also to me, O Lord – Your salvation according to Your word. So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for I have hoped in Your ordinances. So shall I keep Your law continually, forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts, and I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed. And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love. My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes.” We see here not only the personal, internalized worship and meditation and delight in freely worshipping the Lord, we also see public speech, in assembled areas, as the Psalmist speaks before kings, and we see obedience of God’s ordinances and commands as the Psalmist is obedient in the full walk of his life, as he, Verse 45, says, “And I will walk at liberty . . . .”
Freedom does not truly ring anywhere unless there is freedom of religion, the freedom to choose how you will live and spend your life on earth and, in that process, to choose where you will spend eternity, and under what conditions. That’s freedom, real freedom of choice and real freedom of religion – in those choices are set all moral compasses (there is no morality without religion), and therefore all choices of conduct and speech in life.
To attain, and to sustain, freedom, and religious freedom, is an act, and a lifetime of acts, of stewardship of that freedom, and of religious freedom. It requires vigilance, vision and courage. Vigilance, because you have to be aware, you have to beware, of your circumstances and know whether even the government (supposedly the protector of your religious freedom) is depriving you, or planning to deprive you, of your religious freedom. Vision, because you have to know what real religious freedom consists in and what it must be in order to be religious freedom. Courage, as you lean not on your own understanding but Trust only in the Lord, because you must be willing to choose, even at the risk of your personal Life, Liberty and Sacred Honor, to fight for religious freedom, through the three ways accorded to you: petition of the government, dissolution of political bands with the government, and self-defense. But do not forget God is sovereign and to stay focused on Him and not to be distracted by the circumstances of governmental or other threats to you religious freedom. Never forget that, Philippians 1: 21, “. . . to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Please, enjoy this day, this Sabbath which is also the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our country, and its religious freedoms, but take it seriously amidst the recreation, the holiday anniversary, the fireworks, please take it seriously. Keep your Vision, be Vigilant for the day may come whcn a government threatens your Vision, and be Christians of Courage. Let fr eedom ring!
God bless you, and amen+