Reflections on Another Birthday
Written by Pastor Jim Law
Independence Day has been a special holiday for me no doubt because of childhood memories as it came a day before my birthday. Those early years of my life were marked by special memories of sparklers, fireworks, cookouts, swimming, and birthday cake. As I grow older, the 4th of July is special for different reasons.
Yesterday we celebrated the 241st anniversary of the United States of America. We should be grateful for the manifold blessings that God has poured out upon this country. The freedoms we enjoy to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the envy of many in this world.
Our nation’s history is not perfect. There is no golden age we can claim. Our legacy while amazing in the history of human civilizations is not a clean legacy, but this only underscores a biblical worldview that every nation needs the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need the King of Kings to reign over us, and we long for the day when the governments and nations of this world will bow before their rightful Lord. Until then, our charge is clear in making known the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Eric Metaxas commented this week, “To love your country doesn’t mean to agree with all the bad stuff, but it means to praise it for the good stuff.” Indeed, we have many things for which to be thankful, and perhaps at the top of the list is a religious liberty that should be used by the church for the spread of the Gospel. Regularly I am reminded of this liberty when I ascend the steps to my pulpit on the Lord’s Day. I thank God for the privilege of leading worship openly and unmolested by government. I know that it is not a given that it will always be this way, and I also know it is not that way elsewhere.
I travel routinely to places that are hostile to biblical Christianity and believers in those places serve and worship Christ under challenging conditions that often call for the greatest of sacrifices. Some years back I was invited to preach the morning message in a house church in an undisclosed location in East Asia. It was on a sweltering July Sunday morning. The room was 15 x 20 with 100 people packed in the space with no air conditioning. For security reasons I was ushered in briskly and preached through translator for forty-five minutes. It was one of the sweetest preaching moments I have ever known. The spiritual hunger was indescribable.
The challenge for followers of Jesus Christ, to quote Charles Colson, is to live among “Kingdoms in Conflict.” What is our role as followers of Jesus Christ in a secular state? What is the charge of the church among the nations of this world? How are believers to live in their neighborhoods and among the nations? In surveying the New Testament, we are to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s (Mark 12:17). We are to live convictional lives that serve as spiritual salt to a rotting and decaying world (Matthew 5:13). We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). We are to be a people of prayer for those who are in authority over us that we might live a quiet and peaceable life serving Christ. (I Timothy 2:2). The 4th of July is an annual reminder to use my freedom and liberty for these goals, and I want to lead my church to do the same. I am praying for a spiritual renewal in America that would grip the heart of our great nation and advance Christ’s Kingdom which will one day be seen in all of its glory.
On July 4th we celebrate an earthly citizenship secured in the United States of America, however as a follower of Jesus Christ my ultimate “citizenship is in heaven…, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20,21)