So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Like millions of Americans this week, my mind is on the Fourth of July holiday and what it represents: our freedom as a nation. This freedom is a precious thing, bought with the sweat, toil and blood of countless Americans who initially fought to obtain it (Revolutionary War), as well as those who have fought to secure it in the centuries since that fateful day in 1776.
Gratitude without measure wells up in my heart when I consider the brave men and women of the American military who, this Fourth of July, will be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to combat the tyranny of terrorism. These soldiers stand in the train of valiant warriors who fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. Each of these conflicts—while unique in themselves—shared the common goal of protecting American freedom. Today's battles are no different.
But even as I prize my freedom as an American, I am moved to consider a greater freedom—my freedom in Christ. It is the freedom that comes with being a disciple of Jesus Christ. "If you abide in my word," our Lord declares, "you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32).
This statement was shocking to Jesus' audience. These proud men thought they already had all the freedom they needed by virtue of being "offspring of Abraham" (8:33). Jesus proceeds to point them beyond any national, social or religious freedom they might enjoy to the freedom that comes through His person and work: "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (8:34,36). Contrary to what Jesus' listeners thought, they were in bondage to sin and subject to the tyranny of it.
Commenting on this passage of Scripture Leon Morris writes, "People do not always, or even usually, realize that they are in bondage. They tend to rest in some fancied position of privilege, national, social or religious. So these Jews, proud of their religion, did not even know their need to be free."
Even as Christians we can fall prey to the temptation to trust in other things for our freedom from the tyranny of sin: status, money, good works, associations, etc. But the true disciple finds freedom in Christ and Christ alone.
What am I trusting in today?
The Fourth of July is a wonderful time to consider our freedom—as Americans and as Christians. Our national freedom is precious, but our freedom in Christ is of infinite worth.
The great hymn writer Charles Wesley was undoubtedly moved by his freedom in Christ when in 1738 he penned this stanza:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. The saving truth that Jesus speaks of in John 8:32 brings ultimate freedom—freedom from sin and death and the devil; freedom from a life of futility and an eternity of wrath. It is freedom from the tyranny of hate and bitterness and cruelty. It is the freedom to love God and neighbor.
May this "Declaration of Independence" be on my lips and in my heart this Fourth of July holiday.
As you celebrate the Fourth of July, think of creative ways to make the "Declaration" of freedom in Christ to family and friends. How can this holiday be a bridge to our loved ones to share the gospel?
Mike Pohlman serves as the senior pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Bellingham, Washington. Mike is a former church planter in the Pacific Northwest, and served for three years as the executive producer of The Albert Mohler Program, a nationally syndicated radio show dedicated to Christianity and culture. Mike is a PhD Candidate in American church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writing his dissertation on radio and the American church during the period 1920 to 1950. Mike is husband to Julia and father to four wonderful children: Samuel (11), Anna (9), John (8) and Michael (3). When not pastoring, Mike loves sports, music, and hanging out with his family.