Rev. Stephen Snodgrass
Heritage of Freedom
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”GALATIANS 5:1
The citizen of the United States of America is one of the most envied individuals in the world. That envy is displayed in many ways and demonstrated in the most dramatic methods. Many have come to our blessed nation because it is the icon of prosperity and freedom. Many who live in countries where freedom is a dream have risked everything to gain entrance into “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The “American Dream” is more than a phrase, it has become an experience by untold millions.
While many envy the American citizen, there are also those who despise us. America is despised because of what she represents. Words like, “one nation, under God,” and “with liberty and justice for all,” pierce the black evil heart of those who place no value on man’s soul and man’s freedoms. Dictators around the world live at ease while they keep their people suppressed in horrible conditions that they might have power over them.
While this great land that we call ours has her faults, I can assure you there is no other place that I would rather be. I’m proud to be called an American. I also feel that it is important for us to look back to our roots and the heritage of freedom that has been handed to us so carefully by those who fought and gave their lives for what we enjoy today. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “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.” Later, as the signers of this same Declaration of Independence lined up to place their names on the dotted line, they each knew that there would be consequences for doing so. While they knew that freedom would come at a high cost, possibly their own lives, they believed that it would be worth it for generations to come. We are a part of the generations that are privileged to enjoy the price they paid over two hundred years ago. I for one do not hold their sacrifice lightly. In fact, I treasure it. As America has grown older, she has had her share of enemies and has been forced to defend her freedoms and the freedoms of other in many lands and waters; but the cause has been just. Recently, the enemies of our freedoms have come from within us, but we must continue to fight just as our forefathers fought.
The heritage of the American is a great one, but even greater than that is the heritage of the child of God. The enemy of our souls would love nothing more than to defeat and take away the freedoms of the child of God. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he seems to challenge from the sacred page, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (5:1) Knowing of the heritage of this freedom and liberty, he was challenging the young church to hold their ground and not give an inch to the enemy. Paul’s challenge was to a people who had been trampled by the iron foot of the Roman empire. But regardless of their material or physical state they had been set free spiritually by Christ. Paul knew about this bondage, for while he was writing, armor-clad soldiers paced by the door of his cell. He also knew of the bondage that Jews were under to the law, and he was doing his best to instruct them about the law of liberty. Six times Paul gives his rally cry, “Stand Fast!” Plant your feet! Hold your ground! This picture would remind you of the way that the Romans fought when in battle. When facing the onslaught of the enemy, they would simply lock their shields together, plant their feet firmly on the ground and offer to the enemy only a solid wall of steel and resolution. Today we are facing the enemy, and we must take that same stand. There must not be an ounce of weakness in our resolution. We must guard the truth and stand against error. Our spiritual freedom came at great price, the life’s blood of our Saviour, and it will cost us something to keep it. We will have to deny self. We will be called upon to sacrifice our own desires. Yes, freedom is costly, but it is still priceless.
After losing my father, just a few months ago, I began to reflect on my heritage and what has been handed down to me. While I treasure my good heritage, I’m not content to just reflect upon it and do nothing to preserve it for the next generation. What we have today came at a great price for those before us. We experienced wonderful liberty in worship, because someone sacrificed in the place of prayer. We enjoyed a wonderful place to worship, because someone sacrificed financially. The danger that I see for my generation is accepting what has been proudly handed to us and doing nothing to maintain it and preserve it so we can have something to pass on to the generation after us.
Also, while looking at my heritage, there are two things that stand out-liberty in worship and liberty in giving. There was a day when our services were characterized by the shouts of the saints and the conviction of the sinners. Sadly, today the church members sit and stare while the Gospel is being preached; and sadly, the sinners leave the same way that they come …hungry. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty…” I can also remember a day when church expansion was on the move, and it was unheard of for a new church not to be started somewhere in a year’s time. But today, we have become too busy to donate our time and too strapped financially to donate our money to help further the cause of Christ. We must take a closer look at what it took for us to have what we enjoy today, and remember that it will cost nothing less than that to keep it.
I challenge you, just as Paul challenged the early believers, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” We are a free people and Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed...” Freedom from sin’s bondage. Freedom from grave’s victory. Freedom death’s sting. Yes, I’m proud to be an American, but even more, I’m blessed to be a child of God.