Freedom and July 4th

Written by Brandy Wallis 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance.”  –Psalm 33:12
Happy Independence week! As our nation prepares to celebrate, we will see everything covered in red, white, and blue…mixed with fireworks, freedom, and BBQ! Family traditions, desperately needed vacations, and sweet summertime memories will flood our social media feeds for the next several days. All of this reminds us that even with our issues and disagreements, the United States of America is still the greatest place, on this planet, to live and we are blessed to call her home!  
Freedom…a concept many of our ancestors laid their lives down for and far too many today seem to have forgotten about. And, unfortunately, it is a civil liberty not afforded to all nations and all people!
The remembrance of freedom this week really got me thinking about the gift that you and I have been given through Christ. Our freedom in Christ which, by the way, is the only freedom that can never be taken away, is not balanced on economic conditions, political climate, or everyday struggles of life. Our freedom in Christ is based on our Creator’s love for us and the ultimate sacrifice He was willing to make for you and I to save us from a life of sin and eternal damnation.  
One of the most memorized scriptures throughout all of the Bible reminds us of this sacrifice. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This small scripture reminds us that Christ paid the ultimate price for our freedom and that anyone who wants to walk in the abundance of Christ's freedom is welcome to receive it!  
For many people these concepts are difficult, at best, to grasp. So let’s spend a few minutes analyzing what scripture has to say about these very things.  
First off, Christ paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Who in their right mind would lay their life down so that a complete stranger may live? A spouse or child, sure, we understand that one! A family member, we get it. We can even understand a dear friend. But complete strangers? That one is hardest of all to wrap our minds around.  Why? Oftentimes, it is because we are unable to consider people in the same light that God considers us. Humanity views people as independent components and strangers of each other. The world does its best to pit us against one another instead of creating a culture of unity and family (funny how the ways of the world always fall contrary to the ways of our God). But God views all people, regardless of nationality, race, or creed as His beloved children. After all, He created each of us alike. In the book of Genesis, we are reminded that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). And as His most prized creation, He never had to count the cost of giving up His son Jesus so that you and I could have a way of life everlasting. Can you imagine what our world would look like if we were able to see our neighbors and strangers as brothers and sisters instead of enemies? How about if we just chose to live out the two greatest commandments in scripture, which are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and soul and then love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39)? As believers, it should be our mission to love differently that the world loves, to love the way Christ loves!
Next, there is an abundance of freedom in Christ and it’s available to anyone who wants it. Why is this important? Let me share a little bit of my story with you and maybe it’ll resonate with you! You see, before I surrendered my heart to Jesus on October 31, 1999, my life was much different. I was constantly trying to fill the voids and gaps in my heart with all of the things the world said I needed in order to be happy. I was living proof that “do whatever makes you happy” will never truly make you happy. Always trying to fill a void that nothing on this earth was ever meant to fill. I found myself in a constant pattern of worldly pleasures mixed with lies, deceptions, cover-ups for the lies, self medicating to numb the pain of my reality, trying to live up to everyone’s expectations, looking the part, being everything everyone else needed me to be, and caught in an endless, repetitive cycle. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. The chaos never slowed. Then, one day, the agony of trying to figure out a better way to live my life hit me in the face. I fell to the ground and boldly proclaimed, I can’t do this anymore! You see, the weight, no, the bondage of my sinful life had finally become more than I could bear or wanted to balance anymore. It was at that moment that I met my Savior at an altar. 
After that moment, I began to see things differently. Things that I thought had once brought me “happiness” had actually brought about nothing other than bondage! Activities that I had once “enjoyed,” I realized were nothing more than carrots tied on the end of a string that would never lead me to the prize. When I realized that God loved me and accepted me just the way I was, nothing else mattered! I wasn’t concerned with opinions of others about my new lifestyle or the disappointed looks on the faces of those who claimed to have a vested interest in my life. I began to see bondage for what it really was and now knew what true freedom was. Freedom in Jesus is only fully understood when we leave sin behind. I love the book of John and two of my favorite scriptures are found there about this very topic. In chapter 8, we have these life-giving scriptures breathed to us. First in verse 32, we read, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Then, if you keep reading a few verses down to verse 36, Jesus says,  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Who better to teach on the truth of freedom than the one who gave His life to provide a way for you and me?  
So today, if you’re reading this and you are still struggling with your battles of bondage, can I encourage you to give it all to Jesus? Lay your mess at His feet and watch Him work miracles out of your nonsense!  
Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” –Psalm 118:5
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