Summary: A sermon prepared for Independence Day Sunday, the thesis of this message is that true, real freedom is found only in Jesus.
--Galatians 5:1, 13-26
I consider myself a very patriotic American. I love our country. If there is one thing I could change about my years in ministry, it would be the fact that I wish I had become a military chaplain; I believe that would have been a most fulfilling ministry.
At the same time I also have a deep love and appreciation for England. England is the homeland of the Fathers of Methodism John and Charles Wesley and the Great 18th Century Wesleyan Revival; the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, my favorite all time Rock Group the Beetles; and the adopted land of my favorite composer George Fredrick Handle.
Twice thus far in my lifetime I’ve had the privilege of going to England. The first time was in July of 1971 when I was honored to accompany my friend the late Reverend Henry Clay Wright on his pulpit exchange to what then was Trinity Methodist and now is Trinity Methodist-Reformed Church in the London Borough of Sutton, Surrey. Perhaps my most memorable “Fourth of July” was that year. It fell on a Sunday, and we got to lead a patriotic service in the Country from which 195 years earlier we had gained our Independence.
Thirty years later I had the pleasure of representing the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference at the World Methodist Conference in Brighton, England, and take Liz along with me. On both occasions I was privileged to visit Wesley’s Chapel at City Road, London, and Bunhill, the famous Dissenters’ Cemetary directly across the road from his home and Chapel. There you can view the graves of such notable persons as poet William Blake; Susanna Wesley, the Mother of Methodism; Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe; John Bunyan, creator of Pilgrim’s Progress, and Isaac Watts, the great hymn writer.
These persons were all Dissenters because they were not part of the State supported Church of England. The love and quest for freedom brought our English forbearers to these shores. Many of them who came were Dissenters, opponents to the doctrines and practices of the Church of England who came to America for religious freedom. Others came seeking political freedom, earlier ones because they opposed the Stuart kings who claimed absolute authority in all affairs. Still later Dissenters came seeking political freedom, because they supported the monarch that had been deposed by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan Parliament. Others came to America in search of economic freedom, to escape debtor’s prison and establish a better way of life in a New World.
Some early English emigrants to America came seeking religious freedom, others political freedom, and still others economic freedom. We still treasure these freedoms today. However, ultimate, eternal freedom is spiritual freedom. It is freedom won at a very precious, costly price—the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the One Who still promises and assures us, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” [--John 3:36].
The freedom Jesus gives His disciples is real freedom, the only true freedom. Real freedom is made possible by His death and resurrection. We can only receive and experience it as a free gift of grace by being born again. Real freedom begins the moment we repent of our sins and trust Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour, and it continues beyond our physical death for all eternity.
In our Gospel Lesson Jesus says to “the Jews who had believed in Him”: “If you continue in My word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” A true disciple of Jesus continues in the Word. Jesus Himself is the Word. John identifies Jesus in the beginning of His Gospel by declaring: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” [--John 1:1, 14]. If we are His disciples we must “continue in His Word.” When something continues, it goes on happening. We continue in His Word by maintaining a personal, one-on-one-relationship with Jesus as we allow Him to speak to us and guide us each day through reading His written Word the Bible and through talking with Him in prayer.
Continuing in His Word is much more than reading about and talking with Jesus. We only continue in His Word by obeying Him. True disciples of Jesus live out His Great Commission through “obeying everything He commands us.” We learn obedience though His Word and prayer.
By continuing to obey Him each day, “we know the Truth, and the Truth makes us free.” That is Truth with a capital “T,” for Jesus Himself is the Truth—Absolute, Ultimate, Unquestionable, Complete, Final, Eternal Truth. He still speaks to us in John 14:6, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”