Pastor Steve Brown
Greetings to the Saints of St. Mark!
36 [Jesus said,] "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
America seems synonymous with freedom. I see this freedom expressed by a couple I read about in the newspaper recently who recently came to Greenwood on vacation. They live in Ohio and had thrown a dart at a map. Lo and behold – it landed on Greenwood! This couple was free to throw a dart (no one told them or made them) knowing wherever it landed in the approximately 3.1 million square miles of the contiguous United States (and maybe Hawaii and Alaska, too) they would be free to travel there (anytime and anyplace) without limitations and restrictions. It’s the American dream to be free to do what we want when we want it and however we choose to do it.
We even celebrate the Fourth of July as the establishment of our freedom. But actually, it was an official statement, a declaration, of freedom made that day. It was preceded by almost a year and a half of deliberations of freedom, or what kind of freedom, the colonies needed. In truth, the Declaration of Independence was a nation’s stance of freedom from British rule and proclaimed freedom for its citizens in terms of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It was declared a little over a year after the Revolutionary War began and seven years before the outcome of the war was decided. It would take that war, and the sacrifices of many persons, to “purchase” that freedom, to make the words a reality. They deemed it a price worth paying. And ever since we have declared freedom as an American birthright.
I appreciate the freedom we have in America. Yet the reality is that freedom does not determine what kind of life, liberty, and happiness people will choose. The opportunity for these things is available but there is no guarantee they will be experienced by the choices people make. A life that “could do anything” can be limited and lost by bitterness, envy, resentment, fear, and anger. Liberty is expressed by the personal power to choose and decide one’s actions but can be diminished and thwarted by habits, addictions, and layers of the past. Happiness can be pursued but the ability to obtain it and experience it can seem elusive. Sorrow, pain, failures, and false pleasures can block the way. Happiness, found it what’s happening, is a subjective descriptor and many have pursued a path and climbed the ladder only to discover it was leaning against the wrong wall or exacted too high a price to be achieved. But there is a freedom, a greater freedom, than even America’s
Jesus Christ comes to all persons around the world and even to those of us in America. He comes offering freedom of a different kind. He offers life, a freedom from the fear and deliverance from death and the ability to live outside its shadow. He offers liberty, the chance at new beginnings and forgiveness and acceptance beyond our mistakes and failures. No longer are we defined or limited by our actions but we are given a new life in a relationship with Him. And greater than the pursuit of happiness is the gifts and fruit of joy, peace, hope, and love. These are found in His Kingdom and received as we walk with Him.
The freedom Jesus gives came at a great price, too. The cross was where it was purchased. It was not for a nation but for all people Jesus fought His fight with sin and death. Easter Sunday is the declaration of this freedom. It is ours for the choosing. It is ours to receive. We have the freedom to choose Jesus. He has already freely chosen us.