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by Stephen Um
Freedom & Deliverance
Today is the Fourth of July. In the United States, we’re celebrating it by remembering the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. It was a statement declaring the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain. John Adams wrote this note to his wife, Abigail, before signing the historic document:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Adams’ predictions of guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations have been a treasured tradition that continues to light the country’s sky from one end to the other. Call it a prophecy or a prediction, year after year Americans blow up millions of fireworks to celebrate our declaration of freedom. With all this fanfare, the statement we would do well to ponder is, “It ought to be commemorated as a day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
A Little History
Adams was a Unitarian, seeing God as one person, the Father, rather than a Trinitarian seeing God as three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was also influenced by deism, which sees God as a far-off deity who built the universe, but does not intervene in human affairs. In this naturalistic view, God is like a watchmaker who set things in motion, and now humankind is left taking care of what is naturally before us. Adams wasn’t a full-on deist though, because he did believe in miracles and to some extent the revelation of the Bible.
He said his religion, which was practically all rules but no gospel, was summed up in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Gregg Frazer calls Adams’ religion “a sort of middle ground between Protestantism and deism” (The Political Theology of the American Founding). Too many churches today are more like John Adams than we’d like to think. It’s a gospel-less, moralistic Christianity without Jesus as God and good news to proclaim. This belief system seems fairly similar to something now called moralistic therapeutic deism. It’s moralistic because you should be a good, moral person in order to feel good about yourself and be happy (therapeutic). It’s deistic because this is all up to you to figure out and do—God isn’t really involved in day-to-day personal events (Soul Searching).
Too many churches today are more like John Adams than we'd like to think.
Back to the Top
In light of this background, let’s focus on his statement: Today ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. What is Adams saying here? Celebrate our freedom by doing serious, dignified, sincere acts of devotion or worship to God. Simple enough. How does this interact with the gospel?
Much like the costliness of America’s freedom, our freedom as Christians was bought on the cross at the ultimate price of Jesus’ blood. John Adams’ statement would then go something like this: celebrate the cross as the day of deliverance by doing sincere acts of worship to God. It’s easy to just jump into the actions of doing something instead of resting in what has been done. Our acts of celebration come out of what has already been accomplished for us on the cross.
A God of Deliverance & Freedom
There are few greater joys than to behold and celebrate the liberation of people from oppression. It has been over 200 years since the declaration was signed, and people are still celebrating strong, but it is only a hint of the amazing freedom God has given his people through Jesus that will last an eternity.
Our acts of celebration come out of what has already been accomplished for us on the cross.
Let’s focus on the freedom that God has given Christians in the gospel every day. Our God is a God of deliverance. In Exodus, he rescued the Israelites from under the oppression of the Egyptians similar to the way he has delivered believers from “the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14). One of the reasons why Jesus came was to declare freedom to the captives (Luke 4:18). “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1), and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
As many would think the opposite, freedom and life happen in God, not outside of him. God can deliver people physically and most of all spiritually from the chains of oppression. Rejoice and celebrate because God has set you free from the bondage and slavery of sin and death through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Live daily out of that freedom (Romans 6:18).