“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. – Luke 1:68-75
Today we celebrate our extraordinary freedom as Americans — a nation of self-governing, self-directed people who too often take for granted our freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, movement and work. In many (most?) countries, people only dream of such a life, as do the Christians who face persecution around the globe.
As Americans who are also Christians, we are probably the freest people in the world, because while our Constitution guarantees us freedom from worldly oppression, our God guarantees us freedom from spiritual oppression. And it’s a freedom we too often take for granted.
The Bible makes clear that God’s primary work is to free us from slavery and oppression. The great Jewish and Christian feasts — Rosh Hashanah, Hanukka, Christmas, Passover and Easter — all celebrate God’s liberating work. In the passage from Luke 1:68-75, above, Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) describes God’s greatest saving work through Jesus Christ.
We are freed through Christ from the hands of our enemies and those who hate us? Who are our enemies? The forces of Satan and the world that keep us from God, as we acknowledge in our Lutheran rite of baptism:
Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the ways of sin that draw you from God?
I renounce them.
As Americans we are free from worldly oppression, yet many of us still live in slavery to the spiritual oppression that comes with the lies that defy God, rebel against God and draw us from God:
-Our true security comes from the power of our sword.
-Our true measure of wealth is our financial net worth.
-The real purpose of my life is to find personal happiness.
-More material goods will make me happier.
-I live only for myself, and my family.
-Because the world is fair, people get what they deserve.
-Because the world is fair, I deserve the things I have.
Zechariah reveals the true purpose of our lives, the reason why God frees us from the hands of our enemies. “That we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”
That’s it! To serve God. To live centered in God, so that we may grow into the people God who live to serve God, in obedience to the two great commandments that we to love our God with all our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As disciples we are free to follow the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations.
On Independence Day we celebrate our freedoms as Americans, the chief of which is to worship our God. So there’s nothing holding us back from embracing the spiritual freedom that God gives us, to serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Every day we can celebrate our spiritual independence by renouncing all the forces that defy God, the powers that rebel against God and the ways of sin that draw us from God. How will you celebrate your spiritual independence?
(Photo © GIS – Fotolia.com)